Dr. M. Daniel Carroll R. (Rodas) is Blanchard Professor of Old Testament in the Graduate School of Wheaton College and author of Christians at the Border: Immigration, the Church, and the Bible. He blogs at immigrationmdcr.com/
Posts By This Author
We Need Worship to Make Sense of Our Activism
SEVERAL CHRISTIAN TRADITIONS celebrate the season of Epiphany from the feast of the Epiphany (Jan. 6), which celebrates the arrival of the Magi (Matthew 2), through Transfiguration Sunday, which falls before Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of the season of Lent. “Epiphany” is from a Greek word meaning “to reveal.” Jesus was revealed to the non-Jewish world through the Magi and continued to show himself in multiple ways throughout his ministry, culminating (before the resurrection) in the glorious appearance on the mountain (Matthew 17). There, Jesus’ disciples saw the fullness of his glory. Their response was one of awe and reverence, but even that missed the importance of the moment. God spoke from heaven saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” (17:5). What were they to hear from Jesus? What are we?
Is it possible that we have experienced something special and then want to praise the Lord, but still misunderstand what is required for acceptable worship? From what kind of people does God receive praise? Who qualifies to come into God’s presence and worship? Do attitudes and actions toward others matter? These are the questions that drive our devotional reflections this month.
It is often said that true worship must come from the heart. That is true as far as it goes—but these passages teach us that worship is very much a matter of our hands and feet too. The arena that molds us into a people fit for worship is the public square.
Sued By God?
Micah 6:1-8; Psalm 15; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; Matthew 5:1-12
WHO CAN ENTER before God to worship? asks the psalmist. Psalm 15 lists the virtues that are expected in order to enter for worship: truth-telling, care and respect of neighbor, and open-handed generosity. These qualities are to be practiced in everyday life, especially with the disadvantaged.
Micah 6:8 is well-known in justice circles—“to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” But it is easy to miss the full thrust and context of this message. In Micah 6, the Lord brings a lawsuit against the people for forgetting what (notice how many times this word appears in verses 1-8) had been done on their behalf. In the ancient world, when the gods were angry, they had to be appeased with gifts. This idea drives the question in Micah 6:6: What will the Lord demand to turn from judgment?
A Thrill of Hope in a Weary World
CHRISTMAS OFFERS AN opportunity to reflect on how well we know Jesus as he would want to be known. Can we be the kind of Jesus followers we should be without an adequate understanding of who Jesus really is? Only a good grasp of who Jesus is offers a solid foundation for our worship and service in the new year.
For many, this Christmas Jesus is a beautiful baby boy wrapped in swaddling clothes, sleeping in a trough on a bed of straw, as farm animals and shepherds look on pensively. Another common scene of tranquility is one of the baby Jesus in the arms of his mother Mary—the Madonna and child portrait so prominent throughout church history. In many ways, these depictions are appropriate for the Christmas season, but there is a potential problem. For many, these are the defining images of Jesus: helpless, dependent, silent.
This is not at all the person of the Messiah who is announced in the Old Testament. What was the expectation that gripped the Jewish people for centuries? What was the Coming One to do? How would he change the world as they knew it? How can he change the world as we know it?
These readings explore prophetic passages that describe the One who was to come. How does the New Testament celebrate Jesus as that long-expected Messiah? How can his coming help us to live out our faith well?
The Divine Story Knows No Borders
Importantly, in the Old Testament, Israel was told to rehearse its story of redemption in its feasts. That story was to spur them on to faithfulness, but also to motivate them to be open to outsiders. They were not to repeat the actions of their oppressors in their engagement with outsiders, but be accepting and helping (e.g., Exodus 22:21; Deuteronomy 5:12-15; 24:17-22).