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Advent 1, Cycle C (2015)

THEME OF THE DAY: Christ already reigns!  To begin the Church Year looking to the future in preparation for Christ’s Coming, followed by an awareness that He is already King (as was celebrated on the Festival of Christ the King last week) entails sermons on Realized Eschatology – hope in the present coupled with a sense of urgent preparation for what is to come.

Psalm 25:1-10
This is a lament song attributed to David; it is really a prayer for deliverance from personal enemies.  We remind ourselves that it is unlikely that David is the author of the Psalms attributed to him (Brevard Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture, p.512).  In fact some scholars conclude that references to David in the Psalms may be a way of using him to represent the inner life of all his subjects, and so of all the faithful (Ibid., p.521).  In that sense this Psalm is a reminder we all do well to pray for deliverance.  The Psalm is acrostic.  Every successive verse begins with the next letter of the Hebrew Bible.

The Psalm starts off with praise of God as the One in Whom the Psalmist trusts [batach] (vv.1-2), a plea not to be put to shame (v.3), and a prayer for direction (vv.4-5a).  Yahweh is said to be the God of salvation/safety [yesha] and to be of compassion (vv.5b-6).  The Psalm continues with a confession of sin and prayer for forgiveness (vv.6-7).  The affirmation of Justification By Grace (that God would not remember our sin) includes a concern with the practice of the religious life (Sanctification).  It seems that the forgiven sinner is led by God.  All the paths of the Lord are said to be steadfast love and faithfulness for those who keep His covenant [berith] (vv.5,8-9).

Application: This Psalm reflects the Theme of the Day’s declaration that the great things of Christ are already in place, and so in that sense His Reign has begun (Realized Eschatology).  Sermons emerging from the Psalm’s Word will celebrate the “safety” Christ’s compassionate saving Work affords, how He does not remember our Sin (Justification By Grace) and how as forgiven we are led by Him and trust Him, for He reigns in our lives (Sanctification).

Jeremiah 33:14-16  
The Lesson is drawn from a Book of Prophecies of the late seventh-early eighth BC Prophet of Judah, dictated to his aide Baruch during the reigns of Josiah, Jehoiakim, and Zedekiah through the era of The Babylonian Captivity.  Some of the Prophet’s criticism of the house of David and The Temple, giving more attention to the Sinai Covenant or a new covenant, may relate to his being an ancestor of one of David’s high priests, Abiathar, who lost control of The Jerusalem Temple and was finally banished (I Kings 2:27).  This text is a Messianic Oracle that closely parallels 23:5-6, so much so that it is missing from the Septuagint (an early Greek translation of the Old Testament).  Hope is expressed that Yahweh’s Promise to both Israel and Judah will be fulfilled and a righteous heir of the Davidic line will emerge.  He will execute justice/judgment [mishpat] and righteousness [tsedeqah] in the land (vv.14-15).  “Judah and Jerusalem will live in safety [betach].  Jerusalem will have a new name – the Lord is our Righteousness” (v.16).  It is good to remind ourselves again that the concept of “righteousness” even in an Old Testament context is not to imply that the believer lives in faultless conformity to some moral law.  It has to do with living in right relationship with God (Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology, Vol.1, pp.370-371).  We should also remember that God’s judgment in the Hebraic sense is a Word of comfort, in the sense that it can cause positive outcomes and comfort in knowing that God’s just
actions against the faithful have an end in sight (Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology, Vol.1, pp.343,358-359).

Application: Read Messianically as a Prophecy about Jesus, the Lesson provides insights for sermons making clear that the Coming Christ exercises God’s actions in judging us and in making us righteous – restoring our relationship with God (Christology, Justification By Grace).

I Thessalonians 3:9–13
The Book is likely an authentic letter by Paul, written in the early 50s to a church of mostly Gentiles in a Greek city threatened by social pressures and some persecution to return to the values of secular culture.  It may contain fragments of several letters. 

While seeking to encourage the Thessalonians in the midst of persecution (v.3), Paul expresses his affection for them.  He thanks God for them and for all the joy [chairo] they given him (v.9).  He claims to pray night and day for a reunion and restore to them whatever is lacking in their faith (v.10).  Paul then prays that the Father and Jesus would direct his way to the Thessalonians (v.11).  He urges that the Lord would make the recipients of the Epistle increase in love for all as Paul’s love for them abounded (v.12).  By implication here we have a testimony to grace leading to works.  Paul finally prays that the hearts of the people would be strengthened in holiness [hagios] so that they might be blameless [amemptous] before the Father at the Coming of the Lord Jesus with all our saints (v.13).  Note: The “heart” [kardia] in Paul’s Hebraic world of thought was the controlling center of personality and not just the organ of feeling.

Application: Sermons on this Lesson should proclaim Christ’s Rule as a rule of love, begetting love for each other.  It is also important to be reminded that this love is a preparation for the End and Christ’s Return Eschatology).

Luke 21:25-36
This is one of the Synoptic Gospels, the first installment of a two-part history of the church traditionally attributed to Luke, a physician and Gentile associate of Paul (Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 24).  Along with Acts, the author’s intention was to stress the universal mission of the Church (Acts 1:8).  Addressed to Theophilus (1:1).  It is not clear if this means that the work was written for a recent convert or for a Roman official from whom the Church sought tolerance.  But since Theophilus means “lover of God” it is possible that the author addressed all the faithful.      

In this Lesson we consider Jesus’ Prophecy of the Coming of the Son of Man and the Parable of the Fig Tree, offered just prior to the Last Supper.  This account appears in the other Synoptic Gospels, but not in John; only vv.34-36 are unique to Luke, and this Gospel fails to note a role for the angels in Jesus’ Second Coming like the other Synoptic Gospels do (Matthew 29:31; Mark 12:27).

Jesus begins with references to signs of sun, moon and stars, common features of apocalyptic pronouncements in the Biblical era (see Joel 2:30-32; Isaiah 13:10; 34:4).  He Prophesies a cosmic distress that will confuse the Gentiles (vv.25-26).  The Son of Man [huios tou anthropou] will then appear, He proclaims (v.27).  Note the characteristic Lukan identification of Jesus with the Kingdom of God at this point, specifically in line with Daniel’s reference (7:13-14) in Aramaic to the Son of Man being given everlasting dominion over all.  Jesus then adds that when these things happen, redemption [apolutrosis, a loosing away] (see 1:68; 2:38) will be near (v.28). 

The Parable that follows illustrates the urgency of preparation.  As when the fig tree sprouts, summer is near, so as the prophecies offered transpire, the Kingdom of God [basileia tou theou] is near [eggus] (vv.29-31).  It seems that this will be a redemption from all tribulation.  Jesus pledges that the present generation [genera] will not pass away until all these things take place (v.32).  Heaven and earth will pass away, but not His words (v.33).  (This Prophecy seems consistent with the other Synoptic Gospels.  This will be a time of Gentiles, for the fall of Jerusalem seems prophesied in v.32.)  Next follows exhortation that the Disciples not be weighed down with drunkenness and the worries of life (v.34).  This comes upon all, it is said (v.35).  Instead we are told to be alert, praying for strength to escape all these things and stand before the Son of Man, confident about His judgment (v.36).  This concept that judgment by the Lord is a Word of comfort for the faithful is in line with Jewish thinking (Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology, Vol.1, p.358).  New Testament scholar Eduard Schweizer claims that this point entails that the End does not come at a future time but determines life in the present (The Good News According To Luke, p.333).

Application: Several possibilities for sermons emerge from this Lesson.  Sermons on the Second Coming (when Christ fully Reigns) and its implications for life in the present are one option (Eschatology).  A related approach might be to reflect on how waiting and preparing for His Second Coming is a bit like the preparation we need for Christmas (Sanctification).  Another possibility is to proclaim in the urgency of living for and swerving Christ in the Present with an eye towards the future, to live a sense of His Presence even now (Realized Eschatology). 

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Authors of
Lectionary Scripture Notes
Norman A. Beck is the Poehlmann Professor of Theology and Classical Languages and the Chairman of the Department of Theology, Philosophy, and Classical Languages at Texas Lutheran University
Dr. Norman A. Beck
Mark Ellingsen is professor at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia
Dr. Mark Ellingsen