top of page
  • Writer's picturetherevdrsmm

Series: "A New Beginning For Humanity And Continuity For Geneva"

"Rights And Privileges": a Reflection on Isaiah 61:10-62:3, Psalm 148, Galatians 4:4-7, and

Luke 2:22-40


Today is New Year’s Eve. 2023 is almost over and 2024 is about to begin. But let us not forget the past year too quickly. In celebrating tonight, take time to recount the gracious deeds of God, the Lord, in our lives. The past and today has a profound impact on the future. The rights and privileges of God are always at work for the benefit of the people of God.


The movie Les Misérables, based on the novel by Victor Hugo, opens with a vagabond curled up on a stone bench on a desolate French street corner. His bedraggled appearance makes him seem dangerous and causes the townspeople, from whom he sought food and shelter, to snub him. Finally, he slumps over in dejection—until a passerby points to a place where he can find refuge.

 

He goes to the door and knocks. The homeowner, the town’s bishop, is startled by the late-night visitation but attentively listens to his story. His name is Jean Valjean, and he reveals that he is a recently released convict and marked by the authorities as dangerous. Even so, the bishop welcomes him into his home and serves him dinner.

 

Later, in the middle of the night, despite the bishop’s kindness, Valjean double-crosses him. Valjean remembers the sparkling silver spoon he used to eat his soup at dinner and sneaks to the dining room to steal the bishop’s valuable silverware. The clanking of metal arouses the bishop, who rises to inspect the clattering below. When they meet face to face, Valjean strikes the bishop, leaving him unconscious, and escapes with a heavy knapsack of silver.

 

The following morning the bishop’s domestic servant laments the loss of her silver, but the bishop seems unperturbed, telling his domestic servant, “So we’ll use wooden spoons. I don’t want to hear anything more about it.” Moments later, authorities appear at the bishop’s manor with the stolen silver and Valjean handcuffed. Looking deeply into the thief’s eyes, the bishop says, “I’m very angry with you, Jean Valjean.” Turning toward the authorities, he asks, “Didn’t he tell you he was our guest?” “Oh, yes,” replies the chief authority, “after we searched his knapsack and found all this silver. He claimed that you gave it to him.” Stooping in shame, Valjean expects the bishop to indict him. A new prison sentence awaits him. But the bishop says, “Yes. Of course, I gave him the silverware.” Then, looking intently at Valjean he asks, “But why didn’t you take the candlesticks? That was very foolish. They’re worth at least 2,000 francs. Why did you leave them? Did you forget to take them?” The bishop orders his domestic servant to hurry and fetch the candlesticks, while the authorities stand dumbfounded. They ask, “Are you saying he told us the truth?” The bishop replies, “Of course. Thank you for bringing him back. I’m very relieved.” The authorities immediately release Valjean, who is shocked by the turn of events, and the bishop thrusts the retrieved candlesticks into Valjean’s knapsack.


Once the authorities leave, the bishop drops the heavy bag of silver at Valjean’s feet. After peeling away Valjean’s hood, which was cloaking his guilty face, the bishop sternly looks him in the eyes and orders Valjean, “Don’t forget don’t ever forget you’ve promised to become a new man.” Valjean, trembling, makes the promise and with utter humility asks, “Why are you doing this?” The bishop places his hands on Valjean’s shoulders, as an act of blessing, and declares, “Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil. With this silver, I’ve bought your soul. I’ve ransomed you from fear and hatred. Now I give you back to God.”[1]

 

Our souls have been bought. We too have been ransomed from fear and hatred.


Isaiah 61:10-62:3, Psalm 148, Galatians 4:4-7, and Luke 2:22-40 emphatically exhort the people of God to let their light shine bright.

Isaiah 61:10-62:3 indicates that God is the God of gracious deeds. Israel’s deliverance from Egypt was protected, exalted, delivered, and safely led through Sinai into Canaan. Despite Israel’s rebellion, God followed through on the promise made to Abraham. Abraham and his people would be a great nation and a blessing to all nations. Despite Israel’s sin, the Lord was gracious and merciful to the people. The people of Israel experienced consolation during desolation by simply recounting the gracious deeds of the Lord throughout their history. God’s presence with the people was, is, and always will be God’s most gracious deed, rooted in God’s rights and privileges.

Psalm 148 announces that the people of God are invited to give God praise. God always knows how the people of God feel. God does not keep silent in our struggles. God works with us in our struggles so that our light is authentic to others of our transformation.

        Galatians 4:4-17 is clear that God is Father, and we are heirs, despite the mess ups. Paul encourages believers to get back on track with the rights and privileges of God that come from God through faith in God as our Rock, Strength, and Redeemer.

Luke 2:22-40 gently but strongly reminds us that the trustworthy and efficacious nature of the living and written Word of God aids us to resolve our doubts and fears with the assurance of the One who knows us the best and loves us the most.[2]

         How has God met you in your past? How is God meeting you in your present? How will God meet you in the future? Only the very presence of God through Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit will save you. And the assurance of God’s saving presence comes by placing your trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. That act of faith does not mean life will become distress free. To the contrary, distress remains, but by and with faith, you have the perspective to recount the Lord’s gracious deeds in and through whatever comes your way.

The hope, peace, joy, and love of Christ is experienced as we recount the gracious deeds of the Lord in our world, communities, and lives. Jesus continues to deliver individuals and humanity from itself. God’s acting in Jesus makes the hope, peace, joy, and love of Christ of salvation real in that all people now have access. Emily Askew, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Lexington Theological Seminary, writes, “[Isaiah] speaks of a God who has delivered and will again deliver God’s people from exile…God stands with humankind to work for our liberation; love and mercy characterize God’s engagement with us.”[3]

          We are to walk in the interval between birth and death by recounting the gracious deeds of the Lord. By recounting the gracious deeds of the Lord, we are embraced by the hope, peace, joy, and love of Christ. By recounting the gracious deeds of the Lord, we participate in the ends that God desires.[4] “God’s salvation is intended for those who are its direct recipients and for the rest of humanity.”[5] “God increases the vigor in God’s people.”[6] God has adopted God’s people and shifted their identity from slave to child to heir connecting them to the story of God’s grace.[7] Give praise to God for all that God has done, is doing, and will do. There is something very real to celebrate in the coming New Year, 2024. Amen.


[1]Taken from www.preachingtoday.com/ Les Misérables, rated PG-13, released 1998, based on the novel by Victor Hugo; written by Rafael Yglesias, directed by Bille August; submitted by Melissa Parks, Des Plaines, Illinois | posted 4/16/2001.

[2]In the five paragraphs of textual analysis above, I have benefited from the thinking of Alan P. R. Gregory, Heath D, Dewrell, Marissa Galvan-Valle, Emerson B. Powery, Kate Owen Aumann, Warren Carter, and Julie Peeples in Joel B. Green, Thomas G. Long, Luke A. Powery, Cynthia L. Rigby and Carolyn J. Sharp, editors, Connections, Year B, Volume 1 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2020),116-118, 118-120, 121-123, 124-126, 126-128, 129-131, and 131-133..

[3]Emily Askew in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 1 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 149-150.

[4]Idea gleaned from Emily Askew in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 1, 150.

[5]Heath D. Dewrell in Joel B. Green, Thomas G. Long, Luke A. Powery, Cynthia L. Rigby and Carolyn J. Sharp, editors, Connections, Year B, Volume 1 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2020), 120.

[6]Marissa Galvan-Valle in Joel B. Green, Thomas G. Long, Luke A. Powery, Cynthia L. Rigby and Carolyn J. Sharp, editors, Connections, Year B, Volume 1 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2020), 123.

[7]Adapted from Katie Owen Aumann in Joel B. Green, Thomas G. Long, Luke A. Powery, Cynthia L. Rigby and Carolyn J. Sharp, editors, Connections, Year B, Volume 1 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2020), 128.

0 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page