Deacon Erin’s Weekly Lectionary Reflection
This week we hear the story of Joseph from the gospel of Matthew. Not the primary Christmas story for sure!
In the holy family, Joseph can be a bit of a silent participant. For if Jesus is the son of God, what role is there for Joseph?
While none of us are likely to be presented with the calling of Mary, all of us can stand up as Joseph did – standing beside others who need our love and support. Even when the situation could bring judgement. This text shows how Joseph struggled with what to do when he learned that his fiance was pregnant. The law is clear, so as a righteous man he planned to end the engagement. God however works in mysterious ways. So Joseph, acting on faith in the message from the angel keeps his promise to marry Mary and names the baby – thus claiming him. In bible times, there wasn’t really a “step-father” kind of role. By naming the child, as the angel instructed, publicly Joseph was claiming a child he knew wasn’t his and pledging to raise him.
Can you imagine what would have happen to Jesus and Mary if Joseph hadn’t done this?
This week we light the 4th candle – the candle of love. Through the mystery of the Incarnation – God, who is love, became flesh to be with us. Emmanuel, the name given to the baby means God with us. With love incarnate coming to earth – may we keep ourselves open to feel God’s love around us and to share it with others. Just as Joseph models for us.
I wonder how God’s love has touch and transformed your life?
I wonder how God’s love is moving you to action today?
If the fruits of the spirit were fruit – I think patience would be oranges. Something we like in concept and even grab and bring with us – but if you are anything like me – the messiness of actually diving into it, peeling it, and then your hands are sticky… it just doesn’t happen nearly as much as it should. Unless it’s a clementine – patience “lite”.
This week’s lectionary text brings us to the book of James, a text full of practical insistence on caring for one another, anointing the sick, and coming together in prayer for prayer brings healing and forgiveness of sins. The author also addresses the wealth gap in the community – calling out the common social practices that favored the wealthy and pushed aside the poor.
We are in the middle of that when we get to our texts in Chapter 5 verses 7-10. “Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.”
A beautiful text, and something I think that resonates with us at a deeply human level – even centuries later. Yet – even more helpful when we realize that just a few verses before this at the beginning of the chapter the author called out the wealthy in the community with some harsh truths. “You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous one, who does not resist you.”
Too often it is the oppressed and poor that are told to be patient, and God will reward them. This is unconscionable when we do not also address the sins and the human cost of extravagant lifestyles.
Patience can be word thrown around to pacify, and even abuse. And patience is a virtue and a fruit of the Spirit. What is the difference? Where is the line, or the grey area? The most famous passage in James is faith without works is dead. (2:17)
Our faith in God, revealed through Christ, and felt in our experience of God’s transforming love in our own lives through the Holy Spirit moves us to action. Through our faith the passion and fire we were created with is ignited and we find ourselves compelled to serve others. The Spirit guides us, and gives us patience. What is not okay then, is simply tell others they must have patience – patience that comes from the Lord.
Advent is time of waiting, of getting ready. As we take this time to focus on the coming great mystery of incarnation – the Spirit gives us patience. We cultivate this patience through our own spiritual practices. Through our quiet times – maybe you take a daily intentional prayer walk through the city streets, or during your daily devotions. God speaks to us always – and spiritual practices help us to learn to listen. Help us cultivate what God is already doing, and allow our lives to be good soil – continuing to bear fruit.
We take strength from those who have walked before us – our scriptures are full of stories of the people of God. May their stories help us to grow in our faith – knowing that God uses many people – not perfect, just willing.
Deacon Erin’s Weekly Lectionary Reflection
May God’s peace and blessing be with you during this holiday week.
Personally I love this time of year. It is a time of joy and celebration starting with Thanksgiving, then my birthday, several other family birthdays, and through Christmas, New Years, and Epiphany!!
As the year comes to a close we have a liturgical focus on being thankful and getting ready for the coming of Christ a new in our hearts and in our lives. I can get too swept up in the season and forget that in the last year God has been moving in my life in many ways.
I admit, I love this weeks Isaiah text, especially at this time – let this be the time in which we as a people turn our swords into plows, our spears into pruning hooks, and learn the ways of war no more.
The last few weeks have taken a toll on all of us. As we remember that we are all beloved children of God, we each must daily ask ourselves – what can I do to be a light?
If you haven’t seen the Chicago Temple’s pastoral letter – I invite you to check it out. It closes with this:
“We know what it is we are called to do. We are still called to “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.” This too has not changed. Only now we are called to do this with a greater sense of urgency and even more vigor.“So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)
May this season of Advent be for you and your family a time of preparation, making room in your hearts, reflecting and getting ready together for the kingdom work which the Spirit equips you especially to do – the holy work of loving God and loving others.
In peace and love, Deacon Erin
Pius believed that “When once men recognize, both in private and in public life, that Christ is King, society will at last receive the great blessings of real liberty, well-ordered discipline, peace and harmony.”
This week’s lectionary readings speak to faith. Hebrew’s 11:1 tells us – “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”- NRSV
This definition of faith reminds me of a quote by Saint Francis of Assisi –
I really appreciated the paraphrase of the bible in The Message this week, for their version of Psalm 50. I included below the whole psalm, more than the lectionary includes.
This psalm is harsh. It calls out the people of Israel – “Why should I want your blue-ribbon bull or more goats from your herds? …every creature of the forest is mine, the wild animals on all the mountains. I know every bird by name.”
and then goes on… “What are you up to, quoting my laws, talking like we are good friends. You never answer the door when I call; you treat my words like garbage.”
and finishes with “It’s the praising life that honors me. As soon as you set your foot on the Way, I’ll show you my salvation.”
What does God want from us? Perfect church attendance? The first 10% of our income before paying debts and bills? Extra long prayers before bedtime or meals?
God wants our lives to honor God. Our hearts, our deeds, our words to be formed by the unconditional love of a savior who knows our names, our gifts, and our passions. It is in our intentions, not our rituals that our faith is shown, and grows. Do we share our whole selves with the community of faith, or do we participate in the ritual of church?
Take time to read through the Psalm. Then I would challenge you to go grab your bible and read it in another version. Rituals are incredibly important as they give patterns to our lives and draw our attention to God. How does your life preach the gospel? How do you continue to grow closer to God in prayer, in study, and in service?
Join us this week at the Homeless Ministry. Let your life speak. Pray for your co-workers and your family once daily. Share this Psalm with your partner, family, or a friend. Check out some of the sermons on the Chicago Temple website. Take a walk in your neighborhood and pray for God’s presence to be with your neighbors. Let your life speak.
God’s peace be with you and yours,
50 1-3 The God of gods—it’s God!—speaks out, shouts, “Earth!”
welcomes the sun in the east,
farewells the disappearing sun in the west.
From the dazzle of Zion,
God blazes into view.
Our God makes his entrance,
he’s not shy in his coming.
Starbursts of fireworks precede him.
4-5 He summons heaven and earth as a jury,
he’s taking his people to court:
“Round up my saints who swore
on the Bible their loyalty to me.”
6 The whole cosmos attests to the fairness of this court,
that here God is judge.
7-15 “Are you listening, dear people? I’m getting ready to speak;
Israel, I’m about ready to bring you to trial.
This is God, your God,
speaking to you.
I don’t find fault with your acts of worship,
the frequent burnt sacrifices you offer.
But why should I want your blue-ribbon bull,
or more and more goats from your herds?
Every creature in the forest is mine,
the wild animals on all the mountains.
I know every mountain bird by name;
the scampering field mice are my friends.
If I get hungry, do you think I’d tell you?
All creation and its bounty are mine.
Do you think I feast on venison?
or drink draughts of goats’ blood?
Spread for me a banquet of praise,
serve High God a feast of kept promises,
And call for help when you’re in trouble—
I’ll help you, and you’ll honor me.”
16-21 Next, God calls up the wicked:
“What are you up to, quoting my laws,
talking like we are good friends?
You never answer the door when I call;
you treat my words like garbage.
If you find a thief, you make him your buddy;
adulterers are your friends of choice.
Your mouth drools filth;
lying is a serious art form with you.
You stab your own brother in the back,
rip off your little sister.
I kept a quiet patience while you did these things;
you thought I went along with your game.
I’m calling you on the carpet, now,
laying your wickedness out in plain sight.
22-23 “Time’s up for playing fast and
loose with me.
I’m ready to pass sentence,
and there’s no help in sight!
It’s the praising life that honors me.
As soon as you set your foot on the Way,
I’ll show you my salvation.”
“Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying: 21:18 Go down to meet King Ahab of Israel, who rules in Samaria; he is now in the vineyard of Naboth, where he has gone to take possession. 21:19 You shall say to him, “Thus says the LORD: Have you killed, and also taken possession?” You shall say to him, “Thus says the LORD: In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth, dogs will also lick up your blood.” 21:20 Ahab said to Elijah, “Have you found me, O my enemy?” He answered, “I have found you. Because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the LORD,
21:21 I will bring disaster on you.”
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us” (5:1-2)