Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Lectionary Notes for Twenty-sixth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 28, Ordinary 33, Year C)

Readings for 26th Sunday after Pentecost, 11/17/13:
Isaiah 65:17-25, Isaiah 12, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13, Luke 21:5-19

Isaiah 65:17-25:
  • This is a very Advent-sounding text, is it not? It makes me wait for the season of waiting! Reminds me of Isaiah 11, and the peaceable kingdom.
  • However you look at it, what a beautiful, hopeful passage. Compare to Revelation 21 - another vision of a new heaven and new earth. Personally, I prefer this vision from Isaiah - there's a sense of justice being fulfilled: no infant mortality, no young death. But more than that, no building without dwelling in the home, no planting without harvesting. "My chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain."
  • Not only a vision of justice, but also a vision of peace, as the typically dangerous becomes friend to the gentle: wolf and lamb together. We can all pray for this place to come quickly on our earth!
Isaiah 12:
  • Blessed with a double reading from Isaiah today! I can’t read these verses without thinking of anthem my home church sang on this text, “The First Song of Isaiah,” by Jack Noble White. It’s really gorgeous.
  • Here is a passage where the understanding of ‘salvation’ in its most basic sense of safety, safe-keeping from harm, is quite evident. In God, we are safe, safe from ourselves, safe from others, safe from being lost and destroyed.
  • This is a picture of an angry God I can handle: "I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, and you comforted me." Because, though God is angry, God still comforted. I can imagine God angry - we humans certainly do enough terrible things to cause God to anger. But I have a hard time when the scriptures depict God as acting out of this anger to harm humans. This, a God who is angry but still comforts, is a God who can reach me instead of reject me even when I am sinful.
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13:
  • Eesh, unfortunately, I could just see this text being used against those who were poor and/or receiving welfare today. "Anyone unwilling to work should not eat." I get the author's point, and the context, but taken from the situation, this text could be used to abuse and keep others 'in their place.'
  • "keep away from believers who are living in idleness and not according to the tradition that they received from us." Interesting, isn't it, that it is believers that we're warned away from, not non-believers. Perhaps believers who aren't acting like believers are more dangerous than those outside the faith community? An interesting thought.
Luke 21:5-19:
  • An odd sort of gospel lesson to deal with this week, and a long one. It reads like an end-times text, and I think that's what congregants will hear: Oh my gosh, the end of the world is almost here! But I think careful reading reveals more than that.
  • "many will come in my name and say, 'I am he'" I wonder who Jesus had in mind? We love tossing around the 'anti-Christ' label. Who is trying to get us to follow them as if they were our all in all? As I write this, just a few days before the election, that's a good question for us to ask...
  • Jesus is totally up front: following me is not easy. You will be persecuted, tried, tested, betrayed, even killed. We like to think that our faith would withstand all this, but I'm actually full of doubt - in my comfy 21st century American middle-class environment, I may have to defend my faith to other Christians who don't agree with my liberal views, but I've never come close to feeling threatened or fearful because of my beliefs. Could we withstand this kind of testing? Sometimes I feel the lack of pressure put on my faith makes it easy for me to demand little of myself as well. Christianity, full of grace and love, is also full of demands that we radically change the way we live. Are you ready? "By your endurance you will gain your souls."
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