Category: Biblical Studies

Season of Advent 2018 Year C – Third Sunday: The Epistle Passage – What should we do in return?

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.
Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.
Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7)
Thinking about this, beloved reader, it occurs to me that another thing has changed from the concept of “group” rescue and redemption to individual rescue and salvation. Now we are assured of grace and mercy, and are being asked to respond to the Lord God’s grace and mercy. In the past, that is in the “group” motif, proper behavior and worship was expected FIRST, then salvation would come. Now isn’t that interesting. Of course my supposition is not a hard and fast rule; and some level, understanding, acceptance, and belief was expected. But in the early Christian church new believers learned what it meant to live this new life. The Hebrews/Israelites/Judahites/Jews were expected to know, accept, and practice right living before Yahweh’s blessing would be bestowed.
Could it be that the disciples were gentler task masters of correct Christian living and belief than the Old Testament prophets, preachers, and scribes? You know what the difference was – the disciples learned directly from Jesus Christ the Lord God. The Old Testament leaders went on their own assumptions of what the Almighty Lord would want. I am not saying they distorted God’s message. Maybe the Lord God, the Mighty Divine of the Old Testament was a tough task master. Scholars have puzzled for generations about the change, and I have yet to hear an explanation that allows the two Divine Differing Dynamics to be united. Maybe that is just me.
But it seems to me, beloved reader, if we put aside that perplexing question and just focus on what we learn from the New Testament by way of Paul and the other apostles, there is very good reason to rejoice. And especially during Advent, that is very good thing to do! Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

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Season of Advent 2018 Year C – Third Sunday: The Old Testament Passage – What has been done for us

“Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!
The LORD has taken away the judgments against you, he has turned away your enemies. The king of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more.
On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak.
The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival. I will remove disaster from you, so that you will not bear reproach for it.” (Zephaniah 3:14 – 18)

We know from last week that this “group” rescue was a hope that the Israelites and Judahites had and held on to during their dark hours. It gave them hope, if not for the present generation than at least in the generation to come. Most parents will tell you they wish for something better for their children than what they had. And the Lord God, as a Loving Parent (it was presumed) would bring about something better for their descendants than what was being experienced now.
“I will deal with all your oppressors at that time. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. At that time I will bring you home, at the time when I gather you; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the LORD.” (Verses 19 – 20)
The book of Zephaniah is actually a plea to the Judahites to honor the covenant and commitment that they had made to the Lord God. It was presumed to be written after Israel fell (again, presumably) because of their disobedience to Yahweh. Chapter three is to be read as the joy that might be there if they are faithful. And it does sustain my idea from last week that there is a “group” dynamic of their salvation – a group of people being saved and restored as opposed to individuals finding rescue.
So, what about my question/title. What is being done for us today, modern times? Well, let’s tally it up. Through our Lord Jesus Christ our judgments have been taken away, and we need not bear reproach. The Lord through the Holy Spirit is in our midst, so we need not fear that we are alone in this world. But our enemies are still around. However, we can count on the Lord God gathering us up and taking us “home” to be with our Lord God. It would seem that we still need to exist and cope in this mortal material world – in that we have it no different than the Judahites and Israelites. But we know our hope is not in the future, it is not just for future generations but is here with us now. That is one of the messages of Advent – actually one that we tend to minimize. We have connected Advent to waiting that we forget what we are actually waiting for is the time to celebrate it, not the time that it will become actual. All that can be done for us in this world has been done. So let’s celebrate that as we wait for the big celebration of Christmas! As the book of Zephaniah says, “Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!” Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season of Advent 2018 Year C – Second Sunday: The Substituted Psalms Passage – Zechariah’s Prophecy

[“Then his (John the Baptist) father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy” (Luke 1:67) ]
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.” (Verses 68 – 71)
Zechariah, the elder priest that he was, remembered correctly the history of his people. From the first the Lord God related directly, one-on-one with those chosen and called. Yes, as time when by the single person that was first called grew to be a family, and then a group, and finally a people – a nation. But a nation of individuals that were each called to the Lord God.
“Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.” (Verses 72 – 75)
Perhaps it is because the enemies of the Hebrews/Israelites/Jews seemed to be all around then and hounded them through the generations that being in a group offered strength and security. And having king under which they were a kingdom offered protection from and identity to the other nations. But individuality was lost.
“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Verses 76 – 79)
I tell you, beloved reader, when I started this week I did not know I would be approaching and addressing the second week of Advent in this way. Something spoke to me though in the Old Testament scripture passages and said to me that this group thinking was so strong. But it gave way to individual salvation and redemption – both topics and issues that lay beyond the borders of Advent. It is, however, where Advent leads to – as it was planned for from the beginning. Let us hold both in our hearts: the group experience of Advent and Christmas, and the individual that the Divine makes to us. And let us celebrate this Advent season with joy and compassion! Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season of Advent 2018 Year C – Second Sunday: The Gospel Passage – The Corporate Turns Personal

“In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'” ( Luke 3:1-6)
Beloved reader, the faith that the Lord God Abraham to was never meant to be a group experience. If it was, the Lord God would have called to the town where Abraham lived, or where some other group lived. But the Lord God called Abraham, singular. Yes, Abraham brought his wife and some family members, but the Lord God talked to Abraham. Promised Abraham he would be the start of God’s nation. Not Abraham’s neighborhood, but Abraham singular. Isaac had an individual relationship with the Lord God. Jacob had an individual relationship with the Lord God. Joseph had an individual relationship with Lord God. Then the Lord God called out the chosen people from Egypt, but through an individual, Moses. And it was from that group of people that the group experience of having the Lord God started. Originally, however, it was the Divine connecting to individuals.
And when the Lord God determined to start again, the Divine chose an individual, John the Baptist. John the Baptist did not preach that the Jewish faith must repent, but each person must repent of their own sins. That is probably one of the reasons that John might not have been popular with the Jewish leaders. Take note that “the words of the prophet Isaiah” says “every” – every valley and every mountain and hill, that every [implied] crooked will be made straight and every [implied] rough way made smooth. And that all individual [implied] flesh shall see salvation. Salvation through an individual.
Paul, as you may remember from Hebrews went to great lengths to promote Jesus as the High Priest, superior to the group of high priests that the Jews/Israelites had. The Anabaptists (which is my professed faith belief) established the priesthood of all believers, meaning that each individual believer acts as their own intermediary, or more precisely every individual believer relates directly to/with the Divine and not through anyone else. I am not saying that the Anabaptist had everything right in their beliefs but on the topic of group faith versus individual faith, they rightly saw that the individual needs to establish their own relationship with the Lord God the Divine.
So, here we are coming to the end of the second week of Advent. It may seem like we have taken a circuitous route through corporate faith – maybe a journey that you might feel was not needed. But I felt it important to show you, beloved reader, that the coming of Advent is the coming of a “new” way of relating to the Divine, in comparison to how the Jewish people had previously seen faith. It may explain why for the Jews the birth of a Jesus was seen as a seemingly unimportant birth of an infant/individual. And because it was so new that it had to be heralded by, well, heralds from on high. But we will get to that in later weeks.
I started this week by focusing on the Old Testament where it talks about nations changing, the Israelite/Judahites nation, to be precise. I said it would not be accomplished by the nation itself but by the Lord God. Baruch said it would be the whole nation that were descendants of the called and chosen people. It could have been, if the entire Jewish nation recognized it as such. I believe part of the reason that the Jews as a corporate group did not recognize Jesus was because his ministry was a one-to-one relationship. Maybe if they had remembered their history better, ie individualized, they would have recognized Jesus as the individually oriented Messiah.
We celebrate Advent as a group, beloved reader, and earlier this week I exhorted to revel in that group experience. But is at its center Advent can and should be an individual experience. Because the baby Jesus was born for each one of us. And that was and is how nations are changed! Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season of Advent 2018 Year C – Second Sunday: The Epistle Passage – A Corporate Christian Identity

“I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now.
I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:3 – 6)
Paul did not usually write to individuals – well, he wrote to Timothy. But that letter was much more of a “behind the scenes” Paul writing to a fellow minister and contemporary as opposed to writing to a circle of believers. So the “you” in this passage is the plural “you” – which is denoted by the “all of you” comment, as well as the “among you” comment. Now, in some letters Paul will take an individual to task, but still the letter is to a group and not an individual. Paul will also sent greetings to an individual but asks the group as a whole to pass on his greeting.
“It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.” (Verses 7 – 11)
Paul also brags about some faith circles that have shown care and compassion – as a group – to other faith circles. In fact Paul at one point motivates one faith circle by bragging about another, exhorting each gathering of believers to emulate the other. Paul did not set out to convert individuals one by one, but sought to set up churches that would support and encourage each other. Then he sent group letters to those churches, continuing to give guidance and discipline to the corporate group. In reality, when Paul talks about living an authentic Christian life, he is talking about living it out in a group context. Remember too that the early churches supported each other, each member contributing to the group as a whole so no one had want or need. The early church did not have any individual (that is, single person) consciousness. The early Christian churches were very much interdependent. And if that reminds you of the Jewish faith, there might be good reason!
I promise you however, beloved reader, we will look at individual faith. But again here, we seem to be looking at scripture with an eye towards a group mentality. Revel in the fellowship of others, and support each other in the journey through this world. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season of Advent 2018 Year C – Second Sunday: The Old Testament Passage – Putting on and taking off a national identity

“Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem, and put on forever the beauty of the glory from God.
Put on the robe of the righteousness that comes from God; put on your head the diadem of the glory of the Everlasting; for God will show your splendor everywhere under heaven.
For God will give you evermore the name, “Righteous Peace, Godly Glory.” (Baruch 8:1 – 4)
A brief search concerning the book of Baruch will quickly show you that there is much controversy about the book. Who wrote it? When was it written? What time period was it written about? But I do not care much about figuring out the answers. What intrigues me is the concept of putting on a new national identity. The writer of the book of Baruch (who ever and whenever that person might be) talking not about individuals being re-cast but a whole nation. Jerusalem was comprised of hundreds (maybe thousands?) of people who for the most part professed the same type of perspective and outlook. Judaism had long ago established an exclusiveness that kept the national identity from changing much. What was the lot of one person was probably the lot of that person’s neighbor. Remember too that Judaism was based on the twelve descendants of Jacob and those families carried on the traditions from each succeeding generation. So for the Jewish nation to change as a nation from sorrow and affliction to splendor, righteousness, peace and Godliness would mean a remaking of every person in Jerusalem. It was a promise and prediction of . . . . biblical proportions!
“Arise, O Jerusalem, stand upon the height; look toward the east, and see your children gathered from west and east at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that God has remembered them.
For they went out from you on foot, led away by their enemies; but God will bring them back to you, carried in glory, as on a royal throne.
For God has ordered that every high mountain and the everlasting hills be made low and the valleys filled up, to make level ground, so that Israel may walk safely in the glory of God. The woods and every fragrant tree have shaded Israel at God’s command.” (Verses 5 – 8)
Not only is writer of Baruch foretelling that the nation of Jerusalem will be remade, but those who were taken from families and neighborhoods will be returned. At least that is the overt promise. But as I said above, it is not the individual persons who will be returned and remade. It is the nation of Jerusalem, the re-establishment of the identity of the Israel nation. It is, beloved reader, a group identity rather than a collection of individuals. Moreover, it the group identity that is washed clean and presented as unsullied and unmarred.
“For God will lead Israel with joy, in the light of his glory, with the mercy and righteousness that come from him.” (Verse 9)
Our modern society is so taken up with individuals, and each individual’s identity recognized and honored. I am not saying that is a wrong or bad thing. But the writer of Baruch is in essence saying, do not mourn the individuals that were lost. Have hope because the nation of Jerusalem and Israel will at some time in the future be re-established and be better than ever.
According to the understandings of Israel’s and Judah’s demise, it was their inability and unwillingness to follow Yahweh’s laws and guidance. Presumably, according to the writer of the book of Baruch, this will be remedied by the work of the Divine. What once was will be changed; not by the actions of any one person, or even by a group, nor even by the actions of the whole nation. The Lord God will just do it, and all of Jerusalem and Israel will be changed.
What I am trying to say, beloved reader, but am reluctant to say forthright – is that the personality of a nation will be changed. Think of Russia during the Cold War years. Think of Germany during WWII. Think of England/Britain in the 1800’s. Think of India/China/Japan in the previous century. It is the same thing concerning Africa. All of these “personalities” were not based on individuals but on the group identity – for right or wrong. Can you, beloved reader, think of nations that have taken on a corporate/national personality? For right or for wrong?
Now, with the concept of the changing of the personality of a nation, let us look at the other Old Testament passage for this week.
“See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight–indeed, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.
But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the LORD in righteousness.
Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.”( Malachi 3:1-4)
When we think about the refiner’s fire, we may picture individuals being tested and recast as something better. But it is more likely in these passages that the Lord God as the refiner will remold a whole group – the descendants of Levi who were the priestly tribe. Then the purified priestly tribe will be sanctified to offer up sacrifices for the nation and usher in the change on a national level. Our focus on the individual does not always fit in with the way scripture was written. But that is not to say that focusing on the individual is wrong, nor that we have misinterpret New Testament theology. I hope at some later point speak to that change. But this week, beloved reader, it would seem that our focus needs to be on large groups and not the individual. So let us stick together, holding one another in our thoughts and prayers. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season of Advent 2018 Year C – First Sunday: The Psalms Passage – In praise of compassion & goodness

“To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame; do not let my enemies exult over me.
Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame; let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.” (Psalm 25:1 – 3)
I have been thinking lately about the choices we make – specifically how we chose to interact and treat each other. Maybe it is the time of year, but I have been thinking and pondering about how we relate to the people around us. And it is a choice, beloved reader. We are not “accidentally” mean and callous to others. It is not a “slip of the lip” when we talk in unkind and disrespectful ways to each other. And it is not more difficult to chose to be kind than it is to chose to be mean.
“Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.” (Verses 4 – 5)
It is not even a matter of choosing to be Godly. Even though I am strong a believer in living faithfully and living a Christian life spiritually and morally, I do not think you need to be Godly to be kind, gracious and caring. I have known non-believers who were more kind and caring than some Christians.
This psalm passage admittedly does not echo where my thoughts are today. That is not to say this psalm is contrary to my theme. But neither is the psalmist and I speaking from the same perspective. The writer of the psalm (King David) is asking the Lord God to protect him against those who are set against and to teach him how to live rightly. In the next set of verses King David will also ask the Lord God for mercy and forgiveness.
“Be mindful of your mercy, O LORD, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness’ sake, O LORD!” (Verses 6 – 7)
I have myself pleaded for the Divine’s mercy and restitution when I have gone astray. I guess where I am coming from today is that we can chose to act in such a way that we are in accord with the “ways” of the Lord God.
“Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.” (Verses 8 – 10)
It is my belief, beloved reader, that if you fail often enough to live as the Lord God the Divine instructs and guides – you will eventually learn what you have to do, how you have to act, and what you should say. You CAN learn these things. Then, you will have to chose if you are going to do those things. As we continue in the journey of Advent I am hoping and praying that you, beloved reader, will make choices of caring and being compassionate. If you do, I believe you will find the season of Advent filled with love and joy. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season of Advent 2018 Year C – First Sunday: The Gospel Passage – Watching the “times” & “signs” come about

“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” (Luke 21:25 – 26)
Nature does some strange things – eclipses of the sun and moon, solar flares, shooting stars and meteors. How are we to know what are “signs” and what are natural but unique phenomena. In the past predictions of the end times and portents of doom have been begun and tied to nature “malfunctioning”. So far, as far as I know, the world has not ended yet.
Nations rise and fall, governments act rashly and go to war one with another – one nation against one nation, groups of nations rising up against other groups of nations, and one nation attacking or being attacked by a collection of other nations. How are we to know what are “signs” and what are results of antagonism, aggression, and violence?
And how are we to know if/when the “powers of the heavens” are shaken if we can’t find heaven on any map know to humanity? All in all, the signs that have had humanity fainting and fearing, and foreboding have not result in global apocalypse or rapture.
“Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Verses 27 – 28)
It seems to me that each generation in humanity had defined for itself what are the fearful and foreboding signs. Yes there have been individuals who have raised their voices and have yelled “Beware the times!” But so far, while the times are fear producing, the Son of Man has not come back to earth in the way predicted.
“Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Verses 29 – 36)
What do we do with these passages? There are more questions than answers. Which “generation”? What does the term “pass away” mean for a whole generation? It sounds like the writer of the gospel of Luke is telling his readers/listeners it will be in their lifetimes, and they need to be on guard for these things. It is not a warning to pass on to their children, the next generation, but the generation of the gospel of Luke. Yet, here we are.
And . . . if this passage is one weighted down with worry, fret, and warning . . . . what is it doing in the texts for the first week of Advent?! I don’t have any surprising or pithy answer to my questions. No turning things on their head and seeing it in a new light. The commentators I read did not seem to have answers either, but confined themselves to explaining the language used.
Perhaps the next question should be “What does it mean if/when the kingdom of God is at hand?” For if these things have come to pass within the generation it was spoken to/written for, then the kingdom of God was very near them. What then does it mean to live so close to the kingdom of God?
What if it means this? We know that the Holy Spirit, the Counselor and Adviser, came upon the disciples and changed them in ways they could not understand before. Gave them strength, endurance, stamina, and faith that they never had before, nor that they could have. Maybe the kingdom of God is not a physical intervention into our world but a spiritual generator set up just outside of physical boundaries of our world sending energy and spiritual wisdom to us.
I don’t know what the gospel writer of Luke meant, or how/if Jesus’ words were given meanings that had more to do with the times and the hopes of the people and gospel writers who lived then. We take words that were written so long ago under circumstances that are so far from our own. And we expect them to translate. Seamlessly no less!
We are coming to the end of the first week of Advent. Maybe the kingdom of God is nearer than we think. I can not say for 100% what than means. What I do know is that if the Lord God the Divine is coming nearer, we better be ready! Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season of Advent 2018 Year C – First Sunday: The Epistle Passage – A time of blessing and well wishing

“How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith.”(1 Thessalonians 3:9)
It took some time to find my entry point for this passage. Paul undoubtedly felt a warmth and paternal care for the people of Thessalonica. At first I thought Paul felt there was something lacking in their faith that needed to be remedied. But after some thinking and pondering, what I realized was that Paul desired to make their faith as complete as possible. Not a paternal authority correcting them, but a caring father desiring what was best for them. At that point it was an easy step to see it as an “Advent” wish for a more joyful future of faith for them. And is that not part of Advent? The wish and desire to bestow something extra on another? Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians could be seen as a blessing for their future.
“Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you.
And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you.
And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” (Verses 10 – 13)
Paul says again he earnestly desires to see them. And he desires them to love each other as he loves them. And further that they may be ready for then the Lord Jesus returns to earth. Now we know that Jesus did not return; but perhaps they were ready when death took them from this world. And in a way Paul did see them again when they were reunited in heaven. As to the love they were to have for each other that was equal to the love Paul had for them, we do not know. Loving one’s fellow believer is hard enough; loving those who are not of your faith circle or tradition is an even greater stretch. But, that is the calling of Advent and Christmas – to love one another. We talked about that yesterday.
As is so often the case when Paul prays, he prays what I would pray myself. That my words may find their way to all beloved readers, whatever your/their faith traditions would be. That my beloved readers would show the care and concern to others that I feel for all of you who, although nameless to me, are still beloved to me. And that you may be ready, or made ready for this Advent & Christmas season! Selah and Shalom!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Rerouting the Romans Road: Audience and Purpose of Romans | S2 E2 (EP-70)

Subscribe via iTunes or Google Season 2, Episode 2 (2018) The audience and purpose of Romans is a foundational matter of debate in the study of Paul's letters. In this episode, Kurt Willems 1) gives a broad background to the issues, 2) looks at the Romans Road as something that is an example of the wrong grid for the book, and 3) offers a 'within Judaism' approach to the audience and purpose of Romans.  Resources: For a brief summary of the various approaches to Romans, see: Runar M. Thorsteinsson, Paul’s Interlocutor in Romans 2: Function and Identity in the Context of Ancient Epistolography, 114-121 and Neil Elliot, The Arrogance of Nation: Reading Romans in the Shadow of Empire, 13ff. Also Read: Mark D. Nanos, “To the Churches in the Synagogues of Rome,” in Reading Paul's Letter to the Romans, ed. Jerry L. Sumney, ed., Resources for biblical study, edited by number, 73 (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2012), 19–20. See also, Nanos, The Mystery of Romans, 372-387. GIVE THE SHOW SOME LOVE 1) If you would be so kind to hop on iTunes (or your feed of choice) and leave The Paulcast a review there, that would be amazing. The more reviews we can get will lead to greater visibility in iTunes. And I (Kurt) LOVE reading your comments! 2) Also, please consider hitting up The Paulcast Patreon online tip-jar (think Kickstarter for ongoing content creators). For $3 per month, or more, you can make a direct impact on this show. Financial partners like you really do make this all possible! Through Patreon, you make a tangible difference in this show’s sustainability and quality! http://patreon.com/kurtwillems
Syndicated from The Paulcast

Season of Advent 2018 Year C – First Sunday: The Old Testament Passage – Well look what time of year it is, again!

I was a little surprised to see that after my brief hiatus I was starting back at the beginning of Advent. Advent have always been beginnings in my blogging over the past years. There is something about starting a new lectionary year that makes me want to try new things and stretch myself. This year would be no different . . . . if there was something new I wanted to try. Last year I made the switch from posting on the old site, A Simple Desire to posting here. Years ago I switched from scripture cycle that was random scriptures chosen by another website to using the Revised Common Lectionary. But as I said, I am not feeling the need to make any changes this year.
“The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The LORD is our righteousness.” (Jeremiah 33:14-16)

In the scripture passage for today, the Divine is talking about making changes. Changes more dramatic than the people of Jeremiah’s time could ever imagine. Changes more dramatic than the people during Jesus’ time could imagine. Changes so dramatic that some rejected them as changes from the Divine, from Yahweh.
When one thinks about Advent and the coming season of Christmas, changes are inevitable. The season is changing, from the [relative] warmth of summer and fall to the chill and cold of winter. Colors change from the oranges, yellows, and blacks of fall to the green, white, and red of Christmas. Christmas can have other colors as well – it is not defined by the three I mentioned. But the colors of fall give way to the colors of winter – sometimes very early considering that Christmas decorations make there way into the commercial and social life of our society earlier and earlier! Pumpkin orange morphing into Christmas red is pretty dramatic! Hopefully along with that change comes the season of giving and caring that is promoted in many ways. In many ways the sharing and caring of Thanksgiving bursts wide open as Christmas comes closer and closer! That is one Christmas tradition that can come as early as it wants, in my opinion.
I have to wonder – as I often do when predictions are given for events that are far in advance of when the prediction is given – how the people during Jeremiah’s time received this prophecy. The house of Israel and Judah had taken quite a beating. Did they hope “this time” would come soon? Perhaps as soon as the changing of the current season? Was it a prophecy that gave hope for the present and a reason to endure into the future? And as the decades passed, did their hopes fade?
When we see on the calendar the first Sunday of Advent, we know Christmas will be coming soon. And on a schedule we can depend on. The time between Jeremiah and the birth of Jesus must have been very long. And perhaps the predictions of Jeremiah – if they were seen as applying to the coming of the Messiah – had faded into history that was too long ago.
Oh beloved reader! We may think the four weeks of Advent stretch too long! But the saving and redeeming of Israel and Judah were many decades in coming. So many that when Jesus was born the nation of the Hebrews and Israelites/Judahites barely existed anymore. Perhaps this week we can look at the task of waiting in hope and anticipation. Shalom!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 29[34]) – The Psalm Passage: Time to stop reflecting and start to act

“O LORD, remember in David’s favor all the hardships he endured; how he swore to the LORD and vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob, “I will not enter my house or get into my bed; I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, until I find a place for the LORD, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.” We heard of it in Ephrathah; we found it in the fields of Jaar. “Let us go to his dwelling place; let us worship at his footstool.” (Psalm 1 – 7)
King David had, when he first had secured the throne, expressed the desire to build a house for the Ark of the Covenant and for the Lord God Yahweh to reside it. It was not to be, but King David desired it greatly. King David did not just muse upon it or imagine how it might have been. He gathered treasures and building materials (if the commentators are to be believed) and made plans. His son King Solomon actually completed the Temple but it was David who first sparked the idea and passed its importance down to his son.
“Rise up, O LORD, and go to your resting place, you and the ark of your might. Let your priests be clothed with righteousness, and let your faithful shout for joy. For your servant David’s sake do not turn away the face of your anointed one.
The LORD swore to David a sure oath from which he will not turn back: “One of the sons of your body I will set on your throne. If your sons keep my covenant and my decrees that I shall teach them, their sons also, forevermore, shall sit on your throne.” (Verses 8 – 12)
There comes a time to set aside wishing, thinking, and pondering; there comes a time to take action. I realized, beloved reader, looking back on the past two weeks that I have continued the theme of pondering inadvertently. In one week’s time I wrote to weeks’ worth of commentary so that I would have a week free to tend to other matters. One week flowed into the next in my thinking and I did not insert a break into my considerations of the passages. That is sometimes how it is when we think, muse, and ponder. Time passes by and we do not take action. Again if the commentators are to be believed, David spent much of his kingship planning out a “House for the Lord”, what building materials there should be and how it would be furnished. It would explain how early in his kingship that Solomon was able to build the temple if his father had done the planning work and accumulating of materials. Solomon was a thinker and a philosopher. His father King David was a doer. In any project it is good to have both. And both types of leadership, if done under the direction and guidance of the Lord, are acceptable to the Divine.
“For the LORD has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his habitation: “This is my resting place forever; here I will reside, for I have desired it. I will abundantly bless its provisions; I will satisfy its poor with bread. Its priests I will clothe with salvation, and its faithful will shout for joy. There I will cause a horn to sprout up for David; I have prepared a lamp for my anointed one. His enemies I will clothe with disgrace, but on him, his crown will gleam.” (Verses 13 – 18)
Having completed this last commentary and scheduled it to appear at its proper time, I will be resting for a week and completing other tasks that need to be done. My plan is to write something current of Thanksgiving, as a summary and celebration if my work and plans for the coming week (real time) are seen to fruition. It is my hope and prayer that the ponderings I have done in the past few weeks and the actions I will take in the coming week will result in the outcome I desire. I wish and pray for the same thing for you beloved reader. Shalom and Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 29[34]) – The Gospel Passage: Jesus invites Pilate to reflect

“Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” (John 18:33 – 35)
I was curious about verse 35 and Pilate’s question. Some commentators say the Pilate is insulted by the question, that anyone would think he is a “slave Jew.” Other commentators believe he is asserting his independence from Jewish thinking and influence, and he will judge the matter without prejudice or influence. In either case, Jesus’ question prompts Pilate to look himself and his involvement in the proceedings.
“Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” (Verses 36 – 37)
Jesus invites Pilate to further reflect on what makes a king, and what power does a king command. And how long or short a king might be in power based on the circumstances. Okay, so admittedly one can interpret and imbue at great deal into Pilate’s and Jesus’ statements, questions, and answers. Maybe Pilate is not a thinker or philosopher. Maybe he is just a politician looking to solve problems and up-rises. And if Pilate does not take up Jesus’ invitation to reflect that does not mean we should not.
What is the nature of power? How do you wield it with integrity and honor? How long should power last? Can you make it last? When should power give way to submission? More pondering – what is the nature of truth? Is there different types of truth? Is truth relative? How does power and truth connect and interact? The questions, reflections, and ponderings could go on. That is one of the reasons I like pondering – taking a question or situation and looking at it from all sides and angles. I would invite you, beloved reader, to ponder will and let truths arise from sincere pondering. Because, beloved reader, it is after pondering truths that the nature of true and lasting power can come. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

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