Twelfth Day of Advent   10 comments

Above:  Great Smoky Mountains

“The Old Eternal Rocks”

Of God and Human Problems



Isaiah 41:13-20 (Revised English Bible):

For I, the LORD your God,

take you by the right hand

and say to you, Have no fear;

it is I who help you.

Have no fear, Jacob you worm and Israel you maggot.

It is I who help you, declares the LORD;

your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.

See, I shall make of you a sharp threshing-sledge,

new and studded with teeth;

you will thresh mountains and crush them to dust

and reduce the hills to chaff;

you will winnow them; the wind will carry them away

and a gale will scatter them.

Then you will rejoice in the LORD

and glory in the Holy One of Israel.

The poor and the needy look for water and find none;

their tongues are parched with thirst.

But the LORD shall provide for their wants;

I, the God of Israel, shall not forsake them.

I shall open rivers on the arid heights,

and wells in the valleys;

I shall turn the desert into pools

and dry land into springs of water;

I shall plant cedars in the wilderness,

acacias, myrtles, and wild olives;

I shall grow pines on the barren heath

side by side with fir and box tree,

that everyone may see and know,

may once and for all observe and understand

that the LORD himself has done this:

it is the creation of the Holy One of Israel.

Psalm 145:1-4, 8-13 (Revised English Bible):

I shall extol you, my God and King,

and bless your name for ever and ever.

Every day I shall bless you

and praise your name for ever and ever.

Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;

his greatness is beyond all searching out.

One generation will commend your works to the next

and set forth your mighty deeds.

The LORD is gracious and compassionate,

long-suffering and ever faithful.

The LORD is good to all;

his compassion rests upon all his creatures.

All your creatures praise you, LORD,

and your loyal servants bless you.

They talk of the glory of your kingdom

and tell of your might,

to make known to mankind your mighty deeds,

the glorious majesty of your kingdom.

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,

and your dominion endures throughout all generations.

Matthew 11:7-15 (Revised English Bible):

(This reading occurs after Jesus has received envoys from the imprisoned John the Baptist, who experienced doubts that Jesus was what John had claimed him to be.)

When the messengers were on their way back, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John:

What was the spectacle that drew you to the wilderness?  A reed swaying in the wind?  No?  Then what did you go out to see?  A man dressed in finery?  Fine clothes are to be found in palaces.  But why 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.”

Truly I tell you:  among all who have ever been born, no one has been greater than John the Baptist, and yet the least in the kingdom of Heaven is greater than he.

Since the time of John the Baptist the kingdom of God has been subjected to violence and violent men are taking it by force.  For until John, all the prophets and the law foretold things to come; and John is the destined Elijah, if you will but accept it.  If you have ears, then hear.”

The Collect:

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


When I was a United Methodist “preacher’s kid”  growing up within the South Georgia Annual Conference my family had contact with a missionary organization called Lifeline Ministries.  I recall their yellow signs printed on heavy paper suitable for placing on desks or on refrigerator doors.  These signs features their motto,


Our problems are real; let us never question that reality.  Doubts arise and we experience stress, but God answers our questions when we ask them.  And God is greater than any problem we have.  So let us take comfort, have well-placed faith in God, listen to and obey God, and avoid worrying.  To worry is to engage in total waste, for this exercise will bring us no closer to resolving our genuine issues.  No, it is better to focus on finding, identifying, and executing solutions.

When I became an Episcopalian I learned a new hymnody, one superior to that with which I grew up in Southern rural United Methodism.  Among the greatest hymns I learned after converting is “I Bind Unto Myself Today,” with words by Saint Patrick.  Reading this day’s lections while I typed them called two verses of that hymn to mind:

I bind unto myself today

the virtues of the starlit heaven

the glorious sun’s life-giving ray,

the whiteness of the moon at even,

the flashing of the lightning free,

the whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,

the stable earth, the deep salt sea,

around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today

the power of God to hold and lead,

his eye to watch, his might to stay,

his ear to hearken to my need;

the wisdom of my God to teach,

his hand to guide, his shield to ward;

the word of God to give me speech,

his heavenly host to be my guard.



Written on May 31, 2010


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