A THOUGHT ON “THE GOSPEL READING
Gospel Lk 3:1-6
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,
when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea,
and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee,
and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region
of Ituraea and Trachonitis,
and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene,
during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas,
the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.
John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan,
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,
as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah:
A voice of one crying out in the desert:
"Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
Every valley shall be filled
and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
The winding roads shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God."
The Word of God is demanding.
It demands a stretch of time in our day––
even though it be a very modest one––
in which it is our only companion....
God will not put up with being fobbed off with prayers in telegram style
and cut short like a troublesome visitor
for whom we open the door just a crack to get rid of him
as quickly as possible.
Quite often we awake and our minds fill with all of the things that we need to do before the day is over. We can easily pass through the door post of our bedrooms without giving a second thought to how quickly we can dismiss God. Helmut Thielicke reminds us that the Word of God is demanding. As Orthodox Clergy we are reminded of this in the Office of Prayers and Readings six times a day. Most of us did not grow up with this kind of Regiment in our lives, as priest and clergy it is both a learned and the desired process which we find both demanding and enjoyable.
Many of you have opened my e-mails for the weekend readings, and you find my statements ‘please review the readings for the Sunday so you can give the Holy Spirit something to work with. I also mention from the 10th chapter Roman “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Hearing the Word is extremely important because this is how you came to faith. One Christmas I was blessed to be able to give members of the congregation the new Orthodox Study Bible hoping that it would be an inspiration. One Sunday I stated from the pulpit that I was very sure that if I visited your homes and you showed me your Bible I would not be able to find your fingerprints on any of just a few pages it would not show use or marking of study. The statement did not pertain to everyone in the congregation but it pertains to a greater percentage of the congregation who really do not pick up Bibles from one Sunday to the next. I also notice some who make it a point never to get to church for the readings of Scripture and walk-in on the sermon and wonder why their faith so weak, why prayers are not answered and visions not given. We must open the door wide and not see God as a troublesome visitor. Remember Satan is ready to be with you all day long.
We are Orthodox Christians and we celebrate the Divine Liturgy, that liturgy consist of the words of God from the Bible. The responses are from the word of God and the Bible. In America our slave for parents those brought over on ships pressed into slavery throughout the Americas came with an understanding of God's word. Many of them could not read or write at least in English at the time but could talk about the Jordan River and baptism clues in song and words flowed on the precious air leaving from their lips so that we could hear them, the story of salvation the stories of God’s goodness. I find it interesting that in America we have been told as African American that we would not have Christianity if it were not for those European Americans who gave it to us which was true for some but not for all.
I find it interesting that we have true Black Jews whose DNA has been proven living in South Africa long before it was found by Europeans and claimed by Europeans. I also find it interesting that before the first gospel where written by St. Mark an African, Christianity had spread through North Africa and that was long before the New Testament was ever put together in the order we have it today by another African St. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, Teacher of the Faith. The Word of God spreads like fire to all willing to hear it.
An example of this reading and hearing God's word I was able to experience personally as a very small child on the front porch of an old farmhouse down on a road called Sugarhouse Lane in Alexandria, Louisiana. As the day would come to an end an old man would bring a chair and said it on the western side of the long porch across the front of house, the warm light of the late afternoon sun set a golden glow across him and across the fields that surround it this old farmhouse. Like clockwork I watched men and women and children come out of the fields’ settlement with whom with crude farming tools in their hand and sit down on the ground watching the old man opened his tattered little Bible and he would start reading the word of God. I do believe that most of these sharecroppers and farmers were illiterate I watched as smiles would come across their faces and tears flow from eyes and voices with sound with precious words of yes Lord, read own brother, praise you Lord, thank God.
These sessions ended with in the prayer, and a glow of peace flowed not only on those who came and heard God's word but also on the old man. The setting sun with glow even more golden on those hot summer evenings and the smell of cotton in the fields needing picking that I spent with my grandfather Levi Franklin on the end of his porch, smiling at his second grandson he called “little son berry.” Each step of my formation from diaconate to ordination is priest to consecration as a Bishop I would always see grandpa Levi in my mind’s eye sitting in that straight back chair with his legs crossed, that golden light of the sun setting shining on him and smiling at me.
Today most of us in America have many Bibles not just that one little tattered one that I saw my grandfather use, we also have recordings of the Bible we can now pull the Bible up on our smart phones and have the phone read it to us, we can pull it up on our computers and have the computers read it to us. God's word is demanding it demands a stretch of time in our day. I ask you my brothers and sisters in Christ to get into the word of God. Henry Ward Beecher wrote ”God did not call you to be a canary bird in a little cage after hop up and down on sticks within the space no larger than the size of the cage. God called you to be like eagles and to fly from sun to sun over the continent. We must carry this Word, this precious gift of Salvation to every corner of the world and it starts with each of us, not just the clergy but everyone hearing God's word. We have the technology and we can do it. I must tell you I have moved into the modern times with an e-reader with several Bibles and about 96 other books relating to my study of God’s word.
As Orthodox Christians “we have homework every day,” told to me by a young girl at the Ancient Christianity and African American Conference one year.
In the Master’s Yoke,
+Archbishop Metropolitan James Salisbury Jr., OSB.
PLEASE REMEMBER LEARNING IS A BLESSING.
Advent A Time to Learn How to Wait
Salvation and redemption are major themes in Luke 1:68-79, as they are in all genuine Christian praise and preaching. However, John reminds us here that we celebrate them not because we deserve God’s rescue, but because of the “tender mercy of our God” (78). God sends God’s “rising sun” Jesus into our spiritual darkness, not because we desire that Light of the world, but because God loves God’s world so deeply that God is determined to do what it takes to redeem that world..