Signpost for Sunday 18 March, 2018 (Fifth Sunday in Lent): Jer 31. 31-34; Ps 51. 1-12; (or Ps 119. 1-16); Heb 5. 5-10; Jn 12. 20-23.
The passage from Jeremiah is full of hope for the future, even as the prophet’s country is sliding into chaos. The ‘new covenant’ will replace the old one of law with an internal understanding of the will of God. We looked at “Covenant “a few weeks ago.
Psalm 51 is sub-titled “A Psalm of David, when the prophet Nathan came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.” It reminds us that the Law has much to do with sin and repentance. It also shows, in the part we do not read this Sunday, that restoration of the sinner to God is primarily a ritual matter, so that there might be worthy worship.
Psalm 119 features a type of poetry; each group consists of eight lines beginning with one letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Verses 1 – 8 begin with aleph, verses 9 – 16 begin with beth; and so on to section 22 – tau – at the end of the Psalm. Evidence of this is completely missing in my NRSV; fortunately I have kept an old AV out of antiquarian interest.
I came across Psalm 119 in peculiar circumstances recently. At my daughter’s graduation ceremony, one of the other people graduating was a Ph.D. and her thesis was summarised in the programme with the other Ph.D.’s. “A Christian reading of Psalm 119. An exploration of Torah as God’s self-revelation using a Trinitarian hermeneutic.” I don’t know anything about the circumstances of the origin of the Psalm, though I am confident that it was not written by David, but it was not a Christian document, and it was penned long before the church thought about what was meant by Trinitarian. For me this is false exegesis and does despite to the original intention of the Psalmist.
Melchizedek seems to be important to the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, whoever that was. He (she?) refers to Melchizedek by name eight times and discusses him extensively in chapters 5 to 7. The origin of this name is found in Genesis 14:18.
Surely the Gospel will be the reading on which most sermons will be preached this Sunday. (I am assuming that preaching is still mostly done on the basis of lections, even if exegesis is a dying art) I did preach on Jeremiah once in my first parish, but even then it could just as easily been on John. This Sunday is also called Passion Sunday, as John goes to the heart of the Gospel in speaking of the coming death of Jesus, and the way disciples are destined to follow him. But more on this subject in Holy Week.