Morning Prayer: Feb. 18th

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Psalm: 102
Old Testament: Isaiah 65:17-25
New Testament: 1 Tim 5:17-22

for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy,
and its people as a delight.
I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
and delight in my people;
no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it,
or the cry of distress.
No more shall there be in it
an infant that lives but a few days,
or an old person who does not live out a lifetime;
for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth,
and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed. (Isaiah 65:18b-20)

This text is the source material for one of my favourite passages in the Bible. Here we have an incredible vision of the future where time and space have no restraints or meaning. That’s because we are looking at God’s conception of time.

As Psalm 90 says:

For a thousand years in Your sight are but yesterday. (Ps. 90:4)

More than that, the glory that is anticipated by Isaiah is about humanity returning to its natural state. Originally we were made to reflect the image, immortality and Glory of God. This true self was lost to us in the Fall, and restored to us by the coming of Christ into the world.

By inaugurating the Kingdom and teaching us the Good News….we live in the hope and faith that this world is not all there is. That it will be transformed into something far greater than we could ever ask or imagine.

It is by nothing that we do…….but by what God does through us. Slowly but surely God is perfecting us and making us whole so that we in turn can bring that peace, that wholeness, and that well being to all that we meet.

In reflecting the love of Christ that is within each of us….we become the hands that wipe away the tears, who embrace the lost, and let God’s compassion be shown to the world, so that we might glorify Him and He may delight in us. 😀

Evening Prayer: January 20th

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Psalm: 37
Old Testament: Isaiah 45:5-17
New Testament: Ephesians 5:15-33
Gospel: Mark 4:21-34
Patristic Reading: A reflection of St. Fulegentius of Ruspe

Christ the High Priest

So I’m sufficiently more awake now and prayed the Evening Office with four readings instead of the two lol :P….The one that caught my eye the most was v, 9-11 of the Isaiah reading:

Woe to you who strive with your Maker,
earthen vessels with the potter!*
Does the clay say to the one who fashions it, ‘What are you making?’
or ‘Your work has no handles’?
Woe to anyone who says to a father, ‘What are you begetting?’
or to a woman, ‘With what are you in labour?’
Thus says the Lord,
the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker:
Will you question me* about my children,
or command me concerning the work of my hands?

As I sit here poised to preach a sermon on discipleship this Sunday (a week before vestry) I find myself wondering how often we try to fashion God into something he is not. How often parish churches try to forge their own destinies, forgetting that they are supposed to be molded and shaped by the Holy Spirit….

The Anglican Church (in Canada at least) seems to have a widespread pessimism about it. Church attendance is shrinking, buildings are being de-consecrated, and parish councils are scrambling to pay their apportionments to the Diocese.

My question is: Where are we letting God into the conversation????

When Jesus spoke in parables to the disciples, he wasn’t giving them marketing techniques…. He wasn’t telling them that the church had to be full every single Sunday. Instead, he said that faith is the important thing. Faith is the thing that continues to grow….the church building isn’t required to be full….but only to have two or three gathered in his Name 🙂

When did we–as an institution–hit the panic button???? When did we start worrying about finances more than growing in our own spiritual communities? When did survival become more important than inviting others to the foot of the Cross and the wonder of the empty tomb???

The words heard from Isaiah tonight hit home for me personally as well. I still have not heard from the Diocese as to what they want to do….and it irks me to no end. There are some days when I just want to rant and rave at the office and demand an answer….to take control of the situation.

But the reality is….God is the one who is in control…..and as much as we don’t want to admit it…..the plans which we envision for ourselves don’t amount to much. God’s plans aren’t about making sure an institution is viable…..or that a seminarian can be secured a position in the future….God is concerned with reshaping our hearts and minds to conform to the image of his Son.

God wants us not only to survive….but to thrive :D. More than that, he wants us to spread that joy and that love…and to speak of how Christ is present in our lives. To make disciples of all nations….not out of a sense of duty or of ensuring congregational health….but as an invitation to a way of life that leads to forgiveness, wholeness, and reconciliation for all of creation ❤ +

Morning Prayer: January 14th

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Psalms: 16, 17
Old Testament: Isaiah 42:1-17
New Testament: Ephesians 3:1-13

Looking at the Great Isaiah Scroll (1Qsa) from the Dead Sea Scrolls found at Qumran

Before posting today, I checked out my study Bible to see what the scoop is on the Servant Song found in today’s reading.

The early Church and theologians quite obviously applied these passages to the person of Christ. He is and was the servant who came and healed the world through His suffering.

But what did it mean for the original audience of Isaiah’s text???

One of the things that I learned from taking my prophets class in seminary was that Isaiah and other prophetic figures were seldom (if ever) predicting the future.

More often than not, prophets were called to offer God’s social commentary on Israel and Judah. Perfect examples of this include Isaiah 1, Isaiah 5:1-8, and many many others.

Even the times when prophets are warning the people about the future…..they usually mean it in the immediate sense….not 1000 years down the road :P.

Most of the oracles of destruction in Isaiah refer either to the Assyrian invasion of Israel in 722 BCE, or the Babylonian exile of 585 BCE…..both of which were contemporary events for the authors of First Isaiah and 2nd/3rd Isaiah respectively.

In their original context, I’m sure the prophets had Jesus nowhere in their minds. The mass application of the Book of Isaiah by the Gospel writers had to do with their own interpretations of Isaiah’s meaning some 750 years after they were composed and put into the Jewish canon.

So that leaves us with a big gaping question. If the suffering servant isn’t necessarily referring to Jesus, who is it referring to exactly???

Well…based on some of my reading, the Servant songs are taken by some scholars to apply to the nation of Israel itself….since all of them occur after chapter 39 and are therefore being directed to a people in Exile.

Usually…when there is talk of the LORD’s servant, it usually refers to King David and the monarchs of Israel/Judah. The king in turn represented the whole Jewish people before God…acting as their intercessor and representative.

Hence all this talk about bringing light to the nations and making the blind to see and the deaf to hear, and setting the prisoner free….does not refer to Christ…..but rather to the mission of the Jewish people to be a light among the nations. To shine brightly as the chosen ones of YHWH and to give witness to his incredible deeds of power in Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon.

As both a Christian and an academic……I think it’s important to hold the original context, and the applied Christian context of later centuries in creative tension with each other.

It’s not that the Church was wrong in applying the Servant Songs to the death of Jesus on the Cross……Rather, it is how the early Christian communities made sense of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

Likewise, understanding passages from Isaiah in their original context can shed new light on passages we have grown comfortable with. To challenge our age-old understandings and to encourage us to look for something new in the texts that we may have missed before :).

All of this to say that academics is not hostile to faith, and vice-versa. They are all part of a give and take process. A process that is meant to bring us closer to understanding the Word of God…..and what it meant to different people across many different generations. 😀 +

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