VENGEANCE REBUKED . . . But from whence did it come?

When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went to another village.” (Reference: Luke 9:54-56 )

The editors of Reading the Anabaptist Bible say that throughout the historic Anabaptist writings there is a caution against personal vengeance. And I suppose that is true – throughout all the fiery writings that the historic Anabaptists writings it was God they called on and God they said would “smite” those that came against them. I don’t remember them saying/writing that they would personally do the smiting.

Paul Glock wrote to his wife Else, “The Lord explained it saying if they lie about you, let your friendliness, which is a fruit of the spirit, be manifest towards all and do not reward evil with evil. For we are God’s children born through the Gospel and our heavenly Father lets his sun shine on the devout and on the godless and has never turned his mercy from them. He has at all times shown himself to be fatherly, according to his name, by giving them rain from heaven and fruitful times and has filled their hearts with joy although humanly a person might sometimes think, like John and James: “Lord, shall we ask that fire come down from heaven and devour them?” [Luke 9:54]. But Christ, who had come to save souls and not to destroy, said to them: “You do not know which spirit’s children you are.” With that he plainly gave us to understand that we are not to avenge ourselves but to learn gentleness and humility from the Master.”

My NRSV tells me that “other ancient authorities” added the comments about the disciples not knowing “which spirit’s children you are”, and I am intrigued by that footnote. Does it simply mean they did not know what they were talking about – that is, not think through what they were saying. Or does it mean that vengeance like that comes from evil spirits? Because these “other ancient authorities” are not available to elaborate, we cannot be sure. Barnes does talk about these extra part and suggests that Jesus is trying to explain to them that they may think their zeal is from love for Jesus – that is protecting and defending Jesus good name. But actually it is the disciples own opinion and attitude that is “firing” them up and it is not right or part of Jesus’/God’s plan for humanity. So beloved, shall we examine our own hearts and spirits for unGodly zeal for vengeance? I think Paul Glock would be a good instructor for this.

May you learn gentleness from our Lord, and patience with those who seem opposed to you. May your love for humanity squelch out any thoughts or inclinations for vengeance. Selah!

The First Week of Advent: Restoration

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock!
You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh. Stir up your might, and come to save us!

Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved.

O Lord God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?
You have fed them with the bread of tears, and given them tears to drink in full measure.
You make us the scorn of our neighbours; our enemies laugh among themselves.

Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.“

The second scripture passage in the weekly lectionary is usually from Psalms or another book from the Old Testament (occasionally from the New Testament) that functions as a praise, prayer or petition spoken from God’s people or behalf of them to God. Many times the theme of the Old Testament reading, which is the first in the set of four, is echoed in the “Psalms reading”.

Today’s reading from Psalms 80 is a plea and petition for God to save and restore God’s people to their former condition. Yesterday was a plea and invitation for God to come down from the heavens. Today the reading expands upon that, giving specifics of what the people of God need – restoration. And the assurance that God is with them. The second portion of the reading, verses 17 to 19, asks that not only God be with them as the transcendent God, but that God’s presence be with them as the imminent God – or the one that is at God’s right hand.

But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand, the one whom you made strong for yourself. Then we will never turn back from you; give us life, and we will call on your name.

Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.” (Psalms 80: 1-7, 17-19)

But be aware that when the psalms passage was written, it was not Jesus Christ that was imaged and foretold at God’s right hand. The psalmist had another person in mind. This is one of the characteristics of the Revised Common Lectionary – that scripture is re-purposed to serve a theme or a series of themes. This passage could just as easily apply to Christ as it could for the person the psalmist originally had in mind. In fact, some might say that Christ more perfectly fulfills this verse – restoring life and giving new life to God’s people.

Remember I said Year B’s theme is a renewal of purpose and devotion? As we see our needs, we call on God to fill those needs; to fill the empty places in our lives. And to restore us to the life that God first called us to. We meet God again during Advent as we await the coming of Jesus Christ.

May God restore you, beloved reader, more and more each day and week of Advent. Selah!