Sunday Readings
Commentary

Sunday Readings Commentary

Father Andrew Wadsworth offers a short commentary on this week's Sunday Lectionary readings.

To read the relevant Bible passage just click on the reference.

Before reading and reflecting on God's word you might like to use the following prayer:

O Lord,
who hast given us thy word
for a light to shine upon our path:
Grant us so to meditate upon that word
and follow its teaching,
that we may find in it the light that shineth
more and more unto the perfect day:
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Second Sunday after Trinity

To a Christian the call of Elisha inevitably reminds us of the call of the first disciples of Jesus beside the Lake of Galilee: the unknown Jesus passes by, calls each pair of disciples, and they follow, magnetized, leaving their nets, their livelihood, their families. So Elisha deliberately destroys his livelihood, that is, the oxen and their gear. He seeks occasion to bid a quick farewell to his family, but even that does not seem to happen. Then he leaves everything and follows his master. Elijah’s answer to Elisha is enigmatic, a puzzling phrase which recurs in the Bible, literally ‘What is there between me and you?’ (Judges 11.12; 2 Samuel 16.10) Its most familiar occurrence is at the marriage-feast of Cana (John 2.4), when Jesus uses it to his mother. Is it a mild rebuke? Is it an expression of puzzlement? Is it simply a question of the exact nature of the relation of the two persons? In any case, the succession between Elijah and Elisha is the same as occurred between Moses and Joshua, and as will occur at the Ascension and Pentecost between Jesus and the Twelve. The one hands on to the other his mission and the power to accomplish it. In fact Elisha’s mission is rather more political, working within the political order, than Elijah’s, which critiqued the political order; but this still lies in the future.

Paul is warning the Galatians against regarding themselves as bound by the Jewish Law. This is an external restriction, whereas Paul wants them to be led only by the interior Spirit of God, which will lead them in the paths of love. It is important to understand correctly the distinction between the flesh and the Spirit. The sins of the flesh are not merely ‘carnal’ sins like sex, greed, and over-indulgence. They also include such things as rivalry, jealousy, quarrels, and malice. So the flesh is more generally self-indulgence and lack of self-discipline, perhaps unrestrained natural desires. These are not in themselves evil, but they need to be harnessed and directed by the impetus of the Spirit. On the other hand, the Spirit is the life of Christ in us, and motivates everything that leads to Christ, not only – as Paul here lists – ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control’, but also everything that builds up the community in love, loving guidance, teaching, the healing touch, as well as the more    striking gifts like speaking in tongues. In 1 Corinthians he explains that each of member of the community has a special gift, and all of these are needed for a healthy community.

The latter half of Luke’s gospel, as Jesus embarks on his great journey to his death at Jerusalem, is marked by Jesus’ teaching on the difficulties and challenges of discipleship. Right at the beginning comes the little lesson that the disciple must not be surprised or take vengeance at rejection. Then three lessons on the uncompromising demands of discipleship. These are not ‘counsels of perfection’ but demanded of every disciple of Jesus. First: The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. The disciple has no right to creature comforts. Second: perhaps the most counter-cultural of all Jesus’ demands, for burying a dead father was regarded as a sacred duty, and yet not even this may stand in the way of a response to the call of Jesus. Third: a more rigorous condition than even Elijah demanded of Elisha, no backward glance even to bid the family farewell. Not even the most sacred of natural ties may stand in the way of the demands of following Jesus. These conditions may seem unfeeling and unacceptably harsh: Jesus expresses his teaching with maximum vigour. This is partly the nature of the Semitic language, which rarely uses a comparative, ‘more than…’ It is either day or night, no dusk! But we must beware of softening what must remain hard.