Sixth Day of Advent   14 comments

Above:  “Shalom” in Hebrew

Wholeness in God



Isaiah 29:17-24 (Revised English Bible):

In but a very short time

Lebanon will return to garden land

and the garden land will be reckoned

as common as scrub.

On that day the deaf will hear

when a book is read,

and the eyes of the blind will see

out of inpenetrable darkness.

The lowly will once again rejoice in the LORD,

and the poor exult in the Holy One of Israel.

The ruthless will be no more,

the arrogant will cease to exist;

those who are quick to find mischief,

those who impute sins to others,

or lay traps for him who brings the wrongdoer into court,

or by falsehood deny justice to the innocent–

all these will be cut down.

Therefore these are the words of the LORD, the deliverer of Abraham, about the house of Jacob:

This is no time for Jacob to be shamed,

no time for his face to grow pale;

for his descendants will hallow my name

when they see what I have done in their midst.

They will hold sacred the Holy One of Jacob

and regard Israel’s God with awe;

they confused will gain understanding,

and the obstinate accept instruction.

Psalm 27:1-4, 13-14 (Revised English Bible):

The LORD is my light and my salvation;

whom should I fear?

The LORD is the stronghold of my life;

of whom then I should go in dread?

When evildoers close in on me to devour me,

it is my adversaries, my enemies,

who stumble and fall.

Should an army encamp against me,

my heart would have no fear;

if armed men should fall upon me,

even then I would be undismayed.

One thing I ask of the LORD,

it is the one thing I seek;

that I may dwell in the house of the LORD

all the days of  my life,

to gaze on the beauty of the LORD

and to seek him in his temple.

Well I know that I shall see the goodness of the LORD

in the land of the living.

Wait for the LORD; be strong and brave,

and put your hope in the LORD.

Matthew 9:27-31 (Revised English Bible):

As he went on from there Jesus was followed by two blind men, shouting,

Have mercy on us, Son of David!

When he had gone indoors they came to him, and Jesus asked,

Do you believe that I have the power to do what you want?

They said,

We do.

Then he touched their eyes, and said,

As you have believed, so let it be;

and their sight was restored.  Jesus told them sternly,

See that no one hears about this.

But as soon as they had gone out they talked about him all over the region.

The Collect:

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


As I typed the lessons I remembered part of Richard Elliott Friedman’s introduction of Genesis, from his Commentary on the Torah.  Consider the following, from page 4 of that book:

There is also a theological point:  this was a new say to conceive of a God.  The difference between the Torah’s conception of God and the pagan world’s conception is not merely arithmetic: one versus many.  The pagan deities were known through their functions in nature: The sun god, Shamash, was the sun.  If one wanted to know the essence of Shamash, the thing to do was to contemplate the sun.  If you wanted to know the essence of the grain deity Dagon, you contemplated wheat.  To know Yamm, contemplate the sea.  But the God of the Torah was different, creating all of nature–and therefore not knowable or identifiable through any one element of nature.  One could learn no more about this God by contemplating the sea than by contemplating grain, sky, or anything else.  The essence of this God remains hidden.  One does not know God through nature but by the divine acts in history.  One never finds out what God is, but rather what God does–and what God says.  This conception, which informs all of biblical narrative, did not necessarily have to be developed at the very beginning of the story, but it was.  Parashat Bereshit establishes this by beginning with accounts of creation an by then following through the first ten generations of humankind.  (Those “begat” lists are thus more important than people generally think.)

The Torah’s theology is thus inseparable from its history and from its literary qualities.  Ultimately, there is no such thing as the “The Bible as Literature” or “The Bible as History” or “The Bible as…anything.”  There is: the Bible.

Taking a cue from Dr. Friedman, I focus on what God said and did in Isaiah and what Jesus said and did in Matthew.  Jesus, of course, was the incarnate form of God.  So what he said and did reflects God without depriving us of the glorious mystery which is divine nature.  This day’s readings tell of God restoring those who are not whole to a state of wholeness, or to taking them to that condition for the first time.  From this I conclude that God wants us to be whole.  How God defines wholeness, of course, might not conform to our standards.  And that is fine.

Yet one should not treat God (or Jesus) merely as a miracle worker or cosmic bellboy.  It is crucial to move beyond merely self-serving attitudes when approaching God.  This, I suspect, helps explain why Jesus preferred that many people not tell of his miracles; his words and life mattered, too.  And when one reads many of the healing stories in the canonical Gospels one should notice that someone (not necessarily the one healed) has faith at a successful healing event.  Coming to wholeness entails a human element, too.

And why does God makes us whole? First, God loves us and wants the best for us.  Yet there is another reason:  we exist for each other and to glorify God. Human life at its fullest is in community and for the common good.  In this context efforts to help one self at the expense of others has no place.  Neither does exploitation in any form.  And, as the Westminster catechisms remind us in the first question and answer, the chief end of human beings is to glorify and enjoy God.  May we do both habitually.


Written on May 31, 2010


Posted September 14, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2023-2024, December 8, Episcopal Church Lectionary

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