Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Tuesday Thoughts on the Readings for Sunday, December 2nd, 2018


Aren't you a little early with that, pastor?

By the typical calendar year, yes, of course.  However, by the liturgical calendar, we wrapped up the year with Christ the King Sunday on November 25th and we begin a new year with the first Sunday of Advent on December 2nd.

Oh, Advent!  So we are preparing for Christmas, right?

Well, yes and no.  "Advent" comes from the Latin word "advenio," which means "to arrive."  Advent is the season of the Church where we focus on the arrival of Christ.  And yes, that does mean the arrival of the baby Jesus at Christmas.  But it also means the future arrival of Jesus, when he will raise the dead from their graves and bring the Lord's people into the complete Kingdom (or Reign) of God on Earth.  At the beginning of Advent, we are more focused on the future arrival of Jesus.  As the season goes along, we will shift our focus to the first arrival of Jesus.

Keep this in mind as we take a look at the readings for this upcoming Sunday, December 2nd.  While the world around us is charging ahead towards Christmas, our readings this week are more focused on the future arrival of Jesus.

What else do you see within these readings?  What questions are you left with?  Share your insights and questions in the comments below so that we can continue the conversation!

Jeremiah 33:14 - 16

 14 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.  15 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.  16 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."

- Oftentimes in the Old Testament, key ideas or claims will be repeated.  This is especially true in Hebrew poetry.  However, in this case, the “house of Israel and the house of Judah” are separate entities, reflecting the split in the kingdom after the death of Solomon.

- Interestingly, Jeremiah claims that Judah will be saved and Jerusalem, a city within the borders of Judah, will live in safety.  What has happened to Israel?  If my timeline is correct, Israel has already been captured by Assyria and no longer exists as an independent nation.  Therefore, the pledge to protect and preserve goes to the nation that still exists at the time of the proclamation.

Psalm 25:1 - 10

 1 To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.
 2 O my God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame; do not let my enemies exult over me.
 3 Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame; let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
 4 Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths.
 5 Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.
 6 Be mindful of your mercy, O LORD, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.
 7 Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness' sake, O LORD!
 8 Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
 9 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.
 10 All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees. 

- I don’t understand the choice of the first ten verses of Psalm 25 to pair with the Jeremiah 33 reading.  If we wanted to use Psalm 25, the back half of the Psalm appears to be a better fit.  In the back half, we get the proclamation that those who fear the Lord “will abide in prosperity, and their children shall possess the land” (verse 13) and the psalmist’s plea, “Redeem Israel, O God, out of all its troubles.” (verse 22)  These fit the Jeremiah discussion of what is happening for the people of Judah.  The rest of Psalm 25 is a self-focused psalm that does not fit with Jeremiah 33.

1 Thessalonians 3:9 - 13

 9 How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you?  10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith.
 11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you.  12 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.  13 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.

- This 1 Thessalonians reading is an odd choice as well.  There’s a token reference to the arrival of Jesus with all of his saints, but it merely introduces the topic rather than include more of the letter to further discuss the idea in detail.

Luke 21:25 - 36

 25 "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.
 26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
 27 Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory.
 28 Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."
 29 Then he told them a parable: "Look at the fig tree and all the trees;
 30 as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near.
 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.
 32 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place.
 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
 34 "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,
 35 like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth.
 36 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."

- “The Son of Man coming in a cloud” uses the same image that described a king or a general arriving in a city.  We saw this phrase twice in the readings for Christ the King Sunday.

- “Nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves” could be drawing on the sea as a symbol of chaos.  The nations are confused by the chaos around them.

- “Pass away” can be restated as “come to an end.”  Revelation suggests that heaven and earth will come to an end so that the New Jerusalem can be established on Earth.  These things will not disappear completely (though this is how the New Living Translation decides to translate/paraphrase this verse), but they will be so completely reformed that they must be identified as brand new.

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