This week we continue with our Advent readings as we get closer to Christmas. This week and next week the Gospel text will focus on John the Baptizer.
Isaiah 11:1-10 - The prophet foresees a time when a descendent of King David (a shoot from the root of Jesse, David's father) will rule with peace and justice. This descendent will have the spirit of the Lord within him along with wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, and the fear of the Lord. During this time, says the prophet, even the animals will not kill each other and will live peaceably together. Who is this descendent? With his death and resurrection Christians have proclaimed Jesus to be the one.
Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19 - Verse 20 says, "The prayers of David son of Jesse are ended." In this Psalm, David prays for a King who is righteous and just, who defends the defenseless, and who has a long live. During that reign, David prays for righteousness and peace for all. Verses 18-19 praises God for all the wonderful things God has done.
Romans 15:4-13 - In the first three verses of this chapter Paul says that those who are stronger (in their faith?) should support and encourage those who are weak and that our purpose is to build up our neighbors. The tenor of the text is that we need to welcome ALL ("each other"?) because the promises of God to Abraham are extended also to the "Gentiles".
Matthew 3:1-12 - This is the story of John the Baptizer who preached powerfully out in the wilderness and that everyone in Judea came to hear him and to be baptized by him in the Jordan. His basic message is "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." This was also Jesus' message but they interpreted it differently. John thought in terms of violence and Jesus thought in terms of reconciliation and welcome. Is it easier to hear John's words as applied to someone else rather then Jesus'?
The Kingdom is near. Does it make a difference?
Here are the readings for this coming Sunday. If you come to church this Sunday you may not hear these scripture as both churches will be having their annual "Hanging of the Greens" service.
Isaiah 2:1-5 - The prophet proclaims that there will be a day when God will rule the world and all nations and peoples will look to the Lord for justice, arbitration, and instruction. God's rule will mean that weapons will be turned into instruments of food production (or medicine or homes for the homeless). "Let us walk in the light of the Lord!"
Psalm 122 - This psalm is called a "Song of Assents" (this group includes Psalms 120-134) and "were likely sung by pilgrims on their way up to the temple on Mount Zion for feast celebration." It is used with our Isaiah reading because Isaiah says that God's rule will happen on his mountain and people will come up the mountain.
Romans 13:11-14 - Paul appeals to his readers in Rome to be ready for the coming of Jesus: "Salvation is nearer to us now then when we became believers." He urges them to put aside the desires of sin and put on the armor of light: Jesus Christ.
Matthew 24:36-44 - This Sunday we begin a new liturgical year. The liturgical year consists of 6 seasons: Advent (the 4 Sundays before Christmas), Christmas (12 days starting on Christmas day), Epiphany (varying lengths), Lent (40 days plus Sundays before Easter), Easter (49 days starting on Easter Sunday), and Pentecost (starts 50 days after Easter and ends 5 Sundays before Christmas). It also means we start reading in another Gospel. This is year A and the focus is on Matthew (B = Mark, C = Luke, with John scattered throughout all three years). Also, Advent is a time of preparing for the return of Jesus and we read passages where Jesus talks about his return. In this passage, Jesus reflect that no one knows when Jesus will return, not the angels and not even himself. This puts a lot of theologians into a conundrum because if Jesus is fully God and knows all that God know how can he not know this? Anyway, Jesus warns the disciples to always be ready because the hour will be unexpected.
May you be blessed by the readings this week and may you be so involved in the reading you lose yourself in God's Word.
This coming Sunday we are combining "The Reign of Christ/Christ the King" Sunday with our Thanksgiving service I will mention and comment on nine different readings.
Reign of Christ/Christ the King Sunday
Jeremiah 23:1-6 - The prophet starts off by warning the current (evil) kings, called Shepherds, that their failure has driven the people, the Sheep, away from God. God will attend to them first and then gather the scattered people and give them good Shepherds. Contrary to the practices of the kings of other nations, the kings of Israel were called to lead their people like a shepherd leads the sheep, not to abuse their authority and make themselves rich on the backs of the people. The prophet then speaks of a day when a true descendant of David will reign wisely with justice and righteousness.
Luke 1:68-79 - This is a traditional Advent/Christmas reading when the priest Zechariah, when he gets his voice back after John the Baptist is born, proclaims God's goodness in raising up a Savior for the people of Israel/Judah. This reading has traditionally been called the "Benedictus", the first word in Latin.
Psalm 46 - This psalm proclaims that God is the source of refuge and strength and who ends all wars.
Colossians 1:11-20 - This section, which begins in the middle of a paragraph in my Bible, begins with a blessing of strength, joy, and thanksgiving. Verses 15-20 are, in theological terms, a "Christology". That is, it is a statement of who Jesus is; literally "Christ Knowledge". Notice all the things that Jesus is: image of God, firstborn of all creation, creator, before all things, universal glue, head of the body/church, firstborn from the dead, holds the fullness of God, reconciling all things to God, and giving peace through the blood of his cross.
Luke 23:33-43 - This passage is a Good Friday text and tells the story of the crucifixion of Jesus. Killed with 2 criminals, Jesus is mocked by the crowds to save himself if he is truly the Messiah and mocked by the soldiers to save himself if he is a king. There is also a plaque over his head with the words "The King of the Jews". How is this a picture of a "King"? Is Jesus here more of an "anti-King"? And if Jesus is a King, how would this King rule? The entire passion of Jesus tosses the concept of King of Israel on its head. It is a subversion of the rule of humanity and proclaims the true rule of God: the one who suffers our violence and says "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing."
Deuteronomy 26:1-11 - Moses gives instructions about how to thank the Lord for the blessings of the land. It is about giving the first fruits and remembering everything that God has done: called Abraham, rescued them from Egypt, and given them a bountiful land.
Psalm 100 - This is a very short Psalm of Praise. When we give thanks do we make a joyful noise? Do we worship with gladness? Do we come into his presence with singing? "For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever and his faithfulness to all generations."
Philippians 4:4-9 - (Another "Christology" can be found in Philippians 2:6-11.) This passage starts with "Rejoice in the Lord always" and then proceeds to tell us how to live day to day with that joy. If we live always in that joy then we will have God's peace within.
John 6:25-35 - This is part of a long chapter 6 that begins with the feeding of 5,000 on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee. After the feeding, the disciples get into a boat to cross to the western side at night and get caught in a rough waters. Jesus walks out to the boat on the water and then calms the waves. The next day the crowd hurries around the lake to find Jesus. This begins a passage known as "the Bread of Life". The crowds seem to be not very thankful and Jesus perceives that what they truly need is God's presence within. That comes from eating of the Bread of Life or, in other words, believing in the one whom God has sent (verse 29). Are we truly thankful for ALL that God has given: His Presence, His Son, His forgiveness, His acceptance, His Spirit, and His Kingdom.
Here is the question I asked in church this week: What are all the quirky, odd-ball things you are thankful for.
Be thankful and know that God is loving, forgiving, giving and calling.