23rd Sunday after Pentecost
Year C: November 17, 2019
First Reading: Isaiah 65:17-25
Global Babies by The Global Fund for Children
(Written for ages Birth -3)
Comment: Exiles who were taken into Babylon were allowed to return to Jerusalem in about 75 years. God had promised a new start, a new highway, a kingdom of peace. Now another prophet adds to this vision. God says “I am about to create a new heavens and a new earth…” There are two important signs of God’s work in this new creation: animals will live together peacefully and babies will live and grow up. We live in an age of long life expectancy; this was not so when Isaiah wrote. An early death was the norm back then. This prophet saw babies and long life as a part of God’s new heaven and earth. You might introduce this idea of babies as part of a new heaven and new earth by reading Global Babies. It is a board book with a simple poem about babies everywhere being loved. The faces pictured in this book are of children from around the globe, representing the breadth and depth of God’s promised kingdom of peace.
Second Reading: 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
The Little Guys by Vera Brosgol
(Written for ages 4-8)
Comment: Paul has advice for his Thessalonian friends who have listened to some teachers with false information. They have said that the Day of the Lord or the Return of Christ will happen immediately therefore, some of the Thessalonians have quit work and are simply waiting. Paul has some things to say about work in this regard and some Christians throughout history have taken Paul’s words and made them about who should get food. (Verse 10 was made a law in Jamestown when it was settled.) But Mariam Kamell says, “This passage has nothing to do with whether a social welfare should be in place to catch the helpless in society; this is entirely concerned with those who should and can work but refuse and instead direct their energies to causing chaos in the community.” The Little Guys are indeed little, but there are lots of them and they are great at fending for themselves. They revel in their abilities to lift heavy things, climb the tallest trees, dig through anything. However, as they go through the day showing off and grabbing what they want, they create chaos in the forest in which they live. Digging displaces the ant hill. As they all cimb the tree, the owl’s nest is destroyed. When they lift a heavy log, the family of chipmunks who live in it are thrown out. When their attempts to get one last thing causes their tower of little guys to collapse, they realize that they can use their size and numbers to help the community that they have previously thrown into chaos.
Gospel Reading: Luke 21:5-19
So Tall Within: Sojourner Truth’s Long Walk Toward Freedom by Gary D. Schmidt
(Written for ages 4-8)
Comment: Jesus has already entered Jerusalem (Ch. 19) and his arrest, trial and crucifixion are on the horizon (Ch. 22-23). Jesus knows what is to come for him, even as his followers in Luke have frequently seemed confused and obtuse about what will happen. Jesus continues to teach them and in this passage, he shares an apocalyptic vision of the end of time. Without giving details about when God’s ultimate reign will begin, he does share words of warning. They are the same words of warning Jesus has been giving all along. Following Jesus will not be easy. Followers will run up against corrupt governments, betrayal by family , hatred and danger. But Jesus offers his promise that following him results in life and that that he will walk with those who follow him, no matter what the circumstances. According to John Carroll, “this is the keynote of the discourse and of Luke’s eschatological vision as a whole: a call to patient endurance, to persevering faith and faithfulness.” (Carroll, John T., and Jennifer K. Cox. Luke : A Commentary. New Testament Library. Louisville, Kentucky: Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, 2012. p. 417). So Tall Within tells the story of two times: Slavery Time – “where hope was a seed waiting to be planted, when Chains tore families apart like the wind frays a flag”, and Freedom Time – “when Hope kindled a fire in the dark and Happiness winked over the horizon.” Isabella Baumfree grew up as a slave in New York in the early 1800’s. During slavery time, Isabella endured the loss of her family, unbearable work and great fear. Upon becoming a free black woman, she eventually changed her name to Sojourner Truth in 1843 and began walking the country testifying to the horrors and evils of slavery, and speaking of religious revival and faithfulness. Her life was hard, but she was courageous and faithful in addressing the evils of her day. (Although this particular book doesn’t address her faith directly, other historical documents point to her deep faith as vital to addressing all the divisions of her world. The end notes in this book could be helpful in tying together Jesus’ call to persevering faith and faithfulness and Sojourner Truth’s story.)
The Revised Common Lectionary Links this week are co-written by Union Presbyterian Seminary graduates Virginia C. Thomas and Ann Thomas Knox.