Signposts, September 1, 2013: Jer.2:4-13; Ps.81:1, 10-16; Heb.13:1-8; Luke 14:1, 7-14
The references above are from the regular Lectionary, but most of my Anglican readers will have heard a different group of readings in church. This is because the Anglican Church is celebrating the work of the Builders of that Church in New Zealand and Polynesia, and a special group of appropriate readings have been chosen.
The first reading is Ecclesiasticus* (or Sirach) 44:1-15, a eulogy of the ancestors. The next five chapters tell of the goodness and good works of all the good people in the Bible, from Enoch and Noah to Nehemiah and Simon the High Priest. Rather appropriate, I thought, in honour of good Anglicans spreading Christianity to pagans about 200 -150 years ago. (Well, including Roman Catholics, Methodists, Presbyterians, etc!)
This book has an interesting history. It was written in Hebrew around 200 B.C.E. by a man named Jesus, and translated into Greek by the writer’s grandson, for the benefit of Jews living in Egypt and using Greek as their daily language, as all their neighbours did. When a committee of Pharisees was making an authorised list of the “Books of the Bible” some time around 100 C.E., it wasn’t included because it was only available in Greek. (Well, how’s that for “working by the book”?) But by this time the Greek Church had included it in their Old Testament, which was the one that the writers of the Christian books worked from. The classic mistake being Matthew, using the Greek version of Isaiah 7:14 to back up his story of the birth of Jesus, is an important example (Matt 1:23).
It was when churches in Western Europe broke away from Rome in the Reformation, that they chose to “down-grade” the books that the Pharisees had rejected more than fourteen hundred years before. Many Protestant Bibles are still printed without the Apocrypha. If that wasn’t enough irony, modern archaeologists keep on finding bits of the stuff that the Pharisees chucked out, and they’re mostly in Hebrew!
Now for the Gospel portion chosen for today. Last week we read how Jesus was told off by the president of a synagogue for doing work on God’s Holy Day. Today we have him being “tried out” by Pharisees and lawyers at a meal in the senior Pharisee’s home. Well, that happens in verses 2 to 6, and I wonder why that bit is left out of our reading; that seems illogical to me. He’s got some hard words first to the visitors, and for the host. It would make a little bit more sense if they’d seen the man with dropsy being cured, don’t you think?
I wish Luke had told us who laid out the food for the meal and did the washing-up afterwards. It was the Sabbath, wasn’t it?
* Not to be confused with Ecclesiastes. That’s written by a miserable moaner, with one glorious list of every human activity from birth to death in chapter two.