Proper 28 – November 13, 2016
This passage falls in what is sometimes called Third Isaiah. The book of Isaiah was written over a course of centuries, likely by more than just one person, perhaps by a camp of prophets who followed the tradition of Isaiah. First Isaiah (chs. 1-39) addresses the fall of the northern kingdom under the Assyrian empire, second Isaiah (chs. 40-55) concerns the fall of Judah and Jerusalem, the exile to Babylon, and a pending return, and third Isaiah (chs. 56-66) addresses the return and reestablishment of Judah under the Persian empire. As they returned to the land, the Jewish people experienced hardship and some turned to pagan rituals in desperation. So, throughout Third Isaiah, there is a focus on a faithful remnant versus those who fall away, and God’s pending judgment and vindication of the faithful. In ch. 65, the description of a new heaven and a new earth with echoes of the first chapters of Genesis, where God first creates the heavens and the earth. The kingdom envisioned is a peaceful one, that speaks nothing of armies, but only of agriculture, of building and planting. It is a utopian vision, that comes because the faithful remnant remains. The animals who lay peacefully together at the end of the text, again echo Genesis and the Garden of Eden. All have long lives, and no infant dies. And God shall be close enough to respond before they have even finished asking. Isaiah is offering a vision of a new creation, not entirely unlike that of the flood story, but instead of resting all hope on Noah, all hope is rested on the faithful remnant. Again, Christians will interpret Christ as the fulfillment of this vision.
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
Paul is writing to the Thessalonians is to assure them of Jesus second coming will come soon, and had not yet occurred, which it appears that some among them believed it had. The primary concern in this passage from 2 Thessalonians seems to be concerned with idleness or disorderliness. This problem may be arising from the conviction that Christ had already returned. Paul uses himself as an example, as he is often prone to do, exhibiting proper behavior and working for his food and lodging while he served among so as not to be a burden. It is mentioned in other letters that Paul was a tent maker, so he could easily use his craft in any town that offered festivals or markets. The theme or takeaway for us is to recognize our willingness to continue the labor of all who have gone before to see the vision of God through. (Come Labor On would be a really good hymn for this particular Sunday) Everything is making its way toward Christ the King Sunday (November 20th) where we will celebrate the now and not yet of the reign of God.
Luke’s writings seem to be aware of what scholars call the delayed Parousia (The return of Christ). Jesus is warning his disciples of the temple destruction (70AD) and the Jewish War (66-73AD). As the early Christian communities, such as the one Luke is addressing, came to terms with the fact that Christ had not yet returned as he had promised, even in the light of the recent calamitous event, they also needed to come to terms with the persecution and affliction they experienced and saw around them. They probably heard again and again, “This is it, this is the one, Jesus is about to come” But Luke takes a more mindfully aware perspective. The temple was destroyed in 70AD and Luke is likely writing, unlike Mark, at a time after this destruction. While this apocalyptic passage has parallels in both Mark (13) and Matthew (24) Luke specifically makes Jesus’ prediction, not about end times, but only of the destruction of the temple and a warning not to interpret these events as the end. Again the theme is one of readiness and preparation, but also of calmness and acceptance, particularly in the face of persecution and “hatred” for the community of Christians. This persecution and hatred are seen as a way for their story to be heard, to “testify” before kings and governors.