Fling Wide the Door

Watching for the morning of November 30

Year B

The First Sunday of Advent:

Doorway

Open doorway at the San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission. Photo credit: dbkonde

Sunday begins a new church year. The cycle that runs from Advent through Christmas to Lent and Easter and then from Pentecost to the end of the year resets itself – only now our Gospel readings are drawn mostly from Mark.

The church year does strange things to our reading of the gospels. It means we pick up the next writer’s story almost at the end, when Jesus is in Jerusalem predicting the fall of the city – and the Jerusalem leaders are making plans to arrest and destroy him. We don’t start at the beginning; we start at the end. We start with Jesus speaking about the events when history draws to its close.

Maybe it’s not altogether inappropriate.

In our time and place we generally like narratives to being at the beginning and explain all the complex psychological states of the adult from the traumas and experiences of youth. But we will not find that here. Quite the opposite. From the remarkable achievements of the adult – the ancients’ reasoned – there must have been a remarkable childhood. If you became a great king, there must have been signs in the heavens and wonders on earth to anticipate it.

But that’s not where our reading of these ancient narratives begins. We begin with the promise Christ will come on the clouds and the warning to keep awake. It’s where we ended the year, pointing to Christ as our true king.

Christianity begins and ends not with the manger or the cross and resurrection, but the promise that “The kingdom of God is at hand.” These are the first words of Jesus in Mark and the testimony of the angel at the empty tomb. God is drawing near to reign. God is drawing near to restore the connection between heaven and earth. God is drawing near to raise this broken world from its bondage to sin and death. God is drawing near to establish the just faithfulness of God. And that day is begun amongst us. The dead are raised. Sins are forgiven. The outcasts gathered in. The sick made whole. The possessed set free. Blind eyes opened.

That dawning reign of God began in Jesus. It continues among us. And it will come in fullness. For that day we watch and wait. Our Father is coming; and we are staying awake to jump into his arms with joy and delight when the door swings open.

The Prayer for November 30, 2014

Mighty God,
who stands at the beginning and end of time,
grant us wisdom to recognize the hour in which we live
and courage to remain faithful,
that we may greet you with joy at your coming;
through your son, Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.

The Texts for November 30, 2014

First Reading: Isaiah 64:1-9
“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down.” – The prophet speaks the lament of the people in the years after the return from exile, when life is hard and the former glory of the nation is absent. He calls upon God to relent and forgive their sins.

Psalmody: Isaiah 51:4-11
“The ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads, sorrow and sighing will flee away.” Our parish departs from the appointed psalm to sing this song of salvation from the prophet Isaiah.

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1.3-9
“You are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” –
Paul opens his letter to the believers in Corinth referring to the matter of spiritual gifts that has divided the community, setting them in their proper context as gifts of God to the whole body as they prepare for the consummation of God’s dawning reign.

Gospel: Mark 13.24-37
“Keep awake – for you do not know when the master of the house will come.” – Having spoken of the destruction of the temple and what is to come for the community of believers, Jesus affirms that the Son of Man will come to gather his elect. For that day they should be awake, doing the work that they master of the house has entrusted to them.

Watching for the Morning of June 9

Year C

The Third Sunday after Pentecost:
Proper 5 / Lectionary 10

Death and life weave through the texts for this week.  Through Elijah, God raises the son of the widow of Zarephath.  Through Jesus, God raises the son of the widow of Nain.  The psalmist rejoices that God has delivered him from death.  Only Galatians stands outside this theme, telling of Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus and after – making clear that his message did not come from any human authority but from the risen Christ Jesus.

We struggle in ways the ancients did not with the idea that someone could be raised from death.  Our task, however, is not to get sidetracked looking for explanations, but to hear the witness of these texts that God is a god who brings life.  God is in the business of resurrection, of renewing and restoring life.  This is God’s mission and purpose in the world – to free us from death’s power and restore all creation to the life God intended.

And though it’s not the central point Paul is making, what happened to him on that Damascus road was also a deliverance from the realm of death into the realm of life.

Prayer for June 9, 2013

Gracious God,
you have not dealt with us according to our sin and brokenness
but out of your great compassion.
As you restored the life of the widow and her son,
be at work within and among us
to restore us to the fullness of life in you

The Texts for June 9, 2013

First Reading: 1 Kings 17:17-24  (God answers Elijah’s prayer for the life of the son of the widow of Zarephath to be restored.)
Psalmody: Psalm 30  (A prayer of thanksgiving from a person who was brought back from death’s door.)
Second Reading
: Galatians 1:11-24 (Paul did not get his message from any human authority but from Christ)
Gospel
: Luke 7:11-17 (The raising of the son of the Widow of Nain.)