bible blog 1590

The readings are from the Catholic lectionary for daily mass while the headline is meant to keep my thinking real:

NGO’S PLEAD FOR MORE NATIONS TO WELCOME SYRIAN REFUGEES  

international response "shameful"

international response “shameful”

Isaiah 30:19-26Contemporary English Version (CEV)

19 People of Jerusalem, you don’t need to cry anymore. The Lord is kind, and as soon as he hears your cries for help, he will come. 20 The Lord has given you trouble and sorrow as your food and drink. But now you will again see the Lord, your teacher, and he will guide you. 21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, you will hear a voice saying, “This is the road! Now follow it.” 22 Then you will treat your idols of silver and gold like garbage; you will throw them away like filthy rags.23 The Lord will send rain to water the seeds you have planted—your fields will produce more crops than you need, and your cattle will graze in open pastures. 24 Even the oxen and donkeys that plow your fields will be fed the finest grain.[a]

25 On that day people will be slaughtered and towers destroyed, but streams of water will flow from high hills and towering mountains. 26 Then the Lord will bandage his people’s injuries and heal the wounds he has caused. The moon will shine as bright as the sun, and the sun will shine seven times brighter than usual. It will be like the light of seven days all at once.

This type of language is called apocalyptic from a Greek word meaning “revelation”; it goes beyond what a faithful person might hope for, given the facts of a situation. An apocalyptic vision reveals the ultimate hidden purpose of God. In this case the prophet reveals that God who has punished his people for their idolatry and hidden himself from them will return and rescue them.
1. He will provide sure guidance for the true way of life; so that the people’s idols will have no purpose.
2. He will give fruitfulness to the land
3. Certain powerful people will be destroyed
4 The people will be healed and restored
5 Their world will be bathed in light
even the donkeys....

even the donkeys….

This was not about to happen next year in Jerusalem any more than it will happen next year in Dundee, Scotland. This is not a prediction about history but about the end of history, that is, about what lies beyond the horizon of history and reveals its purpose. The story of God’s people will not end with punishment, pain and futility, but with joy in Goid’s rescue. In my blogs recently on the book of The Revelation I have called this sort of vision the “other side of history” where the victory of God’s goodness is occasionally glimpsed even in the midst of the defeats of the present time. It is a hope held aganst the odds, and all the more wonderful for that. It gives people the ability to endure in hard times and the courage to change the times for the better when they can. 

For the  poor peoples of the war-torn middle east, where there seems to be no end to suffering, Isaiah’s vision, revised for the whole region, might offer the strength to endure.and spur the nations to act boldly for peace and justice. As parts of the UK argue their prejudices about “foreigners”, I hope Scotland might find a way to welcome and provide for a significant number of refugees, especially from Syria. 

Matthew 9:35-10:8Contemporary English Version (CEV)

Jesus Has Pity on People

35 Jesus went to every town and village. He taught in their meeting places and preached the good news about God’s kingdom. Jesus also healed every kind of disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he felt sorry for them. They were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 He said to his disciples, “A large crop is in the fields, but there are only a few workers. 38 Ask the Lord in charge of the harvest to send out workers to bring it in.”

Jesus Chooses His Twelve Apostles

10 Jesus called together his twelve disciples. He gave them the power to force out evil spirits and to heal every kind of disease and sickness. 2 The first of the twelve apostles was Simon, better known as Peter. His brother Andrew was an apostle, and so were James and John, the two sons of Zebedee. 3 Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew the tax collector,[a] James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus were also apostles. 4 The others were Simon, known as the Eager One,[b] and Judas Iscariot,[c] who later betrayed Jesus.

5 Jesus sent out the twelve apostles with these instructions:
Stay away from the Gentiles and don’t go to any Samaritan town. 6 Go only to the people of Israel, because they are like a flock of lost sheep. 7 As you go, announce that the kingdom of heaven will soon be here.[d] 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead to life, heal people who have leprosy,[e] and force out demons. You received without paying, now give without being paid.

Matthew doubtless saw Jesus as the Teacher returned to guide his people in the true way. Jesus is depicted as somehow turning the apocalyptic visions into everyday reality, challenging people to live the impossible promises. Here, after touring the towns and villages of Palestine he is convinced that many people are ripe and ready as the harvest of God’s goodness, but they need “gathered” , that is, encouraged to identify themselves and to find strength in each other. They are ready but always menaced by dejection. In another agricultural metaphor, they are like sheep without a shepherd. In this situation Matthew shows Jesus appointing messengers “to gather God’s harvest”. They are real people, the 12 messengers still remembered in the Christian communities for which Matthew was writing. This is the way God’s rescue happens, not by a miraculous event, but by real people who announce God’s goodness and demonstrate it here and now by healing and by evicting the powers of evil. The end of history is brought into the present; the other side of history shines more and more through the side we know only too well.

the harvest beyond the fence....

the harvest beyond the fence….

For those who have already experienced this transformation, this labour is not a burden; “You received without paying; now give without being paid.” 
 
Of course the gathering of God’s family commanded by Jesus is always a partial and temporary fulfillment of the apocalyptic vision, in the midst of a world which is stubbornly un-rescued and addicted to false Gods, but it continues to be the raison d’etre of the Christian church and of all people who are channels of God’s goodness.

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