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Chris (email link at the bottom of each page)

John the Baptist

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Isaiah 45:6-8, 18, 21-25 • Psalm 84(85):9-14 • Luke 7:19-23

  

John the Baptist was one of the greatest men who ever lived and figured prominently in the period immediately preceding the ministry of Jesus. Not only had John foretold the coming of Jesus (Matt. 3:11f.), he had recognised him, pointed him out to others (John 1:29) and baptised him (Matt. 3:13-17). John had faithfully and fearlessly prepared the way for Jesus. Yet, in today's Gospel, John poses a question that seems tinged with doubt and indecision: Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another? (v. 19). What were John's expectations of the Messiah?

Both the language and imagery of John's preaching conjure up a wrathful figure coming forth in judgement, scattering fire and destruction in his wake (see, eg, Luke 3:7-9, 15-17). Yet, as he languished in prison, he heard rumours of quite a different kind of activity by Jesus healings of various kinds, casting out of evil spirits and even the dead raised to life. As John served the prison sentence earned for fearlessly denouncing Herod, was he perhaps disappointed or disillusioned because the Messiah had not responded with a similar counterblast of judgement?

At the commencement of his ministry, in his home-town synagogue, Jesus had proclaimed the inauguration of God's kingdom (Luke 4:16ff). He had quoted from the prophet Isaiah, but gone only so far as to proclaim 'the year of the Lord's favour (Luke 4:19 NIV) and had not proceeded to announce the day of vengeance of our God’ (Isa. 61:2b). Jesus came as Saviour; the time was not yet ripe for him to assume his role of Judge. John was impatient for judgement, but Jesus was patient for salvation.

Jesus later uses the parable of the Fig Tree to explain God's gracious, patient waiting, but also his ultimate and inevitable judgement (Luke 13:6-9). More than two thousand years later, the judgement envisaged by John has still not come. The fig tree still stands – and the Master watches hopefully for it to bear fruit. To those who hear the good news today, the Holy Spirit continues to warn, 'Today, when you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts' (Heb. 3:7-8). Have we embraced the good news in faith and allowed it to bear fruit in our lives? We dare not postpone our response of faith and obedience. 

Gracious God, help me never to presume upon your mercy and grace. Instead, teach me to respond with steadfast faith, fervent gratitude and wholehearted obedience

Chris

from Bible Alive

 

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The Root of Jesse

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Isaiah 11:1–11
 
1 And a rod will go forth from the root of Jesse, and a flower will ascend from his root.
2 And the Spirit of the Lord will rest upon him: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and fortitude, the spirit of knowledge and piety.
3 And he will be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord. He will not judge according to the sight of the eyes, nor reprove according to the hearing of the ears.
4 Instead, he will judge the poor with justice, and he will reprove the meek of the earth with fairness. And he will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and he will slay the impious with the spirit of his lips.
5 And justice will be the belt around his waist. And faith will be the warrior's belt at his side.
6 The wolf will dwell with the lamb; and the leopard will lie down with the kid; the calf and the lion and the sheep will abide together; and a little boy will drive them.
7 The calf and the bear will feed together; their young ones will rest together. And the lion will eat straw like the ox.
8 And a breastfeeding infant will play above the lair of the asp. And a child who has been weaned will thrust his hand into the den of the king snake.
9 They will not harm, and they will not kill, on all my holy mountain. For the earth has been filled with the knowledge of the Lord, like the waters covering the sea.
10 In that day, the root of Jesse, who stands as a sign among the people, the same the Gentiles shall beseech, and his sepulcher will be glorious.
11 And this shall be in that day: the Lord will send forth his hand a second time to take possession of the remnant of his people who will be left behind: from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Ethiopia, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea.
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The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

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Romans 8:28–30 • Psalm 12(13) • Matthew 1:1–16, 18–23

Readers of the Bible are tempted to skip the first sixteen verses of Matthew’s Gospel.  After all, it’s just a long list of names!  Although, in recent years, there has been a renewed interest in tracing one’s family tree, genealogies are often viewed as superfluous by a generation that prides itself on being future-oriented and forward-looking. To ancient peoples, however, genealogies were of immense importance.  Genealogies were the means by which Bible- time Jews traced their ancestry right back to Abraham, thus reassuring themselves of their position as rightful heirs of God’s covenant promises.

Matthew’s opening phrase ‘An account of the genealogy...’ reads, literally, ‘the book of the genesis. . . ’ , an expression that echoes Genesis 2:4 in' the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) and would have been very familiar to Matthew’s original readers.  By employing this phrase in connection with the Messiah, Matthew sets Jesus in the context of what God had been doing from the earliest days.

Matthew’s genealogy is constructed around three key periods in Israel’s history. Abraham and David recall two crucial covenants (Gen. 12:1ff; 2 Sam. 7:12ff) that significantly shaped Jewish identity.  The Babylonian Exile (referred to in yerses 1 1—12) called into serious question these covenant promises – since the land was lost and the House of David no longer ruled.  So, after their return from exile, the Jews eagerly awaited the coming of a Messiah who would fulfil the promises given to Abraham and David. Against this backdrop Matthew announces the ‘genesis’ of the one who would bnn'g to fruition these promises: .‘Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham’.

The genealogy climaxes with the mention of Joseph.  Tradition suggests that Mary, too, was of the House of David.  But since lineage was established by the male line, in order for Jesus to be proclaimed a true ‘son of David’ Joseph had formally to adopt him.  In verse 18, the word translated ‘birth’ is the same as that used in verse 1 (literally, ‘genesis’). The story that follows is not so much a birth story, but an extension of the genealogy which establishes Jesus’s rightful place in the messianic line.

‘At the foot of the cross Mary became our mother.  Just before he died, Jesus gave his mother to St John, and St John to his mother.  And so, all of us become her children.’  (St Theresa of Kolkata)

Chris

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"You are the Son of God"

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Mark 3:7-12
 
Mark told the story in this way, keeping the “Messianic Secret” in order that his readers would accept Jesus’s true identity on his terms, in the context of his entire life and mission.
 
For Mark we are free to proclaim Jesus as our Messiah and Lord only when we accept his way of suffering messiahship along with all the signs, wonders, healings and miracles that he performed.
 
Mark has created a moment of pause, reflection and meditation; so must we.
 
It will not be in the skimming of religious books or in hastening through our religious duties that we will become strong in faith.  It will be in the unhurried meditation on gospel truths that we will grow in holiness and sanctity,
 
How true the wisdom and insight of St John of the Cross who said, “My spirit has become dry because it forgets to feed on you."
 
Finding time to pray, to be still and to quieten our mind, heart and spirit that we may draw close to God as he comes close to us, requires both a decision and effort.  But in making them we will be richly rewarded.
 
”Spend an hour every day, some time before the midday meal, in meditation; and the earlier the better, because your mind will then be less distracted and fresh after a night’s sleep.”  (St Francis de Sales)
 
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