Getting Ready for Sunday by the Rev. James Detrich

Editor's Note: This blog post was originally scheduled and written for publication the last week of December. 

Merry Seventh Day of Christmas! No, not the seven-swans-a-swimming thing—I mean the real thing, the seventh day of Christmastide, as we continue in the celebration of our Lord’s incarnation. And part and parcel to this season of days is rejoicing in that which has come down from heaven, for us and for our salvation, as the old creed says. The that which has come is the Son of God, both in terms of his person and his work.

But the number seven is helpful here. When we think of seven biblically, it normally brings the thought of creation to mind, since in that most famous creation story we read of God creating all things in seven days (or acts). How fitting it is that our lectionary decides on this, the seventh day of Christmastide, to tell us the story of how God— through the incarnation of the Son—would re-create all things! The only fitting response to such a wonderful story is the one provided for us in the first verse of the first reading: “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God.”

Perhaps it’s best to begin there. I propose this because we have already been there. Isaiah 61:10-11 was already read—on the third Sunday of Advent. This was Gaudete Sunday (translated “Rejoice Sunday”) when the Advent season takes a pause from the customary penitential emphasis and reminds us of the joy of the season. On that particular Sunday, these verses ended the lection in order to stir up the rejoicing; now, post-Christmas, they begin the lection because that’s the normal response after seeing Christ come. So the question is: what should we rejoice in?

We should rejoice in the Son’s work. Through his redemptive acts, we have been given the opportunity to participate in God’s re-creative kingdom. The language coming from Isaiah is striking as he says that we’ve been clothed with the garments of salvation and covered in the robe of righteousness. Christ and his church become one in this new marriage of re-creation. We see this most clearly in the sacrament of baptism, for it’s there that we put on Christ as we are brought into his body. But if the temptation here is to decrease your view of what God is doing through this clothing-salvific act, Isaiah disallows it. This is the seed of God’s grand kingdom. All nations will see the vindication

and the glory and the beauty of Christ through his body, because God is a divine person who will not be kept silent but will show forth his glory.

We should also rejoice in the Son’s person. What I mean by this is that we should resist merely rejoicing in the gifts we are provided to the exclusion of the provider. This supposes something untrue, namely that it’s possible to separate Christ from the salvation he brings. St. Paul doesn’t allow the Galatian people to go there, and this is why he instructs them to keep their minds on Christ—not the law. It played well the “schoolmaster” function, but now that Christ has come, the one who fulfills that law, he is the true conduit to God. It is through Christ that we become a child of God.

It is right to remember the words St. Paul uses: “God sent his Son.” God didn’t send a concept, or a notion, or a mind map; he sent a person. He sent his Word. St. John frames his glorious masterpiece within a re-creation perspective as he uses the words, “in the beginning,” harkening back of course to Genesis 1. Space limitations don’t allow any justice to be done to the apostle’s tour de force, but I do want to underscore St. John’s three-fold use of “Word” to describe the Son of God. Word here conveys a number of things as it plays on multiple levels of meaning. But one solid interpretation of the way it’s used here is that Word is the expression of the triune God. Again, our question: What should we rejoice in? We should rejoice that God has spoken through his Son in the giving of this perfect gift to us. This gift is not some abstract notion of redemption—the gift is God himself. And because of this Word sent by God, we have life and light. The whole creation has life and light! God is re-creating all things through his Life and Light!

If that’s not fitting to rejoice in, then all is lost. But if it is, then go the psalter and worship. Rejoice in a God who “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Rejoice in a God who “sends out his [word] to the earth and [it] runs very swiftly.” Rejoice in a God who “sends forth his word and melts” those who resist his acts of re- creation, for the Lord will not be kept silent but will show all his glory. “Hallelujah!” indeed!

Getting Ready for Sunday by Paige Hanks

Editor's Note: This post was written for Nov. 26th. 

Thus says the Lord God: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land. I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.

Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them: I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide, I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep.

I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken.  Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24 

The brain is one of the greatest parts of the created self.  Its complex design, its capacity to take in information and attempt to make sense of it, and its role as the driver of our thoughts and actions are fascinating and mysterious. One of those very unique aspects of our brain function is our spatial awareness.  Spatial awareness is the ability to make sense out of what we encounter.  Our spatial awareness helps us connect data points as we create mental images and maps of the world around us.  When it is functioning appropriately, we can find our way around town, pick the right entrance at the mall, and choose the most direct route to our destination. When something is off, or we are missing a significant data point, our spatial awareness can lead us in the wrong direction or down unsafe paths.  And feeling lost is one of the worst feelings in the world.

This Sunday is the celebration of Christ the King. It is the last Sunday of the liturgical year, the grand finale if you will, before we start the new liturgical year with Advent I next Sunday. A brilliant way to understand the authority and intent of the kingship of Christ is in the reading this week from Ezekiel, even though the incarnate Christ had not yet been revealed.  Through the words of the prophet, God is revealed as the shepherd of God’s people.  And we Christians know that the great shepherd of the flock is revealed to us in the life and ministry of Jesus.  The prophet Ezekiel is living amongst the exiled Israelites, a people who have been rescued from slavery but have wandered and felt lost in the desert for what surely must have seemed like a lifetime.  His prophecy is a message of hope to a lost people.

We may not physically live in a geographical desert today, but we are often a lost people ourselves.  We rely on our spatial awareness to do something for us that the created self simply cannot do. Although we are created by God, we are lost without Jesus, who is both our great shepherd and our king.  Jesus will search for us, rescue us from ourselves, and lead us to the kingdom when we cannot find our way.  For it is in God’s kingdom that we are redeemed through the death and resurrection of Christ.  When we are safely under the kingship of Christ, we sit at God’s right hand.  And we never find ourselves lost again.

God created humanity and calls us through our baptism into covenant.  It is within that covenantal context that we are “fed with justice” as Ezekiel says.  This justice is like no human justice at all, but rather is a justice that forgives us our sins and reconciles us with God though we cannot ever deserve such gifts.  And a reconciled people are then called to go out into the world and extend that justice to others through love.  Today’s Gospel writer conveys what that is to look like, as we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and visit the imprisoned.  For we are all members of the body of Christ, found and claimed by Christ our King.

Posted by Paige Hanks with

Previous12345678910 ... 3233

This is a blog of essays meant to prepare parishioners for an upcoming Sunday reading.