Year A – Christmas Day – Psalm 98

Psalm 98O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things.  His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory.  2 The Lord has made known his victory; he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations. 3 He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.  4 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises. 5 Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody. 6 With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord. 7 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it. 8 Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy 9 at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity (NRSV).

Summary:  If your life had a soundtrack, what would some of the songs be?  In our home, our daughter is the one most likely to spontaneously break into a song.  That is the how this psalm comes across, as a bursting forth in praise, towards God and his mighty ways.  God’s justice, mercy, and truth are praised just within the first three verses; but then the psalmist evokes the images of nature and nations, which also display the Lord’s awesomeness. This Psalm also points us to God’s victory in bringing about His redemptive plan through Christ. Just as so many prophetic books speak of God coming to a renewed Zion and bringing about justice and mercy, so we find the fulfillment of these in the birth of Christ and His redemptive work and the ongoing work of His body, the Church. This Psalm forms the basis of Isaac Watts well known Him, “Joy to the World” in which Christ comes to “make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.” That is justice and mercy.

Insight:   People can act in all kinds of strange ways when in front of a police officer, even when those people have done nothing wrong.  Other times, it can be a comfort to see law enforcement walking around a community or sporting event.  God’s justice has a similar effect.  We react to God’s justice in many strange ways. Of course we would like to see an appropriate level of fairness around the world; But at the same time we have silly views about the treatment of others and ourselves.  Moreover, it can be difficult to explain God’s just ways before our fellow men.  We may speak of God’s comforting love and mercy, but accordingly this Psalm reminds us that God is just and that his justice should be a comfort as well.

Child Catechism:  How does God judge the world?  God judges the world with righteousness and fairness.

Discussion:  What are some of God’s victories in your life?  What are some of the ways that God showed his steadfast love and mercy toward Israel in the Old Testament?

Just and Merciful Father,  we thank you for all of your provisions–seen and unseen,  put a joyful noise not only in our hearts but in our mouths,  proclaiming your steadfast love to all we encounter!   In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.  Amen.

Contributed by:  M. West

Year A – Advent 3 – James 5:7-10

James 5:7–10  – Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. 9 Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! 10 As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

Summary – James calls the faithful to be patient in enduring suffering until the Judge comes. This judge is “standing at the doors.” When will judgment be? This strong text condemns the wicked, greedy, and unjust rich. It refers to the “coming” (parousia) of the Lord and the judgment. There are two excellent reasons to think this is not the Last Judgment, but is judgment “coming” of Jesus on apostate Jerusalem in 70 AD: a) “Near” [eggiken] or “at hand” (5:8), when referring temporal events, means the event is near in time. For example: John referring to the imminence of Jesus’ kingdom (Mt 3:2, see also, 21:1, and 26:46) and Luke 21:20 -“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near.” Jesus taught clearly that Jerusalem will be judged in the “days of vengeance” before “this generation passes away” (Lk 21, Matt. 24:15). b) James refers specifically to those who “have condemned” and “murdered the Just [One] [ton dikaion]” (James 5:6). Other NT texts refer to Jesus with the very same words (Acts 7:52, 22:14, 1 Pt 3:18, 1 Jn 2:1). The Just One “does not resist you.” This is a rather clear echo of Jesus’ trial in which He was condemned (katadikazo) (Mk 14:60-64). Why will judgment be? James highlights three areas relating to this judgment. a) Corrupt living prepares one for judgment (1-3). The “rich” in Jerusalem tended to be those who robbed the poor, were traitors to Israel (tax-collectors), or the selfish who did not share with the needy. Like impurities burned away, so will the wicked. b) Fraudulent living prepares one for judgment (4-6). Injustices in labor demonstrate wickedness. So unjust payment for labor is one clear example. Murdering “the Just One” (ton dikaion) is the culmination of wickedness.
b) On the other hand, righteous living also prepares one (in the best sense) for judgment (7-9). Sowing righteousness brings the fruit of glory and vindication over enemies.

Insight – Believers must not grumble toward other brethren, but love one another. How do you treat other brethren? Even though the basic setting/fulfillment here is in the past, just as they did, we must let the realities of mercy and judgment must drive us toward love for one another. We all face a judgment before the Lord, which may take place at a time when we do not expect it. Jesus may not come soon, but you may go soon to Him.

Questions For Little Saints
1) What judgment event does James address? The judgment on Jerusalem in 70 AD which demonstrated that Christ now reigns from heaven.
2) Is there any other judgment? Yes. There is a Last Judgment when each of us will give account for our lives.
3) What sins does James condemn (5:1-9)? James condemns greediness, unfairness (injustice), grumbling, and murder, especially the murder of the Just One, Jesus.
4) What must believers do to prepare for judgment? Love Jesus and be kind to others, especially believers, knowing that we have been shown mercy.

Discussion – How can we show our faithfulness to Christ in patience and endurance during this Advent season?

Prayer – (BCP on the Reign of Christ) Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.