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.

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7

This story is part of the older, "Yahwistic" thread in the Pentateuch, stories told in Southern Palestine more than three thousand years ago at which point they began to be written down. The genre is not difficult to ascertain: there is a talking snake! This tale is also an etiological story: why the snake has no legs, why women suffer in childbirth, why work is a trial, why we die. Without losing the seriousness of the content, and the dramatic contrast with today's Gospel reading, we can be as playful as the author with questions such as: how did the woman learn God's command? Why do the serpent and the woman alter the command? Why is the man not doing anything?

Romans 5:12-19

This is a new addition to this Sunday's lectionary tradition. Paul writes this letter primarily to fellow-Judeans living in Rome (the letter nowhere refers to Romans, however). He is writing around 57-58AD probably from Corinth (or its port, Cenchrae). He is writing to a community he has never visited. We must take care not to read into Paul's text the later developed Augustinian concept of "original sin".

Matthew 4:1-11

This Gospel reading has been attached to the First Sunday in Lent for as long as we can go back (eg. Wurzburg Evangeliary c. 645). The declaration at Christ's baptism by a voice from heaven: “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” (Mt 3:11) leads inevitably to the expectation of a testing to ascertain if this declaration is true. The temptations echo the testing of the Hebrew people in the Exodus and each response is drawn from the book of Deuteronomy. Matthew, often intent on presenting Jesus as the new Moses, has a different order to the temptations to Luke, and culminates on "a very high mountain."
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