Archive for the ‘Isaiah 40’ Category

God Cares, Part V   Leave a comment

Above:  Salonica, Greece, 1913

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-66142

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

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O Lord, you have promised that whatsoever we do to

the least of your brethren you will receive as done to you:

Give us grace to be ever willing and ready, as you enable us,

to minister to the necessities of our fellow human beings;

in your name we pray.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 155

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Isaiah 40:1-5

Psalm 53

2 Thessalonians 1:3-5, 11-12; 2:1-2, 13-15

Luke 17:20-25

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The standard English-language translations of Psalms 14 and 53 (nearly identical poems) do not do justice to the texts.  For example, the fools are actually wicked people.  Also, the wicked do not deny the existence of God.  No, they claim that God does not care.  That attitude explains why they feel free to continue in their wickedness.

That God cares is a point the readings affirm.  God cares enough to have ended the Babylonian Exile.  God cares enough to have brought about the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity as Jesus of Nazareth, who identified with us and our suffering.

God cares about us deeply.  We can never reciprocate fully, but God does not expect us to do the impossible, fortunately.  We can, however, respond faithfully to God.  On concrete measure of this caring is the manner in which we treat our fellow human beings.  Each of us falls short by that standard, but we can improve, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HILARY OF POITIERS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS, “ATHANASIUS OF THE WEST,” AND HYMN WRITER; MENTOR OF SAINT MARTIN OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN KEIMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT KENTIGERN (MUNGO), ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF GLASGOW

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGUERITE BOURGEOYS, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME

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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/

Waiting for God   1 comment

Above:  Tall Wild Grass

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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 40:1-17

Psalm 50 (Morning)

Psalms 14 and 16 (Evening)

Revelation 7:1-17

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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/

The Church’s One Foundation:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/06/26/the-churchs-one-foundation/

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All flesh is grass,

All its goodness like flowers of the field:

Grass withers, flowers fade

When the breath of God blows on them.

Indeed, man is but grass:

Grass withers, flowers fade–

But the word of our God is always fulfilled.

–Isaiah 40:6b-8, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

The exiles of Judah will go home.  The martyrs in Heaven glorify God, who has sealed the faithful for survival during the great tribulation.  Tough times will follow in the near term but those of God will emerge in one piece–not necessarily unscathed, but in one piece.

Most of us dislike suffering for obvious reasons.  We refer good news to bad news, pleasure to pain, good time to different ones.  And we want the deliverance to arrive sooner rather than later.  Immediately would suit us fine.  I know these feelings well.

Yet we must wait sometimes.  This is an Advent devotion, so the theme of waiting fits well.

O come, o come, Emmanuel,

an old hymn says.  There is a great sense of longing there.  And, from “The Church’s One Foundation” (words by Samuel John Stone, 1839-1900, a priest of The Church of England), we read:

Mid toil and tribulation,

and tumult of her war,

she waits the consumation

of peace for evermore,

till with the vision glorious

her longing eyes are blessed,

and the great Church victorious

shall be the Church at rest.

Waiting can be very difficult, for our schedule is not that of God.  Yet, if we wait faithfully long enough, we will know from experience that God is faithful.

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-19-lcms-daily-lectionary/