Readings for Sunday, Nov 13, 2022

 

Introduction:

 

The First Reading is from Malachi 4:1-2a.  Our bulletin and the official Holy Scriptures of American Judaism treat the word Malachi as the author.  However, some scholars say that the word “Malachi” is not the name of an author but should be translated as “messenger”.   If this is correct, the meaning is that we should direct 100% of our attention to the words of the message and not concern ourselves with who wrote it or when it was written.  The verses in our bulletin have been put into a new chapter, chapter 4.  The Holy Scripture of American Judaism and the Robert Alters translation keeps these verses in Chapter 3 as verses 19 & 20.  If today’s verses are properly in chapter 3 it means that they are dependent on what came before in chapter 3 and not a separate thought.  In either case today's reading describes a terrible future for the arrogant and evildoers.  There has been sufficient warning for those who listened.  Previously, in verse 3:5 Malachi quotes the Lord; "So I will come near to you for judgment.  I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me."  In verses 3:16-17 a list was made of those who feared the Lord, "Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard.  A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name.  They will be mine says the Lord Almighty.  The phrase in verse 1b of our bulletin “neither root nor branch” is idiomatic for “all of it”, and it is combustible so all of it will burn like the stubble in verse 1a.   The Near Eastern sun can be blistering and lethal but “the sun of righteousness” is different.  The Hebrew words include the concept of healing and refer to the swirling of the hem of a garment as it sails through the sky.  “The sun of righteousness” gives restorative warmth and brightness.  The book of Malachi assured the downtrodden that the Day of Judgment, reward and punishment was coming.

The Reading:

See, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.  But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings.


 

 

Introduction:

 

The 2nd reading is from 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13.  Paul wrote many letters to Christian churches two thousand years ago advising them on how to become better Christians.  These letters are of value to us because we, like them, are sinners.  The primary advice of Paul, in today’s reading, is to stay away from professed Christians who do not live as professed Christians ought to live.  Why these professed Christians in Thessalonica fell short in their actions is not entirely clear.  Part of the charge was that some of those who were of working age and were capable of working were not working but were living off of the work of others.  They were idle and not contributing to the general welfare of the church and as a result they were a disruptive force in the church.  Paul was well versed in Jewish Scripture, what we call The Old Testament.  It would have been clear to Paul that individuals who had reached a certain age  were not expected to work, e.g. Numbers 8:23 “The Lord said to Moses, This applies to the Levites: Men twenty five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the Tent of Meeting, but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer.”  In Acts 6:1 it is clear that food was supplied to widows who had no other source of income, “In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.”  This was an early predecessor of Social Security.  Early passages in 2ndThessalonians told us that some thought that the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ had already occurred.  Such a belief might well lead to the conclusion that there was no need for working to increase material wealth when the end of the world was upon them and they would soon be in heaven.  Vigorously supporting such a belief might well have been a disruptive force in the community.  Paul is telling those Thessalonians who didn’t believe the 2nd coming had occurred to isolate themselves from those who did believe that 2nd coming had occurred until they came to their senses.  

 

The Reading:

Now we command you, beloved, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from believers who are living in idleness and not according to the tradition that they received from us.  For you, yourselves,` know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, and we did not eat anyone's bread without paying for it; but with toil and labor we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you.  This was not because we do not have that right, but in order to give you an example to imitate.  For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.  For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work.  Now such persons we command, and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.  Brothers and sisters do not be weary in doing what is right.