Sunday, November 24, 2013

Lectionary Notes for First Sunday of Advent, Year A

Readings for First Sunday in Advent, 12/1/13:
Isaiah 2:1-5, Psalm 122, Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 24:36-44

Isaiah 2:1-5:
  • "they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they study war any more." ah, I long for the day when this vision will be made plain on earth. It certainly retains timeliness, doesn't it? This is one of the verses (along with Micah 6:8) that graces the rotunda of the General Board of Church and Society's United Methodist building in Washington, D.C. ...
  • also, about the above verse: notice that the image is not just of peace, but of turning weapons into tools, tools that help growth and creation and life. Non-war, Non-fighting is not enough. Proactive, pro-creative is where God calls us.
  • "The Lord's house . . . shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it." This is a unique visual - if you think of God as mountain-top and nations as rivers - they stream upwards, against the usual flow, to meet with God.
  • Oh, indeed, let us walk in the light of God!
Psalm 122:
  • "peace be within your walls . . . "peace be within you." Peace in your house - that's good. Peace within you. That's better. Let's not ask it only for "relatives and friends" but for all.
  • "for the sake of . . . the Lord our God, I will seek your good." This is an important verse. We are good at seeking our own good, aren't we? But do we seek the good of others? If we can't do it for them or for ourselves, can we do it, as the psalmist says, for God's sake?
Romans 13:11-14:
  • "you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep." There is such urgency in this statement and in this passage. I dislike our obsession, in Paul's time and today, with the end times. But I do like a sense of urgency. What are we waiting for to get going with doing God's work? We know what time it is: time for peace. time for justice. time for grace. Now is the moment to wake and work.
  • "make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires." No provision? Poor Paul - so black and white sometimes in his thinking - body or spirit instead of body and spirit.
  • "salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers." - this is a good verse to plug John Wesley's idea of sanctifying grace - grace that grows in us as we become disciples. A time of conversion (justification) when we first come 'be believers', however we might define that, is not the end and all and all of our relationship with God.
Matthew 24:36-44:
  • note on the Greek: the word for flood, kataklusmos, means literally, "inundation." neat.
  • "at an unexpected hour" Another passage talking about end times, if that's only as far as you are wanting to look. Better to think of it this way: so often in my life I am putting things off - procrastinating - not so much about day to day things, like sermon-writing :), etc., but about big things: I will start giving more ... when I'm out of debt. I will take risks for God .... after I get my PhD. I will speak out about what I really believe .... after I'm ordained elder. But the Son of Man comes unexpectedly. I should stop acting like I have something to wait for before I get to work the way God wants me to. Again, is in the passage from Romans, the time is NOW.
  • Note that Jesus makes no mention of why some get taken and some left, or where they get taken, or anything specific. We bring a lot of assumptions to the text about what this means, but be careful not to read things into the passage that aren't there.
  • Why do you think Jesus tells the disciples (and us) these things? What's his intention? We react, today at least, with fear and anxiety and worry. Is that what Jesus meant for us to feel? If it isn't, (and I'm thinking it isn't) how come we're missing what he's getting at?   

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