The Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 28) - 14 November 2010

Isaiah 65:17-25
Canticle 9 (Isaiah 12:2-6)

Malachi 4:1-2a
Psalm 98

II Thessalonians 3:6-13
Saint Luke 21:5-19



I started this little blog as a benefit for the members of Trinity Episcopal Church in San Francisco.  It was an on-line version of notes that were included in the Sunday liturgical materials that allowed those attending to have some background about the lessons that were being read for the day.  Now a new group of people, in addition to the people from Trinity, and those who access these materials on the web, will join our little community.  With my service as Interim Rector at St. Mark’s Church in Berkeley, these comments will be made available to them as well.  I look forward to exploring the scriptures with them, and with the others who have found help in these notes.  Blessings on us all.

Alternate First Reading: Isaiah 65:17-25

For I am about to create new heavens
and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered
or come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever
in what I am creating;
for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy,
and its people as a delight.
I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
and delight in my people;
no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it,
or the cry of distress.
No more shall there be in it
an infant that lives but a few days,
or an old person who does not live out a lifetime;
for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth,
and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed.
They shall build houses and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
They shall not build and another inhabit;
they shall not plant and another eat;
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
They shall not labor in vain,
or bear children for calamity;
for they shall be offspring blessed by the LORD--
and their descendants as well.
Before they call I will answer,
while they are yet speaking I will hear.
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
the lion shall eat straw like the ox;
but the serpent-- its food shall be dust!
They shall not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain, says the LORD.

There is a yearning in these words of one of the Isaiahs responsible for the Book of Isaiah.  The yearning is for a Jerusalem that still reflects the glory of God’s presence, and equally a yearning to leave the foreign land that threatens to leave God but only a remnant of the people devoted to the God of Israel.  This yearning is to go back in time – back to the moment of creation – and relive that foundational moment.  Three times the author uses the verb “to create” which emphasizes his hopes for not only a new Jerusalem, but a renewed people and world as well.  He contrasts the weeping over the ruined city with the joy of return, and the “former things” which can now be forgotten.

Breaking open Isaiah 65:

1.     What do you think that Isaiah means when he describes the people as “a remnant?”
2.     How are you a remnant?
3.     How have you been recreated in your life?

Canticle 9 – The First Song of Isaiah (12:2-6)  Ecce Deus

Surely, it is God who saves me; *
I will trust in him and not be afraid.
For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense, *
and he will be my Savior.
Therefore you shall draw water with rejoicing *
from the springs of salvation.
And on that day you shall say, *
Give thanks to the Lord and call upon his Name;
Make his deeds known among the peoples; *
see that they remember that his Name is exalted.
Sing the praises of the Lord, for he has done great things, *
and this is known in all the world.
Cry aloud, inhabitants of Zion, ring out your joy, *
for the great one in the midst of you is the Holy One of Israel.

This canticle represents the ending of the so-called “Book of Emmanuel (God with us)” in I Isaiah.  The context is one of political and national crisis, a series of signs that the prophet is anxious to have national leaders recognize.  Regardless of their reaction, or even lack of action, Isaiah sees a God who will act, who will bring back those who have been sent away.  It was the policy of the Assyrians to repopulate conquered areas with peoples from other lands, sending the conquered to other places to pick up their lives.  In this context Isaiah see the presence of God (Emmanuel) brought to force in this predicament.  God will gather the dispersed peoples, and the song of joy that they will sing is embodied in the words of the canticle.

Breaking open Canticle 9:
1.       In what way is God with you?
2.       How do you see God active in our nation or in the world?
3.       What role do you have in making God known in your community?


First Reading: Malachi 4:1-2a

See, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings.

Malachi (the name means “(the god’s) messenger”) looked with disgust on what was happening in Palestine, as the peoples began to return from the East under the resettling of the land under the Persians.  Pleased to see the return of exiles, Milachi was equally distressed as the people laid aside their religious principles.  Inter-marriage with non Jews, the dismissal of the dietary laws – these were regrettable to him.  Thus his brash and unadorned tone greats the reader with ominous words.  The central image is that of the sun, worshipped as a god by many in the ancient near east.  Malachi takes this image and turns it into something else, a reflection of God’s healing rays giving life to a world that was floundering.

Breaking open Isaiah 65:

1.     As you look at the world around you, what do you find distasteful?
2.     How does this figure into your religious beliefs about the world?

Psalm 98 Cantate Domino

Sing to the LORD a new song, *
for he has done marvelous things.

With his right hand and his holy arm *
has he won for himself the victory.

The LORD has made known his victory; *
his righteousness has he openly shown in the sight of the nations.

He remembers his mercy and faithfulness to
the house of Israel, *
and all the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.

Shout with joy to the LORD, all you lands; *
lift up your voice, rejoice, and sing.

Sing to the LORD with the harp, *
with the harp and the voice of song.

With trumpets and the sound of the horn *
shout with joy before the King, the LORD.

Let the sea make a noise and all that is in it, *
the lands and those who dwell therein.

Let the rivers clap their hands, *
and let the hills ring out with joy before the LORD,
when he comes to judge the earth.

In righteousness shall he judge the world *
and the peoples with equity.

Just as in Psalm 96, the “new song” designation is not so much a theological point as to say “here is something new”.  What is amazing is how the psalmist uses two central images to capture the heart of the reader (or better, the singer) in describing “the wonders he (God) has done.”  We don’t know who the antagonist is here, although from the water references in the last verses, it might be chaos itself.  Ancient Near Eastern creation stories, the Bible included, all depict a mighty struggle with the god and chaos.  That God should bring creation from the “formless void”, as Genesis depicts it, would place this psalm precisely in that tradition.  The psalm then pens a hymn of creation’s joy, a hymn that is not only accompanied by a temple orchestra of lyres, harps, and pipes, but also by the conquered sea with its waves, and the rivers who “clap their hands.”
in the words of the canticle.

Breaking open Psalm 98:

  1. Are there marvelous things that have happened to you?
  2. How was God involved in them?
  3. When you hear the word “victory” what does it mean to you in your own life?

II Thessalonians 3:6-13

Now we command you, beloved, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from believers who are living in idleness and not according to the tradition that they received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, and we did not eat anyone's bread without paying for it; but with toil and labor we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you. This was not because we do not have that right, but in order to give you an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat. For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.

Paul again wrestles with the problem of waiting on the coming of Christ.  In this reading he specifically points to a problem in the church at Thessalonika – a laziness that was born out of a misunderstood theology of the second coming.  This problem is not peculiar to the Thessalonians, for even in our own time there are those who refuse to wrestle with the problems of life in our time, looking rather at what they think is to come in the “rapture”.  This instruction that Paul gives at this point he links to the authority of Jesus himself.  He even uses the example of his own busy life to prompt the idle Thessalonians into a new way of waiting on the Lord. 

Breaking open II Thessalonians:

1.     Have you become lazy in your faith?
2.     What do you do while you wait for God to act in your life?
3.     What does it mean to be an active Christian?

Saint Luke 21:5-19

When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, Jesus said, "As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down."

They asked him, "Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?" And he said, "Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, `I am he!' and, `The time is near!' Do not go after them.

"When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately." Then he said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.

"But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls."

Luke repeats material in this reading from both Mark and Matthew, but has a different take on it.  The disciples are desirous of permanence.  Recall Peter’s request on the Mount of Transfiguration, “let us build booths here” so that they could bask in the glory of the Christ.  Jesus gives some pointed warnings.  Things are going to change, and huge institutions are going to fall (and probably already had fallen by the time that Luke was writing).  The end of things, which the disciples from time to time anticipated, was not to be seen before other difficulties were experienced first.  International crises, hunger, and other signs would come first, and there would be persecution as well.  One almost has the feeling that Luke is looking at the world of Jewish dissolution at the hands of the Romans, and seeing the toll that it was taking in households and families as a purifying force.  The faithful will survive through “endurance.”

Breaking open the Gospel:
  1. What is permanent in your world, and what is transitory?
  2. Has your family been divided by religion?
  3. How have you endured as a Christian?

After breaking open the Word, you might want to pray the Collect for Sunday:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


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