Tag Archives: Advent 1A

With the Word–online Bible Study…praying for peace

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Psalm 122

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!”
Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem.
Jerusalem—built as a city that is bound firmly together.
To it the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the Lord.
For there the thrones for judgment were set up, the thrones of the house of David.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers.”
For the sake of my relatives and friends I will say, “Peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good.

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What pops out at you in this psalm? Is there anything that makes you go “hmm….” or “huh?” or “hey!!!!” Are you reminded of any other stories–whether in the Bible, in literature/movies/music/TV, or in your own life? As you read, do you hear any music in your head?

The psalms are both a prayer book and a hymnal. Does it seem like this particular psalm is more like a prayer or more like a song? What’s the difference between a prayer and a song? Do you ever pray through music? What is that like for you?

What does it mean to you to “go to the house of the Lord”? Where does God live? The ancient Israelites believed that God literally lived in the Temple in Jerusalem. That Temple no longer stands (it was destroyed in 587 BCE, rebuilt, and destroyed again in 70CE). So where does God live now? Is the church building the house of God? If so, what is the purpose of the building?

The psalmist reminds us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is still a very troubled city, and prayers for peace seem sometimes to fall on deaf ears. What might peace in Jerusalem look like? What would peace in our own “holy city” look like? In our own church community? In “God’s house” wherever that might be?

The psalm ends with “for the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good.” The reference is, of course, to a Jerusalem that contains The Temple. If we can imagine that all of creation is God’s house, or that the people of God are God’s house (like Peter says in 1 Peter 2, we are a temple made of living stones), then whose good are we to seek?

What do you hear as the good news in this text? What do you hear as a challenge? What might this prayer/song have to say to our community today?

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December 2

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Matthew 24:36-44

Jesus said: “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.

It’s hard for us to read a text like this and not think about the whole “Left Behind” phenomenon, but it’s not clear that’s what Jesus is talking about here. More generally, this text talks about the ever-present possibility of divine encounter, and encourages us to “keep awake” so that, when those encounters happen, we’re ready for them. There’s even the hint that they will come, not on the mountaintop, but in the ordinary stuff of life, when people are eating and drinking and marrying, etc. This text kicks off the season of Advent, a time of preparation for Christmas, so maybe it’s a reminder to “keep awake” during the Advent season, to not let the Christmas “routine” to lull us to sleep, lest we miss the divine encounter when it comes in surprising ways. (RAF)