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. This is an experimental venture and I will see how useful it appears.

Acts 8:5-8, 14-17

The frame of this reading is the promise (Acts 1:8) that "you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." This is the third step in that progression. The Samaritans were at enmity with the Judeans ("Jews") cf. 2 Kings 17; Ezra 5:1-5; et. al. The "city of Samaria" is probably either Shechem or Sebaste (Acts 7:16). The experience in Samaria echoes the initial experience in Jerusalem (see also Acts 5:12-16).

Acts 17:22-31 (RCL)

The Areopagus - the rock of Ares (hence "Mars Hill", Mars and Ares are the Greek of of war) or rock of Areia - another name for Athena. The location of this speech is unclear. Epicureans (v. 18) were followers of Epicurus (Greek philosopher c. 341-270 BCE). He taught a form of hedonism in which pleasure is the greatest good - but highlighted the importance of limiting pain and came to teach a simple lifestyle including abstaining from the complexities resulting from sex. Epicureanism at this time was the main opponent of Stoicism (v. 18) (founded by Zeno of Citium in Athens in the early third century BCE). Stoicism was the primary philosophy among the educated elite at the time - it was deterministic, yet highlighted self-control to overcome destructive emotions. Although no altar with the inscription described has yet been found, other writers confir that such altars were extant - highlighting Greek fear of offending neglected deities.

1 Peter 3:13-22

The context is that of foreigners under suspicion. Hope is trust - remaining faithful in a context of people constantly shifting allegiance to the most influential patron of the moment.

John 14:15-21

The frame is the reading of last Sunday's gospel reading which continues today. The beginning and end of today's text is an example of inclusion by reverse parallelism. The cultural context is a society that focused on the extended family t which allegiance was owed - and beyond which there was a lack of trust to the point of fear.
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