Friday, November 30, 2007

Second Pass at Bible Lessons for This Sunday (December 2, 2007)

[For the first pass at these lessons, along with an explanation of what the passes are about, go here.]

The Bible Lessons:
Isaiah 2:1-5
Psalm 122
Romans 13:11-14
Matthew 24:36-44

General Comments (continued)
9. Psalm 122: The Psalms were the worship songbook for the people of Old and New Testament times. To this day, of course, hymns and praise songs are written using the Psalms. Many are attributed to King David, an accomplished musician.

Just as our worship today requires different kinds of songs depending on the themes and seasons, the Psalms also contain different categories songs. Among these are laments, praise hymns, creation psalms, and others.

Psalm 122, as its superscription indicates, is "A Song of Ascents." This was one of the songs that religious pilgrims would have sung as they ascended Mount Zion, where the temple in Jerusalem was located, during one of the major festivals. Jesus Himself may well have sung this song with his family and friends on their famous trip to Jerusalem for the Passover when Jesus was twelve.

10. Romans 13:11-14: The New Testament book of Romans is the most extraordinary of the letters of Paul we have in the Bible. Paul wrote it sometime between 54 and 58 AD. He was probably in the Greek city of Corinth when he dictated it to a secretary called an amanuensis.

Just prior to the writing of Romans, Paul had collected offerings from members of dispersed churches in Asia Minor (mostly modern Turkey) for the purpose of helping the needy believers in Jerusalem. Paul was going to take the offerings to Jerusalem. After that, he planned to take a missionary trip to Spain, preaching the Good News of Christ, winning new believers, and establishing churches there. His plan further was to pass through Rome, where a church had already been established. There, he hoped to encourage the Christians there and maybe, to raise an offering to support his efforts in Spain. Paul had already traveled thousands of miles, by ship and by foot, mostly, in his mission of sharing Christ. He hope to add many more miles. Romans was Paul's way of introducing himself to the church at Rome.

11. As in the text from the Old Testament and the Gospel lesson, Paul is dealing with apocalyptic themes in this passage, referring to the Day of the Lord when the risen and ascended Jesus will return to the earth. He encourages the Christians at Rome to conduct themselves as followers of Jesus as they await that day. The best preparation for Jesus' return isn't endless speculation about it, but to simply strive to be faithful followers of Jesus, "putting on" Christ.

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