Thursday, December 15, 2022



The lectionary readings for Holy Communion today are Isaiah 54:1-10 and Luke 7:24-30.

Throughout the Bible, we are given many different images of imagining what God is like, to help us connect. In Isaiah 54, God is imagined as the husband of his people, who, in their youth, together entered that covenant relationship. But the people, God’s bride, were unfaithful, running off with other gods. In his hurt, pain, anger, shame, God withdrew, could not bear to be in the same room as his unfaithful wife. She, in turn, experienced the absence of God, the shame of the consequence of her actions. Yet God could not stop loving his bride, could not give up his faithfulness, could not tear up their marriage covenant; and so, God takes his people back, and brings an end to their shame.

[Clearly, in human relationships, there are also instances of husbands being unfaithful to their wives; and of husbands walking out, only to change their minds and demand that their wives take them back, which is abusive. But this is not the image here. Nor does being asked to imagine the pain of a cuckolded husband imply that women in general are unfaithful.]

The Gospel for this coming Sunday takes us into Joseph’s confidence, as he wrestles with a huge decision. He has discovered that Mary, the woman he is betrothed to, is expecting a child; and he is not the father. Joseph is a righteous man. He is deeply hurt, in pain, wrestling with anger, and shame. Yet he refuses to expose Mary to shame or place her in danger. In the morning, he will quietly release her from their covenant agreement, and carry his hurt and shame on his own. (Joseph does everything quietly; in the Gospels, he never speaks.) But that night, in a dream, an angel of the Lord appears to him and says, ‘Joseph, Son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit…’

God invites Joseph into God’s own lived experience. God invites you and me into God’s own lived experience. This is God’s way. In the Gospel reading set for today, the Pharisees and the lawyers stand apart and reject God’s purposes for themselves. But God always comes to us. Even when God turns away, hurt by us, our actions cannot keep God’s love and faithfulness away for long. Even when the Son is wounded to the point of death, on the third day he returns again.

God meets us in our deep disappointment, our pain, our confusion, our anger, our desire to do what is right even though it cost us everything, and we encounter God in such a place because God has experienced these things before us and invites us to share in the divine nature in the face of the divine experience. For the God-with-us who is Jesus is fully human and fully divine, wed together inseparable, and draws us into him.


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