WHERE’S THE GOOD NEWS? – Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost—Proper 28, Year C; Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (RC)

November 13, 2022

Revised Common Lectionary
Isaiah 65:17-25 or Malachi 4:1-2a
Isaiah 12 or Psalm 98
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
Luke 21:5-19

Lectionary for Mass (RC)
Malachi 3:19-20a
Psalm 98:5-6, 7-8, 9 (see 9)
2 Thessalonians 3:7-12
Luke 21:5-19

As the specter of nuclear war has been looming over Ukraine, President Biden recently warned of the most serious “prospect of Armageddon” in sixty years—using a chilling and ominous expression that refers to the last great battle between good and evil.

Today’s reading from the Gospel of Luke might be said to have a similar tone. We could well ask: Where’s the good news here? All this talk of destruction, wars, insurrections, earthquakes, famines, plagues, and persecutions can leave us feeling uneasy if not alarmed.

It’s helpful to read the signs of the times and then listen carefully to the words of Jesus. We are already experiencing all these things. Just look around or listen to the news. All the fearful events enumerated by Jesus—conflicts, disasters, persecution—never seem to be in short supply.

Jesus recounts them not to frighten but to reassure us. He counsels us not to be terrified by calamity nor frightened by rejection. God promises a new world beyond destruction and cataclysm. God’s love is stronger than hatred. Christ pledges to be with us when we are criticized or attacked for our beliefs and for our efforts to promote justice, equity, inclusion, and peace. He tells us to hold fast in the face of any difficulty: “By your endurance you will gain your souls” (Lk 21:19).

The advice we hear in today’s reading from the second letter to the Thessalonians offers an additional perspective on the end times. Not only should we trust in God’s promises and let go of our fear, but we should continue to go about our work. We are called to await Christ’s coming actively, attending to our own needs to the extent possible and doing good for others. Indeed, we are told, “do not be weary in doing what is right” (2 Thess 3:13).

Even amid fears of a new Armageddon, today’s Scriptures invite us to keep our focus on God’s rule and God’s justice. Instead of speculating about disastrous events, surrendering to fear, or neglecting to take on our share of work, we do well to heed the admonition of John Wesley:

Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.

A Hymn for Today: “New Songs of Celebration Render”

The Lectionary’s selection of Psalm 98 along with today’s other Scripture readings helps to identify the good news that is expressed among images of destruction and persecution. In this jubilant psalm of praise, we rejoice “at the presence of the Lord, who is coming to judge the earth. God will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity” (Ps 98:9). The psalmist expresses trust in God’s promise to bring justice in the end.

British scholar, minister, and hymn writer Erik Routley, FHS, became well known in North America, lecturing here frequently from 1955 forward and spending the last seven years of his life as Professor of Church Music at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey. Routley created this paraphrase of Psalm 98 in 1972 for inclusion in an ecumenical collection of hymns, Cantate Domino, published by the World Council of Churches in 1974. Routley uses vivid language to express the psalm’s spirit of jubilation at the coming of God’s rule. He wrote this text for the tune RENDEZ A DIEU, which matches well its joyful character. To hear a choral arrangement of this hymn by John Ferguson and sung by the Messiah College Concert Choir, click here.

New songs of celebration render
to God who has great wonders done;
love sits enthroned in ageless splendor;
come and adore the mighty One.
God has made known the great salvation
which all the saints with joy confess.
God has revealed to every nation
truth and unending righteousness.

Joyfully, heartily resounding,
let every instrument and voice
peal out the praise of grace abounding,
calling the whole world to rejoice.
Trumpets and organs, set in motion
such sounds as make the heavens ring;
all things that live in earth and ocean,
sound forth the song; your praises bring.

Rivers and seas and torrents roaring,
honor the Lord with wild acclaim;
mountains and stones, look up adoring,
and find a voice to praise God’s name.
Righteous, commanding, ever glorious,
praises be sung that never cease;
just is our God, whose truth victorious
establishes the world in peace.

Text: Erik Routley, 1917-1982, alt. © 1974, Hope Publishing Company. Used by permission under OneLicense #A-729857

Image Credit: Sun of Righteousness, Albrecht Dürer, 1471-1528, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

“Word and Song: A Lectionary Reflection” is written by the Executive Director of The Hymn Society, Rev. Dr. Mike McMahon. For his full bio, click here and scroll down to the “staff” section.

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