Posts Tagged 'vindication'

For April 20, 2014: Easter Day, Year A

The Reading            Jeremiah 31:1-6

In the time of Jeremiah, Israel was in bad shape; outlying tribes such as Ephraim distrusted the royal double dealing in Jerusalem, neighbors such as Samaria were regarded with disdain, and exile and violence were visited on the land. Jeremiah, surprisingly, foretells the party of parties: the Lord, for love, will bring all the families of Israel home.

The Response            Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

Jeremiah’s exuberance is mirrored in Psalm 118. God’s grace has come to one threatened with death, and the result is vindication beyond all hope of human achieving.

The Second Reading            Acts 10:34-43

Simon the Galilean fisherman would have shunned non-Jews, especially agents of the Roman empire; as Peter the Greek-named apostle, however, he is called by the Spirit to meet the Roman centurion Cornelius to announce the great good news that Jesus is the Lord of absolutely all of us, no matter whom.

The Gospel            John 20:1-18

The Resurrection account in the gospel of John, written after the other gospels, may be the most heartbreaking: not only is Jesus stone cold dead, but his body is missing and Mary Magdalene can only assume that it is stolen. Just imagine her shock when the gardener turns out to be Jesus—and imagine her joy!

 

Ponderables

The word of Jeremiah is not for settled, successful homebodies. It is for people wearied by factionalism, strife, and exile. There should have been no hope of things getting better—except that God has other plans.

The word of the psalmist is not for those who win under their own power. It is for and by people stretched to the limit and beyond. There should have been no hope of rescue—except that God has other plans.

The word of Peter is not for those who profit by division. It is for people too desperate for truth to keep playing by the old rules. There should have been no hope of reconciliation—except that God has other plans.

The word that Jesus speaks is not for the comfortable nor the conventionally pious. It is for those for whom worse has come to worst, who have lost even the cold comfort of performing the last rites for their best dreams. There should have been no hope of new life from death—except that God has other plans.

As we rejoice in Easter, let us not forget those who are exhausted, stressed, wounded by division, or in any kind of grief. If we are not among them right now, we surely will be. More to the point, it is for them that God the Ever-Living and Ever-Loving has other plans.

And is it not up to us, God’s people, to show the world through our love just how true these words are?

Advertisements

For Jan. 20. 2013: 2 Epiphany, Year C

The Reading            Isaiah 62:1-5

Last week’s reading from Isaiah, written during the exile in Babylon, foresaw the lengths to which God would go to save Israel. In today’s reading, written after the return from exile, Isaiah proclaims not only the saving of Jerusalem but its vindication. He sings of God’s deep delight in Jerusalem—and in every one of us.

The Response            Psalm 36:5-10

The Epistle            1 Corinthians 12:1-11

In the church that Paul founded at Corinth, spiritual gifts became a matter of contention, as so often they do today. Paul reminds the Corinthians, and us, that every one of us is God’s gifted child, graced with gifts for the good of all. If so we, are also called to encourage each other in the exercise of those gifts.

The Gospel            John 2:1-11

 

Further thoughts

Easter comes unusually early this year, on March 31. In consequence, Epiphany season is unusually short, and therefore more than usually easy to look past as we move from the exuberance of Christmas toward the solemnity of Lent.

In much of the world, Epiphany looks like a lean, mean season. The ground is snowy or bare and local produce is in short supply: my second year in England saw my first attempt to cook Brussels sprouts, because literally no other green thing graced the local market’s vegetable bins. Even in Southern California, the neighbor’s huge walnut tree and our little pomegranates stand leafless and seem dead. And in Southern California as elsewhere, the bills for Christmas coincide with the annual church budget discussion and the onset of tax season.

Today’s readings, however, relentlessly point us toward abundance. Isaiah poetically shows us a God who is not merely fond of Jerusalem but head over heels in love with the City of Peace and with her children. The psalmist shows us a God whose bounty produces feasts and whose grace extends to the “critters”: all dogs, and cats and horses, go to heaven, though one can’t help balking at the concept of eternity with mosquitoes. Paul’s letter to Corinth details God’s openhandedness with gifts of the Spirit and hints rather broadly that any gift to do good is from God and should be honored accordingly. And then there is the gospel, with Jesus’ first public sign the conversion of ritual water into very fine wine—in the quantity of a hundred or so gallons!

At the same time, the brevity of Epiphany reminds us that time itself is short. Seasons end; bills and budgets have deadlines; people die. However we are going to use the gifts large and small that we have been given, and however we mean to encourage all those around us to find and explore and deploy the gifts large and small that they have been given, and whatever else we do to love God back, the time is right now.

Right now, as in this very minute, and every minute we draw breath.

For Dec. 30, 2012: 1 Christmas, Year C

The Reading            Isaiah 61:10-62:3

The late chapters of the book of Isaiah were written probably around the middle of the fifth century BC for people returned to Israel from exile in Babylon to a Jerusalem still in ruins. Despite the difficulties, Isaiah rejoices that God’s vindication and salvation are already and at the same time are yet to come. Isaiah’s message is for each generation—including ours: let us not rest until salvation comes, but let us also exult, for Christ is born!

The Response            Psalm 147:13-21

The Epistle            Galatians 3:23-25; 4:4-7

Within the Christian community that Paul planted at Galatia, in modern Turkey, were some who insisted that non-Jews were obliged to convert to Judaism and observe Mosaic law before they could convert to Christianity.  Paul, though himself perhaps the best Jew ever, has no use for that position: Christ having redeemed us, all of us are no longer slaves under the old law but children of God the Father.

The Gospel            John 1:1-18

 

Further thoughts

The month of January is named for Janus, the Roman god of doors and gates and of beginnings and transitions. Janus had two faces, for doors look both in and out, and beginnings and transitions are also endings in their way. The Christian in this world is in something of the position of Janus.

We look in one direction at the world that is, the world that came into being through the true Light but that does not recognize its creator and king in Jesus. We see a world in which justice miscarries, a world in which light seems lacking, a world in which the vindication and glory of Isaiah’s prophecy seems very far off indeed, a world in which, as the psalmist claims, the real God is only for Israel and the circumcision that marks God’s covenant is reserved only for men, a world in which the name “Christian” is smirched, to our shame, by association with historical and present abuses that we would love to disown but cannot honestly deny. We see our lives moving inexorably toward the end; as the gates close on our hopes and dreams, it can be hard not to despair.

At the same time, however, we look forward: forward to the vindication and righteousness that, Isaiah promises, Jerusalem will represent to all people—and already does, in God’s time and in God’s eyes. We look forward with Paul to God redeeming and adopting us—as God already has, in God’s time and in God’s eyes, for how else should we dare even to want to call God “Daddy!” We look forward to the Light of the World, Jesus, from whose unfathomable and eternal goodness we will receive grace upon grace—and already have. For, as John says, the light is already in the world—and, deep though the darkness may be, it is still the light that prevails.

O come, let us adore him!