First Sunday in Advent

  • Psalm 122 ("Let us go to the house of the LORD")
  • Isaiah 2:1-5 ("Swords into plowshares");
  • Romans 13:8-14 ("Whoever loves another has fulfilled the law");
  • Matthew 24:37-44 (the little apocalypse)
  • The authors of the lectionary probably chose these because...
    Psalm 122 has to do with going to Jerusalem.
    Isaiah 2:1-5 has to do with going to Jerusalem.
    Romans 13:8-14 ("armor of light"; our salvation is near)
    Matthew 24:37-44 (the messiah is coming)

    By chance or design, there is another common thread...

    -- > Religion brings people together AND
    Religion separates people from each other. <--

    "Unity" (Psalm 122:3) is "Chabar" (khaw-BARR), which means "being tied together", and belongs to a family of words that include binding by magic spells, joining together by treaty, and joining together by friendship.

    "Quietness" (Psalm 122:7) is "Shalvah" (shall-VAWH), means both "prosperity" and "quietness". The KJV chooses "prosperity", the BCP chose "quietness". It is an interesting juxtaposition of meanings. Some of our libeation theologians have a vision of the whole world living an overpopulated, mere-subsistence existence in quiet peace, harmony and love with one another and the universe. Maybe the old Hebrew linguists recognized that this was improbable, at least by human effort. "Prosper" (Psalm 122:6) is "Shalah (shaw-LAWH), which also means both prosperity and quiet.

    I don't know what the "thrones of judgement" were (Psalm 122). Maybe you could get your disputes arbitrated there.

    Isaiah's is one of several prophecies that, in the messianic era, the religion of Israel will become the religion of the whole world. As far as I can tell, this really happened. Most of the world seems Christianized to me; even folks who can't articulate a Christian faith seem to me to....

    In Isaiah, the "nations" come up to Jerusalem are "gowy" (GO- eee). This usually means non-Israelites. It's the root for the epithet "goy", a term Jewish folks have been known to use for non-Jews, with at least some perjorative overtones. The anti- defamation league of the B'nai Brith takes a dim view of all racial epithets, not just ones directed against Jewish folks. By contrast, the "peoples" that God will judge in Jerusalem is "am", which means "anybody, us or them". An important distinction. "We're all in trouble together."

    Paul writes about loving your neighbor (plesion, play-SEE-on), which comes from pelas (PAY-lass) "near". Jesus turned the word "neighbor" to mean anybody, regardless of race or creed ("the good Samaratan"). What a nice thought with which to start the new year. Kinda the "Christmas spirit".

    Matthew 24:36 f. Tough passage. Apocalyptic for Advent. While the lectionary writers have moved most of the apocalyptic readings into late November, it's nice to see the original thrust of Advent preserved.

    heis... heis (HACE ) mia... mia.... mean "the one... the other.." This is a typical Greek expression found in Matthew 24:40 & 41. It emphasizes the similarities of those who are taken, and those who are not. The Matthew passage is "the Synoptic apocalypse". There is disagreement among scholars as to how much of this is the authentic saying of Jesus, and what may be secondary. If the latter is true, it must be very early, since it appears in Mark. There seems to be a prophecy that the horrific historical events of the messianic era would take place during the lifetime of the hearers (Matthew 25:34). As the decades rolled by, the Church had to come to terms with the delay in the parousia. Whatever we make of this, we can at least see the story of the thief in the night as a probably-authentic parable. I'm reminded daily (as a police pathologist) of how one person gets it, and the other doesn't. I can't sort out the respective roles of chance and God's hand in accidental deaths. I have more confidence in God's ability to sort folks out in His own way, despite the fact that we may appear very similar and be physically close one to another.

    I've got a question. What do we mean when we say "Christ will come again?" I was once taught how to classifying fundamentalists as "pretribulational premillenialists", etc., etc. ("Some of them believe that the country of Israel will miraculously ... while others believe that the Jews are... and for still others, the necessary precondition for the return of Christ will be teaching fundamentalism in the public schools.") I'm really tired of this. I'm a man of science, and no theologian. I suspect that the Second Coming will be a transformation of the spiritual parts of ourselves into another kind of existence. Whether this will happen to everybody at once, during the natural history of the universe, or whether this happens to us at the moment of our individual deaths, or later, or whether it will happen at the time of the extinction of our species, I don't know. If the former, I'm willing to predict it's a long, long time away. We've got the rest of the galaxies to evangelize, first. Of course, in C.S. Lewis's space novels, Christ becomes incarnate once per solar system.

    Happy new year, everyone.