Lectionary Reading Introduction

This site provides something different: many sites and books provide a brief summary of the reading - so that people read out or have in their pew sheet an outline of what they are about to hear. They are told beforehand what to expect. Does this not limit what they hear the Spirit address them? This site provides something different - often one cannot appreciate what is being read because there is no context provided. This site provides the context, the frame of the reading about to be heard. It could be used as an introduction, printed on a pew sheet (acknowledged, of course), or adapted in other ways.

Judges 4:1-7

Judges continues the Deuteronomistic History Deuteronomy through 2 Kings, from the death of Joshua to just prior to the birth of Samuel. This passage is the start of Deborah outshining Barak.

Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18

Zephaniah calls for renewal early in the reign of Josiah (640-609 BCE). He develops the tradition of the "day of the Lord" which, in the Middle Ages, becomes the hymn Dies Irae.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Two decades after Jesus' death and resurrection Paul still clearly indicates his conviction Jesus will return soon (eg. 4:17). Paul is addressing the understandably growing complacency, even skepticism, with Jeus' return delayed.

Matthew 25:14-30

This is not an easy parable, much abused by stewardship campaigns, the health and wealth gospel, and the abuse of the homophonic "talents". In Jesus' culture there was no concept of more goods and services coming in to existence. There was a limited pie to share, and peasants experienced the rich getting richer only by the poor getting poorer. Hence, from a peasant's viewpoint, the third slave did the honourable thing. But in doing so he did not act as a slave should have. A slave ought to do the dirty work of increasing the rich man's wealth. There is no mention of the reign of God in this parable. The concept of banking and receiving interest is, of course, forbidden in the Old Testament.

Bruce Malina and Richard L. Rohrbaugh highlight the issue as seen by Eusebius, the first historian of the Church, who cites a version of the parable found in the Gospel of the Nazoreans.

"…since the Gospel (written) in Hebrew characters which has come into our hands enters the threat not against the man who had hid (the talent), but against him who had lived dissolutely— For he (the master) had three servants:

A one who squandered his master’s substance with harlots and flute girls,
B one who multiplied the gain,
C one who hid the talent;
and accordingly,
C´ one was accepted (with joy),
B´ another merely rebuked,
A´ and another cast into prison

I wonder whether in Matthew the threat which is uttered after the word against the man who did nothing may refer not to him, but by epanalepsis ] to the first who had feasted and drunk with the drunken. (Eusebius, Theophania on Matt. 25:14f., cited from Hennecke-Schneemelcher-Wilson, New Testament Apocrypha 1:149)." Bruce Malina and Richard L. Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992, p. 150

Today's readings online
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