The Israelites experience God not as an abstract set of attributes but through stories of saving power. Yes, God is described as holy, powerful, just, steadfast in love. But mostly God is the one who has chosen Abraham and his descendants, has brought them out of slavery, has provided food and water in the desert, has led them to the Promised Land, and has defeated their enemies, even down to the days of King Hezekiah and his prophet Isaiah when God destroys the Assyrian army besieging Jerusalem. But after Hezekiah’s day, kings turn away from God and the nation is taken into exile in Babylon. There, a prophet arises in the tradition of Isaiah to promise divine comfort and a triumphant return home. This prophet, whose words appear in Isaiah 40–55, is sometimes called Second Isaiah.

The return comes not as a triumphant march but as a sporadic trickle facing constant opposition from people who have occupied the territory of Judah in the interim. (See the book of Nehemiah.) In this unsettled situation, a new prophet speaks new words of encouragement along with paraphrases and expansions of the words of First and Second Isaiah. This Third Isaiah’s words are in Isaiah 56–66. Against Nehemiah’s calls for great strictness and racial purity, Third Isaiah invites all to come to the feast of God’s people and looks for a day when the entire world will answer that call. Still the prophet laments the unending opposition: “If only you would tear open the heavens and come down! Mountains would quake before you like fire igniting brushwood or making water boil” (ceb). Taking care of God’s people—that’s what God (and no other “god”) does. “You look after those who gladly do right; they will praise you for your ways” (ceb). The prophet expects those days to come again.

God, come to us. Inspire us to speak your words of comfort and hope. Strengthen us to work for their fulfillment. Amen.

Pray the Scriptures Using Audio Lectio
Read Mark 13:24-37

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Lectionary Week
November 23–29, 2020
Scripture Overview

The readings from the Hebrew scriptures have a common theme: The people have sinned and turned away from God, and now they cry out for God to forgive them. Even though they have created the separation from God, the authors are confident that God will restore them. These images of longing for God are appropriate as we begin the season of Advent, and the expressions of thankfulness coincide with the celebration of Thanksgiving in the United States. Paul opens First Corinthians with thanksgiving for the Christians in Corinth. They have been richly blessed by God (although the rest of the letter shows that they, like us, are far from perfect). Again this week, the Gospel reading refers to the return of Christ, a day known only to God.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

Read Isaiah 64:1-9. When have you treated God as a vending machine and held a grudge against God? What restored your faith or changed your perspective?
Read Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19. When have you been frustrated by others’ praises of God’s blessings? When have you cried out to God, “Restore us”?
Read 1 Corinthians 1:3-9. How do you ignore your spiritual gifts? What might your faith community look like if everyone employed their spiritual gifts?
Read Mark 13:24-37. What is your job in the household of God? How do you stay alert?

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