Second Week of Advent – Waiting to be prepared (The Old Testament Passage)

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)

The writer of Malachi paints a picture of a messenger and savior who is stern, firm and unyielding. Some would say that is not the image they have of Jesus. And considering that, I would agree. I had thought that the writer of Malachi might have meant Jesus; but in conjunction with the other verses that we will look at this week, I think who is meant here is John the Baptist. He was stern, firm and unyielding pointing out sin without giving consideration to human weakness and failing. I have my opinion too on if/how these verses would indicate Jesus, and thought to present those instead. No, I decided, this is about John the Baptist.

We often need an “opening act”, someone to set the stage and prepare us for what is to come. That is part of the task of Advent, to prepare us for what is to come. May you prepare yourselves and your household for the Advent season. Selah!

First Week of Advent – A time of seeking and waiting for the Divine (The Psalms Passage)

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.” (Psalms 25:1-3)

The Book of Psalms is often attributed to King David. Many times the psalms seem to reflect times and events of King David’s life. As a sometime biblical scholar, I find it interesting to try to match some of the themes of the psalms to specific events in the life and rule of King David. But often the psalms could be written by “ordinary folk” in our current times. “Do not let me be put to shame – don’t make be a loser!” “Let bad things happen to people who do bad things – even the score Lord!”

But the psalms also ask the Lord for spiritual things.

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)

King David lived in a time when God was known only at a distance – that is, people lived on earth and looked to the heavens to worship God and pray; God spoke through prophets but nothing direct and clear like conversation and discussion face to face using human senses. The coming of Jesus changed all that.

Granted, the devout seemed to know in broader and deeper ways what God meant and wanted. The prophets called by God seemed to have a special relationship with the Divine; but it was not something available to all. Many times prayers offered asked for understanding and mercy on behalf of the prayer because they understood and knew God in such incomplete ways.

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)

So the followers of God waited, and hoped that a time would come when the Divine would be closer and more imminent. They trusted in God and what they knew about God. And the more they knew, the more they wanted to know God and know about 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)

If only there was a way to get closer to God, and to understand God in a more complete way that would be accessible for all the people. So they waited for that way to come about.

May you, beloved reader, seek our Lord during this Advent season. Selah!

First Week of Advent – The Beginning of Days (The Old Testament Passage)

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)


We in the area of metaphor and imaginary. We are talking and thinking about themes and motifs. We are making plans to hang garland and ivy. Yes, we are one day after Thanksgiving. But Advent comes on the heels of Thanksgiving, as if to say “continue to give thanks because we have much to be thankful for.”

Surely the days will come when crisp thoughts of Advent, Christmas, and Yuletide overwhelm us, and we are caught up in the spirit of the season. And during this period of time, the theme for this lectionary year will be set aside. The need for confession and penance, that leads to repentance is smothered, if you will, in wishes of the season; if not now, when those days have come.

We are beginning a new church year, a new lectionary year, and in time a new year. May we look forward to the days that are coming secure in the knowledge that justice, righteousness, and safety are insure. Selah!



Thanksgiving Scriptural Mix – All four scripture types in one day

Today’s verses is what my New Testament seminary professor would call a “rich feast” of scripture. Rather than picking out just one scripture passage from the set of four, I have chosen to use all four, moving from a general theme of thanksgiving to a specific focus of what is, well, the focus of the day.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all

this was attested at the right time. For this I was appointed a herald and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.” (I Timothy 2:1-7)

In any given year, whether it be a major election year or an off-year when smaller elections are held, critique and commentary is made. Such-and-such party believes and promotes this while another party zealously supports that; this politician would do one thing and another politician would do that thing. Now, you all know I have no patience or interest in politicians. But what I do appreciate that each of them, in their own way, tries to promote order and a smoothly running country. The Lord knows that I do not strongly feel that anyone of them is suggesting ways and means that I can unabashedly approve of. But I appreciate and am thankful they all, beneath it all, want a smoothly running country, and quiet and peaceable lives for the citizenry. And I can give thanks for that this day.

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us, and we rejoiced.

Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the watercourses in the Negeb.
May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.” (Psalm 126)

I tend to rely on the Lord, and trust that the Lord will provide for me. Yes, there have been lean years, years that I was not sure we would make “ends meet”; and times when the ends did not meet and we had to live in that gap. But the Lord brought us through all that, and here we are where and when the ends not only meet, but sometimes overlap! My tears have turned to shouts of joy, and I “carry home” the sheaves that provide for our family. It is good to recognize and celebrate this at Thanksgiving.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:25-33)

I will tell you plainly, beloved reader, this year my health has taken a further decline. Food does not hold the same appeal to me as it used to. This is both a sad thing and a good thing. Sad, because . . . well . . . because . . . I remember the times that food has been a comfort and a time of celebration and gathering of family and friends. Food means fellowship and communion with others. And while I enjoy gathering with family and friends, I focus more on just the people around the table than the food that is shared with them. And being the chief cook, my lack of interest in food makes food preparation more of a trial than a joy.

But, I have found new joy in clothing. Being a smaller me means new clothes, color combinations and styles that bring joy to my heart. I feel like a “lily of the field” and truly feel that God has clothed me as such. So that is where my joy lies this year.

Yes, I am going to prepare a full thanksgiving meal; but it will be a gift to my family instead of a time for me to feed my own body. And I am thankful that I can still do that for them.

Do not fear, O soil; be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done great things!
Do not fear, you animals of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit, the fig tree and vine give their full yield.

O children of Zion, be glad and rejoice in the Lord your God; for he has given the early rain for your vindication, he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the later rain, as before.
The threshing floors shall be full of grain, the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.

I will repay you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent against you.

You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame.
You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I, the Lord, am your God and there is no other.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.” (Joel 2:21-27)

This time of the year – Thanksgiving that leads into Advent and Christmas, and into the New Year – is a time of food and fellowship. That we have both in abundance gives raise to our thanksgiving and praise of and to God. That we have enough food, and family and friends to share it with gives color and meaning to these times. We share with one another, and rejoice that we have much to share and have a share in much. Our Lord God has undertaken for us and has provided for us. Yes, there is want and need. And yes, there may be people who still have want and need. But at this time of the year, folks are more likely to see the need and be moved to fill it. The season itself takes hold and people of all faiths and beliefs come together to give aid to those in need. Love that has its roots in the Christian beliefs Jesus taught seems to come over all people. And that too is worthy of celebration.

May you, beloved reader, feel the care and compassion that finds its beginnings in God’s love for us. May you be the recipient of that love, care and compassion. And may you share that love, care and compassion with others, sharing its abundance to all in need. Selah!

First Week of Advent – A Prayer written by another but bestowed upon you! (The Epistle Passage)

When the writer of I Thessalonians (thought to be Paul) prays, I stop and pay attention. I may disagree with him at times, but not his prayers. And many times, like the passage, I wish I could take it as my own – either as a prayer on my behalf or as a prayer I want to pray for others. In this particular instance, I would pray it on your behalf, beloved reader.

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.” (I Thessalonians 3:9-10)

Now, let my explain a little. I am not assuming that there is anything lacking in your faith. I would never make that judgment. But if you do have needs, spiritual and/or faith needs, it would be my most fervent prayer that those things are given and bestowed upon you. Not because of anything I might say or write, but that Spirit would gift you with those things. I do not know if Paul meant that he/himself/personally would restore or bestow (although at times/when I am in a certain mood, I would not put it past him). However, beloved reader, you do give me joy when I think of you, all of you, out there making time in your day to read what I have to say/write.

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 11-13)

Amen! And selah! May the beginning days of this season of Advent find you increasing and abounding in love!

First Week of Advent – Our God comes near (The Gospel Passage)

Beloved reader, it feels like we have come full circle. It was around this time in 2014 that I began writing two sets of blog postings. One to finish out the daily “Sip of Scripture” that Third Way Cafe has, and the second to set the lectionary year for 2015. As a reminder, the lectionary year starts with the season of Advent, and we moving into that season with Sunday Nov 29th. I am surprised how quickly the year has gone, as it seems not that long ago that I started this new chapter of “A Simple Desire”. I thank you for your comments and interest. Now, to the verse for today.

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. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory.” (Luke 21:25-27)

The question that immediately comes to mind is, “Is that time come yet?” With all that this past year has held, one would think that the distress amongst the nations, the roaring of the sea and nature, and people fainting from fear and foreboding (not to mention from grief and loss) would foretell the end and the coming of “the Son of Man.” But still the days pass.

Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Verse 28)

I do not know if our “redemption” meaning the end of this world is coming. What I do know is that Christ offers refuge and comfort for what we endure. That, I hope and pray, is sufficient for our times.

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.” (Verses 29-36)

Another perspective is that the kingdom of God has come, and is amongst us. Just not in the way we would expect. So we do not recognize it as what was promised. This lectionary year is the year where the theme is confession and penance. We look to God for forgiveness and, well, redemption. The story of the prodigal son is referenced often. So, stand up beloved reader; raise your heads and look for our Lord who is drawing near. May we find the ways that our Lord is drawing nearer to us in the coming lectionary year. Selah!

Season After Pentecost – Grieving now for what was then (The Epistle Passage)

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail.
So it is to be. Amen.
I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:4b-8)

I am sitting down to write this the day after the tragedies in Paris. I do not know if anyone in Paris read this blog, or would be reading this post. Maybe people who have friends or relatives in Paris might. I do not know. What I do know is that it would be my heart’s desire to send greetings and thoughts of hope and courage in the face of such hatred that was used to assault the people of Paris.

Grace and peace, most assuredly! The love and comfort of our Lord be yours.

This passage from Revelation is but the open salutation written by the recorder/writer of Revelation – not quite the type of blessing that other books of the bible start with. It is, however, what I have to work with as far as scripture passages go. The book of Revelation is the chronicling of what is happening in heaven in the days when judgment has come upon the earth. What happened in Paris, what happened in my own state of Oregon, and what happens in any place is the result of one person or a group of people – whatever their reason or rationale might be – using violence and causing death to express their opinion or believe. It is the greatest of understatements to say it is wrong. And that it is not the way Jesus would have us relate to one another.

To use the example of Revelation, it is like the beast is being let loose on the earth. Except . . . it isn’t. It is human against human. Humanity turning on itself and destroying itself. And maybe that is a greater “beast” than is described in Revelation.

I am digressing. I guess I don’t really have a point. Maybe it is simply to mourn the event. By the time you read this, beloved reader, events will have moved on, no doubt. It will remind you though, I hope, that some day the Lord will return to earth. And all hatred and violence will end. May we look forward to that day! Selah!