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Good and Faithful Servant

Resources 33rd Ordinary – 19 November 2023

Good and Faithful Servant

Let us pray (in silence) [that we may persevere in our growth into God’s life]


God of inspiration,
you caused all holy scriptures to be written for our instruction,
grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,
that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of your holy Word,
we may embrace and ever hold fast to the blessed hope of everlasting life,
which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ,
who is alive with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever.

One of the best-known English phrases must, surely, be “…read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest…” It was heard every year in church in the lead-up to Christmas in the collect for Advent 2. I have never been able to discover why it was not included in A New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa (NZPBHKMA). The histories of this book do not explain why, when nearly all of Cranmer’s collects are retained, this was excised from the book.

So, although the above prayer is not an ancient one shared by Roman Catholics, I see it as significant enough to add to my Book of Prayers in Common. You will find my commentary and reflection here: Ordinary 33 or below.

In preparing for this coming Sunday, I have also discovered that one of the collects assigned to this Sunday in every edition of NZBPHKMA from 1989-2005 has also been omitted from the 2005 so-called “NZPBHKMA”. This collect came into the Prayer Book tradition through Cranmer’s translation of a collect found in the Gelasian Sacramentary (1178), the Gregorian Sacramentary (1144), the Sarum Missal, and hence in BCP 1549 – 1928:

Merciful God,
you have prepared for those who love you
such good things as pass our understanding;
pour into our hearts such love towards you
that, loving you above all else,
we may obtain your promises,
which exceed all that we can desire;

through Jesus Christ our Lord
who is alive with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever.

Find my reflection here

Lectionary Readings 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.

Judges 4:1-7

Judges continues the Deuteronomistic History Deuteronomy through 2 Kings, from the death of Joshua to just prior to the birth of Samuel. This passage is the start of Deborah outshining Barak.

Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18

Zephaniah calls for renewal early in the reign of Josiah (640-609 BCE). He develops the tradition of the “day of the Lord” which, in the Middle Ages, becomes the hymn Dies Irae.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Two decades after Jesus’ death and resurrection Paul still clearly indicates his conviction Jesus will return soon (eg. 4:17). Paul is addressing the understandably growing complacency, even skepticism, with Jeus’ return delayed.

Matthew 25:14-30

This is not an easy parable, much abused by stewardship campaigns, the health and wealth gospel, and the abuse of the homophonic “talents”. In Jesus’ culture there was no concept of more goods and services coming in to existence. There was a limited pie to share, and peasants experienced the rich getting richer only by the poor getting poorer. Hence, from a peasant’s viewpoint, the third slave did the honourable thing. But in doing so he did not act as a slave should have. A slave ought to do the dirty work of increasing the rich man’s wealth. There is no mention of the reign of God in this parable. The concept of banking and receiving interest is, of course, forbidden in the Old Testament.

Bruce Malina and Richard L. Rohrbaugh highlight the issue as seen by Eusebius, the first historian of the Church, who cites a version of the parable found in the Gospel of the Nazoreans.

“…since the Gospel (written) in Hebrew characters which has come into our hands enters the threat not against the man who had hid (the talent), but against him who had lived dissolutely— For he (the master) had three servants:

A one who squandered his master’s substance with harlots and flute girls,
B one who multiplied the gain,
C one who hid the talent;
and accordingly,
C´ one was accepted (with joy),
B´ another merely rebuked,
A´ and another cast into prison

I wonder whether in Matthew the threat which is uttered after the word against the man who did nothing may refer not to him but, by epanalepsis, to the first who had feasted and drunk with the drunken. (Eusebius, Theophania on Matt. 25:14f., cited from Hennecke-Schneemelcher-Wilson, New Testament Apocrypha 1:149).” Bruce Malina and Richard L. Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992, p. 150

Today’s readings online

Reflection on the Collect

The above is part of my attempt to provide a set of collects with history and commentary (Book of Prayers in Common). In this case, there is no Latin original. This collect is an original by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer for Advent 2 in the Book of Common Prayer 1549:

BLESSED lord, which hast caused all holy Scriptures to bee written for our learnyng; graunte us that we maye in suche wise heare them, read, marke, learne, and inwardly digeste them; that by pacience, and coumfort of thy holy woorde, we may embrace, and ever holde fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast geven us in our saviour Jesus Christe.

The collect picked up the language of the epistle, Romans 15: 4-13 (the Sarum and Roman selection for Advent 2. It continues to be the second reading in Year A).

The address made to the Father as ‘Blessed Lord’ is unique in that Prayer Book. The word “all” alludes to the pre-Reformation limiting of scriptures read – a practice that was remedied by the annual reading of “all holy Scriptures”.

For they so ordred the matter, that all the whole Bible (or the greatest parte thereof) should be read over once in the yeare, intendyng thereby, that the Cleargie, and specially suche as were Ministers of the congregacion, should (by often readyng and meditacion of Gods worde) be stirred up to godlines themselfes, and be more able also to exhorte other by wholsome doctrine, and to confute them that were adversaries to the trueth. And further, that the people (by daily hearyng of holy scripture read in the Churche) should continuallye profite more and more in the knowledge of God, and bee the more inflamed with the love of his true religion. But these many yeares passed this Godly and decent ordre of the auncient fathers, hath bee so altered, broken, and neglected, [Preface BCP 1549]

The words ‘patience and comfort’ are used in their archaic meanings of steadfastness and encouragement. I have altered the “pacience, and coumfort” to the NRSV rendition of Romans 15:4 διὰ τῆς ὑπομονῆς καὶ διὰ τῆς παρακλήσεως τῶν γραφῶν. I have also followed this approach for translating διδασκαλίαν ἐγράφη.

This collect is prayed at the end of October in the Church of England, Ordinary 32 in Canada, Australia, and other places, and will be prayed Ordinary 33 (Proper 28) in The Episcopal Church and elsewhere.

This is not merely a collect for one day; it is a prayer we can use far more regularly than that. Lectio Divina is one way to hear the holy scriptures, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them.

Resources beyond this site:
Textweek Resources
Preaching resources Down Under

You can add your ideas and resources below.

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