On Tuesday morning the pastors of Lutheran Saints in Ministry gather in Fairborn Ohio to discuss the texts for Sunday.

These are the contributions that are brought to the table.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Texts for December 23, 2013, Advent IV

First Reading: Isaiah 7:10–16

10Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying,  11Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.  12But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test.  13Then Isaiah said: "Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also?  14Therefore 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.  15He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good.  16For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted.

Second Reading: Romans 1:1–7

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,  2which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures,  3the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh  4and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,  5through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name,  6including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,
7To all God's beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Gospel: Matthew 1:18–25

18Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.  19Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.  20But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  21She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."  22All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
23"Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means, "God is with us."  24When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife,  25but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

December 23 - What the Text says - Pr. Fourman

Greek Study Matthew 1:18-25

In this passage Matthew recounts the story of the birth of Jesus, and this as the result of a supernatural act of God. Jesus is not only the son of David, but he is also the Son of God.  In 1:18-25 Matthew deals with Jesus' origin and name. The focus is on Joseph; Mary remains incidental to the story. He relates how Joseph comes to marry Mary, someone already pregnant, and how through this marriage Jesus is included in the Davidic line. The story explains the origins of Jesus and how he was named. The ‘virgin birth’ is accepted by Matthew without question. 

1:18  ουτως adv. "how" expressing manner. The sense is general not pointing to the event of the birth itself.
Μαριας (α) gen. "Mary" in apposition to "mother".
τω/ Ιωσηφ dat. "to Joseph" – a dative of direct object after the verb μνηστευθεισης, "being engaged." Betrothal was as good as marriage in Jewish society. Mary, having gotten pregnant apart from Joseph, could suffer stoning had not Joseph acted on her behalf.
μνηστευθεισης (μνηστευω) gen. aor. pas. part. "was pledged to be married". a genitive absolute construction and temporal clause, so "when his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph".
πριν η  "before" - another temporal clause indicating action of the verb συνελθειν (συνερχομαι) aor. inf. "came together" so; "just before their marriage".
ευρεθη (ευρισκω) aor. pas. "she was found" – or "she discovered she was " εν γαστρι εχουσα " with child" – an idiomatic phrase; literally "having in the womb" or as we would say "pregnant".
εκ + gen. "through" - the intended sense may be "from, out of",. Luke handles this fact with a little more sensitivity which likely reveals more of a cultural difference between Luke’s and Matthew’s communities than anything theological.
ων (ειμι) pres. part. "because ...... was" - The participle of the verb to-be is adverbial and 
best taken to introduce a causal clause, as NIV.
ο ανηρ (ηρ ρος) "[her] husband" - in apposition to "Joseph". As noted above, this is as good as being married.
δικαιος adj. "a righteous/law abiding" man.  Joseph was someone who did what was right, a man who complies with the law. The fact that the law required him to divorce her (before two witnesses) and didn't indicates he is merciful as well as “just”.  These are OT divine qualities. Joseph here is acting as an agent for Yahweh.
μη θελων (θελω) pres. part. "he did not want" δειγατισαι (δειγματιζω) aor. inf. "public disgrace" - he was unwilling to bring shame upon her. 
απολυσαι (απολυω) aor. inf. "to divorce/destroy" – a dependent statement of perception expressing what Joseph had in mind not to do.
λαθρα adv. "quietly" - in-house "privately" is closer than "quietly".

  v20 ενθυμηθεντος (ενθυνομαι) aor. part. "after he had considered " – as he was 
reflecting; the genitive absolute participial construction forms a temporal clause. Possibly as a direct statement expressing completed action; "he had resolved or made up his mind to do this".
κυριου (ος) gen. "[an angel] of the Lord" - possessive, "the Lord's angel" or ablative "an angel from the Lord."
εφανη (φαινομαι) aor. "appeared".
κατα "in [a dream]" - expressing means; a phrase used by Matthew for divine revelation.
λεγων (λεγω) pres. part. "and said" – angels are messengers so they speak.  
μη φοβηθης (φοβεομαι) aor. subj. "do not be afraid" and there is is again, one of the central messages of bothteh Old and New Testaments.  "Fear" in the sense of "do not hesitate", "do not shrink from" παραλαβειν (παραλαμβανω) inf. "to take [Mary] home" to lead her into his household. Joseph need not fear of taking Mary as his wife, this referring to the marriage custom of a man taking a women into his home as a sign of their union.
γεννηθεν (γενναω) aor. pas. part. "what is conceived/generated/begun [in her]" - the participle is adjectival, "for the child which is conceived in her."
τεξεται (τικτω) fut. "she will give birth
καλεσεις (καλεω) sing. fut. "you are to give to/call" an imperatival future. "You should give him the name Jesus."  The Hebrew name "Jesus" means "Yahweh of salvation", in Greek rendered "Joshua". In Hebrew, the word "Jesus" actually sounds like "he will save". σωσει (σωζω) fut. "will save/rescue/set free" or for the whole clause, "redeem/forgive".
τωϖ αμαρτιων (α) "sins" - "miss the mark", used in the LXX and NT for offences against God.
ολον (ος) "all/whole/entire/complete” γεγονεν (γινομαι) perf. "took place".
  ινα + subj. "so that" - a purpose clause; 
πληρωθη/ (πληροω) aor. subj. "fulfill/complete”; the promises made by Yahweh through the prophets.
το ρηθεν (λεγω) aor. pas. part. "the thing/matter being spoken [by Lord]”. 
δια + gen. "through" - by means of the prophets.
λεγοντος (λεγω) gen. pres. part. "-" - saying. The participle may be treated as adverbial, temporal, genitive in agreement with "prophet"; "when he said."

v23  η παρθενος (ος) "the virgin" - young woman who has not participated in sexual intercourse. (The Greek word may be used of a sexually active young woman, but is normally used of a virgin while the Hebrew word used in Isaiah 7:14 simply means a young woman of marriageable age. Regardless Isaiah is speaking of a birth which serves as a sign to the people.
εν γραστπι εξει "will conceive" - having in the womb (see v18 for this idiomatic phrase).
καλεσουσιν (καλεω) sing. fut. "they will call [him]" - they will call [the name of him]. Isaiah has the singular "ye will call", indicating Matthew's shift to the fellowship of believers who affirm the name of Jesus.
Εμμανουηλ − in Hebrew this means "prosperity", comes from God being with a person. εστιν μεθερμηνευομενον (μεθερμηνευω) pres. pas. part. "[which] means" - [which] having been interpreted, translated. An idomatic paraphrastic present construction, "[which] being translated means"; "for that name means God is with us", Barclay.
μεθ (μετα) + gen. "with" - Expressing association. The sense is either: In Jesus "God is with us", or his name is "God with us.
δε  but transitional, so "now".
εγερθεις (εγειρω) pas. part. "when [Joseph] arose/woke up".
ως "as/like” a comparative; "he did as the angel of the Lord commanded."
αυτου gen. pro. "he [took] Mary [home as his wife]" - [he took the wife] of him. The genitive is adjectival, relational.
ουκ εγινωσκεν (γινωσκω) imperf. "he had no union with/did not consummate the 
marriage/did not know” a euphemism for sexual relations.
εως + gen. "until" rendered "before", although the sense is probably "until after she gave birth." This phrase is concerned with the period before the birth and not what happened after (i.e. it does NOT promote the perpetual virginity of Mary).

εκαλεσεν (καλεω) aor. "he gave [him the name]

December 23 - Incredible Stories - Pr. Kruse

Das Tollste ist immer war - Goethe 

Isaiah 7:10–16; Psalm 80:1–7, 17–19; Romans 1:1–7; Matthew 1:18–25

Yes, there were rituals in the Old Testament world that sound like odd forerunners of the witch hunts of the middle ages, Number 5:11-31 - how to divine whether your wife is cheating - is one of those texts. Deuteronomy 22:13-21 - how to prove that your wife was a virgin -  is another text that reminds us that the times and places we consider in the bible are often ever so different from our own. Deuteronomy 22:23-24 - about the treatment of rape victims - well - it just sounds downright bizarre like tales from the conservative middle eastern world that offend us even today. Everyone gets stoned to death because the woman does not scream though she was in the city and could have been heard. And if she is found with child, and survives all the questions and tests and so on, then the child is actually someone else’s child and Joseph cannot just take someone else’s as his own without the father giving specific, ritual permission to do so. The biological father has the right to child and woman somehow if the family agrees. It makes modern love, as weird as it has become, seem downright - normal . . . ?
All these bizarre texts are swirling through the mind of Joseph. He lives in a world where marriage was political, tribal, truly an all family affair. Consenting adults are not who make marriages in biblical times and tribal cultures. Families make arrangements, the marriage partners follow along, new children will be born into the family, hopefully sons who will help the family “contend at the gate.” (Ps 127:5) As Goethe says: The most incredible tales always turn out to be true somehow.
But Joseph is not the first modern either. He is certainly just as much part of his culture as the next guy. Yet, unlike the man in Numbers 5, he is not burning with anger or jealousy. He is calm and he wants to do the gracious and right thing. That, he has determined, is to let the family of Mary take charge of the matter. A new arrangement with the true father of the child can be made and Mary can become that man’s wife. Joseph will not step on the other man’s rights and he will be a gentleman about the whole thing and go away honorably. Little does he know in the evening  that the “other” is non other than God.
In the scheme of the story, what happens in his dream is that God, the true father of Jesus, gives consent needed for Joseph to “take possession" of Mary and therefore of Jesus. The righteous man, Joseph, is not presuming to take what is not his but receives it. In a bit of subtlety, he “receives” Mary but the right to name the child is not his. He is given instruction on what the name shall be. For him, who had this dream, his parentage, his ownership - for children were property - will always be one of guardian, but he accepts it.
As we look about in the chapter we notice that this text is introduced by the genealogies of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham. These are the “begats” that include Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth. In a subtle way Joseph’s parentage is left ambiguous in this list. He is listed not as the “father of” as all the others but instead is listed as: “the husband of Mary of whom Jesus was born who is called Christ.” The list is also historical. It starts with Abraham and traces the history of Israel down to Joseph. Luke goes the other way and works his way backward to Adam and ultimately God, the way most of us might tell our heritage. It is as if Matthew is reporting something different from the mundane bookkeeping of parentage. That parentage would not really matter since Jesus’ pedigree is really the Holy Ghost, but then that is complicated. No, for Matthew, somehow, it is the people and their story that matter, hence the asides of Ruth, Rahab and Tamar. They share with Joseph the byname: Guardian of Jesus, the byname bestowed on St. Joseph in the hagiography of the church. 
These, as a people, stand as the guardians. It should not surprise us then that a prophecy of that people is recalled immediately: 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. (Is 7:14) It is a piece of the puzzle, this verse that Matthew quotes. The subtle changes from the hebrew text to the Gospel according to Matthew ought not concern us. As guardians of the word, not curators who jealously try to maintain antiseptic exactness and singularity of purpose, no, as guardians of the words of Isaiah, the words have been re-received as cherished prophecy rediscovered by permission of the Holy Ghost. Jesus fits into these people and into this prophecy seamlessly.
Joseph is the embodiment of this cloud of guardians and their entire history. There is many things he can think. We only know what he does. He takes the matter into his hands as the dream suggested to him. But, he could think Numbers 5 but does not. He could think of Hezekiah and reject the applicability of the prophecy but he instead he receives it as fresh and new. He could think the whole thing crazy and shake the dream off at dawn and agonize that day over his decision yet to be made alone, buried deeply in his own thoughts and demons.

This is good time to ask ourselves: What would I do? To make it closer to home, maybe the question should be extended: How am I disposed toward God: am I demanding my rights in anger, do I keep prophecy safely in the past lest it interfere with my life, and preclude that the Holy Ghost might actually make himself known? This Jesus and his story: how do I fit into the cloud of guardians? Christ is not mine to claim: how do I receive him? 
In Advent, the coming of the Kingdom is the heart of the liturgical season’s message. This kingdom, will I meet it in anger over the wrongs that the world has done me? This kingdom prophesied by the Holy Ghost through the prophets, will I meet it at all or have I already dismissed prophecy  concerning it outright? This kingdom: do I yet look for signs of it or am I sure that such things do not happen? This kingdom, what quality guardian am I to the story of it? This kingdom, how will I receive it? 

Das Tollste ist immer war — the most incredible tales always turn out to be true somehow. This tale of Joseph is one of those incredible tales and the outcome of Jesus’ life gives proof to it. Our Faith gives proof that Joseph got it right. Will we have faith in the incredible tale of the advent of the kingdom?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Texts for December 15, 2013 - the 3rd Sunday in Advent, year A

First Reading: Isaiah 35:1–10

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus  2it shall blossom abundantly,
and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the LORD,
the majesty of our God.
  3Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
  4Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
"Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God.
He will come with vengeance,
with terrible recompense.
He will come and save you."
  5Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
  6then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
  7the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, 
the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
  8A highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Holy Way;
the unclean shall not travel on it, 
but it shall be for God's people; 
no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray.
  9No lion shall be there,
nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
but the redeemed shall walk there.
  10And the ransomed of the LORD shall return,
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain joy and gladness,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.\

Psalm (ELW): Psalm 146:5–10

Second Reading: James 5:7–10

7Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains.  8You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.  9Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors!  10As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

Gospel: Matthew 11:2–11

2When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples  3and said to him, "Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?"  4Jesus answered them, "Go and tell John what you hear and see:  5the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.  6And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me."
7As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind?  8What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces.  9What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.  10This is the one about whom it is written,
'See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.'

  11Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

December 15 - What the Text Says, by Pr. Fourman

Matthew 11:1-10
11:1  At this point, Matthew gives us a summary of Jesus ministry. Luke goes to greater detail so we have a better understanding of why John would now have doubts about Jesus' messiahship, i.e. Jesus' actions are similar to Elijah, so is Jesus only the coming Elijah, the one who prepares for the coming messiah?
και εγενετο - and it came about a typical introductory formula; 
οτε "after" – when a temporal clause, 
ετελεσεν (τελεω) aor. "had finished" - completed, completely ended, fulfilled
διατασσων (διατασσω) part. "instructing" complementary, completing the sense of the verb "completed" likely referring to the commissioning of the disciples in chapter 10.
τοις δωδεκα μαθηταις dat. "[his] twelve disciples
μετεβη (μεταβαινω) aor. "he moved on, departed "
του διδασκειν και κηρυσσειν pres. inf. "to teach and preach" a final clause expressing purpose; so more properly "in order to preach and teach" – he is done insgtructing one kind of follower, and now he moves on to instruct another kind.  
v2  Matthew now recounts Jesus' meeting with the disciples of John and Jesus' reply. As noted above, John's doubts may well be related to his wrong reading of Jesus' ministry so this account comes off as somewhat negative, an implied rebuke, "blessed is he who does not take offence at me" v6; "the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he", v11. None-the-less, the rebuke of v6 does not require one to believe that John's expectation was wrong, but only that he was slow to read the evidence. Jesus summarizes the signs associated with the coming of the messiah to proclaim the day of salvation, blessing and cursing. These signs authenticate Jesus' messianic role.
ακουσας (ακουω) aor. part. "when [John ....] heard" - having heard. Za Greek word used often in relation to disciples.  Disciples ‘follow” ακουαλεθε –they hear and respond.  
του Χριστου (ος) gen. "[what] Christ [was doing/[the deeds [of Messiah]" a genitive treated a possessive. Matthew is underlining who John is questioning; a brave move on John's part. τα εργα (ον) "the works” probably works = miracles
πεμψας (πεμπω) aor. part. "having sent. action accompanying the adverbial participle "having heard"; "when he heard ... he sent." 
ειπεν (ειπον οραω) aor. "to ask
συ "[are] you" - emphatic position,  ο ερχομενος (ερχομαι) pres. part. "the one coming?”. 
προσδοκωμεν (προσδοκαω) sub. "should we expect/ literally wait for” a present indicative with a future sense, "Should we wait for someone else?" the "we" means "we Jews", not "we disciples of John."

αποκριθεις (αποκρινομαι) part. "answering ... [said. attendant circumstance - a common Semitic construction in the NT; "and answering He said ".
πορευθεντες (πορευομαι) aor. pas. part. "going back report" "Go and tell", α ακουετε και βλεπετε "what you hear and see" - the words and the works (what is plural).
αναβλεπουσιν (αναβλεπω) pres. "receive sight" can look up again, the prefix adds the sense "again", "people who are blind see again" not "all blind people."
ευαγγελιζονται pres. pas. "the good news is proclaimed to" - πτωχοι adj. "the poor" – literally the abject poor, the beggars, those who have nothing, the disempowered. Only "leper" in this list is a noun, the rest are adjectives serving as nouns.
μακαριος adj. "blessed"  a declaration of a favored status before God. The person who believes in Jesus is forgiven and appropriates the covenant blessings.
μη σκανδαλισθη/ (σκανδαλιζω) pas. sub. "does not fall way/take offense”. The sense is of drifting in one's reliance on Jesus, allowing doubts to flourish, so, has "no doubts about me, does not lose faith in me".

v7   The Baptist serves as "the last and greatest of the prophets, fulfilling the role of foretold in Malachi 3:1 and 4:5-6 - ushering in the time of salvation. In this passage Matthew has compiled three sayings, with only the first found in Luke (7:24-28).  Luke uses the second saying elsewhere, (16:16) 
τουτων ... πορευμενων (πορευομαι) gen. pres. part. "as John's disciples were leaving" indicating ongoing action; "while/as/at the time they were leaving."
λεγειν (λεγω) pres. inf. "[Jesus began] to say" – i.e. he was no longer talikng to them but τοις οχλοις (ος) dat. "to the crowd" - Dative of indirect object.
θεασασθαι (θεαομαι) aor. inf. "to see, behold, gaze at, gawk at”  an infinitive that expresses purpose, "in order to …"; "When you went out into the wilderness in order to observe the prophet John, what did you expect to see?"
ημφιεσμενον (αμφιεννυμι) perf. pas. / mid. part. "dressed"  in τα μαλακα adj. "fancy clothes" fancy; think silks and satins – the dress of the rich and famous.
περισσοτερον (περισσος) adj. comp. "more" means "more than abundant", and in it's comparative form, as here, "greater than abundant / abundantly more" i.e. the Baptist is someone who is greater α προφητου (ης ου) gen. "than a prophet" genitive is ablative, of comparison.
v10  This quotation from Mal.3:1 influenced by Ex.23:20. The LXX has "before my face ..... before me."
γεγραπται (γραφω) perf. pas. "it is written" - it stands written. "John is the one of whom the scriptures declare .." 
κατασκευασει (κατασκευαζω) fut. "will prepare - will get ready, equip, furnish”. In the Malachi 3:1 quotation, Yahweh sends the messenger to prepare for his coming. Here, Jesus identifies himself with Yahweh as the manifestation of Yahweh John is preparing for.

την οδον (ος) "the way" – a road building image employed where the road is made straight to speed the return of the King - a throwback to the Persians (and in Jesus’ day the Romans) who built straight roads to facilitate the movement of troops from one part of the empire to another and thus extend royal power.  

December 15 - On Wandering, by Pr. Kruse

Demons have suitcases too. - Peter Kreeft (?)

Isaiah 35:1–10, Psalm 146:5–10, James 5:7–10,Matthew 11:2–11

Two questions are raised and not answered in our text today. John seems to be asking “Who are you,” Jesus seems to ask the crowd: “Who is John?” 
 Actually, both questions are a little more subtle. “Are you the one to come or shall we wait for another,” is John’s question. “What where you hoping to find in the wilderness,” was Jesus’ question. 
Let us ask Jesus’ question first: “What were you looking for in the wilderness?” John Pilch writes: “ . . . travel in antiquity was considered deviant behavior unless one had a specific reason like pilgrimage or coming out to hear a prophet.” (The Cultural World of Jesus, Sunday by Sunday, Cycle A, John J. Pilch, Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press. 1995. pp. 4-6.) They had done something extraordinary, these listeners of Jesus. They had, against common convention, gone on a journey into the nowheres at the edge of Israel, the Jordan River, the very boundary between wandering in the wilderness for generations and the “home” that is the promised land. They had, in spiritual terms, gone to the edge of the world and bathed in the boundary waters that mark that edge. That is quite a journey. 
Yet, John’s baptism at those very boundary waters, in a way, recommitted them to what was already in place. Israel entered through the Jordan waters into the land of promise. Were those who returned from the Jordan returning into new promises or old ones? He had not been a new Joshua, this John, if that is what they had hoped for, for now he was imprisoned. Jesus compares him to the return of Elijah from Malachi 4:4-6. (Matt 11:14) If so, then what would be the result? 

4 “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.”
5 “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”

If John was Elijah, then John was the return to the law of Moses and its faithful transmission from one generation to the next. Would a journey of many miles that ends in the same place satisfy the longing of the restless traveler? Would they really be satisfied with Elijah or were they secretly longing for Joshua? That which we are most afraid might be the right answer to our spiritual yearnings often is what greets us at the end of our journey of running away from that answer. 
But those who go seeking tend to run after that which might give them relief from the yearning in their spirit. In the process they will happily go after one thing after another. Play them a happy song they will not dance because it does not seem right, play them a dirge they will question where this is a time to mourn. (Matt 11:17) Give them a holy man in the dessert and they will run to the ends of the earth to find him but come home thinking he might just be mad.(Matt 11:18) Let the Messiah come to them unexpected and unbidden and let him draw near to them in spite of their being tax collectors and sinners and they will wonder about his sense of propriety. (Matt 11:19) 
This kind of running about is the Dark Night of the Senses. It is the demand that the world of the spirit somehow “pay off” for the seeker. These type of journeys are really about the seeker. They are about the rest or fulfillment they think they are seeking and not about the Lord who holds this rest. These type of journeys end in endless restlessness or demoralized giving up. It is the act of spiritually crossing Jordan in the wrong direction, out of the Holy Land and into the land of wandering. 
Hearts are not at rest until they rest in God. (Augustine) Jesus invites the crowd to enter that rest. (Matt 11:28) How does one do this? The Apology uses this verse to say this:

For Christ says, Matt. 11:28: Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Here there are two members. The labor and the burden signify the contrition, anxiety, and terrors of sin and of death. To come to Christ is to believe that sins are remitted for Christ's sake; when we believe, our hearts are quickened by the Holy Ghost 45] through the Word of Christ. Here, therefore, there are these two chief parts, contrition and faith. (Ap. VIIA) 

There is no rest until one finds remission of sin for the yearning and longing that are themselves a sign of being conscious of one’s sin. That forgiveness ends the frantic search.
John is the greatest of those seeking the new and finding the old. (Matt 11:11) He has caught on to the matter of needing to repent. Yet, in the Gospel of Matthew we must note that the forgiveness of sin is tied to the cup. (Matt 26:28) John’s baptism is only for repentance. 
Is John satisfied with his journey? His question: “Are you the one who is to come,” suggests that, maybe, he is not. Will Jesus’s answer, cobbled together out of Isaiah passages (26:19; 29:18; 35:5-6; 42:18; 61:1-2) be enough for him? (Matt 11:5-6) It is a somewhat  unsatisfying answer. Is Jesus the messiah that the Psalms of Solomon (1st cent BC) talked about? The military mighty one? John will certainly not by his own reason or strength come to believe in his lord or come to him just from the words of Isaiah. (SC) But, the Small Catechism continues, the Holy Spirit calls through the Gospel and that Gospel is about the forgiveness of sin. (Ap II.5)

The pilgrimages of the disciples of John where blessed but merely part of the old. The real pilgrimage needs to be a journey in place, a journey of readiness. Emmanuel comes unbidden and unannounced to the home and heart of every believer in the Holy Spirit who goes where it will when time is propitious to do so. If anything, the words of Jesus in the context of today’s reading, are a call to not be drawn off by the tunes played by the children in marketplaces in the hope of easier answers than the one before us: Repent, the kingdom is near; believe the good News.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Texts for December 8th, 2013 - The 2nd Sunday of Advent

First Reading: Isaiah 11:1–10

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
  2The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
  3His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;
  4but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
  5Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
and faithfulness the belt around his loins.
  6The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
  7The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
  8The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder's den.
  9They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.
  10On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.

Psalm (ELW): Psalm 72:1–7, 18–19

May the righteous flourish; let there be an abundance of peace. (Ps. 72:7)

1Give the king your jus- | tice, O God,
and your righteousness to | the king's son;
2that he may rule your | people righteously
and the | poor with justice;
3that the mountains may bring prosperity | to the people,
and the | hills, in righteousness.
4Let him defend the needy a- | mong the people,
rescue the poor, and crush | the oppressor.   R
5May he live as long as the sun and | moon endure,
from one generation | to another.
6Let him come down like rain upon | the mown field,
like showers that wa- | ter the earth.
7In his time may the | righteous flourish;
and let there be an abundance of peace till the moon shall | be no more.
18Blessed are you, LORD God, the | God of Israel;
you alone do | wondrous deeds!
19And blessed be your glorious | name forever,
and may all the earth be filled with your glory. A- | men. Amen.   R

Second Reading: Romans 15:4–13

4For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.  5May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus,  6so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
7Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.  8For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs,  9and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,
"Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles,
and sing praises to your name";
  10and again he says,
"Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people";
  11and again,
"Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
and let all the peoples praise him";
  12and again Isaiah says,
"The root of Jesse shall come,
the one who rises to rule the Gentiles;
in him the Gentiles shall hope."
  13May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Gospel: Matthew 3:1–12

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming,  2"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near."  3This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,
"The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
'Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.'"
  4Now John wore clothing of camel's hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.  5Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan,  6and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
7But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  8Bear fruit worthy of repentance.  9Do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our ancestor'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.  10Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
11I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  12His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."