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Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year A, May 18, 2014
Lectionary index # 52

Twenty-second digests for the congregation: Arrange with your liturgy committee to have these brief historical introductions read to the assembly before you do each reading.

Who should announce these before the first and second readings, and before the gospel acclamation? They're not Scripture, nor homiletic, so they shouldn't be delivered from the ambo. They're a modest teaching. So let the presider say them from the chair. Let the lector turn toward the presider and listen.
Print this page, cut it at the blue lines, and give the introduction paragraphs to the person who will speak them.

Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year A, May 18, 2014
Before the first reading:

Pagan converts in the early church knew that their joining provoked some controversy. Saint Luke's second book for them, the Acts of the Apostles, tells a story of an earlier conflict among Christians of Jewish stock.
After the psalm, before the second reading:

Our ancestors in the faith had long been slaves, nomads and exiles, without a permanent home. The author of the First Letter of Peter uses images of stone buildings, drawn from the Hebrew Bible, to encourage early Christian pilgrims.
Before the gospel acclamation:

Some early Christians needed help in making a complete commitment to Jesus. In sympathy for them, John the Evangelist depicts an apostle as not fully understanding who Jesus is. But Jesus also makes demands of his followers that are uncompromising.

To pay for use of the words above, please subtract an equal number of optional words from other places in the liturgy (click here for some suggestions).

First reading, Acts 6:1-7 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

The Historical Situation: By the time of Jesus, Judaism was old enough to have numerous divisions. Members of more than one Jewish group became Christians, but, human nature being what it is, maintained some of their old factionalism. "Hellenists" means, in general, people of Greek heritage, language or culture. Here specifically it means Greek-speaking Jews who had become Christians. (The integration of non-Jews into Christianity comes a little later, and will cause an even bigger controversy. Stay tuned!) Neglect of one such group by church authorities of another group is behind the events narrated here.

A Theological Reflection: The apostles ratified the choice of these community servants by praying over them and laying hands on them. The church could have met its needs without such ritual. The apostles' choice to solemnize it this way suggests something very interesting about service in the church. They seem to be saying that the role of community servant is worthy of what would become known as ordination. That is, service is so important in the life of the church, that we cannot be the church if we're without mutual service. There are religions that zealously guard the purity of their doctrine, their ritual, or their moral codes, but are without this orientation toward service. For us, it cannot be so. Service constitutes the church, as do word and sacrament.

Proclaiming It: In reading this, pronounce the names of the servants confidently. It doesn't matter how you accent them; just don't stumble on them verbally and thereby distract the congregation from the story. Note that the larger story of Acts continues, "The word of God continued to spread." Make that an important part of your proclamation, too.

Second Reading, 1 Peter 2:4-9. [Jerusalem Bible translation]

The Historical Situation: Our ancestors in the faith had once been slaves in Egypt, then nomads in Sinai, then settlers for a few generations, then exiles in Babylon. So the notion of a permanent home, one made (at least in part) of stone, held great appeal for them. Thus it's natural for Peter to use the stone metaphor to describe the place of Jesus in the plan of God and in our lives.

Proclaiming It: Peter contrasts those who accept Jesus as their cornerstone with those who stumble on the stone. As is often the case when a New Testament writer quotes the Old Testament, meanings are not immediately clear to us twenty centuries later. To help the congregation get this, study the passage carefully, until YOU get it, until each sense-line makes sense to you and fits into a logical whole in YOUR mind. That's the best favor you can do for those who will hear your proclamation.

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Several other commentaries on these passages. All are thoughtful, all quite readable, from the scholarly to the popular.
Links may be incomplete more than a few weeks before the "due date."
Lutheran pastor and college teacher Dan Nelson's notes for a study group. (Covers a different first reading). Father Roger Karban of Belleville, Illinois, USA, writes a newspaper column about every Sunday's readings. Here are his essays for today's passages, from: courtesy of The Evangelist, official publication of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York, or of The Belleville Messenger, of the Diocese of Belleville.

Read all of Father Karban's recent columns here, at the site of FOSIL, the Faithful of Southern Illinois.

2002 column of Father Francis X. Cleary, S.J. (Log in using 0026437 and 63137.) The Text This Week; links to homilies, art works, movies and other resources on the week's scripture themes Saint Louis University's excellent new site for Liturgy preparation

Most welcome here is Reginald Fuller's commentary on all the readings.

(Caveat lector. As of April 1, 2014, Lector's Notes' author is speculating about the exact URL of SLU's offering, since it's not yet posted. If you get a 404 Not Found, try here).

The Lectionary selections in the frame at the left, if any, are there for your convenience. The publishers of the page in that frame have no connection, except for membership in the one Body of Christ, with the publisher of this page. Likewise the publishers of the pages on the links above.

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Last modified: April 1, 2014