Questions and Reflections

December 2014

A Reflection on 2 Samuel 7

Do you remember your first house? 

When I was born, my family lived in apartments. Every year, when the lease was over, my folks would pack up and we'd all move to a new place nearby. I was too young to really form lasting memories of these apartments. Only foggy images of living rooms, alleyways, and bedrooms linger in my mind. 

But I do remember our first house.

When I was five, we packed a moving truck full of our belongings, jumped on an airplane, and flew to the magical land of Colorado. We stayed in a hotel for awhile while my parents shopped for a house. It took a few weeks but then they found it. I remember when I first walked up the driveway, past the small new tree and the sod-less lawn, and walked through the front door. We were home. 

Our reading from 2 Samuel 7:1-11,16 today is rooted in the concept of homes. In Hebrew, the word for home can mean many things. It refers to palaces, houses, and dynasties for kings. The word is centered on the permanence such structures have in our lives. When we own or live in our home, we have ownership over it, a commitment to it, and, above all, we have apresence in the home and the home has a presence in us. A home makes us feel incredibly rooted and connected to what's around us. 

This passage is about God's continual commitment to the people of Israel. Like the homes in our lives, God promises to establish permanence for Israel and to be a permanent presence in Israel's life. The verses not included in today's reading (verses 12-15) continues the shower of promises. And these promises are unconditional. God leaves space for judgement of course. If David or his descendants fail to follow God's commandments (especially placing their trust only in God), they will be disciplined. But the scope of God's promise is epic. Promise, instead of judgement, is the center piece of God's relationship with God's people.

Christmas is almost here. The baby Jesus, Mary, and Joseph are about to make their home in a stable for a night. God's presence and permanence is manifested in this temporary place. Let's welcome God as God makes a home in us.



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A Reflection on Isaiah 61

Does this reading for Isaiah 61:1-4,8-11 sound familiar to you? Do you know which gospel book references it? If you guessed Luke, pat yourself on the back. In Luke chapter 4, Jesus enters the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth and reads this bit from Isaiah 61. After he reads, he announces "today, this scripture is fulfilled." For Luke, Isaiah 61 is Jesus's mission statement and why Jesus is in the world. Good news will be delivered to the oppressed, prisoners will be freed, those who mourn will be comforted, and the gloom from the past will be repaired and resurrected. The world will be changed! 

This change is at the core of what Advent and Christmas is about. Gatherings with friends and family, mountains of presences, yummy foods and drink, and bright colored lights, while joy-filled, are not the source of joy of this season. And for those of us who experience loneliness, fear, and regret during this holiday season, joy might be impossible to see or feel. But this word from Isaiah 61 is centered in Jesus coming to live a human life. There is joy here. 

This joy is not something we can create on our own. No bright lights, gingerbread houses, or fantastic toys will make us find that ultimate peace that only God's joy can bring. Isaiah assures us that when we shout with joy and thanksgiving to God, we do it not because we are perfect, never doubted, and are always faithful. No, the joy and thanksgiving we share comes from God for God "has clothed me with garments of salvation and has covered me with the robe of righteousness." Faith and grace are both gifts from God. God gives those to us because that's just what God does. 

Today we'll light 3 candles on the Advent wreath including the pink (or rose) candle.  This candle is different from the others because it represents joy. Even in this season of expectation, hustle, bustle, and stress, we are reminded that we gather because of God's sense of joy. God is in the business of getting involved with us. God is in the business of changing the world and changing us. That is something to celebrate this season and every season to come. 



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A Reflection on Isaiah 40

Our first reading is Isaiah 40:1-11.

Growing up in Colorado, I lived near the county line. Along this border was a road that was called (surprisingly) County Line Road. What an awesome road. Driving on it was like being on a roller coaster. We went up one hill, down the other side, and immediately up another hill for what felt like miles.But what was fun during warm days was terrifying during the winter. Snow storms and icy conditions made County Line Road terrifying. 

When I returned home for a visit after college, I noticed that the road was different. Construction crews came and leveled the hills. The route was straighter, faster, and less exhilarating. Some of the joy was lost but the winter terror was gone.

This passage from Isaiah was probably composed after the exiles from Babylon had returned to Jerusalem. The children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren were returning to a city they didn’t know but one that they heard about from stories of their parents, grandparents, and teachers. When they finally returned, the city must have appeared to be a ruin compared to what they had heard. The city was rough, the temple still in ruins, the walls broken, and its vibrancy and size only a fraction of what it was before. Not everyone had been sent into exile but enough to render the city an alien place to those who returned. I imagine the city looked rough, broken, and probably felt like it was abandoned by God. God’s city symbolized God’s people being at the bottom of the valley and in a land that no longer seemed to be a place of milk and honey. I imagine it felt like being caught on a roller coaster road, in the middle of a snow storm, with no end in sight. How could they hope to survive and thrive?

But in the middle of the terror, we hear words of comfort and hope. We hear about God’s relationship with God’s people. And we hear that God has not abandoned the world or us. Rather, God will feed the flock, gather the lambs, carry and nourish us in the midst of our snowstorms on icy streets. This passage tells us to rest in God’s promises, that we are caught up in God’s end, that we have been brought into God’s acts of restoration and resurrection and that our hope does not rest on what we do but on who we belong to. Our hope is in the one who comes to us today, yesterday, and who we will celebrate on Christmas Day. 



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