Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Why the past tense? Why not accept as a faithful challenge:
Merciful God, now as in all times, you send your messengers as prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us wisdom to distinguish between true and false prophets and grant us grace to heed true prophets’ warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Guess who’s coming to dindin!
Advent is a season of anticipation. Someone is coming.
Isaiah writes many portentous messianic texts. Christians see him pointing to Christ. Jews see Isaiah as pointing to a messiah, but not to Jesus.
Isaiah portrays a messiah who makes the world safe. Even asps, adders, wolves, and leopards will pose no threats.
Isaiah’s messiah will not judge just by fact, not just by what he sees and hears, but by an overriding and abstract sense of justice. The messiah will not be just right: the messiah will be righteous.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth
We have enemies, the wicked; and the messiah will take care of them with dispatch:
He shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked
Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19
Psalm 72 is a political psalm, a prayer for the ruler. Well might we use this psalm to pray or our President:
Give President Barak Obama your justice, O God, *
and your righteousness to Vice-President Joe Biden;
That President Obama may rule your people righteously *
and the poor with justice;
That the mountains may bring prosperity to the people, *
and the little hills bring righteousness.
President Obama shall defend the needy among the people; *
he shall rescue the poor and crush the oppressor.
The next verses present a challenge if we say
President Obama shall live as long as the sun and moon endure, *
from one generation to another.
Even the Israelites did not expect their king to live forever. The psalm deliberately employs hyperbole. Given our polity, we might more comfortably say:
May President Obama live out his full elected term(s).
Possibly some people in biblical times balked at the near omnipotence the psalm attributes to “the King” and to the “King’s son.” It is not unreasonable to suspect the psalmist of currying favor.
When Saint mentions “Whatever was written in former days” he does not refer to Christian scriptures. He has no idea that he is in the process of writing what will become a book of the Christian bible more than 300 years later.
Saint is talking about Hebrew scripture. He quotes Hebrew scripture to approve his own mission to take the gospel to the gentiles. His argument is subtle: “Some think I am doing something outrageous and novel in bringing the gospel to you uncircumcised Romans, but actually I can show you in Hebrew scriptures some instances in which the promises of God seem to extend to gentiles.
Obviously most Jews of his day did not agree with Saint. They thought the messiah would be messiah for Jews alone, but Saint glosses Hebrew scriptures to find support for his point of view.
The first and last first verses of this passage emphasize that “we might have hope,” “that you may abound in hope.”
He is speaking to gentiles, bringing them good news right out of the Hebrew scriptures. “I am not making this up,” he might have added: “it’s in the Book!”
I constantly see in Hebrew and Christian scriptures reasons for great hope for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Christians. Although those who wrote the scriptures did not see us as heirs to Scriptures' promises, like Saint, I find cause for our hope within scripture. Consider these examples:
- John 3:16 does not say “that whosoever is straight and believes in Him shall have everlasting life,” but “whosoever believes in him shall have everlasting life.”
- Romans 8:28 does not say “All things work together for good for straight people who love the Lord” but “All things work together for good for those who love the Lord”
- Isaiah 55:1 does not say “Come all you straights that thirst, come to the waters…..” but says “Come all you who are thirsty, come to the waters….”
Don’t you love the rough candor of John the baptizer?! He calls the religious establishment of his day, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, a G*n*r*t**n *f v*p*rs! [censored].
That is not sweet middleclass Sunday School talk. And John says it to Pharisees and Sadducees coming to him for baptism, as if it is the newest trendy way to be Jewish and God’s chosen elect.
Today I suppose these Pharisees and Sadducees would go to Neiman Marcus for kinky Christmas presents -- a jar of gourmet locusts in wild honey, or a camel’s hair coat designed by Polo Ralph Lauren with a wide leather belt.
“G*n*r*t**n *f v*p*rs!” John shouts at them.
Ah, but “We have Abraham as our ancestor” they’re thinking, and he calls them on it.
Ah, but “We are straight,” they’re thinking, and he might call them on it:
“God is able from these stones to raise up children of Abraham.” Do you dare think that God cannot love the lgbt persons whom he has made?!