Third Week of Advent: Thursday   9 comments

Above: Westminster Abbey (as in the Westminster Confession of Faith and accompanying Catechisms)

God’s Purpose for Us

DECEMBER 21, 2023


Isaiah 54:1-10 (Revised English Bible):

Sing, barren woman who never bore a child;

break into a shout of joy, you that have never been in labour;

for the deserted wife will have more children

than she who lives with her husband,

says the LORD.

Enlarge the space for your dwelling,

extend the curtains of your tent to the full;

let out its ropes and drive the tent-pegs home;

for you will spread from your confines right and left,

your descendants will dispossess nations

and will people cities now desolate.

Fear not, you will not be put to shame;

do not be downcast, you will not suffer disgrace.

It is time to forget the shame of your younger days

and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood;

for your husband is your Maker;

his name is the LORD of Hosts.

He who is called God of all the earth,

the Holy One of Israel, is your redeemer.

The LORD has acknowledged you a wife again,

once deserted and heart-broken;

your God regards you as a wife still young,

though you were once cast off.

For a passing moment I forsook you,

but with a tender affection I shall bring you home again.

In an upsurge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment;

but now have I pitied you with never-failing love,

says the LORD, your Redeemer.

For this to me is like the days of Noah;

as I swore that the waters of Noah’s flood

should never again pour over the earth,

so now I swear to you

never again to be angry with you or rebuke you.

Though the mountains may move and the hills shake,

my love will be immovable and never fall,

and my covenant promising peace will not be shaken,

says the LORD in his pity for you.

Psalm 30 (Revised English Bible):

I shall exalt you, LORD;

you have lifted me up

and have not let my enemies be jubilant over me.

LORD my God, I cried to you and you healed me.

You have brought me up, LORD, from Sheol,

and saved my life as I was sinking into the abyss.

Sing a psalm to the LORD, all you his loyal servants;

give thanks to his holy name.

In his anger is distress, in his favour there is life.

Tears may linger at nightfall,

but rejoicing comes in the morning.

I felt secure and said,

I can never be shaken.

LORD, by your favour you made my mountain strong;

when you hid your face, I was struck with dismay.

To you, LORD, I called

and pleaded with you for mercy:

What profit is there in my death,

in my going down to the pit?

Can the dust praise you?

Can it proclaim your truth?

Hear, LORD, and be gracious to me;

LORD, be my helper.

You have turned my laments into dancing;

you have stripped off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,

that I may sing psalms to you without ceasing.

LORD my God, I shall praise you for ever.

Luke 7:24-30 (Revised English Bible):

After John’s messengers had left, Jesus began to speak about him to the crowds:

What did you go into the wilderness to see?  A reed swaying in the wind?  No?  Then what did you go out to see?  A man dressed in finery?  Grand clothes and luxury are to be found in palaces.  But what did you go out to see?  A prophet?  Yes indeed, and far more than a prophet.  He is the man of whom scripture says,

“Here is my herald, whom I send ahead of you,

and he will prepare your way before you.”

I tell you, among all who have been born, no one has been greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he is.

When they heard him, all the people, including the tax-collectors, acknowledged the goodness of God, for they had accepted John’s baptism; but the Pharisees and lawyers, who had refused his baptism, rejected God’s purpose for themselves.

The Collect:

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.


What is the chief and highest end of man?

“Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.”

–The Westminster Larger Catechism (1646), Question #1, from The Book of Confessions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

The above quote summarizes the greatest human destiny well.  Each of us is on this planet to fill positive roles, thereby leaving our environs and those in them better than we found them, for the glory of God and the benefit of others.  And, along the way, we are called to enjoy God.

Once I heard a proposal for how to live spiritually.  It held that we are supposed to engage in a daring dance with God, laying aside dourness and rigid orthodoxies.  This image appeals to me, for I an neither dour nor rigidly orthodox.  The most important aspect of the metaphor is that God be the dancing partner.  And I suspect that the dance is not necessarily respectable ballroom dancing.  Maybe it is the Charleston, tango, or lambada.  Let the dance begin, or continue.

Yet many of our fellow human beings do not choose a positive path.  They opt for a life of violence and hatred.  From time to time, when I house and pet sit (for I have opted to live without cable television), I watch MSNBC programs about prisons.  I see profiles of some people who lead truly vile lives.  As a law-abiding citizen I am glad that authorities keep them away from people such as me.  I know also that these individuals did not have to become who they did and come to live where they do.  And I realize that they do not live beyond the reach of grace, for grace is available everywhere.

We humans make choices.  Often we must lie in the beds we have made.  This fact, however, does not mean that we have to keep making these beds.  Also, history contains stories of people whom God has converted from violent lives to peaceful, righteous ones.  There is always hope through God.

May we embrace this hope and glorify and enjoy God forever.


Written on June 1, 2010


Posted September 15, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2023-2024, December 21, Episcopal Church Lectionary

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