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Welcome to St. John's community. We are honored to serve Christ, and to open our doors to all. Please feel free to join us for worship. St. John's can trace its history to the founding of Jamestown. The parish is over 350 years old, and the church building itself has stood for 2 and a half centuries. St. John's saw the American Revolution and served as a camp ground for troops during the Civil War. Through it all, St. John's has been a place of worship and a home for those seeking communion with Christ. St. John's has a rich and abiding history. Today, it is as it was... a place to find and be found by Christ.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Christian education for Sunday December 11, 2011; 3rd Sunday of Advent; Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11; The Good News of Deliverance

Background: The prophetic voice in Isaiah moves from oracles of judgment to salvation. The book was most likely written by a series of prophetic voices over an extended period of time. There may be signs of a class struggle between the previous priestly class and the current visionary – Third Isaiah found in Chapters 55-66. Today’s passage may be placed between the declaration that only the righteous will enter into Israel and the procession into Israel.

Theme: In Third Isaiah the prophet tells the story of Israel’s redemption following exile in Babylon. In this portion of Isaiah, the prophet tells of Zion’s return to God’s favor and the upcoming judgment that will restore the poor and puts down the wicked. In the end, God will judge and separate the true Israel from the wicked and prevent the wicked from being renewed. 

Questions to Ponder
* Please read Chapter 61 in its entirety.
* Briefly, what might the theme of this passage be? What story might the prophet be telling Israel?
* How might the speaker’s task in this passage be reminiscent of the servant’s task in Isaiah 42:1-9?
* Why might the prophet be sent to proclaim good news? What might the good news be that the prophet is sent to proclaim?
* What might the difference be if the NRSV text was changed from “…the day of vengeance of our God…” to “…the day of vindication of our God…” in verse 61: 2?
* What parts of this passage might Israel hear as a promise of restoration? What might be viewed as more than restoration to the “former order” but to a “former greatness” among the nations? Might there be an issue with Israel’s restoration to its former greatness?
* What might the designation as “priests of the Lord” be an assurance of to Israel and the rest of their world?
* How might verse 61:7 be reminiscent of Isaiah 40:1-11? Why might Israel have their recompense portion be a double portion?
* Do you think the everlasting covenant God will make (specified in verse 61:8) is the same covenant that God made with Israel in the past, whether that be with any of the Patriarchs or the prophets?
* Do you think the promise God makes in verse 61:9 is conditional? If so, what might the unstated condition be?
* What images do verses 61:10-11 evoke? How might the image of the festal robes and garland that will be worn by Israel be different than the garments worn by God (see Isaiah 59:17)?
* What might the challenge be for us in this passage? How can we apply God’s message of restoration and righteous vindication of his people to our lives and communities today?

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