Psalms 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19
The book of Sirach is believed to be a collection of the wisdom teachings of Yeshua ben Eleazar ben Sira, a Jewish teacher from the 3rd and early 2nd centuries, BCE. (See NJB, 496ff) Most of the book is devoted to the many of his wise sayings designed to show that Jewish wisdom tradition is superior to the Hellenistic, or Greek, culture. However, the last half dozen or so chapters sing the praises of the great ancestors of Israel. In our selection today, ben Sira remembers Elijah, the great prophet who was taken up to heaven in a fiery chariot.
Now, Elijah was a pretty potent figure for Israel. You just didn't mess with Elijah. He whomped the backsides of so many of the enemies of Israel. He shut up the heavens with his prayers. He brought lasting food and consolation to the gentile widow in a time of famine. Three times he called down fire from the heavens. He was promised to return to "set things right." No one could mess with him.
More so, he was to "put an end to wrath before the day of the Lord, to turn back the hearts of fathers toward their sons, and to re-establish the tribes of Jacob." His mission was one of mercy and reconciliation. Who wouldn't welcome him?
What a surprise it is, then, for Jesus to say that "Elijah has already come, but they did not recognize him and they did as they pleased with him...." How can this be that the promised one - the one to bring an end to God's wrath and to reconcile fathers and sons - was done in by his enemies? "But, he was supposed to whomp his enemies and then some.... What happened?"
"'The Son of Man will suffer at their hands in the same way.' The disciples then realized that he had been speaking to them about John the Baptizer."
Maybe the exquisite longing expressed by today's psalm reveals an aspect of Advent longing that is overshadowed by other kinds of longing. The first verse of today's psalm says,
O shepherd of Israel, hearken,In the context of our readings today, it could be saying, "O shepherd of Israel, don't let it be so. Don't let Elijah be done in before he can reconcile those of us who are still alienated. Don't let them do with Jesus as they please. Don't let his way of being handed over become my way." Or ....
"Rouse your power, O God, and save me from the path of humility..."
Or... What? What does the psalm read like to you in the context
of these Advent readings?
Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook