I'm sure that how I use this blog as part of the Luke/Acts reading plan will continue to evolve, but for now I wanted to simply make a few observations about my impressions from Luke chapter 1.
First, it is worth noting that I read chapter 1 in the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), Common English Bible (CEB), and The MESSAGE, and intend to do so throughout the reading plan. Bishop Carter wrote he will be doing this as well and these are typically the three versions I turn to most often during sermon preparation.
Luke begins his carefully ordered account of Jesus' life in chapter one by telling these stories: Gabriel's appearance to Zachariah foretelling his wife Elizabeth's pregnancy, Gabriel's appearance to Mary foretelling her pregnancy, Mary's visit to her cousin Elizabeth, Mary's exuberant song, Elizabeth giving birth to John the Baptist, and Zachariah's song.
If you were with us on the fourth Sunday of Advent, I preached a sermon titled The Symphony of Peace that focused on the songs of Luke gospel, two of which appear in chapter 1. Mary's song, in particular, is a beautiful passage of Scripture. But, when re-reading Luke chapter 1 in the The MESSAGE this week, something I hadn't noticed before in Eugene Peterson's paraphrase really stood out to me.
From the story of Gabriel's appearance to Zachariah:
It so happened that as Zachariah was carrying out his priestly duties before God, working the shift assigned to his regiment, it came his one turn in life to enter the sanctuary of God and burn incense.While the CEB and NRSV indicate only that Zachariah was chosen by lottery or lot to enter the sanctuary of God and burn incense, which indicates his assignment was random, The MESSAGE indicates it was Zachariah's "one turn in life." Either way, there are are indeed no coincidences in the kingdom of God and Zachariah's encounter was a moment he had long been waiting for...which brings me to the second thing that stood out.
From Gabriel's words to Zachariah:
"Every word I’ve spoken to you will come true on time—God’s time."And about the congregation outside the sanctuary waiting for Zachariah to return:
"Meanwhile, the congregation waiting for Zachariah was getting restless, wondering what was keeping him so long in the sanctuary."God's time. The idea of it is both a curious and challenging thing for us who live in a world where we want what we want when want it. Zachariah and Elizabeth had likely been restless much of their married life as they waited to conceive a child. Waiting is hard and it is very likely that they had resigned themselves to the fact that they would never have a child...until Zachariah's one time to enter the sanctuary of God. Their dream, and God's will, fulfilled in God's time.
So...what are you waiting for? What might you learn from the waiting?