Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta
A Glorious Inheritance
NOT OBSERVED IN 2017 (YEAR A)
Jeremiah 31:7-14 (New Revised Standard Version):
For thus says the LORD:
Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob,
and raise shouts for the chief of the nations;
proclaim, give praise, and say,
Save, O LORD, your people,
the remnant of Israel.
See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north,
and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth,
among them the blind and the lame,
those with child and those in labor, together;
a great company, they shall return here.
With weeping they shall come,
and with consolations I shall lead them back.
I will let them walk by brooks of water,
in a straight path in which they shall not stumble;
I have become a father to Israel,
and Ephraim is my firstborn.
Hear the word of the LORD, O nations,
and declare it in the coastlands far away;
He who scattered Israel will gather him,
and will keep him as a shepherd a flock.
For the LORD has ransomed Jacob,
and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him.
They shall come and sing aloud on the heights of Zion,
and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the LORD,
over the grain, the wine, and the oil,
and over the young of the flock and the herd;
their life shall become like a watered garden,
and they shall never languish again.
Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance,
and the young men and the old shall be merry.
I will turn their mourning into joy,
I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
I will give the priests their fill of fatness,
and my people shall be satisfied with my bounty, says the LORD.
Psalm 84 (New Revised Standard Version):
How lovely is your dwelling place,
O LORD of hosts!
My soul longs, indeed it faints
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh sing for joy
to the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O LORD of hosts,
my King and my God.
Happy are those who live in your house,
ever singing your praise.
Happy are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
As they go through the valley of Baca
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength;
the God of gods will be seen in Zion.
O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer;
give ear, O God of Jacob!
Behold our shield, O God;
look on the face of your anointed.
For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than live in the tents of wickedness.
For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
he bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does the LORD withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
O LORD of hosts,
happy is everyone who trusts in you.
Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-19a (New Revised Standard Version):
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe.
Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23 (New Revised Standard Version):
Now after the wise men had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said,
Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.
Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet,
Out of Egypt I have called my son.
When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said,
Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.
Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled:
He will be called a Nazorean.
Luke 2:41-52 (New Revised Standard Version):
Now the parents of Jesus went to Jerusalem every year for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him,
Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.
He said to them,
Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?
But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.
And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.
Matthew 2:1-12 (New Revised Standard Version):
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking,
Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.
When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him,
In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
“And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.”
Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying,
Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that so that I may also go and pay him homage.
When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
O God, who wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored, the dignity of human nature: Grant that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity, your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
“What is your favorite psalm?” Someone might have asked you this question. Among the usual suspects are 23, 100, and 150, which excessive repetition have rendered cliche in my mind. So, when I began to ponder the question of my favorite psalm, I considered other parts of that book of poetry. Once Psalm 121 was my favorite, but 84 has taken that place.
Psalm 84 is a hymn of adoration to God which expresses a desire to become closer to God. This is the one God who allowed the Babylonian Exile to occur, engineered the return of exiles, and arranged for the Incarnation, by which we have access to adoption into the family of God. This grace is staggering, and worthy of praise in words and deeds.
The details of the Christian vocation vary from person to person, according to a variety of circumstances. Yet the guiding principle is constant across the board: we are called to enjoy and glorify God, to follow Jesus. Following is active, not merely intellectual or emotional. Jesus loved us with everything he was and had; we have a mandate to follow that example. Too often certain people (from Crusaders to Ku Klux Klan members) have used the cross as a symbol of hate, but divine actions have transformed the cross into a symbol of ultimate love. And what shows love more than self-sacrifice?
The beauty of holiness is both aesthetic and intangible. May we seek and find both.