Weekly Liturgy booklets
Notes on the Service for June 26th, 2022
II Kg 2:1-2 • Ps 77:1-2, 11-20 • Gal 5:1,13-25 • Lk 9:51-62
Today’s collect, written for the 1549 Prayer Book, was placed in the present Prayer Book on the Sunday closest to the Feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul, June 29, because of the collect’s reference to the apostles as foundations of the church. As Jesus’ successors received his Spirit, Elijah’s successor received his spirit, told by today’s first reading.
The end of Elijah’s life is the “chariots of fire” episode where Elijah, unlike any other Old Testament figure except Enoch, does not die but is trans-ported to heaven. Hence the belief that Elijah is to come again at Pass-over, and Matthew the Evangelist’s belief that Elijah re-appeared in the form of John the Baptist. Elijah’s successor, Elisha, is like Moses’ successor Joshua, who also parted the Jordan to enter the Promised Land.
Psalm 77 is a lament. It opens with a cry to God, vss 1-2; then, the psalmist’s misery intensifies in the verses omitted by the lectionary. To reassure himself, he next recalls God’s eternal mercies by quoting an ancient hymn about God’s self-revelation in the Exodus, vss 11-20. “...your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightning's lit up the world” might be applied to the assumption of Elijah. The “waters saw you and trembled” might be applied to Elisha’s commanding the Jordan.
Unlike modern patriotic rhetoric about freedom as political rights or as free enterprise, by freedom Paul means freedom from Torah rule and freedom from worldly addictions, freedom to serve God. Here he is contrasting the life of those who are slaves to the flesh with the life of those who are free in the Spirit, a contrast which might sound Gnostic in its depreciation of the flesh were it not for Paul’s belief in the goodness of creation, which he emphasizes elsewhere. That conflict between living according to the flesh and living according to the Spirit, Paul interiorizes and analyzes with greater subtlety in Romans, ”the good which I would, I cannot....” In this passage, as he does in Romans, Paul quotes Numbers, “thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” a verse Jesus had also cited to summarize the Torah.
The Gospel illustrates the urgency of Jesus’ mission, here preached in Samaria, the same place where Elijah had also preached when that land had been known as the [Northern] Kingdom of Israel. Here Samaritans spurn the Jerusalem-bound Jewish prophet. The disciples’ question about “fire from heaven” alludes to Elijah’s having actually called down fire on opponents. Elisha, plowing when he was called, did briefly turn back for a farewell feast with his family. (I Kings 19). Jesus’ opponents get gentler treatment than Elijah’s opponents, and Jesus’ followers get harsher treatment.
Rev. Stephen Weissman
Asheville, North Carolina
Reprinted with permission.
June 26th, 2022