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Advent 4, Year C–Hebrews 10:5-10

Here is my true confession.

Of all the Advent readings following the Book of Common Prayer lectionary, this is the one that puzzles me the most.

I can think of so many other lections that would make more sense.

The justification, I think for this one is the opening phrase.–Circle that one in your Bible. “When Christ came into the world”.  I think that is what ties this passage to Advent. I checked to see if maybe the Latin Vulgate used a variant of “advent” in its rendering, but it does not. It uses the word ‘ingrediens” which means “to go in” or “enter.” This makes perfect sense for our word ingredient, which are the things that ‘go into’ a dish. Don’t ever say you learn nothing from the Greenbean blog.

But watch this–Jesus is and was the missing ingredient in the world.

I’m telling you, that will preach.


Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it his written of me in the scroll of the book.” When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come [note–this word come is venio, which is in the same word family as advent] to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

Hebrews 10:5-10

Most of this is a citation of Psalm 40:6-8. In fact, there are eighty-nine words in these verses, and only thirty-four are not from Psalm 40. This means sixty-two percent is from Psalm 40.

This leaves us to ask two questions.

Question One

The first question is, what is Psalm 40. The answer is Psalm 40 is a plea for the Lord to come and help. It begins with, “I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock”. The quotation Hebrews uses is not far after that, and then it is followed by a reference that sounds a lot like preaching–“I have told the glad news of deliverance”–then in verse 12 of Psalm 40 we find a reference to sin. “My iniquities have overtaken me.” Finally, Psalm 40 finishes with a reference to the enemies who gloat and a call for the Lord to not delay.

It is a beautiful Psalm. The rock band U2 wrote a song called “40” that is an interpretation of Psalm 40. It is a beautiful prayer.

The way the writer uses Psalm 40 is telling. He indicates that Jesus is the one who said it, which is for us a WOW moment. It is the equivalent of saying, “Remember that time when Jesus said “A wandering Aramean was my father?” (Dt. 26:5). There is something special here in putting the Psalms actually on the lips of Jesus in a specific way. I also find fascinating the sacerdotal trail: blessing leads to sacrifice that leads to preaching that leads to confession which leads to petition mingled with praise.

Question Two

The second question is, what commentary does the writer of Hebrews add to this citation. In very few words, he adds four thoughts.

  1. He indicated Psalm 40 doesn’t have full meaning apart from Christ’s advent.
  2. Jesus canceled the old ways (law and sacrifice) in favor of the new (grace and praise).
  3. The new offering is his atoning death.
  4. We are sanctified by this new, once and for all offering.

It is a stunning theological move to take Psalm 40 and preach the atoning death of Jesus, but that is exactly what the writer of Hebrews does. This methodology would fail every seminary class, Bible test, or preaching test that exists today. You can’t just draw lines from one text to another without some kind of clear connection. Yet that is what the writer of Hebrews does. And he or she can do that, because it is scripture. You and I, not so much.

The Advent Angle

Here is your advent perspective. You cannot separate the birth of Christ (when Christ came into the world) with the work of Christ (to save human beings). The fourth Sunday of Advent, ever so close to Christmas Day, tempts the preacher and spiritual leader to move into the sweet nostalgia of glowing candlelight and drain the moment of its blood. The writer of Hebrews forbids this, and that is good reason why this is actually, against my judgment, a great Advent reading.

 

REVIEW–U2’s SONGS OF INNOCENCE

Like the rest of the iTunes world, I got the new U2 album Songs of Innocence for free.  Of course I downloaded it to my iPhone as quick as I could.

I should back up a bit.  There are fans, and then there is me.  As regular readers here know I have an eclectic taste in music, ranging from Yo-Yo Ma to Johnny Cash to Led Zeppelin to the Cranberries.  But, for me, nothing comes close to U2.  It has been that way since I was a teenager and I heard “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” on the radio, and then that weekend bought The Joshua Tree cassette.  That’s right, it was a real cassette.  I wore it out within the first two months and had to buy another.  I think I bought about four copies of it on cassette.

So, I’m somewhat of an expert.

The most interesting thing about Songs is the free release to the public.  Some have mistakenly said that the album was free, but that is wrong.  It was bought by iTunes, and they are giving it away as a joint publicity for the iPhone 6 and iPhone watch release.  Trust me, U2 is getting paid.  They always get paid.

Now, to the music.  I assume that is why the one or two of you that have read this far are still with me.  Songs is a good album.  It is not great.  The first tune, “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)” gave me hope that the group might be going back to their punkish roots (think Boy or The Unforgettable Fire) or better yet the rock-n-roll feel of War or Rattle and Hum.

Sadly, that was not what I heard.  Songs sounds more popish to me.  I think they are trying to hit the great mix they achieved on How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb between rhythm and blues, pop, and rock.  I don’t think they quite achieve that.  I do think it is a better album than No Line On The Horizon, which, for me, was not that great.  It’s not as good as Achtung Baby, which was a rock-n-roll album for the 90s.  It’s better than Zooropa.  But even Zooropa had one of my favorite U2 songs ever, “The First Time.”  If you don’t know that song, you need to.

The top three songs on the album are:  “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)”, “Raised by Wolves”, and “The Troubles”.  “Volcano” is also catchy.  Those are my stated favorites from the album, but the one I keep humming is the opening from “California (There is No End to . . .”

The bummer of this album is they worked on it for six years.  For that kind of investment, I’d expect something a little better, or more moving.  Even a bad U2 album, say, All That You Can’t Leave Behind, is still better than just about anything else going on.  I mean, All That You Can’t Leave Behind was a terrible album but it still had one of the best U2 singles ever in “Beautiful Day.”  I think “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)” might have a similar lifespan.

Apparently they are working on a follow up called Songs of Experience. I wonder if this album is really just a teaser, and the real juice will be on the next one.  That would be nice.

One thing about this record (I just dated myself with that word, didn’t I?) that I did like is that it did remind me of The Joshua Tree in that the latter songs are, as a whole, my favorites.  It is what we would have called the “B” side when I was a kid.  Has there ever been a “B” side as good as The Joshau Tree?

  • “Red Hill Mining Town”
  • “In God’s Country”
  • “Trip Through Your Wires”
  • “One Tree Hill”
  • “Exit”
  • “Mothers of the Disappeared”

No.  I’ll go ahead and answer that.  Songs reminds me of that because the last half of the album, from “Volcano” to “The Troubles” is darker, but more emotionally moving than the first half.

So that is my opinion.  Oh, I miss the 80s and 90s.

AN OPINION POLL ABOUT THE HALFTIME SHOW AT THE SUPER BOWL

I’m curious, what did you think of the halftime show for the Super Bowl yesterday?

RED HOT MARS image from businessinsider.com
RED HOT MARS
image from businessinsider.com

 

Yesterday Mrs. Greenbean and I watched the Super Bowl with some new friends from our new church small group.  We had a great time and the food was delish, but we were the only people cheering for the Seahawks.  Of course, I predicted a Seahawk victory in the Super Bowl weeks ago.  The game itself was never in any contest as Seattle literally led from the first play from scrimmage and never looked back.  However, the halftime show was very interesting.  I kind of liked it even though I had never heard of Bruno Mars.  The ode to James Brown and such was fun and of course the Chili Peppers was a throwback to my adolescence so I was digging that.  Not everyone in the room I was in had the same opinion, though.  So I thought today I would conduct a little opinion poll.  Remember, you have to click the “Vote” button on the bottom right corner to record your opinion.  Feel free to leave comments in the comment threads as well and share with your friends so they can vote too and then check back for results.

Go Seahawks.

 

END OF THE WORLD PLAYLIST

FIDDLING WHILE THE EARTH BURNS
FIDDLING WHILE THE EARTH BURNS

I’m not a musician, neither am I touchy feely and emotional about music.  However, I do find that good music enhances most everything we do in life–whether it is worship, cleaning the house, or baking biscuits, music just helps elevate the mood.  That is why my Twitter followers and Facebook friends will observe that on Thursdays I usually post a “Sermon Writing Soundtrack” that tells what I am listening to while I type out the manuscript from all the notes, research, ideas, study, and contemplation I’ve gathered all week long.  My tastes vary.  Sometimes it is Elvis, Guns-N-Roses, Bach, or Sinatra.

I was thinking about soundtracks and the whole Mayan Apocalypse thing and wondering–what would the soundtrack be for the end of the world?  Please note–I in no way believe the world is ending tomorrow.  That is all just junk and only fools would buy into it.  However, it is a fun thought–what if the world were ending, what playlist would enhance that experience?  Here’s my End of the World Playlist.  Note, they are all on shuffle and in no particular order.

  • It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)–How could you not have R.E.M.’s song from the movie Independence Day on the list?
  • Kashmir–You’ve got to get the Led Out for the end of the world.
  • Going to School–This is my favorite Yo-Yo Ma.  It would be very tempting though. to just let the whole Appasionato album play.
  • Welcome to the Jungle–We would have to swivel our hips and heads the way Axl Rose always did.  You know where you are?  You’re in the jungle baby!
  • Lost the Plot–Newsboys.  Just listing this one here makes me miss the Old Newsboys a lot.  You know, when they played rock-n-roll.
  • All Along the Watchtower–With all apologies to Dylan, this needs to be the Hendrix version.  This song has the dual purpose of reminding me of the awesomeness of Battlestar Galactica.  But that is probably for another blog about science fiction (compared to the Mayan End of the World scenario, which is Theological Fiction)
  • The Devil Went Down to Georgia–I’m not a big country music fan, but I think the Mayans would have appreciated the classic from Charlie Daniels and his band.
  • Live and Let Die–The Beatles don’t make my list, but Paul McCartney does.  This is probably my favorite James Bond Theme song.
  • Bullet the Blue Sky–You know some u2 has to make the list.   This great one off the Joshua Tree would do nicely as we watch brimstone boil boil the Pacific Ocean.
  • The Music of the Night–I think this tune from “The Phantom of the Opera” would fit.  I don’t know why, but to me it would.
  • Space Oddity–It came down to either Space Oddity or Comfortably Numb.  Bowie beats Pink Floyd every time.

Okay, that is my list. I would be interested to know what songs you would like to listen to while human civilization dissolves into boric acid.  I thought adding some bonus tracks–maybe some Duran Duran or BeeGees, because nothing says end of the world like disco.  I almost put in Yoko Ono because whenever I hear her sing it feels like the world is ending.