Reading Ramblings – December 2, 2018

Reading Ramblings

Date: First Sunday in Advent, December 2, 2018

Texts: Jeremiah 33:14-16; Psalm 25:1-10; 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13; Luke 21:25-36

Context: We begin a new liturgical calendar with the First Sunday in Advent. I follow the Revised Common Lectionary, LC-MS edition, which means that we are in Year C and Luke is the featured Gospel for the year. Advent begins the liturgical calendar where roughly the first half of the liturgical cycle is centered on major events in the life of the Incarnate Son of God – his birth, baptism, his passion and death and culminating in his resurrection on Easter. Advent is very similar, thematically, to the last three weeks of the liturgical calendar, focused on the anticipated arrival of the Son of God. While we have been looking forward to his return in majesty and glory, Advent transitions us in our waiting to focusing us on his first arrival. We can trust God’s promise that Jesus will return because God kept his promises to his people by sending him the first time. As such we continue to look forward at the start of Advent, gradually focusing our gaze more and more backwards on his first arrival. The readings for this morning highlight that element of promises fulfilled in the past.

Jeremiah 33:14-16 – God reminds his people of both his judgment on their sins as well as his promised salvation of a remnant who will enjoy his peace. This will not be accomplished by any mere priest or leader, but the very promised one of God. This chosen one will alone be capable of executing judgment properly because he himself is righteous. And he will be righteous specifically for his people, so that they will be identified with his name and his righteousness forever.

Psalm 25:1-10 – The psalmist, David, places his soul or spirit in God’s hands for safe keeping. This takes the form of David’s trust in God, with the corresponding prayer that God will not allow David to trust in vain. Such a hope is reasonable, for this is the common hope of all who put their hope in God. On the contrary, shame will certainly fall upon those who rely on cunning and falseness to try and achieve their ends. This leads David to pray to God in vs. 4-6 that He would teach David his ways, lest David accidentally follow a false path and suffer the corresponding shame (v.3). God alone can faithfully and truthfully guide his people and provide salvation to them. This leads David to remind God that he is indeed one of his people, and thus an appropriate recipient of the Lord’s vindication and salvation. He calls on God to act in mercy towards him and to forgive his sins, not because of any merit on his part but because this is the very nature of God, to give mercy and goodness. This is because the Lord is good and upright (v.8). Of course He will teach sinners and lead the humble, and of course God will always act in covenant love and faithfulness to his people. David expresses a hope in a similar vein to the Jeremiah text – that God will himself lead, guide, and save his people.

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 – Because we are in the season of Advent we can expect that the Epistle readings will track somewhat with the Gospel and the Old Testament. We are no longer utilizing the lectio continua as we were during the long season of Ordinary Time in the previous liturgical year, but have returned to the lectio selecta practice. Paul has an unusually long introductory section in this letter. He gives thanks for the Thessalonians (Chapter 1), recalls his ministry to and among them and expresses his desire to see them again (Chapter 2), summarizes how it was that Timothy came to them and now refers to the good report Timothy brings to him concerning the congregation in Thessalonica. Unlike Corinth Paul is still held in good regard by the Thessalonians and they are standing firm in the faith Paul preached to them. Paul concludes by placing the matter of a jointly-desired reunion in God’s hands. Paul also prays that the Thessalonians would continue to grow in their love for one another and for everyone, towards the end that God the Holy Spirit would make them blameless in faith when the God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ return. Paul directs the Thessalonians to their hope – which is the return of Jesus. With that certainty in mind, their day-to-day lives will be shaped by this hope and certainty. The end of all things in this life and world is to be prepared for the day when heaven and earth are brought together again in the reign and rule of the Son of God in glory.

Luke 21:25-36 – This is one of two possible readings from Luke for this Sunday, and I chose it because it maintains the prophetic theme of the last days as we heard in Mark’s gospel the last several weeks. I don’t mind doing this because I preached on the Epistle reading last week :-) Luke has assembled certain of the words and actions of Jesus to craft his gospel (1:1-4). Here he captures Jesus’ admonitions to his followers to watch and wait. Jesus obviously thinks his followers will be able to discern clearly when the final times are upon them and the kingdom of God is imminent. It isn’t ignorance of those times signs that will be the danger for God’s people, but rather the day-in, day-out wear and tear of life. The constant bombardment with other things to think about, other things to do. Worries as well as wasted days. Rather, our focus should be constantly on our Lord’s return. We are not to be people characterized either by excessive worrying about the issues of the day or of an excessive refusal to pay any attention to these issues or the coming of our Lord. Worrying will not save us or prepare us for what will come. Neither will an intentional ignorance of these matters. Our posture is to constantly be one of prayer and watchfulness, particularly as we begin to see signs that say our Lord may be near. Given the rather general nature of some of Jesus’ prophecies regarding this, it isn’t unreasonable to say that every generation has, does, and will see things that appear to portend our Lord’s return. Therefore every generation is to be watching and waiting, ready to meet him when He comes.

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