OWAAT March 25: Of Holy Week and Hard Blessings

Can you believe we’re in the last week of Lent? What does Holy Week mean to you? When I think of Holy Week of course the biblical accounts first come to mind. Since I find it helpful to read the Bible in conversation with the scholars who make studying it their life work, I also find Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan’s book The Last Week: What the Gospels Really Teach about Jesus’ Final Days in Jerusalem, and Stephen Patterson’s book Beyond the Passion: Rethinking the Death and Life of Jesus helpful to provide additional context and “food for thought” when contemplating Jesus’ life, death, and impending resurrection.

Daily Bible readings and readings from The Cup of Our Life:

March 25 – Isaiah 11; Week 6, Day 5
March 26 – Isaiah 12; Week 6, Day 6
March 27 – Isaiah 13; Week 6, Day 7
March 28 – Isaiah 14
March 29 – Isaiah 15; Maundy Thursday
March 30 – Isaiah 16; Good Friday
March 31 – Isaiah 17; Holy Saturday

Think:

Did you know that most scholars divide the book of Isaiah into three books – first, second, and third Isaiah? Brueggemann explains: “…critical scholarship for over a century has held to the view that the book of Isaiah is constituted into three quite distinct parts that reflect different historical circumstances, different modes of literary articulation, and consequently, different theological vistas.” (p. 176) This perspective invites us to consider not only the text of Isaiah, but also who and why others would add to Isaiah’s work. As David Petersen remarks in the New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary, “…prophetic literature can be understood from multiple perspectives. Moreover, a search for the origins of prophetic literature may end at various places – with the prophet, with a contemporary of the prophet, or with the tradents, the anonymous authors and editors who preserved and added to the emerging corpus of prophetic literature. The words of a prophet or the prophet’s contemporaries generated remarkable literary activity. The prophet’s sayings and accounts, or those of the prophet’s contemporaries, remained alive and elicited new words and accounts, a process that resulted in extensive books like Isaiah or Jeremiah.”

How does your understanding of prophetic books of the Bible such as Isaiah change with the understanding that biblical prophets, including Isaiah ben Amoz – who could not have written the entire book of Isaiah, have had others add onto their original work? What difference does it make that biblical texts often have multiple and often not formally-attributed authors and editors?

Pray: 

How’s your prayer life going? How has The Cup of Our Life influenced your prayer life? Have you found it helpful to use this book as a prayer partner through Lent? I’ve learned some of Joyce Rupp’s wisdom from Week 6 the hard way: “Blessings are not always immediate, ‘feel-good’ sorts of things. Sometimes these blessings come disguised in the pain, struggle, and hardship of unwanted parts of our lives. It is only later, with hindsight, that we look and see what a gift those times and events were for us.” (p. 118). In various difficult periods of life, including that first year post-seminary, the year my dad, uncle, and grandma died and I lost a job I truly loved, and then when my mom died, I had to come to terms with what I call “hard blessings” – that sometimes even when so much is going wrong, there is still enough to make it through those times, or that sometimes even awful experiences may bring blessing, growth, or wisdom later on. I have found it helpful during hard times to be grateful for some small thing – but there’s always a difference between me deciding to do those things and someone else telling me I should do them. What has been your experience of blessings and “hard blessings?”

Act:

Robert Linthicum considers the ways in which God’s intentions for humanity become thwarted, and the commentary on those situations in the Bible: “God’s intentions for all humanity is that we live in shalom communities – communities of peace, caring, support, prosperity, abundance, and oneness with God and humanity. … Whether describing the confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh, the gradual corruption of Israel’s kings, the misuse of power by Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon, the coterie of priests and religious leaders who put Jesus to death, or the systems of Satan and God as represented in the whore, Babylon (Revelation 17-18 and the New Jerusalem (Revelation 20-21), the Bible analyzes the gradual corruption of the systems God has created and the abandonment of the shalom community.” (p. 297-298)

Who crucified Jesus and why? What does that have to do with how we live out the Gospel in our own lives, and continue building and revealing God’s realm in our midst?

Check the Think! Pray! Act! calendar for ideas and things to do.

Check out the Find Your FBCO Map to find your local faith-based community organizing affiliate and connect with the people who are working together to live out their dreams of a more just world!

What’s going on in your living of the Gospel? Let us know in the comments, in our e-mail discussion group, or on social media.

Resources:
Word and World: Isaiah. Vol. 19. 2. Saint Paul, MN: Luther Seminary, 1999. https://wordandworld.luthersem.edu/issues.aspx?issue_id=74.

Borg, Marcus J., and John Dominic Crossan. The Last Week: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’s Final Days in Jerusalem. San Francisco, CA: Harper Collins, 2009.

Brueggemann, Walter. An Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003.

Linthicum, Robert C. Building a People of Power: Equipping Churches to Transform Their Communities. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2015.

Patterson, Stephen J. Beyond the Passion: Rethinking the Death and Life of Jesus. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2004.

Petersen, David L. “Introduction to Prophetic Literature.” Pages 143-206 in The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary. Vol. IV of X.

Rupp, Joyce. The Cup of Our Life: A Guide to Spiritual Growth. Revised edition. Notre Dame, Ind: Ave Maria Press, 2012.

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