Ask a sign

22 December 2019; Advent IVA (RCL); Isaiah 7:10-16; Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-25

Ahaz was facing a military threat in the alliance of Israel and Syria, and scrambling to make alliances of his own. The prophet is trying to tell him that God will protect Judah without the help of a foreign alliance. Isaiah tells Ahaz to ask for a sign. Ahaz responds that he will not put God to the test.

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The King’s High Way

15 December 2019; Advent 3A (RCL); Isaiah 35:1-10; Canticle 15; James 5:7-10; Matthew 11:2-11

In St. Louis (as probably in many other cities), there is a street called Kingshighway (all one word). In medieval times, a highway maintained by the crown would have been called the King’s highway. There are African American spirituals that refer to the King’s highway (Walking up the King’s highway). This passage from Isaiah refers to the Holy Way (or road). Early Christians understood themselves as the people on the Way (or Road: see Acts 9:2)

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Preaching to vipers

8 December 2019; Second Sunday of Advent; Advent IIA (RCL); Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19; Romans 15:4-13; Matthew 3:1-12

We often forget that all of scripture is politically situated. None of the prophets, or storytellers, or letter-writers, or poets were writing in a vacuum. Religious hope and political aspiration went hand in hand. This is clear in these readings. Isaiah is likely writing at the beginning of a period of religious renewal (although scholars dispute when this passage was written). It is likely that the Northern Kingdom was waning, or had already been overthrown, and priests from Samaria were showing up in Jerusalem.

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