Revision: Hope

Services

Sunday - 9:15 AM Sunday School, 10:30 AM Worship Service

by: Denise Robinson

01/10/2022

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Revision: Hope

2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Mark 8:31-37

Every week in church we read from, and talk about, the Bible. In the bulletin we include a few verses from the Bible called the Lectio Divina passage for you to read daily and reflect upon throughout the week. The Bible is the foundation for the sermons that are preached and the hymns that we sing. But what is the Bible? It’s a book obviously – or more accurately, it’s sixty-six books that have been compiled into one book. I should say sixty-six books for us Protestants; the Catholics and the Orthodox churches include in their Scripture several additional books which we call the Apocrypha. We honor those additional books for their historical and cultural significance, but don’t view them theologically as being part of the Word of God. The books of the Old Testament, as we know them, were accepted as sacred even before the time of Jesus. The books of the New Testament were, for the most part, identified as Scripture within 100 years after the death of Jesus, although it took later church councils to affirm what was already in practice. Paul considered Luke’s writings to be as authoritative as the Old Testament, and Peter considered Paul’s letters likewise. 

But all that aside, what is the Bible? What is its main theme? Some might say it’s a story about God – and while that’s true, that answer is, I believe, too limited. Others might say it’s a story about the relationship between God and us – the human race – and there is truth to that. We might say it’s a story of covenant – of God’s relationship with us, God’s faithfulness to us, and God’s promises for us – and that comes much closer to what the Bible is. But I think there’s still something deeper that runs throughout the entirety of the Bible and that is the purpose for the covenant in the first place: the Kingdom of God. The Bible certainly tells us about God, tells us about ourselves, and is a story of covenant – but the Bible tells us how our relationship with God fractured; how the world became what we see around us today – imperfect and damaged; but more importantly, the Bible shows us how God, from the beginning, was working to offer us a path to reconnect with him not just someday in the future, but now. That path, or way of living, is called the Kingdom of God, and to understand the Kingdom is to revise, or change, the way we think and act. Living into the Kingdom means understanding that the Bible is a story of Hope.  

The books of First and Second Chronicles reflect on all of Israel’s history, starting with Adam and what happened in the Garden of Eden, reviewing centuries of history, and then coming to what is called the time of the Exile. These two books summarize or highlight key events in Israel’s history that emphasize God’s love for God’s people and remind us of the promised hope of a Messiah. The author’s purpose was to trace the history of faith and the promise of salvation, to remind us that while times may be difficult, we shouldn’t despair – because God’s plan for all humanity will be victorious in the end.

What was the situation in Israel as 2 Chronicles comes to an end? 2 Chronicles ends about 500 years before the birth of Christ. While Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament, the two are fairly close in time: this is the end of the kings of Israel and the end of self-rule. Chronicles tells of the last four kings of Israel, how Israel was conquered by one empire after another: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, and then Persia. The time, particularly the time of the rule of Babylon, is called the Exile because Jerusalem was destroyed and many of the Israelite people were forcibly taken from their homeland and relocated outside Israel. Israel’s national identity was virtually destroyed. From the outside looking in, it would appear God has deserted them, that the promise of salvation was just a dream, and that their history is at an end. But, in the verses read for us this morning, 2 Chronicles 2:22-23, comes hope for the future.  

The Persian Empire, it seems, has a different way of ruling. Cyrus, the Persian king, has knowledge of, and respect for, Israel’s God. We don’t know how or why, although the books of Isaiah and Daniel give us some insight, but the bottom line is that in the first year of his reign, Cyrus releases the Israelite captives to return to Israel from their exile. Not only does he allow their return, Cyrus expressly authorizes the prophet Ezra and the Babylonian captives to rebuild Jerusalem and even rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, and he even returns to Israel all of the sacred items that had been taken from the temples and held in Babylon as spoils of their victory. While the people in Israel would still be ruled by Persia, Cyrus established a system for local home rule by appointing governors who were natives of the captured countries. Cyrus, of course, didn’t do this just to be nice; his expectation was that recognition of national identities and a measure of local self-rule, along with religious freedom, would prevent the breakup of the empire and the almost continuous revolts that the Assyrians and Babylonians faced.

These final verses of 2 Chronicles end with the promise that the people of God will again be free to build a sanctuary where they could worship God in the land God had promised them. The verses are an invitation to return home with full knowledge of what happened in the past and with a vision or “revision” for the future God has for them. They now have a choice: they can live in exile or they can live in restoration. Living in exile means they chose to serve other gods and that they turn away from faithfulness to God. Living in restoration means choosing to seek out and serve the God who loves them, forgives them, and is waiting for their response. 

The title of this sermon is Revision. When we revise something, we examine it – or reexamine it – and make changes or alterations with the purpose of making improvements. Every book that is written goes through a series of revisions before it is published. It’s checked for spelling and punctuation errors. Beyond that, a good editor works with the author to ensure that the final version of the book is as polished as possible. Following the editor’s advice, the author will rework sentences, choose different words, and even rewrite whole sections of the book. According to one of my scientific surveys, nine Spider-Man movies have been released since 2002. While many of us might say that’s eight – or nine – too many, each of the movies has retold Peter Parker’s story from a different perspective. The directors seized the opportunity to do something new with an old story by looking at past versions, keeping what seemed to work, and revising other aspects of the story that offered them the chance to introduce the world to their view of Spider-Man. For those here who have a hobby, think back to when you started playing that musical instrument, painting that landscape, or sewing that thing you sew. Most often, learning came with the assistance of books or videos or a teacher. You did, you revised, you improved. 

In a similar way, God acts as our editor. Through the Holy Spirit, we are challenged to make revisions in our thoughts and our actions. Our past doesn’t dictate our future; our future doesn’t have to be the same as our past. Through the Bible, God invites us to look back on our old stories and do something new with our future, to join on the path that is God’s Kingdom way of living. By the time Mark’s Gospel gets to chapter 8, Jesus has performed a number of miracles. He has healed men and women, Jews and Gentiles alike, fed thousands of people from one small meal of fish and bread, calmed a storm with a word, and walked on water. Then, in the middle of chapter 8, a group of Jewish scholars come to Jesus and to test him they demand he perform a sign from heaven; in other words, they demand a miracle. Mark tells us that Jesus’ response was a deep sigh – because here he’d been performing signs as to his true identity all over the place and they refused to believe what their eyes should have plainly told them. One more wouldn’t have made any difference, because they still wouldn’t have believed. 

But at the end of chapter 8, it’s just Jesus and his disciples, those twelve who have been with him from the very start of his ministry, the time when he said that God’s good news had come to earth, the time he proclaimed that “The kingdom of God has come.” In Mark 8, beginning with v. 31, Jesus tries again to explain to the disciples what his life means for them and for the world. He speaks of his future, of his death and resurrection. And when Peter voices an objection, Jesus interrupts Peter and tells him that his mind, his thoughts, should be on divine things not human things. Peter is told to revise his thoughts. Then, beginning in v. 35, Jesus tells his disciples that they likewise need to revise their actions: “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” 

The Israelite people, at the end of 2 Chronicles, were offered the chance to return home from exile in foreign lands and turn their focus back to God. It was a choice and each individual had the freedom to choose. Jewish tradition tells us that some returned home, but many chose to remain where they had become comfortable and had lived for most, if not all, of their lives. Jesus gave his disciples a similar choice: set your thoughts on the world and live for the things this world has to offer or set your thoughts on the divine and give up your life and follow me. We know that of the twelve disciples, eleven accepted the challenge and one did not. Now the same choice comes to each of us. Will you set your thoughts on God and follow Christ in your life or will you think and live in this world? Each of us has been given freedom to choose for ourselves, but as with any choice we make in life there are consequences. The Bible is our reminder of the promises of God when we choose the path that leads us back to him.   

Revision: Hope

2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Mark 8:31-37

Every week in church we read from, and talk about, the Bible. In the bulletin we include a few verses from the Bible called the Lectio Divina passage for you to read daily and reflect upon throughout the week. The Bible is the foundation for the sermons that are preached and the hymns that we sing. But what is the Bible? It’s a book obviously – or more accurately, it’s sixty-six books that have been compiled into one book. I should say sixty-six books for us Protestants; the Catholics and the Orthodox churches include in their Scripture several additional books which we call the Apocrypha. We honor those additional books for their historical and cultural significance, but don’t view them theologically as being part of the Word of God. The books of the Old Testament, as we know them, were accepted as sacred even before the time of Jesus. The books of the New Testament were, for the most part, identified as Scripture within 100 years after the death of Jesus, although it took later church councils to affirm what was already in practice. Paul considered Luke’s writings to be as authoritative as the Old Testament, and Peter considered Paul’s letters likewise. 

But all that aside, what is the Bible? What is its main theme? Some might say it’s a story about God – and while that’s true, that answer is, I believe, too limited. Others might say it’s a story about the relationship between God and us – the human race – and there is truth to that. We might say it’s a story of covenant – of God’s relationship with us, God’s faithfulness to us, and God’s promises for us – and that comes much closer to what the Bible is. But I think there’s still something deeper that runs throughout the entirety of the Bible and that is the purpose for the covenant in the first place: the Kingdom of God. The Bible certainly tells us about God, tells us about ourselves, and is a story of covenant – but the Bible tells us how our relationship with God fractured; how the world became what we see around us today – imperfect and damaged; but more importantly, the Bible shows us how God, from the beginning, was working to offer us a path to reconnect with him not just someday in the future, but now. That path, or way of living, is called the Kingdom of God, and to understand the Kingdom is to revise, or change, the way we think and act. Living into the Kingdom means understanding that the Bible is a story of Hope.  

The books of First and Second Chronicles reflect on all of Israel’s history, starting with Adam and what happened in the Garden of Eden, reviewing centuries of history, and then coming to what is called the time of the Exile. These two books summarize or highlight key events in Israel’s history that emphasize God’s love for God’s people and remind us of the promised hope of a Messiah. The author’s purpose was to trace the history of faith and the promise of salvation, to remind us that while times may be difficult, we shouldn’t despair – because God’s plan for all humanity will be victorious in the end.

What was the situation in Israel as 2 Chronicles comes to an end? 2 Chronicles ends about 500 years before the birth of Christ. While Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament, the two are fairly close in time: this is the end of the kings of Israel and the end of self-rule. Chronicles tells of the last four kings of Israel, how Israel was conquered by one empire after another: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, and then Persia. The time, particularly the time of the rule of Babylon, is called the Exile because Jerusalem was destroyed and many of the Israelite people were forcibly taken from their homeland and relocated outside Israel. Israel’s national identity was virtually destroyed. From the outside looking in, it would appear God has deserted them, that the promise of salvation was just a dream, and that their history is at an end. But, in the verses read for us this morning, 2 Chronicles 2:22-23, comes hope for the future.  

The Persian Empire, it seems, has a different way of ruling. Cyrus, the Persian king, has knowledge of, and respect for, Israel’s God. We don’t know how or why, although the books of Isaiah and Daniel give us some insight, but the bottom line is that in the first year of his reign, Cyrus releases the Israelite captives to return to Israel from their exile. Not only does he allow their return, Cyrus expressly authorizes the prophet Ezra and the Babylonian captives to rebuild Jerusalem and even rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, and he even returns to Israel all of the sacred items that had been taken from the temples and held in Babylon as spoils of their victory. While the people in Israel would still be ruled by Persia, Cyrus established a system for local home rule by appointing governors who were natives of the captured countries. Cyrus, of course, didn’t do this just to be nice; his expectation was that recognition of national identities and a measure of local self-rule, along with religious freedom, would prevent the breakup of the empire and the almost continuous revolts that the Assyrians and Babylonians faced.

These final verses of 2 Chronicles end with the promise that the people of God will again be free to build a sanctuary where they could worship God in the land God had promised them. The verses are an invitation to return home with full knowledge of what happened in the past and with a vision or “revision” for the future God has for them. They now have a choice: they can live in exile or they can live in restoration. Living in exile means they chose to serve other gods and that they turn away from faithfulness to God. Living in restoration means choosing to seek out and serve the God who loves them, forgives them, and is waiting for their response. 

The title of this sermon is Revision. When we revise something, we examine it – or reexamine it – and make changes or alterations with the purpose of making improvements. Every book that is written goes through a series of revisions before it is published. It’s checked for spelling and punctuation errors. Beyond that, a good editor works with the author to ensure that the final version of the book is as polished as possible. Following the editor’s advice, the author will rework sentences, choose different words, and even rewrite whole sections of the book. According to one of my scientific surveys, nine Spider-Man movies have been released since 2002. While many of us might say that’s eight – or nine – too many, each of the movies has retold Peter Parker’s story from a different perspective. The directors seized the opportunity to do something new with an old story by looking at past versions, keeping what seemed to work, and revising other aspects of the story that offered them the chance to introduce the world to their view of Spider-Man. For those here who have a hobby, think back to when you started playing that musical instrument, painting that landscape, or sewing that thing you sew. Most often, learning came with the assistance of books or videos or a teacher. You did, you revised, you improved. 

In a similar way, God acts as our editor. Through the Holy Spirit, we are challenged to make revisions in our thoughts and our actions. Our past doesn’t dictate our future; our future doesn’t have to be the same as our past. Through the Bible, God invites us to look back on our old stories and do something new with our future, to join on the path that is God’s Kingdom way of living. By the time Mark’s Gospel gets to chapter 8, Jesus has performed a number of miracles. He has healed men and women, Jews and Gentiles alike, fed thousands of people from one small meal of fish and bread, calmed a storm with a word, and walked on water. Then, in the middle of chapter 8, a group of Jewish scholars come to Jesus and to test him they demand he perform a sign from heaven; in other words, they demand a miracle. Mark tells us that Jesus’ response was a deep sigh – because here he’d been performing signs as to his true identity all over the place and they refused to believe what their eyes should have plainly told them. One more wouldn’t have made any difference, because they still wouldn’t have believed. 

But at the end of chapter 8, it’s just Jesus and his disciples, those twelve who have been with him from the very start of his ministry, the time when he said that God’s good news had come to earth, the time he proclaimed that “The kingdom of God has come.” In Mark 8, beginning with v. 31, Jesus tries again to explain to the disciples what his life means for them and for the world. He speaks of his future, of his death and resurrection. And when Peter voices an objection, Jesus interrupts Peter and tells him that his mind, his thoughts, should be on divine things not human things. Peter is told to revise his thoughts. Then, beginning in v. 35, Jesus tells his disciples that they likewise need to revise their actions: “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” 

The Israelite people, at the end of 2 Chronicles, were offered the chance to return home from exile in foreign lands and turn their focus back to God. It was a choice and each individual had the freedom to choose. Jewish tradition tells us that some returned home, but many chose to remain where they had become comfortable and had lived for most, if not all, of their lives. Jesus gave his disciples a similar choice: set your thoughts on the world and live for the things this world has to offer or set your thoughts on the divine and give up your life and follow me. We know that of the twelve disciples, eleven accepted the challenge and one did not. Now the same choice comes to each of us. Will you set your thoughts on God and follow Christ in your life or will you think and live in this world? Each of us has been given freedom to choose for ourselves, but as with any choice we make in life there are consequences. The Bible is our reminder of the promises of God when we choose the path that leads us back to him.   

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