Notes on the readings October to December 2010

Note: ¶ = Reading omitted at St Mary's, Temple Balsall

October | November | December

Sunday 3 October, 2010
The Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity - Proper 22

¶ Lamentations 1. 1 – 6
Grief at the tragedy of Jerusalem’s capture by the enemy in 587 BC, here expressed poignantly, has been taken up in relation to the Passion of Jesus when the city failed to grasp its destiny once more.

or Habakkuk 1. 1 – 4; 2. 1 – 4
The most memorable words here come at the end. Paul seized on them as the key to his understanding of the gospel.

2 Timothy 1. 1 – 14
Here, in a letter probably by a follower of Paul a few years after his time, we get a picture of Christian faith as an inheritance to be held fast and passed on. The spirit of Paul lives on in those devoted to him.

Luke 17. 5 – 10
The final sentence puts the lid on all Christian complacency. Our calling is without limits.

* Pray to find ‘life’ by the gift of faith.

* Thank God for the striking power that can be ours.

* Pray that we may do out duty – at least!

Sunday 10 October, 2010
The Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity - Proper 23

Jeremiah 29. 1, 4 – 7
The prophet, speaking to those from Judah now in exile in Babylon, tells them to settle in their new abode peacefully and happily. We have no one abiding city.

or ¶ 2 Kings 5. 1 – 3, 7 – 15b
This is a dramatic story, part of a long saga about the deeds of Elijah and Elisha. Its point is to say that the God of Israel extends his compassion beyond Israel's bounds -- whatever people of narrower outlook may think right and proper.

2 Timothy 2. 8 – 15
Paul the venerable apostle appears here as the very model of Christian leadership, edifying us by his fidelity and sureness of attachment to his task and role.

Luke 17. 11 – 19
Luke has a soft spot for the despised Samaritans (seen by the main body of Israel as off-centre, second-grade Jews) -- both here in his Gospel and in Acts. It is, as so often, those who are not quite respectable and have no conceit in themselves who are ready to turn towards Christ. They have no pride to hold them back.

* We should never be too proud to open ourselves to God's generosity and to seeing it freely given.

* The solemnity of Paul's words may make us ponder in respectful silence.

* God's goodness to us does not depend on our response, but it is right and good when we give it all the same.

Sunday 17 October, 2010
The Twentieth Sunday after Trinity - Proper 24
Parish Eucharist 10.00 am
First Reading: Genesis 32. 22-31
Psalm 121
Gospel: Luke 18. 1-8
notes on the readings

¶ Jeremiah 31. 27 – 34
The disaster of captivity will not be the end and God will be faithful to his people. And then there will be a marvellous new start.

or Genesis 32. 22 – 31
It is a mysterious story, one of a number that tell of an encounter between one of us (though a special one) and the holy God (or is that quite who it is?). To Christian readers, it has seemed to point us to our experience of Christ. He can be both clear and yet elusive, among us yet also beyond.

¶ 2 Timothy 3. 14 – 4. 5
This passage breathes a sense of foreboding, of sad days to come, when Christians will fail to hold to the vision of truth that has been given to them. It is sobering, and we can get its sense all too clearly.

Luke 18. 1 – 8
Does God really need badgering in this way before he pays attention to us? It is a half-comic tale, meant to urge us to stick to God, through thick and thin.

* There must always be mystery in our dealings with God. Otherwise, he would simply diminish to our own level.

* Faith is never guaranteed from 'going off'; and vigilance is asked of us all.

* Part of such vigilance is to persevere in our attentiveness to God despite all deterrents.

Sunday 24 October, 2010
Bible Sunday

Isaiah 45. 22 – 25
The picture is of God like a great king who utters his word -- and everybody jumps to obey. He achieves his aims, and we share in his triumph. Confidence is the name of the game.

Romans 15. 1 – 6
Paul commends the scriptures of Israel (our Old Testament) as giving us strength and courage, so contributing to our well-being with God.

Luke 4. 16 – 24
Jesus gives his 'keynote speech' in the synagogue at Nazareth, and, as he reads from Isaiah 61, we hear what amounts to the programme for his mission of rescue and healing and love.

* We are deluged in words and can easily lose sight of their intrinsic power to form us.

* Scripture takes its place among our guides to God.

* We should reflect on the Nazareth reading as a way of summing up Jesus' whole purpose.

Sunday 31 October, 2010 – Service for Bereaved Families
All Saints' Day

Daniel 7. 1 – 3, 15 – 18
This vision in the Book of Daniel is (and is meant to be) mysterious, stirring our sense of wonder before God. What will he bring about? We can just glimpse and yet be assured that it will be for human good.

Ephesians 1. 11 – 23
The passage gives us the whole sweep of the Christian view of things it is panoramic. That view centres on God's gift of himself in and through the career of Jesus, from beginning to end, with us as its beneficiaries.

Luke 6. 20 – 31
Luke's version of the Beatitudes (what someone sensibly called 'the beautiful attitudes'!) is more down to earth than that in Matthew 5. Blessed are the poor and the hungry (rather than ‘poor in spirit' and those who 'hunger for righteousness'). He focuses us on practical living and tell us of Jesus' measure of what holiness really consists of.

* Pray for an unfailing sense of the coming gift of God. It is essential (is it not?) that it stays ahead of us so that we reach out constantly.

* Our deepest desire is surely to be among God's 'holy ones'.

* The way of life of 'the saint' is the very reverse of ordinary ambitions. So what next?

Sunday 7 November, 2010
The Third Sunday before Advent

Job 19. 23 – 27a
Job prays for someone to stand for him before God and vindicate him at last. (And Handel’s music helps the cause.)

2 Thessalonians 2. 1 – 5, 13 – 17
The writer looks to the end of the present age – and to his readers’ share in its good outcome.

Luke 20. 27 – 38
A tough puzzle put to Jesus and answered in its own not entirely convincing terms.

* Relationship with God may involve some unease about the future.

* Pray for grace to keep confidence in God’s saving love.

* What should we do with hard and perhaps unnecessary – religious questions?

Sunday 14 November, 2010
The Second Sunday before Advent

Malachi 4. 1 – 2a
We are bidden to look to God’s bitter-sweet rounding off of all things a belief the Church inherited from old Israel.

2 Thessalonians 3. 6 – 13
The letter gets down to basics. Work is a Christian as well as a decent social duty.

Luke 21. 5 – 19
Jesus paints a picture of the coming End in the colours available in his day. He will be faithful to his own.

* Pray for a spirit of watchfulness before God.

* Concern for our further future does not relieve us of present tasks.

* Our goal is the love of God, come what may.

Sunday 21 November, 2010
Christ the King

Jeremiah 23. 1 – 6
This is a classic passage, coming from a time of Judah's great national weakness. It looks forward in hope to the gift of a new king (under the twin images of 'shepherd' and 'branch' of David's line) who will rescue God's people from disaster and captivity.

Colossians 1. 11 – 20
God's act of salvation in and through Christ is compared to our being transferred to a new realm 'the kingdom of his beloved Son'. And no transfer could be more all-embracing than this, for Christ surrounds us on every hand, in every aspect of our being.

Luke 23. 33 – 43
In the throes of his crucifixion, Jesus is a model of the bravest goodness - forgiving his enemies and making the final convert of his life on earth. Even here, in extremity, he is an example to his followers for ever.

* Jesus as 'king': an image to be used with caution, despite the way it trips off our tongues; for he 'rules' in weakness. Where will that lead?

* He 'rules' by love for those around him if only they will turn to him.

* Yet he 'rules' from every angle and in every aspect that you can imagine.


Sunday 28 November, 2010
The First Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 2. 1 5
We are given a familiar and vivid image of how God's 'power' works. It is the force of love and peace.

Romans 13. 11 14
Paul tells powerfully of his sense of the pressing urgency of God's purpose a future of light and clarity, no longer a time for the dullness of sleep, but rather the lively energy of a new day.

Matthew 24. 36 44
God's purposes go beyond what we can expect or imagine for ourselves and for the world in general. So we have to be alert and to hand ourselves over to him as his willing agents.

* Where God is concerned, we must learn to 'think big'. The opposite leads to paltry results and a feeble sense of his reality.

* So great and so desirable is God's hope for us that to put off its being realized is both sad and foolish.

* Readiness and expectancy - twin states of heart that open God's door.

Sunday 5 December, 2010
The Second Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 11. 1 10
We are given a picture of God's future gift of a new leader for his people. Christians saw it is a portrait of Jesus, the bringer of 'righteousness' (i. e. the justice of God). But notice, the gifts of God's spirit in v. 2 are conveyed to us in the words of the Confirmation service where we are taken to be one with Christ himself.

Romans 15. 4 13
Christ sprang from Israel, but his role was universal in scope. Paul was the first to proclaim this vital insight with all clarity and to follow it up in real life.

Matthew 3. 1 12
John the Baptist is an Advent figure because he is a symbol of expectancy looking only to what is greater than himself and to the One who is to come.

* Pray not to lose the precious sense of expectancy:for the 'more' that God will both give to us and ask of us.

* It has never been easy to give reality to Christ's being God-to-all. Do
we yet succeed?

* How many-sided is the work of God’s spirit within us?

Sunday 12 December, 2010
The Third Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 35. 1 – 10
The prophet's vision of a better future is naturally rural in its imagery but more deeply, it is about the curing of our ills (which remain pestilential to us all). Jesus picked this vision up and made it his own.

James 5. 7 10
Patience with God is hard when things stand still or even get worse. But there is no wholesome alternative. To lose heart is the road to death.

Matthew 11. 2 11
Jesus gives to John the Baptist the highest honour; yet his role was to prepare the way. The best was still to come.

* To lose the sense of a greater future at God's hand is to admit defeat; and to stand still is to slip back.

* Give thanks for the constant surprise of God’s love.

* Pray to be ready for the ‘more’ that God has in store.

Sunday 19 December, 2010
The Fourth Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 7. 10 16
The passage foretells a birth, perhaps of an heir to the king. Christians seized on it and saw in it the validating of Christ as 'God - with - us'. It rang true, and had done its job.

Romans 1. 1 7
Paul opens his letter in typical fashion. He gives his credentials (he is Christ's true agent) and sums up the message of salvation in his characteristic language.

Matthew 1. 18 25
It is doubtful whether Matthew was much interested in the possible oddities of biology. Rather, his concern was to make sure that we realize that Jesus is truly God's gift of himself to us, purely and simply, whatever it takes.

* Credentials and background are important; but how important?

* If Jesus is God-with-us, what does that tell us about God? What do we see through the window?

* Pray to look to Jesus, frail-yet-mighty One, who shows God to us.

Friday 24th December, 2010
Christmas Eve
Midnight Eucharist

Isaiah 9. 2 – 7
A birth is usually an occasion for rejoicing and hope. But this birth carries great promise for us all.

Titus 2. 11 – 14
God’s gift of himself in Jesus is unlimited in its scope. It is for the great good of everyone.

Luke 2. 1 – 14 (15 – 20)
Jesus’ birth was both an obscure event, known to a mere handful, and universal in its scope and purpose.

* We praise God for the gift of Jesus: let us adore him.

* Thank God for opening up the widest of horizons.

* Pray to feel the wonder of God’s simplicity.

Saturday 25 December, 2010
Christmas Day Eucharist

¶ Isaiah 9. 2 – 7
A birth is usually an occasion for rejoicing and hope. But this birth carries great promise for us all.

¶ Titus 2. 11 – 14
God’s gift of himself in Jesus is unlimited in its scope. It is for the great good of everyone.

Luke 2. 1 – 14 (15 – 20)
Jesus’ birth was both an obscure event, known to a mere handful, and universal in its scope and purpose.

* We praise God for the gift of Jesus: let us adore him.

* Thank God for opening up the widest of horizons.

* Pray to feel the wonder of God’s simplicity.

Sunday 26 December, 2010
The First Sunday of Christmas

Isaiah 63. 7 9
Isaiah sees all the difference between sending a messenger and coming yourself, in person. Christians have always felt that difference and believed that, in Christ, God had bridged the gap.

Hebrews 2. 10 18
The writer makes much of Jesus, one of us, as the pioneer of God's purposes. It is a special version of the gospel message - and an encouraging way of putting it. It gives great hope, yet leaves the future open-ended. We must not close off God's options.

Matthew 2. 13 23
This dark and terrible story illustrates a mysterious theme of the Bible (and indeed of life). Only through loss and suffering does great good come about. We would prefer things otherwise, but we can see darkly that we should not put immediate profit at the heart of our being.

* God bridges the gap between himself and us. Can we bear to receive his gesture of love?

* Jesus leads from the front: can we bear to follow?

* The necessary darkness, as it seems, can make it hard for us to 'see the light'. Is that wise or fair of us?

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