This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news
Jose Mujica, President of Uruguay plans to “adopt” poor children when he retires
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised (NRSVA)
The Lesson of the Fig Tree
32 ‘From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So also, when you see all these things, you know that he[a] is near, at the very gates. 34 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
The Necessity for Watchfulness
36 ‘But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son,[b] but only the Father. 37 For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, 39 and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41 Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. 42 Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day[c] your Lord is coming. 43 But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised (NRSVA)
The Message to Laodicea
14 ‘And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the origin[a] of God’s creation:
15 ‘I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.” You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich; and white robes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen; and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. 19 I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent. 20 Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me. 21 To the one who conquers I will give a place with me on my throne, just as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.’
The passage from Matthew has two messages. One, that it’s not too hard to discern the signs of the times and it should therefore be obvious that the time of the “world to come” is near. Two, that the return of Jesus with God’s holy ones to rule the earth, cannot be accurately predicted; it might be any time, so stay awake. These may seem contradictory but both messages urge alertness. He, the Lord is at the gates, but when he’ll walk through is not known. There is a clear and obvious sense in Jesus’ words that a decisive intervention by God is imminent. It’s impossible to read these words any other way. Of course we have t reckon with the possibility that the Gospel tradition misunderstood what Jesus was saying, but there no doubt he is depicted as prophesying such an intervention within the lifetimes of his disciples.
If so, he was wrong.
It looks to me as if the Gospel writers themselves were already trying to re-interpret these sayings. Perhaps Mark saw them fulfilled in the crucifixion and resurrection, Luke in the coming of the Holy Spirit. Matthew (chapter 25) gives the parable of the sheep and the goats which teaches the King has been coming back all the time in the least important of his brothers and sisters. These interpretations are evidence for Jesus as the author of these sayings. Perhaps the writers themselves were already dealing with the scandal that Jesus might have been wrong.
Can you rightly worship as a person of the Godhead a man who may have been wrong?
My answer to that is “yes” but I know some believers for whom it would seem impossible.
“To err is human; to forgive, divine.” This wise saying might well be a description of Jesus. If he was human, he could of course be mistaken. He probably thought the sun moved round the earth and that the universe was created in six days. And surely he had to learn right and wrong from his parents and teachers? Like us he would would have behaved selfishly until he learned it was wrong? Scripture says, “he was tempted in all points like ourselves, only without sin.” I think that’s true, but it demands a careful definition of sin. I firmly believe in the humanity and divinity of Jesus; both need to be asserted without pious evasions. Did Jesus ever have an erection?
The passage from Revelation is famous for being the first characterisation of an affluent church. Its community is pleased with its comfy faith and life. The prophet describes them as poor, blind and naked. They have become lukewarm believers. All churches in the affluent areas of the world should look in this mirror and ask whose face they see. Certainly believers in Syria, Egypt, Pakistan menaced by persecution, or in the Philippines in the aftermath of a typhoon, may have something to teach them.
The Lord stands at the door and knocks. This repeats the image from the gospel passage. But he does not break in; he waits to be admitted. That’s a startling reversal of expectation. Human beings knock at God’s door, yes, but does God lower himself to knock at human doors? Yes, he does, the author of Revelation affirms, more than that, he enters if invited and accepts hospitality. For the Laodiceans, the knock might have come from their persecuted brothers and sisters, or from a poor person in need, or even from a Roman official hunting for adherents of an illegal religion. But whatever the occasion of the knock, the prophet says it comes from God.
Many of the little details in this text have startling implications.