The Gestation of Hope   Leave a comment

Above:  The Annunciation, by El Greco

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN  THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning,

Grant that we may hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that, by patience, and comfort of your holy word, we may embrace and ever hold fast

the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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Lord God, heavenly Father, we ask that you so rule and guide us by your Holy Spirit

that we may receive your holy word with our whole heart,

that through your word we may be sanctified,

and may learn to place all our trust and hope in Jesus Christ your Son,

and following him may be led safely through all evil,

until through your grace we come to everlasting life;

through the same Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 69

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Isaiah 11:1-10

Psalm 23

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Luke 1:26-35

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Psalm 23 is a familiar text.  One problem associated with familiar texts of the Bible is that one might not be as familiar with them as one imagines, so one might go into unfortunate autopilot mode.  In Psalm 23 the author (allegedly David), although surrounded by enemies, expresses confidence in divine protection.  The enemies cannot keep up; only divine goodness and steadfast love pursue the author.  They do not merely follow; no, they engage in hot pursuit.

The setting of Isaiah 11:1-10 was shortly after the fall of the northern Kingdom of Israel and a generation before the fall of the southern Kingdom of Judah.  Threats to the continued existence abounded and bad monarchs were the rule, not the exception.  The description of the ideal king put the actual monarchs of Judah to shame.  The majority of Davidic kings did not build up the realm; no, they tore it down.

St. Paul the Apostle, writing to the Thessalonian church circa 51 C.E., did so in the context of widespread expectations of the imminent second coming of Jesus.  Some of the faithful had already died, however.  St. Paul, in Chapter 4, comforted his audience by telling them that the faithful deceased would not miss the great event.  In Chapter 5 the Apostle to the Gentiles urged the members of that church to encourage and build each other up.  The imminent end of days was no excuse to slack off morally, he insisted.

As of the writing of this post we are still waiting the second coming.  St. Paul’s advice from 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 remains current, however.

The presence of the reading from Luke 1 on the Second Sunday of Advent makes sense liturgically.  Its strongest connection, as best as I can tell, is to Isaiah 11:1-10, for Jesus is the ideal king.  He is not, however, a monarch in the sense of any human model–certainly not from the time of the Bible.  No, Jesus breaks the royal molds, as he should.  We read in John 6:14-15 that, after the Feeding of the 5000, Jesus withdrew to the hills by himself when he realized that a crowd wanted to declare him king in opposition to the Roman Empire.  No, the visions of Jesus as an ideal ruler put all earthly national leaders to shame.  Thus discussion of the Kingdom of God contains a strong element of social and political criticism of the status quo.

The Kingdom of God, which only God can usher into full reality, provides a lofty standard for the time being.  It is useful to remember that, as long as reality falls so far short of the ideal, that divine goodness and steadfast love continue to pursue the servants of God all the days of their lives and that enemies must look on as God sets a banquet table for the faithful.

Meanwhile, hope gestates.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 27, 2017 COMMON ERA

PROPER 16:  THE TWELFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

THE FEAST OF THOMAS GALLAUDET AND HENRY WINTER SYLE, EPISCOPAL PRIESTS

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