First Thoughts From The Rev. Canon David Smith: 

Most weeks Fr. David sends out an e-mail with his first thoughts on the upcoming Sunday readings. These reflections are designed to encourage people to consider the readings before they come to worship which we hope will enrich Sunday worship. People are invited to respond to David with their own thoughts and sometimes interesting ideas and conversations occur that end up in the sermon. If you would like to receive these weekly e-mails e-mail David at dsmith@ontario.anglican.ca  . 

Reflections on the Readings: Sunday, November 30, 2014 - Isaiah 64: 1-9, Psalm 80: 1-7, 17-19, 1 Corinthians 1:3-9, Mark 13: 24- 37

Posted by Emily Sanderson on Sunday, November 30, 2014
Hi everyone and Happy New Year as we celebrate  the church's new year, Advent 1, on Sunday

Attached is an article I wrote for the Mirror. I was moved by the movie Shadowlands which we watched last week. I used it for the December edition because for me it portrayed Christmas. C.S. Lewis truly entered into the joy and pain of love. I could not express it well but I tried to use his story as an illustration of the incarnation in that God in Christ truly
experienced our life , love and pain. But the movie really is a commentary on our readings for this Sunday as Lewis in his grief cried out where are you God? Which is exactly what Isaiah and Psalm 80  lament. So I included it as an attachment.

Readings for this Sunday Isaiah 64: 1-9, Psalm 80: 1-7, 17-19, 1 Corinthians
1:3-9, Mark 13: 24- 37

Thanks to Feasting on the Word Year B Volume 1 pgs 2-25

In the old days the liturgical colour for Advent was purple to invite us to enter a time of repentance and preparedness for Christmas much like we still do in Lent for Easter.  But in recent years the colour has changed to blue to make it a more joyful season as we wait expectantly for the arrival of
Christmas and the final return of Christ.

The problem is I do not own a blue stole so in Marysburgh  we will be using both liturgical colours and maybe that is fitting because our readings in Advent certainly have a serious tone especially this week where in the Psalm we pray that God would restore us and we ask how long will God be angry. In a similar spirit Isaiah asks why has God hidden himself from the people?  Clearly our expectation of Christmas invites us to ask some serious questions. I often wonder what a visitor to our church would think if he or she hears carols in the mall and not in church.  Hopefully  they would hear
a deeper reason for the season as we prepare for Christmas.

Our O.T. reading speaks into the heart and soul of the Jews after they have returned from exile to Jerusalem. The temple has not been rebuilt and they are in a state of disorientation as William Brown describes ,"it is a cry of pain seeking understanding".  It is a lament praying for God to be present.  Our reading remembers that God saved the Israelites in a powerful way from the Egyptians and wants to know why God does not do something similar now ?

Isaiah explores how it seems God is hidden and because of that people have sinned and no longer call upon God's name. Scott Bader - Saye,  after some discussion concludes, "God hides in order to deconstruct a distorted set of beliefs and practices, thereby opening Israel to receive again as gift and event their calling to be God's people. Hiding is a form of judgment that ultimately  serves divine mercy, a "No". that clears the ground for a more profound "Yes".   Feasting on the Word Year B Volume 1 pg 4 interesting .

But our reading also includes imagery of presence not just hiddenness. And they are not images of God tearing open the skies but of a parent and potter. Bader - Saye notes that these images of a God who is no longer hidden describe actions that are like a father or mother shaping the character of a child over many years or an artist lovingly molding clay.

This imagery of God being present actually reminds me of the Christ Child and of how the one born in Bethlehem moved among us. Maybe this lament is joyful expectation after all.

You know there are times when I feel like the Israelites. Why can't God show some mighty force and revive his church through some dramatic action?  I had a brief meeting with the Funeral Home staff today to talk about a service of
remembrance Dec. 7th. Every pastor is invited to read out the names of the people who have died from their church. It use to be that most people's names were read by a pastor and only a few were read by the funeral home staff. These were people who had no church affiliation. But now it is the reverse and many burials have no Christian or other faith based worship at all.  It made me say why are you hidden God? But I do see God at work in the lives of people. I do see God molding people and building for the Kingdom. I need  more patience and eyes to see more clearly.

Psalm 80 is an even angrier lament , it is the prayer of a people who have lost much and are in grief( probably originally the Northern nation of Israel which fell before Judah). But it is a prayer for any of us who feel abandoned and who feel that God has not only allowed but caused our pain.  And in the honest outpouring of confusion and anger that this prayer can give voice to, we can come out the other side with hope," let your face shine, that we may be saved" Feasting on the Word Year B Volume 1 pg 13

Again perhaps at first this passage of Scripture that seems so out of place in Advent points us to Jesus . It was and is in the Christ Child that God's face shines upon us.

Our reading from 1 Corinthians has obviously been chosen because of its eschatological reference to the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. In other words to Christ's final return the second Advent. But really it is a passage that displays St. Paul's   tremendous gratitude for the Corinthian Christians (although he has serious issues with much of their behaviour).  I am very thankful for all of the people of the Parish of Marysburgh and of course this reading could be a jumping off place to speak about what a gift it is to be thankful to God for all that God has done through our parish. American pastors may do this as it is so close to their Thanksgiving. But even more central to Paul's message is the absolute centrality of grace. The Corinthians have been loved through the grace of God in Christ and they have been gifted through grace with abilities to serve the church and the world.  We have been saved and loved by grace in order to serve and love graciously.

Our Gospel reading is definitely apocalyptic. I should do a teaching sermon on apocalyptic sayings sometime. But very simplistically I think Jesus is saying that although things may seem very bleak God will overcome. It is a word to all the voices in the other readings for Sunday especially Isaiah and the Psalm.  It is about watching and waiting for the presence of God even when God seems very distant or absent. And I think the Gospel reading points us to be awake to be attuned to what is truly important. Lillian Daniel in a pastoral perspective on the Gospel says that in Advent when we
are so busy shopping and partying ect. It might be wise for the church and preachers to say have a nap, relax not stay awake. But she wisely says that the churches call to be awake," is a call to be awake to God in the world and to not fall asleep to the spiritual season" Feasting on the Word Year B
Volume 1 pg 24