The ark of the new covenant

21 December 2014
Fourth Sunday of Advent
Advent 4B (RCL)
2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16
Canticle 15
Romans 16:25-27
Luke 1:26-38

All four Gospels deal, at least obliquely, with the embarrassment of Jesus’ irregular birth. Mark has the crowd call Jesus “the son of Mary,” which pretty clearly indicates that Mark was aware of rumors of Jesus’ illegitimacy. Matthew and Luke both create birth narratives that have Jesus conceived in unusual circumstances. Even John appears to hint at the fact in the prologue, in the line in which God gives to those who believe in Jesus the power to become children of God, “born not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or the will of a man,” which appears to be a euphemism for rape. Matthew’s narrative has Jesus recapitulate the history of Israel (sojourn in Egypt, etc.), while Luke sums up the theology of the suffering servant and the restoration of the world through Israel.

Most appealing in Luke’s narrative is the angel’s announcement that the Holy Spirit will come upon her, and the power of the Most High will overshadow her. Continue reading “The ark of the new covenant”


14 December 2014
Third Sunday of Advent
Advent 3B (RCL)
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Psalm 126
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
John 1:6-8, 19-28

John’s account of John the Baptist varies in significant ways from the account given by the synoptic Gospels. In the first instance, John does not record Jesus’ baptism, whether by John or anyone else for that matter. John the Baptist simply reports having seen the spirit descend from heaven like a dove. Jesus does not go into the wilderness in John’s Gospel. John also does not give us any content of the Baptist’s preaching, other than his testimony concerning Jesus — mostly that the Baptist is not the Messiah, nor Elijah nor the prophet (like Moses). Significantly, John does not record the transfiguration, nor Jesus’ word that the Baptist is Elijah. John the Evangelist is setting up a very different scheme of typology from the synoptics. Continue reading “Incognito”

Into the wilderness

7 December 2014
Second Sunday of Advent
Advent 2B (RCL)
Isaiah 40:1-11
Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
2 Peter 3:8-15a
Mark 1:1-8

Mark conflates several quotations from the Old Testament in this opening passage. Exodus 23:20-21 reads “See, I am sending an angel before you to guard you on the way and bring you to the place I have prepared. Be attentive to him and heed his voice.” Malachi 3:1 reads “Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me; and suddenly there will come to the Temple the Lord whom you seek, and the messenger of the covenant whom you desire.” And, of course Isaiah 40:3 reads, “A voice cries out: ‘in the desert prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God.” By conflating these three quotations, Mark manages to allude to the people’s first entry into the land (Exodus), the return from Exile (Isaiah), and the expected final return of God to the Temple (Malachi). John the Baptist is pressed into service to announce all three events. Jesus is the promise of all three. Continue reading “Into the wilderness”