Season of Advent 2018 Year C – First Sunday: The Gospel Passage – Watching the “times” & “signs” come about

“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” (Luke 21:25 – 26)

Nature does some strange things – eclipses of the sun and moon, solar flares, shooting stars and meteors. How are we to know what are “signs” and what are natural but unique phenomena. In the past predictions of the end times and portents of doom have been begun and tied to nature “malfunctioning”. So far, as far as I know, the world has not ended yet.

Nations rise and fall, governments act rashly and go to war one with another – one nation against one nation, groups of nations rising up against other groups of nations, and one nation attacking or being attacked by a collection of other nations. How are we to know what are “signs” and what are results of antagonism, aggression, and violence?

And how are we to know if/when the “powers of the heavens” are shaken if we can’t find heaven on any map know to humanity? All in all, the signs that have had humanity fainting and fearing, and foreboding have not result in global apocalypse or rapture.

“Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Verses 27 – 28)

It seems to me that each generation in humanity had defined for itself what are the fearful and foreboding signs. Yes there have been individuals who have raised their voices and have yelled “Beware the times!” But so far, while the times are fear producing, the Son of Man has not come back to earth in the way predicted.

“Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Verses 29 – 36)

What do we do with these passages? There are more questions than answers. Which “generation”? What does the term “pass away” mean for a whole generation? It sounds like the writer of the gospel of Luke is telling his readers/listeners it will be in their lifetimes, and they need to be on guard for these things. It is not a warning to pass on to their children, the next generation, but the generation of the gospel of Luke. Yet, here we are.

And . . . if this passage is one weighted down with worry, fret, and warning . . . . what is it doing in the texts for the first week of Advent?! I don’t have any surprising or pithy answer to my questions. No turning things on their head and seeing it in a new light. The commentators I read did not seem to have answers either, but confined themselves to explaining the language used.

Perhaps the next question should be “What does it mean if/when the kingdom of God is at hand?” For if these things have come to pass within the generation it was spoken to/written for, then the kingdom of God was very near them. What then does it mean to live so close to the kingdom of God?

What if it means this? We know that the Holy Spirit, the Counselor and Adviser, came upon the disciples and changed them in ways they could not understand before. Gave them strength, endurance, stamina, and faith that they never had before, nor that they could have. Maybe the kingdom of God is not a physical intervention into our world but a spiritual generator set up just outside of physical boundaries of our world sending energy and spiritual wisdom to us.

I don’t know what the gospel writer of Luke meant, or how/if Jesus’ words were given meanings that had more to do with the times and the hopes of the people and gospel writers who lived then. We take words that were written so long ago under circumstances that are so far from our own. And we expect them to translate. Seamlessly no less!

We are coming to the end of the first week of Advent. Maybe the kingdom of God is nearer than we think. I can not say for 100% what than means. What I do know is that if the Lord God the Divine is coming nearer, we better be ready! Selah!

Advertisements

Season of Advent 2018 Year C – First Sunday: The Epistle Passage – A time of blessing and well wishing

How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith.”(1 Thessalonians 3:9)

It took some time to find my entry point for this passage. Paul undoubtedly felt a warmth and paternal care for the people of Thessalonica. At first I thought Paul felt there was something lacking in their faith that needed to be remedied. But after some thinking and pondering, what I realized was that Paul desired to make their faith as complete as possible. Not a paternal authority correcting them, but a caring father desiring what was best for them. At that point it was an easy step to see it as an “Advent” wish for a more joyful future of faith for them. And is that not part of Advent? The wish and desire to bestow something extra on another? Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians could be seen as a blessing for their future.

“Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you.
And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you.
And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” (Verses 10 – 13)

Paul says again he earnestly desires to see them. And he desires them to love each other as he loves them. And further that they may be ready for then the Lord Jesus returns to earth. Now we know that Jesus did not return; but perhaps they were ready when death took them from this world. And in a way Paul did see them again when they were reunited in heaven. As to the love they were to have for each other that was equal to the love Paul had for them, we do not know. Loving one’s fellow believer is hard enough; loving those who are not of your faith circle or tradition is an even greater stretch. But, that is the calling of Advent and Christmas – to love one another. We talked about that yesterday.

As is so often the case when Paul prays, he prays what I would pray myself. That my words may find their way to all beloved readers, whatever your/their faith traditions would be. That my beloved readers would show the care and concern to others that I feel for all of you who, although nameless to me, are still beloved to me. And that you may be ready, or made ready for this Advent & Christmas season! Selah and Shalom!

Season of Advent 2018 Year C – First Sunday: The Old Testament Passage – Well look what time of year it is, again!

I was a little surprised to see that after my brief hiatus I was starting back at the beginning of Advent. Advent have always been beginnings in my blogging over the past years. There is something about starting a new lectionary year that makes me want to try new things and stretch myself. This year would be no different . . . . if there was something new I wanted to try. Last year I made the switch from posting on the old site, A Simple Desire to posting here. Years ago I switched from scripture cycle that was random scriptures chosen by another website to using the Revised Common Lectionary. But as I said, I am not feeling the need to make any changes this year.

The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The LORD is our righteousness.” (Jeremiah 33:14-16)

In the scripture passage for today, the Divine is talking about making changes. Changes more dramatic than the people of Jeremiah’s time could ever imagine. Changes more dramatic than the people during Jesus’ time could imagine. Changes so dramatic that some rejected them as changes from the Divine, from Yahweh.

When one thinks about Advent and the coming season of Christmas, changes are inevitable. The season is changing, from the [relative] warmth of summer and fall to the chill and cold of winter. Colors change from the oranges, yellows, and blacks of fall to the green, white, and red of Christmas. Christmas can have other colors as well – it is not defined by the three I mentioned. But the colors of fall give way to the colors of winter – sometimes very early considering that Christmas decorations make there way into the commercial and social life of our society earlier and earlier! Pumpkin orange morphing into Christmas red is pretty dramatic! Hopefully along with that change comes the season of giving and caring that is promoted in many ways. In many ways the sharing and caring of Thanksgiving bursts wide open as Christmas comes closer and closer! That is one Christmas tradition that can come as early as it wants, in my opinion.

I have to wonder – as I often do when predictions are given for events that are far in advance of when the prediction is given – how the people during Jeremiah’s time received this prophecy. The house of Israel and Judah had taken quite a beating. Did they hope “this time” would come soon? Perhaps as soon as the changing of the current season? Was it a prophecy that gave hope for the present and a reason to endure into the future? And as the decades passed, did their hopes fade?

When we see on the calendar the first Sunday of Advent, we know Christmas will be coming soon. And on a schedule we can depend on. The time between Jeremiah and the birth of Jesus must have been very long. And perhaps the predictions of Jeremiah – if they were seen as applying to the coming of the Messiah – had faded into history that was too long ago.

Oh beloved reader! We may think the four weeks of Advent stretch too long! But the saving and redeeming of Israel and Judah were many decades in coming. So many that when Jesus was born the nation of the Hebrews and Israelites/Judahites barely existed anymore. Perhaps this week we can look at the task of waiting in hope and anticipation. Shalom!

Season After Pentecost (Proper 29[34]) – The Psalm Passage: Time to stop reflecting and start to act

O LORD, remember in David’s favor all the hardships he endured; how he swore to the LORD and vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob, “I will not enter my house or get into my bed; I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, until I find a place for the LORD, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.” We heard of it in Ephrathah; we found it in the fields of Jaar. “Let us go to his dwelling place; let us worship at his footstool.” (Psalm 1 – 7)

King David had, when he first had secured the throne, expressed the desire to build a house for the Ark of the Covenant and for the Lord God Yahweh to reside it. It was not to be, but King David desired it greatly. King David did not just muse upon it or imagine how it might have been. He gathered treasures and building materials (if the commentators are to be believed) and made plans. His son King Solomon actually completed the Temple but it was David who first sparked the idea and passed its importance down to his son.

Rise up, O LORD, and go to your resting place, you and the ark of your might. Let your priests be clothed with righteousness, and let your faithful shout for joy. For your servant David’s sake do not turn away the face of your anointed one.
The LORD swore to David a sure oath from which he will not turn back: “One of the sons of your body I will set on your throne. If your sons keep my covenant and my decrees that I shall teach them, their sons also, forevermore, shall sit on your throne.” (Verses 8 – 12)

There comes a time to set aside wishing, thinking, and pondering; there comes a time to take action. I realized, beloved reader, looking back on the past two weeks that I have continued the theme of pondering inadvertently. In one week’s time I wrote to weeks’ worth of commentary so that I would have a week free to tend to other matters. One week flowed into the next in my thinking and I did not insert a break into my considerations of the passages. That is sometimes how it is when we think, muse, and ponder. Time passes by and we do not take action. Again if the commentators are to be believed, David spent much of his kingship planning out a “House for the Lord”, what building materials there should be and how it would be furnished. It would explain how early in his kingship that Solomon was able to build the temple if his father had done the planning work and accumulating of materials. Solomon was a thinker and a philosopher. His father King David was a doer. In any project it is good to have both. And both types of leadership, if done under the direction and guidance of the Lord, are acceptable to the Divine.

“For the LORD has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his habitation: “This is my resting place forever; here I will reside, for I have desired it. I will abundantly bless its provisions; I will satisfy its poor with bread. Its priests I will clothe with salvation, and its faithful will shout for joy. There I will cause a horn to sprout up for David; I have prepared a lamp for my anointed one. His enemies I will clothe with disgrace, but on him, his crown will gleam.” (Verses 13 – 18)

Having completed this last commentary and scheduled it to appear at its proper time, I will be resting for a week and completing other tasks that need to be done. My plan is to write something current of Thanksgiving, as a summary and celebration if my work and plans for the coming week (real time) are seen to fruition. It is my hope and prayer that the ponderings I have done in the past few weeks and the actions I will take in the coming week will result in the outcome I desire. I wish and pray for the same thing for you beloved reader. Shalom and Selah!

Season After Pentecost (Proper 29[34]) – The Gospel Passage: Jesus invites Pilate to reflect

Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” (John 18:33 – 35)

I was curious about verse 35 and Pilate’s question. Some commentators say the Pilate is insulted by the question, that anyone would think he is a “slave Jew.” Other commentators believe he is asserting his independence from Jewish thinking and influence, and he will judge the matter without prejudice or influence. In either case, Jesus’ question prompts Pilate to look himself and his involvement in the proceedings.

“Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” (Verses 36 – 37)

Jesus invites Pilate to further reflect on what makes a king, and what power does a king command. And how long or short a king might be in power based on the circumstances. Okay, so admittedly one can interpret and imbue at great deal into Pilate’s and Jesus’ statements, questions, and answers. Maybe Pilate is not a thinker or philosopher. Maybe he is just a politician looking to solve problems and up-rises. And if Pilate does not take up Jesus’ invitation to reflect that does not mean we should not.

What is the nature of power? How do you wield it with integrity and honor? How long should power last? Can you make it last? When should power give way to submission? More pondering – what is the nature of truth? Is there different types of truth? Is truth relative? How does power and truth connect and interact? The questions, reflections, and ponderings could go on. That is one of the reasons I like pondering – taking a question or situation and looking at it from all sides and angles. I would invite you, beloved reader, to ponder will and let truths arise from sincere pondering. Because, beloved reader, it is after pondering truths that the nature of true and lasting power can come. Selah!

Season After Pentecost Thanksgiving Day 2018: The Old Testament, Gospel & Psalm Passages – Raising up thanksgiving to the Divine

Do not fear, O soil; be glad and rejoice, for the LORD has done great things!” (Joel 2:21)

I am very late in writing this commentary posting. And writing it very late at night/early morning. My second round of pies are in the oven and I am waiting for them to be done. So while I wait, I thought I would sit down and collect my thoughts. They are very scattered. I might mention, as I hinted above, I writing in “real time” which means whenever I get this written, it will be posted. No neat and tidy timing of 30 minutes past a certain hour. I might also add, I am exhausted.

As I thought about writing this, one thought came back to my mind over and over – all the things I have to be thankful for. And the things I am not thankful for. Actually, the two are quite similar.

“Do not fear, you animals of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit, the fig tree and vine give their full yield. O children of Zion, be glad and rejoice in the LORD your God; for he has given the early rain for your vindication, he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the later rain, as before. The threshing floors shall be full of grain, the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. “ (Verses 22 – 24)

Last year around this time I had gotten word I had been hired for a job. It was a long nine months of job searching. While I did not start until after Thanksgiving, the days was breathed in relief that soon I would start working ago and be able to afford to buy the necessities of life. This year I was not dependent on the benevolence of anyone (except the Divine) for buying the essentials of the Thanksgiving meal, and a few extras!

“I will repay you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent against you.” (Verse 25)

But it also means I am working again, and wearing myself out. Last year the Thanksgiving preparations were made with plenty of time and I got to bed early. This year I am up late and was already worn out by the time I started. I guess you have to “suffer” for some blessings!

“You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame. You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I, the LORD, am your God and there is no other. And my people shall never again be put to shame.”

But I really cannot complain much, or more precisely should not. I really do like my job and the people I work with. In the midst of the struggle of daily work and long work weeks, it is good to have a job!

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” ( Matthew 6:25 – 27)

The other good/bad element of my life is my health. Yes, I was healthy enough to make the delicious pies for Thanksgiving. And will be healthy enough to join my family around the table. But my health has also become a worry. I had let a few hints drop in the past weeks that my health has had another set back but I have not been forthright about what is going on. Now that plans are set in motion, I am ready to say more. Beloved reader, I have a rare form of skin cancer.

I had written a week of posts well in advance so I would have the time to travel to learn the treatment options. It turns out the best treatment option is here in the city I live in. I will be starting radiation treatment in the next few weeks. I have learned quite a bit about the process and therapy, but still there are some unknowns. Chief among them (at least for me) is whether the radiation treatment will work. In a very short time my list of worries shifted dramatically. And while I am thankful that my health has been relatively stable up to this point, I am becoming aware of a whole other level of worry about my health. And as is so often the case, other worries same to find when placed side by side with this new development.

“And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you–you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Verses 28 -33)

I am not ruling out that this may just be a brief chapter in my health history. I am very ready to believe that the therapy will completely cure me and that there will be no recurrence or lasting ill effects. My faith is not shaken, nor do I doubt the goodness of the Divine.

“When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us, and we rejoiced.
Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like the watercourses in the Negeb.

May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.” (Psalm 126)

I have always believed that what comes my way prepares me for what tasks, purpose, and mission the Divine has for me. Great blessings may come from this time. And I am prepared to see the good, embrace the struggles, and keep my faith firm. While I come to this Thanksgiving season of 2018 with a whole different set of circumstances than last year, I still give thanks for what I have received, and I give thanks the endurance and strength to see my way through the challenges before me.

May this Thanksgiving season find you, beloved reader, in the most favorable of circumstances. And if not, may the Divine be with you day by day as your journey through what is before you. Selah!

Season After Pentecost (Proper 29[34]) – The Epistle Passage: The Writer of the Book of Revelation reflects

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.(Revelation 1:4b – 6)

“To him who” – it is a strange little phrase. It might seem out of place, until one considers that it might just be a toast to the Divine! Not so out of place when you remember that the writer of the book of Revelation (John he calls himself) visualized the kingdom and the city of Jerusalem as a bride come down to be united with her bridegroom. Maybe thinking along those lines, a toast is not so out of place. And toasts at weddings are often compiled recollection of the bride or the groom, and are followed by a sort of blessing or celebration of that person and the event. Keeping that in mind, the phrase “to him who” is quite appropriate. Paul uses that phrase in his prayers, and it mostly usually means the Divine that Paul prayed to.

“Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Verses 7 – 8)

Everything from A to Z. That is what the Greek (language) is telling us. The Divine is all things, or in all things. And concerned with all things. I had framed this commentary as the writer of Revelation reflecting on the end times, and many predictions of the future take their context and details from Revelation. But suppose we would just think of the book as the writer reflecting on issues of faith and they should be lived out, and the consequences of that. After all, John has specific messages for seven of the churches in existence at the time of his writing this book.

However, it has not always been helpful or fruitful to try to apply those messages to our modern times. On the other hand, there is a consistency of human nature throughout the history of humanity. Maybe some messages could be passed from that generation to this one.

I have at times had an uneasy relationship with the book of Revelation. And so for me, it is helpful to think of this book of the bible that way. Perhaps, beloved reader, that would be helpful for you too. May you reflect, beloved readers, and may your reflections lead to greater understandings and a deep faith. Selah!