Archive for the ‘Isaiah 40’ Category

Varieties of Exile   Leave a comment

Above:  Road to Natural Bridge in Death Valley National Park, California, 2012

Photographer = Carol M. Highsmith

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-highsm-23917

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

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Bestow your light on us, O Lord, that, being rid of the darkness of our hearts,

we may attain to the true light;  through Jesus Christ, who is the light of the world.  Amen.

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

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Isaiah 62:10-12

Psalm 32

1 Corinthians 4:1-5

Luke 3:2b-6

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Isaiah 40:3-5 (quoted in Luke 2:4b-6) and Isaiah 6:10-12 share the thread of return from exile.  In order to grasp Isaiah 62:10-12 one should back up to the beginning of the chapter.  The Babylonian Exile is over yet the reality of Jerusalem after liberation by the Persian Empire does not live up to expectations.  God will indeed restore the fortunes of Jerusalem, we read; more exiles, accompanied by the Presence of God, will return to their ancestral homeland via a highway in the desert.  This is the same highway in Isaiah 40:3-5.

The Babylonian Exile, according to the Hebrew Bible, occurred mostly because of persistent societal sinfulness, such as that manifested in idolatry and institutionalized social injustice.  Divine judgment was simply the consequence of human actions.  Then forgiveness followed, hence the reading of Psalm 32 in the context of Isaiah 62:10-12.  Mercy followed judgment.

Quoting Isaiah 40:3-5 in Luke 3 was thematically appropriate, for life in Roman-occupied Judea constituted exile of a sort.  Expectations of deliverance from the occupiers was commonplace yet not universal among Jews in the homeland.  Jesus, of course, was not the conquering hero; he was no Judas Maccabeus.  No, Jesus was a savior of a different sort.  The high expectations left over from Isaiah 62 remained unfulfilled.

There is, of course, the major of the continuing passage of time.  The fact that these hopes remain unfulfilled does not mean that they will remain so indefinitely.  God’s schedule is not ours.  God, who is the ultimate judge, is faithful and full of surprises.  May the incongruity between our expectations and divine tactics and schedules not stand in the way of serving God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 28, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMBROSE OF MILAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; MONICA OF HIPPO, MOTHER OF SAINT AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO; AND AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO, BISHOP OF HIPPO REGIUS

THE FEAST OF DENIS WORTMAN, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LAURA S. COPERHAVER, U.S. LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER AND MISSIONARY LEADER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MOSES THE BLACK, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, AND MARTYR

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Divine Consolation   1 comment

Anna at the Presentation of Jesus--Giotto

Above:  Anna at the Presentation of Jesus, by Giotto

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Beautiful God, you gather your people into your realm,

and you promise us food from your tree of life.

Nourish us with your word, that empowered by your Spirit

we may love one another and the world you have made,

through Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 34

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Chronicles 34:20-33

Psalm 93

Luke 2:25-38

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The LORD is King;

he has put on splendid apparel;

the LORD has put on his apparel

and girded himself with strength.

He has made the whole world so sure

that it cannot be moved;

Ever since the world began, your throne has been established;

you are from everlasting.

The waters have lifted up, O LORD,

the waters have lifted up their voice;

the waters have lifted up their pounding waves.

Mightier than the sound of many waters,

mightier than the breakers of the sea,

mightier is the LORD who dwells on high.

Your testimonies are very sure,

and holiness adorns your house, O LORD,

for ever and for evermore.

–Psalm 93, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Humility before God, whose testimonies are sure, is a virtue.  In the main two readings for this day we encounter five people who were humble before God:

  • King Josiah of Judah (reigned 640-609 B.C.E.), who instigated religious reforms consistent with the Book of Deuteronomy,
  • Saints Mary and Joseph of Nazareth, who raised Jesus in an observant Jewish home, and
  • Saints Simeon and Anna the Prophetess, who testified regarding the infant Jesus.

As Father Raymond E. Brown pointed out in The Birth of the Messiah (Updated Edition, 1993), the law and the prophets framed birth and infancy of Jesus.  The Lukan language alluded to Isaiah 40:1 and 66:12-13, with their references to the consolation (paraklesis in Greek and parakalein in Hebrew, sounding like paraclete) of Israel.  Sts. Joseph and Mary obeyed legal customs.  Two prophets attested to our Lord and Savior’s bona fides, but only one prophet affirmed St. John the Baptist in Luke 1:67-79.  St. Anna the Prophetess looked for the redemption of Jerusalem, echoing Isaiah 52:9 (The Revised English Bible, 1989):

Break forth together into shouts of joy,

you ruins of Jerusalem;

for the LORD has comforted his people,

he has redeemed Jerusalem.

The author of the Gospel of Luke understood the life of Jesus as fitting neatly into a much longer narrative of consolation and redemption.  His subtle word choices helped to establish connections with subsequent texts, such as John 14:15f, in which Jesus promised that God the Father would send another Paraclete–Comforter, Counselor, and Advocate–the Holy Spirit, simply put.

Consolation is among the most frequent reasons many people seek God.  This makes sense to me.  The quest for comfort recurs throughout the Bible, especially in the Book of Psalms, because of the ubiquity of distress.  Turning to God might not end one’s distress, but it does provide one with a means of coping with it.  If we love God, we will obey divine commandments.  This might lead to suffering (John 15:18-27), but at least the Holy Spirit will be present with us during our ordeals.  There is much consolation in that.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 5, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF CHARLES JUDSON CHILD, JR., EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

THE FEAST OF LESLIE WEATHERHEAD, BRITISH METHODIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF MARGARET MACKAY, SCOTTISH HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/01/05/devotion-for-wednesday-after-the-sixth-sunday-of-easter-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Faithfulness and Generosity of God, Part II   1 comment

Road Through Desert

Above:  A Road Through a Desert

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son.

By his coming give to all the world knowledge of your salvation;

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 40:1-11

Psalm 126

Romans 8:22-25

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When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,

then we were like those who dream.

Then was our mouth filled with laughter,

and our tongue with shouts of joy.

They they said among the nations,

“The LORD has done great things for them.”

The LORD has done great thins for us,

and we are glad indeed.

Restore our fortunes, O LORD,

like the watercourses of the Negev.

Those who sowed with tears

will reap with songs of joy.

Those who go our reaping, carrying the seed,

will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.

–Psalm 126, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Hope–even that of the well-placed variety–can be difficult to maintain.  Periods of exile might be long, fear and uncertainty might be daunting, physical and/or emotional suffering might be terrible, and daring to aspire to a better future might seem foolish.  Yet God is faithful and generous, and many unlikely and seemingly unlikely events occur.  Samuel L. Clemens, who wrote as Mark Twain, commented, fiction, unlike non-fiction, is, according to many people, supposed to make sense.  Yet I have noticed that many expect non-fiction to make sense, according to their expectations, and reject reality when it contradicts confirmation bias.

This is a devotion for early in Advent, the time of preparation for the twelve days of Christmas.  December should be a time of contemplation, assuming that one observes a spiritual holiday or holidays during the month.  (It is a month full of holidays.)  I, as a Christian, observe the seasons of Advent and Christmas while wishing others happy holidays in their traditions, for having a firm opinion need not lead to hostility and/or intolerance toward those who are different.  I observe Advent so enthusiastically that I wish people a holy Advent until very close to December 25, finally yielding to “Merry Christmas” somewhere around December 23.  Then I wish people “Merry Christmas” until January 5.  I, without becoming lost in theologically minor details, ponder the central mystery of Christianity, which is that God entered into the human story as one of us.  That Jesus was a human being is the first important statement about him.  The incarnation is foundational, for, if that assertion is not true, other essential doctrines, such as those related to Good Friday and Easter, fall apart.  Other ancient religions proposed their own saviors of the world, but those figures never existed as historical figures.  How can a figment of human imaginations save the world?

Was it ever too much to hope that God would become incarnate?  No, but it was wonderful.  And, since Jesus rose from the dead and conquered death and sin, there is even more hope for us than we would have otherwise.  Dare we to live in that hope?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 11, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THAUMATURGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF NEOCAESAREA; AND SAINT ALEXANDER OF COMANA “THE CHARCOAL BURNER,” ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR AND BISHOP OF COMANA, PONTUS

THE FEAST OF AUGUSTUS MONTAGUE TOPLADY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLARE OF ASSISI, FOUNDER OF THE POOR CLARES

THE FEAST OF MATTHIAS LOY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, EDUCATOR, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; AND CONRAD HERMANN LOUIS SCHUETTE, GERMAN-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, EDUCATOR, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/08/11/devotion-for-monday-after-the-second-sunday-of-advent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted August 12, 2015 by neatnik2009 in Isaiah 40, Psalm 126, Romans 8

Tagged with , ,

True Liberation   1 comment

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Above:  The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., March 26, 1964

Photographer = Marion S. Trikosko

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2003688129/)

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsc-01269

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son.

By his coming nurture our growth as people of repentance and peace;

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 18

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 40:1-11

Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19

John 1:19-28

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Some Related Posts:

Isaiah 40:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/tenth-day-of-advent/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/03/eighth-day-of-advent-second-sunday-of-advent-year-b/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-19-lcms-daily-lectionary/

John 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/ninth-day-of-christmas/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/13/devotion-for-february-5-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Give your king, justice, O God,

and your righteousness to the king’s son;

that he may rule your people righteously and the poor with justice;

that the mountains may bring prosperity to the people,

and the little hills bring righteousness.

He shall defend the needy among the people

and shall rescue the poor and crush the oppressor.

–Psalm 72:1-4, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Triumphal highways were symbols of Chaldean/Babylonian imperial power.  Thus they were, for exiles, symbols of oppression.  But the highway in Isaiah 40:3-5 is one of liberation.  It is the highway of Yahweh.  It is the road exiles will travel to their ancestral homeland.

John 1:23 draws on this imagery in reference to Jesus.  Instead of Chaldeans/Babylonians, with their highways, there are the Romans, with their network of highways.  Although Jews live in their homeland, they are not free.  No, they live under foreign occupation.  Liberation, St. John the Baptist tells people, is nigh.

But it was not a political liberation, as history attests.  No, it was a spiritual liberation.  The Temple system, in cahoots with the Roman Empire, was corrupt.  Purity codes marginalized the vast majority of Palestinian Jews and reassured an elite population of their imagined sanctity.  The destruction of that corrupt Temple system, with its purity codes, accomplished violently by Roman forces in 70 CE, was a crucial event in Jewish and Christian history.  And the Romans were still in power.

Jesus defined discipleship as following him–taking up one’s cross and following him.  The crucifixion and resurrection of Our Lord and Savior placed him beyond any human power.  What more could anyone do to him?  So, as St. Paul the Apostle wrote, if we die with Christ (literally or metaphorically) we will rise with Christ.  In Jesus there is life which no power on the planet can take away from us.  We have new life–eternal life–in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

This is not merely for individuals.  No, it is a collective liberation.  May we refrain from imposing anachronistic worldviews on texts.  Holiness was for the community in the Law of Moses.  Liberation is for the community in Jesus, for what we do affects others.  As Martin Luther King, Jr., reminded us prophetically,

Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.

Likewise, true holiness and liberation are inherently communal.  How can they be otherwise?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 26, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JEREMIAH, BIBLICAL PROPHET

THE FEAST OF ISABEL FLORENCE HAPGOOD, ECUMENIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/06/26/devotion-for-saturday-before-the-second-sunday-of-advent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Idols and Icons   1 comment

Above:  Baal

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

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 40:18-41:10

Psalm 18:1-20 (Morning)

Psalms 126 and 62 (Evening)

Revelation 8:1-13

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Some Related Posts:

Isaiah 40-41:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/eleventh-day-of-advent/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/19/fifth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b/

A Prayer for Proper Priorities:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/a-prayer-for-proper-priorities/

A Prayer to Relinquish the Illusion of Control:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/a-prayer-to-relinquish-the-illusion-of-control/

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John of Patmos interpreted natural disasters as calls to repentance.  As I tire of writing repeatedly yet think I must do anyway, repentance is changing one’s mind or turning around.  It is active.  Apologizing is part of repentance much of the time, yet let us never mistake it for all of repentance.

Back to my main thread….

John of Patmos interpreted natural disasters as calls to repentance.  As I wrote in the December 18 devotional post in this series, sometimes we interpret disturbing events (natural or otherwise)  correctly; at other times we add two and two, arriving at a sum of five.  But let us remain focused on the main point:   God desires that we repent.  This indicates that God has not given up on us.  Otherwise there would be just destruction.

God’s self-description in Isaiah 40-41 repudiates idols.  An idol is anything which distracts us from God. We all have a collection of them.  We might not call them statues of Baal or another ancient imaginary deity, but we might have an excessive habit of watching television or playing video games.  For many people the Bible itself is an idol because they treat it as one.

An icon, in contrast, is something through which we see (or hear) God. An icon can be religious artwork, a loved one, or the Bible, for example.  The Bible, in fact, is properly an icon.

May we repent of our idolatry and replace our idols with icons.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 2, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE NINTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY NAME OF JESUS (TRANSFERRED)

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-20-lcms-daily-lectionary/

The Call of God, With All Its Responsibilities   2 comments

Above:  Clouds at Sunset

Image Source = Fir0002

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sunset02.jpg)

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Isaiah 40:21-31 (New Revised Standard Version):

Have you not known?  Have you not heard?

Has it not been told you from the beginning?

Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?

It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,

and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;

who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,

and spreads them like a tent to live in;

who brings princes to naught,

and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.

Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,

scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,

when he blows upon them, and they wither,

and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

To whom then will you compare me?

or who is my equal? says the Holy One.

Lift up your eyes on high and see:

Who created these?

He who brings out their host and numbers them,

calling them all by name;

because he is great in strength,

mighty in power,

not one is missing.

Why do you say, O Jacob,

and speak, O Israel,

My way is hidden from the LORD,

and my right is disregarded by my God?

Have you not known?  Have you not heard?

The LORD is the everlasting God,

the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He does not faint or grow weary;

his understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the faint,

and strengthens the powerless.

Even youths will faint and be weary,

and the young will fall exhausted;

but those who wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength,

they shall mount up with wings like eagles,

they shall run and not be weary,

they shall walk and not faint.

Psalm 147:1-12, 21c (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Hallelujah!

How good it is to sing praises to our God!

how pleasant it is to honor him with praise!

2  The LORD rebuilds Jerusalem;

he gathers the exiles of Israel.

3  He heals the brokenhearted

and binds up their wounds.

4  He counts the number of the stars

and call s them all by their names.

5  Great is our LORD and mighty in power;

there is no limit to his wisdom.

6  The LORD lifts up the lowly,

but casts the wicked to the ground.

7  Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving;

make music to our God upon the harp.

8  He covers the heavens with clouds

and prepares the rain for the earth;

9  He makes grass to grow upon the mountains

and green plants to serve mankind.

10  He provides food for flocks and herds

and for the young ravens when they cry.

11  He is not impressed by the might of a horse;

he has no pleasure in the strength of a man;

12  But the LORD has pleasure in those who fear him,

in those who await his gracious favor.

21c  Hallelujah!

1 Corinthians 9:16-23 (New Revised Standard Version):

If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel!  For if I do this on my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission.  When then is my reward?  Just this:  that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free if charge, as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel.

For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them.  To the Jews I became a Jew, in order to win Jews.  To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law.  To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law.  To the weak I became weak, so I might win the weak.  I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some.  I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.

Mark 1:29-39 (New Revised Standard Version):

As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.  Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once.  He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up.  Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons.  And the whole city was gathered around the door.  And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.  And Simon and his companions hunted for him.  When they found him, they said to him,

Everyone is searching for you.

He answered,

Let us go on to the neighboring towns , so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.

And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

The Collect:

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/09/fifth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

Isaiah 40:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/eleventh-day-of-advent/

Mark 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/17/week-of-1-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

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In the Autumn of 1991, during my first quarter at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, Tifton, Georgia, my father was the newly appointed pastor the Sumner United Methodist Church, Sumner, Georgia.  I did not know it yet, but I was on the cusp of converting to The Episcopal Church, which I did at St. Anne’s Church, Tifton, on December 22, 1991.  (http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2009/12/20/reflections-upon-the-eighteenth-anniversary-of-my-confirmation/)  In the meantime, however, I was still a United Methodist.  One Sunday morning, while teaching adult Sunday School, I offended someone by accident.

You, O reader, might wonder what terrible thing I said, what utterly offensive comment I made.  I will tell you.  I was discussing grace, especially the prevenient variety, by which God brings us into the Christian fold.  God does beckon us, after all.  I offered a scenario:  God is beckoning a non-Christian man, who responds favorably and obediently to God’s prevenient grace yet dies before making a profession of faith.  Does the man go to Heaven or to Hell?  In other words, will God be faithful to this man, who had responded favorably to him?  Most people said that the man would go to Heaven.  But two visitors, a daughter and son-in-law of a member, said that he would go to Hell, for he had not made a profession of faith and been baptized yet.  I made clear in a polite and civilized way, in a pleasant and conversational tone, and free of any insult or hint thereof, that I disagreed.

That was my offense.  I disagreed.  I learned after the fact that the visitors had taken offense.  I was unapologetic then, as I remain, for another person’s thin theological skin is not my responsibility.

And I remain convinced that we human beings ought to admit that the only limits on grace and divine forgiveness are those God imposes on them, and that only God knows what those limits are.  Or, as David said in 2 Samuel 24:14,

…let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into the hand of man.  (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition)

Grace is of the essence.  With that summary, let us work through the readings for this Sunday.

The lesson from Isaiah 40 predicts the liberation of Jews from the Babylonian Exile.  This is a chapter of comfort, as it begins with these words:

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,

and cry to her

that her warfare is ended,

that her iniquity is pardoned,

that she has received from the LORD’s hand

double for all her sins.

(Isaiah 40:1-2, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition)

The God of Isaiah 40 and Psalm 147 is the Creator, the judge who also shows mercy, looks favorably upon the faithful, and is infinitely wise.  The chapter, which begins with “…comfort my people,” ends with the promise that God will grant “power to the faint.”

That power enabled Paul the Apostle to persist faithfully through death threats, beatings, imprisonments, and a shipwreck, all the way until an employee of the Roman Empire cut his head off.  Grace moved Paul from the “right side of the law” and placed him in risky situations.  This was not cheap grace, that which demands nothing of one and is therefore useless.  No, it was costly grace–free in so far as Paul received it freely–but costly in terms of what it demanded of him.  The restrictions of Torah law no longer applied to him, but the law of the love of Christ demanded his all.

Jesus, of course, was perfect as well as fully human and fully divine.  Yet even he needed to get away, find quiet time, and pray.  A day full of healing will take a great deal out of a Messiah, I suppose.  He was grace incarnate.  It was Christ whom Paul preached and followed from his conversion to his execution.  It is Jesus whom we ought to follow, if we are not doing so already, and to whom God beckons people.

And if even Jesus needed to be quiet and to pray, how much more do we need to do these?  I live in a technology-soaked society, where many people are never really “away from it all” (except when sleeping) because somebody can contact them the rest of the time.  This is not healthy.  We need to nourish ourselves with peace, quiet, and God.  Otherwise, we will nothing constructive to offer anyone else.

Paul had a vocation as an evangelist and ultimately a martyr.  I have my vocation, and you, O reader, have yours.  The details of our vocations will vary according to various factors, but the principle is the same:  to glorify God, to be a light of God to others, to encourage our fellow Christians in their discipleship, to attract others to our Lord and Savior, to understand that there is no distinction between evangelism and positive social action.  As Shirwood Eliot Wirt, a close associate of Billy Graham wrote in the final chapter of The Social Conscience of the Evangelical (1968):

James was not wrong when he demanded that Christians show their faith by their works.  Jesus Christ was not wrong when he told his listeners in effect to stop sitting on their hands and to get to work doing God’s will.  He did not come to earth to split theological hairs, but to minister to a world in need and to save men out of it for eternity.  It is time the air is cleared.  To pit social action against evangelism is to raise a phony issue, one that Jesus would have spiked in a sentence.  He commanded his disciples to spread the Good News, and to let their social concern be made manifest through the changed lives of persons of ultimate worth.  (Page 154)

If I love my neighbor as I love myself, I cannot say honestly that I do not care about the injustice he or she endures, that he or she does not earn a living wage, that a flawed justice system convicted and sent him or her to prison unjustly, that he or she suffers under the weight of undue stigma, et cetera.  Grace demands me to care about all this and to act accordingly as well as whether my neighbor has a positive, growing relationship with Jesus of Nazareth. These are some of my responsibilities.  They are also yours.

God’s hands are my hands–and yours.  God’s voice is my voice–and yours.  May they be useful and eloquent, respectively.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 19, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SADHU SUNDAR SINGH, TEACHER AND EVANGELIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/19/fifth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b/

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We Wait…   1 comment

Above:  The Roman Colosseum in Early Morning

It is neither dark nor light; the light will come.

Image Source = Diliff

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Colosseum_in_Rome,_Italy_-_April_2007.jpg)

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Isaiah 40:1-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

Comfort, O comfort my people,

says your God.

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,

and cry to her

that she has served her term,

that her penalty is paid,

that she has received from the LORD’s hand

double for all her sins.

A voice cries out:

In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD,

make straight in desert a highway for our God.

Every valley shall be lifted up,

and every mountain and hill be made low;

the uneven ground shall become level,

and the rough places a plain.

Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,

and all people shall see it together,

for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

A voice says,

Cry out!

And I said,

What shall I cry?

All people are grass,

their consistency is like the flower of the field.

The grass withers, the flower fades,

when the breath of the LORD blows upon it;

surely the people are grass.

The grass withers, the flower fades;

but the word of our God will stand for ever.

Get up to a high mountain,

O Zion, herald of great tidings;

lift up your voice with strength,

O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,

lift it up, do not fear;

say to the cities of Judah,

Here is your God!

See, the LORD God comes with might,

and his arm rules for him;

his reward is with him,

and his recompense before him.

He will feed his flock like a shepherd;

he will gather the lambs in his arms,

and carry them in his bosom,

and gently lead the mother sheep.

Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  You have been gracious to your land, O LORD,

you have restored the good fortune of Jacob.

2  You have forgiven the iniquity of your people

and blotted out all their sins.

8  I will listen to what the LORD God is saying,

for he is speaking peace to his faithful people

and to those who turn their hearts to him.

9  Truly, his salvation is very near to those fear him,

that his glory may dwell in our land.

10  Mercy and truth have met together;

righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

11  Truth shall spring up from the earth,

and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

12  The LORD will indeed grant prosperity,

and our land will yield its increase.

13  Righteousness shall go before him,

and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.

2 Peter 3:8-15a (New Revised Standard Version):

But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day.  The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.  But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.

Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire?  But, in accordance with his promise, we waiting for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.

Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.

Mark 1:1-8 (New Revised Standard Version):

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,

See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,

who will prepare the way;

the voice of one crying out in the wilderness;

“Prepare the way of the Lord,

make his paths straight.’”

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.  Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.  He proclaimed,

The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals.  I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.

The Collect:

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Second Sunday of Advent, Year A:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/eighth-day-of-advent-second-sunday-of-advent-year-a/

First Sunday of Advent, Year B:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/02/first-day-of-advent-first-sunday-of-advent-year-b/

Isaiah 40:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/tenth-day-of-advent/

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Waiting is hard.  I do not refer to pacing and foot-tapping while wondering what is taking somebody so long, although that is difficult.  No, I mean purposeful, patient waiting.  The conquered and exiled Jews living within the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire had to wait for the Persian army of Cyrus the Great.  These being Advent readings, however, most waiting is for the coming of the Messiah.  In the meantime, people near Jerusalem listened to an eccentric ascetic.  And, a few decades later, members of a nascent faith called Christianity awaited the return of Jesus, with advice to live at peace with God and each other.  Time, the author of 2 Peter writes, works differently for God than for us, so we ought not to become impatient.

Listen to a really good and chanted version of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”  The haunting  sense of longing will be evident there, as will confidence that Emmanuel will come, and God will indeed be with us in a different way than is true now.  Until then, we need to hang on.

This requires stillness.   But we cannot be still while rushing and flitting about from shopping trip to shopping trip and Christmas party (office, neighborhood, church group, etc.) to Christmas party.  December is a hectic time for many people.  Yet this is the time that the Church, in its wisdom, has set aside as Advent, a time of faithful preparation for Christmas.

I write these words in early June 2011, a very hot time in northern Georgia, U.S.A.  Slowing down long enough to type the readings and to ponder them, and hopefully to grasp the spirit of them, is a valuable exercise.  During this time I have played a variety of YouTube videos of Advent carols in the background, to get into the proper frame of mind.  Focusing on these readings has been a great blessing for me this day, and I hope that they are for you, too.

Dominus tecum.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 3, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF UGANDA

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Published originally at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on June 3, 2011

Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/03/eighth-day-of-advent-second-sunday-of-advent-year-b/

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Posted November 12, 2011 by neatnik2009 in 2 Peter 3, Isaiah 40, Mark 1, Psalm 85

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