Advent Two – Wednesday

Isaiah 6:1-8

As one of those, like Isaiah with the gift of prophecy, I struggle with accepting that I have to be the one who says “Here I am, send me.”

I know many folks probably hate it when I keep pointing out the sins of our time via Facebook, but I can’t help but feel that it is a holy calling.

If you haven’t read this piece by Diana Butler Bass yet from the Huffington Post, you should have. It has certainly been linked to by many, many diverse folks on Facebook. If you haven’t seen it, go NOW and read it. If you have seen it, don’t worry about who you are going to bother by linking to it. This is a word that needs repeating.

Advent Two – Tuesday

1 Thessalonians 5:12-28

Isn’t interesting that this pops up in the lectionary the day after the Michigan legislature passed the “Right to Work” laws. “Right to Work” laws are an oxymoron in and of themselves. They really mean “Right to treat workers any way you want without having to worry about unions” laws.

The Interfaith Workers Justice reflection for this week said this:

In many ways we are living (like the Israelites in Malachi) after experiencing presidential elections and waiting for the many changes to come in Capitol Hill. Also after facing natural disasters in the East Coast – it sets a very transitional tone not only affecting our country but those around the world as well.

At this time we are also questioning God’s love and justice. All we have to do is look at the difficulties that workers face, many earning wages so low that they can’t even afford to pay for basic necessities like food and shelter. There is an increasing number of people, for example, showing up at food pantries around the country because they don’t make enough to pay for food. Many times these workers also have limited health insurance benefits or no health insurance at all. We can also take a look at homeless and unemployment statistics showing high numbers.

(Malachi) talks about a messenger, someone who would come “to prepare the way” of the Lord. As we enter into the Advent season, how are we preparing for such a significant event? Are we keeping the commandments? Are we leaning towards those who are oppressed? How are we helping those workers earning low wages? What are we doing for our neighbors? In these verses the prophet challenges us to reflect if we are truly ready to “endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?” Are we pleasing offerings to the Lord by what we have accomplished?

Remember, Paul says in the text for today

…we appeal to you, brothers and sisters, to respect those who labor among you, …esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.

Apparently, respect for workers is a requirement for peace, both at home and abroad.

Advent Two – Monday

Isaiah 5:8-17

This is the passage from today’s lectionary, but I really prefer the section on which Handel’s Messiah is based (Isaiah 40:1-11), although in this reading you can find many of the same themes.  In this instance, the prophecy is full of threats and a warning of what is to come, where the text of the Messiah is full of peace and comfort to a people in exile.

Comfort Ye, My People

And the Glory of the Lord

Oh Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion

He Shall Feed his Flock

Reading through this, I wonder at the verses Charles Jennens, the librettist, left out (v. 6-8). They are the opening verses of Brahms’ A German Requiem.

Behold All Flesh is as the Grass

Oddly, I wasn’t able to find any musical setting for v. 10.

I’m a traditionalist around Christmas time.

Advent Two – Sunday

2 Peter 3:11-18

We look for punishment and sins when disaster strikes, whether it is personal disaster or communal disaster. “What have we done wrong?” we ask. “Do I deserve this?” And then I stop and think, “Of course I deserve this! The only wonder, from a justice standpoint is, why isn’t the disaster even worse?” I consider all the hateful words I’ve said or thought; all the times I’ve passed by on the other side of the road rather than get my hands dirty helping someone else; all the mean, petty acts of spiteful ego. I’m thankful that any disaster that has fallen to me has been mitigated by others’ kindnesses.

Several years ago, my brother called to tell me he had multiple myeloma, a blood cancer. And a couple of months after that, my brother-in-law called to say he had liver cancer. They were both relatively young men in their 40s, married with half-grown children, elders in their respective Presbyterian Churches, upstanding citizens, and all the other good adjectives we could apply to them. My brother was treated and is cured 14 years later; my brother-in-law was treated and died that year. Countless people prayed for both of them. To our human eyes there was NO REASON for one to live and one to die.

I still don’t know the answer to this dichotomy. Chances are the things that are important to me aren’t really important in the great scheme of things. “Now we see through a glass darkly…”

All I really know is that G-d has a plan, and it’s none of my business why things work out the way they do. Not having to be responsible for the ultimate outcome of anything is very peaceful for me.

Advent One – Saturday

Luke 21:5-19.

Today we have another of those apocalyptic writings, this time from Luke. When you read it today, it could very easily be talking about current events.

“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 we are reminded that “No one knows the day of my coming.”

Our HOPE lies in this promise, “not a hair of your head will perish.”

Come, Lord Jesus.

Advent One – Friday

Ooops, I missed yesterday amongst the shopping and shipping. This is a verbatim repeat of last year’s entry for the day. It’s still very valuable, I think.

Mark 13:24-37.

I’ve always wondered about how this text found its way into the Advent readings.

I saw on Facebook today that the ancient Mayan calendar ends on December 21, 2012. Someone pointed out that all calendars are nothing but human constructs, and there’s really no way to match the Mayan’s calendar to the Georgian calendar.

It just so happens I’ve spent the last two weeks researching and teaching basics about calendars, going back to those times. I have found that it was really up to the maker of the calendar to decide what meant what and why, and it was not until after the Roman calendar that someone said “we need to straighten this out and quit changing it to suit certain needs.” (Thanks to Jennifer Bruner Shropshire in response to Beth Garrod-Longsdon).

When the archeologists did the calculations to translate from the Mayan to the Gregorian calendar, it was determined to be 2012. It has always been in dispute as to “precisely when” this great change would be.

Furthermore, the word apocalypse has so many Judeo-Christian connotations of doom and gloom. I’m sure you recall, finding the right word is one of the challenges with all translations. You can find a word with similar meaning, but the connotations and context isn’t always the same. For instance, in Hebrew, the word for sin is “chet” and it has a completely different context than its English counterpart. In English, there is the puritanical context of meting out the wrath of God for failing to meet a commandment. In Hebrew, “chet” is an archery term. In the time of the development of the word, words had multiple uses. We humans used fewer words to get our point across. Chet literally meant to miss the mark. If you miss the mark as an archer, you have lost a precious arrow, but have the necessity to reload and try to hit the mark, whether in practice, or hunting in need of food  to survive.

The Mayan descendants roll their eyes at all this speculation, according to friends who practice Shamanism and have far more interest than I ever will and have researched this. The specific Mayan word I don’t recall, but apocalypse has the connotation of great change. Again, I find myself empowered. Whether in “2012” or later or never, dealing and coping with uncertainty of change, great or not, is a good thing. In my book, that’s just coping with life.  (Thanks to Nancy Moise Haws in response to a post by Beth Garrod-Longston.)

The upshot of all this is no one knows, just like the scripture says – but we better be ready all the time.