Holy Week – Thursday: The Old Testament, Epistle, and Gospel Passage – Now with the story moving on, there is no going back

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt:
This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you.
Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the LORD. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.” (Exodus 12:1-14)

This is what Jesus and his disciples were celebrating when they had their shared meal, their Last Supper together. Since they were mostly probably single men, or at least away from their families this Passover season, they came together as a combined household/neighbors. I do not know whether they painted the doorposts and lintel of the house where they were – maybe the door frame to the upper room where they had their meal. Neither do I know whether the remains of the meal were burned. The New Testament – the gospel passage – does not tell us. Jesus and his disciples were far removed from the first Passover celebrated in Egypt. Also far removed from the Passovers in the desert. Generations removed from Passovers in the land that the Lord God gave them. And past history the years where kings ruled over Israel and Judah. What remnant remained of the Passover is recounted in the Gospel passage.

Paul, intentionally or not, started a new tradition – Communion. He recounts what Jesus did at the Last Supper, and for future generations sets a pattern of re-creating and reliving the Last Supper. For some faith traditions the Last Supper is celebrated yearly. For others, when the occasion seems right and proper for such celebrations. And still other faith traditions took on the celebration of the Last Supper as something done whenever the faithful are gathered.

“For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

For Anabaptists another practice from the Last Supper was adopted and adapted. If some celebrations of Communion have been imbued with pomp, circumstance, ritual, tradition, and exclusivity – foot washing is just the opposite.

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” (John 13:1)

Humility and servanthood were the important characteristics of foot washing. That, and the desire to replicate what Jesus Christ modeled for his disciples.

“The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself.” (Verses 2 – 4)

With Judas determined to do what he felt compelled to do, the events of the next few days were set in motion. All that was left was to prepare his disciples for those events, and bring them into closer communion to himself, Jesus.

“Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.” (Verses 5 – 11)

Jesus washed Judas’ feet. There is no other explanation possible. Jesus washed Judas’ feet and must have already forgiven Judas for what he will do in the near future. But note what Jesus said, that this foot washing is not absolution of sin. If one has lived such a life where thought and actions are pure and clean, one only needs to cleanse one’s self from the minor dirt of daily living.

“After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord–and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.
For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” (Verses 12 – 17)

Anabaptists would wash each other’s feet to demonstrate that between fellow believers power and influence are not to be considered. All are equal; all equally need to have the dirt of everyday living washed away; it is as much a blessing to have someone wash your feet as it is to wash another’s feet. That is why footwashing is done in pairs; you wash each other’s feet.

I wonder, beloved reader, if Judas would have washed Jesus’ feet? Would Judas have washed the feet of the other disciples? And how much must Judas have been determined to betray his Lord if after having his Lord humbled before him – he still went out.

“When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.
Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (31b – 35)

Tomorrow is Good Friday. For some periods of my life, Good Friday meant it was not a working day. Some years I attended a worship service. Some years I spent with family. For the past decade and a half I have written about Holy Week including Good Friday. In was already into my adult years when I discovered the traditions surrounding Maundy Thursday. It is good to keep learning about the seasons of the church year, and even better to practice them. As we come to the climax of Holy Week, may you think back on the traditions that were important to your Christian journey. And what has helped to form your faith beliefs. Shalom and Selah!


Holy Week – Monday: The Old Testament, Epistle, & Psalm Passage – Looking at the story in a different way

Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching.” (Isaiah 42:1 – 4)

Today’s Gospel reading is the story of Jesus coming to the home of Lazarus and Mary anointing Jesus’ feet, preparing him as he said for the day of his burial. The Gospel story says it is six days before Passover – I am not sure that is directly parrallel to the first day of Holy Week. However, I have not included the Gospel passage here, so I wanted to orient you to that.

As you may well know, it is my contention that the Old Testament passages had existence and meaning before they were attributed to Jesus and the story of his presence on earth. But as you also know, during the high seasons of the church I see the wisdom of using these passages to inform our understanding,

“Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it: I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.” (Verses 5 – 7)

When a person is called by the Divine and answers that call with affirmation, diligence, commitment and authenticity it calls them to a greater plane and a higher status. The prophets of the Old Testament were such people. But by the time the Israelites/Jews had come under the authority of the Romans such prophets were hard to find and did not come along very often. So when Jesus came along, he was a reminder of the prophets from the past. It is no wonder he reminded his disciples of them. He was like a prophet, and welcomed as one – but he was more than that. And that “more-ness” imbued the passages that described the prophets of old with an even higher status and moved the writings of those prophets to prophecy for the one who did come – or would come, when you retroactively apply the passages.

“I am the LORD, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to idols. See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them.” (Verses 8 – 9)

If biblical commentators seem to retroactively apply passages to Jesus, it started a long time ago, by a man named Paul.

“But when Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation), he entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God!” ( Hebrews 9:11 – 14)

I read an interesting comment from a former biblical professor from my college years; he said, “If Jesus is saying killing an animal is not God’s way of achieving reconciliation, how can we justify the belief that God violated God’s own declarations by offering a human sacrifice in order to forgive us?” The Old Testament prophets wrote strongly that sacrifice was not to be the “agent of reconciliation” but “a celebration once the restoration had been experienced.” He also notes that by the time of Paul (the first century) sacrifice was the official method to restore one’s relationship to the Divine. (“Let’s let Jesus speak for himself”. The Mennonite April 2019, Vol 22, No. 4 pg. 32)

“For this reason he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, because a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant.” (Verses 15)

For me, reading this on the cusp of writing about Holy Week calls into question a lot of the assumptions concerning salvation as a result of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. Blosser (that is my former biblical professor) says that the important action for salvation is believe and obedience to Christ and his teachings. It was because of his teachings, beloved reader, that I came to see Paul in a different light than when I was a young child. Granted, as I matured I realized that Paul was a product of his time, and for his time he was revolutionary bringing a completely new type of message of belief in the Divine. I suspect it was also the influence of Blosser’s teachings (as I think on this) that lead me to have strong feelings about respecting the context in which the Old Testament prophets and writers wrote. Read the Psalms passage, keeping in mind the exhortation to hold to the teachings of the Divine.

Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your judgments are like the great deep; you save humans and animals alike, O LORD. How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. O continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and
your salvation to the upright of heart! Do not let the foot of the arrogant tread on me, or the hand of the wicked drive me away.” (Psalm 36:5-11)

Adherence to the statutes of the Lord God is what is required. Celebrating the love that the Lord God has bestowed on us, and modeling that love by caring about and for others. As we move through Holy Week I want to be aware of these ideas and perspectives that speak to a different of considering the story of Easter. Selah!

Holy Week – Saturday: Old Testament, Epistle and Gospel Passages – The story stops for a short time

Some years I have not written on Holy Saturday. I had, in some writings, declared it a day of waiting. The lectionary uses verses for this day that underline suffering and our need for intervention because of our sins. Mindful of what my former college bible professor wrote, I am not connecting the blessing of salvation to his death (viewed as sacrifice) on the cross. But it is a theme that comes up quite often. It seems to me the connection between our having salvation and the need for some sort of exchange/price to be paid for that salvation is strong. There seems to be the need for someone or something to suffer and be offered up it seems.

“I am one who has seen affliction under the rod of God’s wrath; he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light; against me alone he turns his hand, again and again, all day long. He has made my flesh and my skin waste away, and broken my bones; he has besieged and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation; he has made me sit in darkness like the dead of long ago. He has walled me about so that I cannot escape; he has put heavy chains on me; though I call and cry for help, he shuts out my prayer; he has blocked my ways with hewn stones, he has made my paths crooked.” (Lamentations 3:1-9)

The question came to my mind, do we suffer because of our sins? According to some types of thinking we do. Some readings/interpretations of the New Testament tells us that we do. But is it suffering in this life? Or in the life to come? The writer of Lamentations finds that being separated from the Divine, or at least separated from grace and not being in relationships with the Divine is suffering.

“The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall! My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” (Verses 19 – 24)

While the gospels may not draw a connecting line between the what might have been the sacrifice of Christ and salvation, many of the letters in the New Testament lead one’s thinking that way. I do wonder, now, what makes us think there needs to be sacrifice/suffering to atone for sins.

“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin), so as to live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God. You have already spent enough time in doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry. They are surprised that you no longer join them in the same excesses of dissipation, and so they blaspheme. But they will have to give an accounting to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead.” (I Peter 4:1 – 5)

As I sit with these verses from I Peter I have to shake my head at the assumptions there are of non-believers, or more accurately the assumptions there are of people who do not believe as we do. If you read Blosser’s article in total you will know that is a strong theme in what he wrote.

“For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does. The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.” (Verses 6 – 8)

Much has change since the time when the New Testament was written. We cling to it as the best authority of how to live a good authentic Christian life. What I fear is that we cling to the wrong parts. Jesus emphasized love, compassion, and caring. We seem to cling to the discipline, the giving up of old ways, and being prepared to be judged harshly. The days of Holy Week have seen me re-think and re-consider belief and living a good and authentic Christian life. I am not sure if my beliefs and faith traditions have changed or will change – but I am thinking. In the meantime, Saturday of Holy Week.

“When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.” (Matthew 27:57 – 61)

Good Friday evening gave way to Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. As I said yesterday, the followers of Jesus saw little good in the day. I don’t think we always appreciate or understand that sadness. You know, often when I am reading a book I will skip to the end, just to get a taste of the outcome of the story. So I can gauge when the story takes its turn toward the ending. It is, actually, not a very good thing to do. And I have ruined for myself several times the story line and the anticipation that builds up because I know how it ends. Now, apply that to Good Friday/Easter and I think you will see what I mean. We are, beloved reader, still on “dismal” Saturday. But, there is a little foreshadowing that we can appreciate.

“The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.” (Verses 62 – 66)

Now, we wait! Shalom!

Sixth Sunday of Lent 2019/Liturgy of the Palm & the Passion: The Old Testament & Psalm Passage – Good Things Now & In the Future

The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens– wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught.” (Isaiah 50:4)

The ironic thing is, beloved reader, I am at times the teacher and the weary – I sustain myself. I will not lay out for you all the details. At night I write on these passages using my background, experience, and training. And in the morning when a new day faces me that appears to have the same challenges as the day before, I am fortified and prepared by the experience of the night before.

“The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward. I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.” (Verses 5 – 6)

There is no striking, pulling, insulting or spitting – praise be to the Lord God the Divine! But some days are long and laborious. And I struggle. Each day I enter into the fray again. Mostly willingly!

“The Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. It is the Lord GOD who helps me; who will declare me guilty?” (Verses 7 – 9a)

Each and every day that I have felt buffeted by fate and misfortune is a day I have survived. Not by my own strength and might. The Lord God has pulled me through and the Divine has kept me upright. I give praise that I have made it through each day, and I pray that I might make it through the day to come.

“O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!
Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” (Psalm 118:1-2)

And let Carole say it also!

“Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD.
This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it.
I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.” (Verses 19 – 21)

It is not just the salvation, beloved reader, that comes as we exit this world and enter the world to come. Neither is it just the forgiveness of sin that is salvation. Salvation also comes as relief and rest when one is weary. Salvation is a temporary respite from the trials and challenges in this life. Salvation is being picked up and dusted off by the Divine. Fortified and nurtured for the things to come by the Lord God who knew what it was like to battle in this world.

“The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
Save us, we beseech you, O LORD! O LORD, we beseech you, give us success!” (Verses 22 – 25)

When Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey it was a “soft entry”. Being saved does not mean escaping reality. Success does not mean victory as this world understands it. Salvation and success really translate to endurance and stamina. Not letting this world convert and corrupt us, leading us from authentic Christian life.

“Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD. We bless you from the house of the LORD.
The LORD is God, and he has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you. O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” (Verses 26 – 29)

Consider, beloved reader, that this psalm passage was written far before Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. (No, I am not going to take issue with its re-appropriation.) The writer of this psalm passage already saw the Divine as Presence that was worthy of praise and adulation. Already known as a loving Presence – even before Jesus Christ came as an example/exemplar of the Divine’s love. Already known as a Divine who will not end. I hope and prayer, beloved reader, that It is already a Presence in your life! Selah!

Fifth Sunday of Lent 2019: The Old Testament Passage – Looking forward to the “new” thing

Thus says the LORD, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, who brings out chariot and horse, army and warrior; they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick: Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old.“ (Isaiah 43:16 – 18)

In a recent shipment from a large brand-name department store I received a gift card for a food delivery service. It is one of those services that delivers the recipe and all the ingredients needed to make a meal. I have avoided them because it is much more economical to shop for the ingredients myself and our family’s tastes are diverse enough that one meal/menu would not satisfy all. But I thought there was no harm in checking out the site and finding out just how much the gift card would take off the total price – it was not enough. But because I was required to give some contact information in order to get to the point where I could see the price, I am now getting emails “encouraging” me to continue my order. At this point the gift card is not NEAR enough for the hassle I am going to have. This is NOT a good “new” thing!

“I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Verse 19)

We so often think the “new” thing is going to be better. That is not always the case. Sometimes the “new” is just the “old” wrapped up in disguise. You may wonder beloved reader, as I sometimes do, how one can know when the new thing is a good thing. In our modern world sometimes you cannot. I honestly thought (okay, maybe hoped) this gift card would be a way to make my life easier. No luck there!

I am forced to conclude, once again, that the most trustworthy source for “new” is the Divine. It is ironic however that the “new” thing is first talked about in the Old Testament. And only takes on the identity of “new” when it is seen in the light of Jesus Christ. One can debate (but I will not) that the writer of Isaiah might not have intended the “new” to be Jesus Christ but a new understanding of the Divine in Old Testament times.

“The wild animals will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches; for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise.” (Verses 20 – 21)

Consider the names. Old and New Testament. We call it the “Old” Testament because it is based on understandings and stories that we told and recalled before Jesus the Christ was sent. The “New” Testament is the four gospels and the letters that came out of people coming to a “new” understanding of the Divine as presented by Jesus Christ. We use and refer back to the Old Testament but we use the understandings of the New Testament to re-interpret what the Old Testament was saying. And it is that crux point that sometimes agitates my sensibilities. How can we remain faithful to the Old Testament if we infuse it with understandings brought to bear by the New Testament without know if the writers of the Old Testament were cognizant of what the New Testament was going to say?! (Okay, stepping down from the soap box.)

What I prefer is to have the Spirit discern and reveal “new” understandings and yet remain true to the intentions of the Old Testament writers. Maybe that is not possible. If as Isaiah says, we allow the “old” to remain in the past, then it is only the “new” as found in the New Testament that should be a determinant for our lives . (Feeling myself climb aboard the soap box again!)

The Holy Spirit that comes from the Divine is active in the world. And that Holy Spirit continually reveals new things. Do you perceive it beloved reader? What was the norm one hundred years ago is no longer so. What was the norm ten years ago is also past history. Each day we are presented with a new day, and a new opportunity to live accountable lives. Each day is our fresh chance to do better than before. And each season of the church year is a chance to learn new spiritual disciplines. Take advantage of the season of Lent – an old concept that can be made new . . . . if you allow the Spirit to guide you! Selah!

Fourth Sunday of Lent 2019: The Old Testament Passage – In a new land and living a new life

The LORD said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.” And so that place is called Gilgal to this day.” (Joshua 5:9)

Yesterday I was peeved because the scripture citations did not match what I felt should have been the emphasis for the day – Day of Annunciation of the Jesus. Today, however, I am very pleased. This theme, having disgrace taken away, is very much a theme of Lent. Our self-examination and determination to live more accountable lives is a part of the process of Lent. And the Hebrews have done well.

“While the Israelites were camped in Gilgal they kept the Passover in the evening on the fourteenth day of the month in the plains of Jericho. On the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land, and the Israelites no longer had manna; they ate the crops of the land of Canaan that year.” (Verses 10 – 12)

Imagine beloved readers, the joy of being able to provide for yourself. Granted, the Divine gave them the land as a gift (and no, I am not going to go into what cost that was to the natives of the land) but they worked the land and harvested what they needed. I remember well some of the first signs in my life that I could fend for myself. Happy days of accomplishing what needed to be done, and taking care of my family. There are still days when I feel the satisfaction of providing for my loved ones. And I feel like the mistakes I made in the past have faded away. Through God’s grace and mercy, they have. Think for yourself, beloved reader, where you have succeeded and good that made you feel. And then thank the Lord God the Divine for giving you the opportunity to prove yourself! Selah!

Annunciation of the Lord 2019 – The Old Testament, Gospel, and Psalm Passages: Surprise!

Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying,
Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.
But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test.” (Isaiah 7:10 – 12)

King Ahaz and his kingdom had before them enemies that had put great fear into them. The King did not see how they would escape this enemy and the peril it would bring. The prophet Isaiah was trying to offer comfort and assurance that all would be well. But King Ahaz would not be assured nor would he extend assurance to his people.

“Then Isaiah said: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.” (Verses 13 – 14)

Now the passage does not mean that this is a prophecy of Jesus the Christ but that in the amount of time that a young woman weds, conceives a child and names her son – that the kingdom will be rescued from the peril and the enemies that face it. I want you to be aware, beloved reader, that when a young woman weds her husband stays with her for the first year – the intent being that a child is conceived in that first year. So it can be safely said that in two years time King Ahaz and his kingdom would be saved.

The RCL does a disservice I believe beloved reader by making you think that this was a prediction of Jesus birth far into the future, and furthermore by tethering it to the announcement that Mary would conceive Jesus. I am getting off my soapbox now!

“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.” (Luke 1:26 – 27)

This is the story that is meant for this day!

“And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.” (Verses 28 – 29)

Smart young woman, this one. Realizing that in the normal course of things a woman , barely out of girlhood, would be favored and in such a direct relationship with the Divine.

“The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” (Verses 30 – 34)

Again, a smart cookie! She knows who she is and she has kept herself for marriage and her future husband. We know now that young women (and young men) are called by the Lord God all the time. The Divine sees into the heart and into the future of young people, and if they are willing, guides them to their destiny and ministry for the Lord.

“The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” (Verses 35 – 37)

And it is not just the young who are called. Believers of all ages, throughout their lives, are called by the Lord. And each time the response should be . . .

“Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.” (Verse 38)

I have included one of the Psalm passages for this day. The other one, Psalm 40:5 -10, is one that I am very familiar with and verse 6 is a favorite of mine. But my sense lead me the other direction; and ironically back to disagreeing that the scripture citations that the RCL uses are not quite spot on. Read the psalms passage and decide for yourself – does it describe the Messiah as he was revealed? Or is it a view of a leader such that the Hebrews/Israelites/Jews might have been expecting?

“My heart overflows with a goodly theme; I address my verses to the king; my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe. You are the most handsome of men; grace is poured upon your lips; therefore God has blessed you forever. Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one, in your glory and majesty. In your majesty ride on victoriously for the cause of truth and to defend the right; let your right hand teach you dread deeds. Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; the peoples fall under you. Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever. Your royal scepter is a scepter of equity; you love righteousness and hate wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions; your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia. From ivory palaces stringed instruments make you glad; daughters of kings are among your ladies of honor; at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir. 0 Hear, O daughter, consider and incline your ear; forget your people and your father’s house, and the king will desire your beauty. Since he is your lord, bow to him; the people of Tyre will seek your favor with gifts, the richest of the people with all kinds of wealth. The princess is decked in her chamber with gold-woven robes; in many-colored robes she is led to the king; behind her the virgins, her companions, follow. With joy and gladness they are led along as they enter the palace of the king. In the place of ancestors you, O king, shall have sons; you will make them princes in all the earth.” (Psalm 45: 1 – 16)

If, beloved reader, the Messiah was to be one such as is described in the above psalm passage, it is doubtful he would have been born to a virgin in a small town of lineage that was not very distinguished. And remember too that while Jesus’ earthly father was of the line of David, that lineage no longer carried the distinction that it once had. But what is true of the coming Messiah is this . . . .

“I will cause your name to be celebrated in all generations; therefore the peoples will praise you forever and ever.” (Verse 17)

We think we know the season of Lent, but each year it is full of surprises. Be watchful, beloved reader, and learn what the Divine has to reveal to you! Selah!