Readings: Matthew 20:1-16, Divine Love & Wisdom 47 (see below)
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Today we have our second parable in a row from the lectionary, The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. At this point, we find ourselves almost three quarters of the way through the gospel of Matthew, where several chapters are devoted to Jesus teachings. In a few more chapters, Jesus will sit down to the Last Supper, and the events will play out that lead to his death and resurrection. But for now, he has a lot to say about the kingdom of heaven.
The imagery in this story is one that the disciples and their contemporaries would be very familiar with. It is common in the Old Testament for the nation of Israel to be described as a vineyard with the owner of that vineyard being God, and harvest time or the collecting of wages as a time of judgement. So, ancient hearers were primed to think about this story in transcendent terms, and to wonder what it means for the kingdom of heaven to be made manifest here in this world.
Like all the parables, there is a “surface plausibility” that draws us in. We recognize and understand this world of hiring people and working for pay, we understand that grapes need to be harvested, and it is the owner who must make that happen. Last week we were talking about “talents” being the most valuable kind of coin in those days, and now today we are talking about a denarius, one of the smallest. A denarius was the basic wage for a manual laborer, but even so, it was barely enough to support a family. So, in the beginning, the landowner was acting as one might expect - fair according to custom, but not particularly generous. But then suddenly, the landowner starts acting a little differently. He keeps looking for workers even though he hired some already. Huh, we might wonder, why is that? Is there a bumper crop this year? He hires more people, and then still more people, and then even at 5o'clock in the evening, when there is only one hour left in the day, he hires more people. Whatever, we might shrug, it’s his vineyard.
But then, it gets even more strange. He pays everyone an equal amount, no matter how long they have worked. Obviously, we expect the workers hired later to get a commensurately smaller amount of money. We don’t have any expectation that landowner would stiff them, he seems like a good guy, but one twelfth of the work should equal one twelfth of the money, right? And so, the folks who have been working all day long are a bit perplexed. Well, they think, if the last workers get a denarius, then we should get more…Surely, if the landowner has enough money to pay the last workers extra, then surely he has enough to pay us extra too. When he doesn’t pay them more, it seems unfair. We may well relate to these workers, as it understandable to want to look for symmetry in things; fairness and equality and consistency are often ways that we all make sense of the world.
But instead of things going in the normal way, the landowner starts acting different from our expectations. Certainly, he has a right to do what he wants with his money. But what does that mean for the way that *we* understand the world? The way in which we understand who deserves what? Because surely we are not supposed to run our businesses in this way? We can’t just pay people whatever we want, whenever we want? Can we?
As we talked about last week, the purpose of parable is so that we might question our systems, question the way we look at the world. Parables help us remember the limits of our systems, and remind us they are human systems not divine systems. In this parable, we are being shown that the economy of work, and the economy of love are two different but inter-related things.
I recall from seminary that one of my professors came to an understanding about this parable through his own experience of parenthood. He spoke of the joy and love he felt at the birth of his son, and that upon learning eventually that they were pregnant again (with twins even) he worried that he could never love them as deeply and as fully as his first child. But of course, we know the end of this story, we know that miraculously, when his twins were born, his ability to love expanded, and he loved them just as much, and in ways he couldn’t have imagined. We sometimes underestimate the expansiveness and the resilience of love. We love more and more according to our willingness to be opened up.
And this is because the love doesn’t come from us. All love comes from God, a constant inflow according to our willingness to accept it. Last week we spoke about the infinity of God’s forgiveness…and of course that forgiveness is simply a function of the infinity of God’s divine love. Human systems are often run on the assumption of scarcity, but the economy of love is built on the opposite - love’s abundance.
How then, are we understand this parable, where we see the apparent collision of two economies based on very different assumptions. (Here I use the words economy not in a strict financial sense, but in a more archaic way, to express the way something is organized and thought about). There is the economy of work, the arithmetic of fair-minded give and take. We do this, we get that. But love doesn’t work that way; it can’t fit into a budget or a business plan, and it is way more expansive than one kind of system can express. And additionally, Swedenborg tells us that in the spirit, “uses, or ends, reign,” (1) by which he means that the spirit not only looks to what might be good or right in any given moment, but also looks towards the end goal, and is always striving for the best possible outcome that supports human thriving, loving and growing long term.
So, the gift of this parable is that for a moment, the veil was drawn back and the economy of love was revealed. For the workers who were hired last…there was no indication they were not working due to any fault of their own. When asked why they were not working they replied “No one has hired us.” The parable doesn’t tell us why this was the case, but we know from this world there are plenty of reasons why work cannot be found that are out of a person’s control. Perhaps by this time, these workers were starting to panic, for the day was almost done and they would not have the money they need to support their households. What a difficult and stressful life is the life of day laborer. But in the last moment, someone *did* hire them. Okay, they think, at least I’ll make a little bit. Imagine their relief then, to get a whole days wage, a wage they had given up on. Sometimes what is *fair* isn’t the same as what is *just.* It was not fair that the last workers should get a whole day’s wage, I think even they would agree. But was it not also unjust that their families should not have food to put on the table? The economy of love was looking for more than the economy of work that day could provide. It was looking to fill hungry bellies, to help the downtrodden feel like they were seen and they mattered.
But even so, all the talk of love doesn’t necessarily make it feel better when you have been working hard, and you see someone else rewarded for less work. Years ago, my daughter’s response to this text was “Ugh, I hate that parable.” I opened my mouth to expound but she stopped me: “Don’t try to tell me the moral - its just not fair!” Believe me, I get it. On the face of it, lack of equality can sometimes feel extremely discouraging and diminishing. We must note that the structure of the parable is key. This is not a situation where all the workers were all hired at the same time, and some worked hard and some did not and the owner decided to be generous to all anyway, maybe not even paying attention to who was working the hardest. This is not what happened in this parable. The parable is instead asking about what should happen to those who are left behind by our *systems*, and the instructive part, the lesson, is in how the first workers chose to view the situation. They were certainly justified on grounds of fairness. But were they viewing the situation with eyes of justice? What the text translates as “Or are you envious because I am generous?” is literally in the Greek “is your eye evil because I am good?” What kind of eyes were these first workers using? What were the ultimate outcomes were they looking for? Were they looking with an eye of love?
The first servants were wanting equality and they were seeing equity. These are similar but not identical ideas. The first is about equal treatment but the second is concerned with equality of outcome. The first workers were looking for equality of hourly wage, and let us not forget, with good reason. Equality is important. We are lucky the owner seemed to be a good person. He could have been cruel and erratic, could have decided to pay all of them differently hourly wages just because he didn’t like some of them. Principles like equality of hourly wage are very good when they counter things like racism and sexism. They express love in their own way, through order, and the inherent value of each person and each person’s work. But, equality or sameness is not the *only* way to serve the principle of love, because love also looks to ultimate outcome, to the end goal. The first workers were clearly not thinking in this way, being only concerned with themselves. Did they have in mind the families of the last workers? Probably not. Sadly, we are all human, and often times, we only want fairness and equality when it serves our own needs. Economies based on scarcity do have a downside. They induce us to live into the insecurity of constant comparison and how can we not find ourselves self-centered in that context. We forget that, as we heard in our Swedenborg reading, the nature of true love is to see something from another’s perspective, to be happy when others are happy. And so we are reminded, God’s love is calling us to look above and beyond human systems, and to look at them clearly, in order to see whether they are helping or hindering love becoming manifest.
(1) Emanuel Swedenborg, The New Jerusalem and it's Heavenly Doctrines #48
1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard.
2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
3 “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing.
4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’
5 So they went. “He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing.
6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’
7 “ ‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. “He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’
9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius.
10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius.
11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner.
12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’
13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius?
14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you.
15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Divine Love & Wisdom 47
Divine love and wisdom cannot fail to be and to be manifested in others that it has created. The hallmark of love is not loving ourselves but loving others and being united to them through love. The hallmark of love is also being loved by others because this is how we are united. Truly, the essence of all love is to be found in union, in the life of love that we call joy, delight, pleasure, sweetness, blessedness, contentment, and happiness.
The essence of love is that what is ours should belong to someone else. Feeling the joy of someone else as joy within ourselves--that is loving. Feeling our joy in others, though, and not theirs in ourselves is not loving. That is loving ourselves, while the former is loving our neighbor. These two kinds of love are exact opposites. True, they both unite us; and it does not seem as though loving what belongs to us, or loving ourselves in the other, is divisive. Yet it is so divisive that to the extent that we love others in this way we later harbor hatred for them. Step by step our union with them dissolves, and the love becomes hatred of corresponding intensity.
Readings: Matthew 18: 21-35, True Christianity #490, Divine Providence #280 (see below)
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Photo by Engin Akyurt: https://www.pexels.com/photo/green-leafed-plant-on-sand-1438404/
The gospel text for today speaks to us about forgiveness, both directly and in parable form. But before we launch in that, let’s first talk about parables in general. The lectionary is going to give us a few in a row in these coming weeks, so I think it might be helpful to talk about them a little. Often times, we look at parables as if they are simple prescriptions, examples of how we are supposed to live. This is mostly how they are taught in Sunday school. Jesus is giving us advice, which we would do well to follow. And to some extent, this works.
Unless we actually read the parable. And then we might notice some things that make us feel really uncomfortable. This is okay. Parables are not actually straight-forward moral tales which we can transfer wholesale onto the events of our own lives. Parables are meant to be disruptive to our way of thinking. They are meant to be slightly uncomfortable so that we might generate reflective questions about the assumptions we bring to the story. So it is okay to relax into any ambiguity we might feel and allow ourselves to take a curious stance.
The story today begins with a question from Peter to Jesus. How many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Seven times? Peter probably thinks he is being extremely generous. Just to be clear, this is not just forgiving anyone who offends you seven times in your life overall, but seven times for the same person, possibly for the same thing, with no indication that there is repentance involved. That does seem pretty generous. But Jesus explodes Peter’s notion of generosity. Not seven but seventy times seven times, he replies….four hundred and ninety times….essentially infinity times. Jesus is implying, as one of my commentaries wrote:….“Whoever counts has not forgiven at all but is only biding his or her time.” (1)
Jesus then launches into the parable about the unforgiving servant. The first hint that the parable is a little fantastic is the unrealistic amount of money. Our reading calls it ten thousand bags of gold….in the original greek it is ten thousand “Talents.” A talent is the largest possible denomination in those ancient times. One single talent was equal to the wages of a manual laborer for fifteen years. Ten thousand of those was meant to signify the largest possible amount of money. It is supposed to make for a crazy comparison with the comparatively paltry but still significant amount the second servant owes and we very reasonably feel outrage over the first servant’s lack of gratitude in the face of such mercy.
As we continue though, some uncomfortable-ness might arise from how the parable ends. The king goes back on his forgiveness and throws the servant in jail to be tortured. As happy as we are to see the villain get his comeuppance, we might wonder, was it right for the king to do so? Was it justified? Can one *withdraw* forgiveness, even in the face of extreme hard-heartedness? These are challenging questions. And further, there is verse 35 ”this is how my heavenly Father will treat you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” YIKES. Does *God* go back on God’s forgiveness? Surely, the withdrawal of forgiveness ruins the whole idea?
Many scholars believe that verse 35 is an addition by the gospel writer, clearly meant to allegorize the parable so that the king is God and the debts are our sins. Both the parable itself, and Matthew’s interpretation seem uncomfortably transactional though. Forgiveness seems to be given and received like an object, one that must be asked for before it can come into being, and it is taken away if one is not deserving.
This seems at odds with the kind of God we learn about from Swedenborgian theology, a God who is constantly forgiving, constantly loving. Jesus hints about this kind of God right at the beginning of the text. The framing of this whole interaction, the seventy times seven, is telling us about the infinity of God’s forgiveness. Seven has long been held as an auspicious, powerful number, and from Swedenborg’s tells us(2) that the number seven signifies that which is holy and inviolable. Seventy times seven, then, indicates something that has no limits, something timeless, eternal, a holy and enduring principle. As we heard in our Swedenborg readings today, God’s forgiveness and mercy is so expansive as to have no limits, and is an sacred aspect of God’s nature.
So, if God’s forgiveness is naturalized, pre-existing, constant, and assumed to be a natural function of God’s love, how does this change how we view the parable? On the one hand, we see forgiveness embodied as a transaction by both the king and the servant and by the whole economic system in which they participate. On the other, we see that contrasted with the infinity of God’s forgiveness. This is what a parable does, it reveals to us the inadequacy of certain ways of looking at things. We first rejoice over the unexpected mercy of the king, we experience outrage over servant’s obviously bad behavior, we are cheering when the other servants turn him in. Quite right, quite right, we think. But then maybe the king’s withdrawal of forgiveness makes us squirm, and we start to question….We don’t doubt that the servant deserves to be corrected, but maybe we intuitively feel that there is something wrong with the withdrawal of forgiveness, as if we were just taking back something to the store that was defective. And perhaps we are moved to recognize that forgiveness, when it is really lived, is not really a give and take at all.
The truth is forgiveness can take many shapes. Forgiveness can be a solitary thing, a way to retain our own humanity and reclaim our own liberation and release. Forgiveness can involve connection, a recognition of shared humanity and loss. Forgiveness is can be a gift of grace, an impossible kind of thing that creates space where none was before. Forgiveness can allow for repairing something that was broken. There are as many shapes for forgiveness as there are people. When the parable causes us to question whether forgiveness can ever be transactional, we only need to return to the beginning of our text to see that, indeed, the infinity of God’s forgiveness transcends the all easy equations we are trying to do; it is calculus to our algebra. God is working in the realm of multiplication, while we are still counting on our fingers.
But, there is one last thing to consider. Swedenborg insists that repentance must be part of the forgiveness equation. At first that might seem like it thrusts us back into the transactional realm, an exchange of forgiveness for the appropriate repentance. On the contrary though, I think it deepens the complexity and the variability of the forgiveness equation. For repentance does not limit whether forgiveness can exist or be given, but rather, repentance is simply integral to the experience of being forgiven. The servant in our text wanted to return to business as usual, return to extracting all he could from those below him. He had no interest in thinking about what it meant to be a recipient of such mercy, what it meant to examine his actions or experience regret. To the servant, it seemed like the king’s forgiveness did vanish…but it was his lack of repentance that prevented it from having any kind of reality for him in the first place.
Repentance fundamentally changes us, and that change, that openness is what lets the forgiveness in, that creates space for healing to happen. It is like taking a deep lungful of air after holding our breath for a long time. Asking to be forgiven is not about begging, or making the most fervent supplication, rather, it is hinges upon whether the forgiveness can become real and enfleshed in the person asking. Repentance opens the door and creates the space for forgiveness to be felt, for forgiveness to transform. It is one part of a holy dance, though the steps vary for every person and every situation.
There is not one way things are supposed to go with forgiveness. Sometimes repentance brings forgiveness forth, sometimes forgiveness kick-starts repentance, sometimes both occur independently or not at all. Forgiveness takes its own time and its own path. This is what the infinity of God’s forgiveness also means, infinity of times forgiven, but an infinity of experience, opportunity and providence as well. And thank goodness for that. There are so many ways to make mistakes, so I’m glad that forgiveness is such a feisty, miraculous and expansive thing. Amen.
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven times.
23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.
24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him.
25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’
27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.
31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to.
33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’
34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
True Christianity 490
In Matthew the Lord teaches that we are to do good to our adversaries and enemies and have goodwill toward them…
I have also heard from heaven that the Lord forgives everyone's sins and never takes revenge or even assigns spiritual credit or blame, because he is love and goodness itself. Yet for all that, our sins are not washed away. Nothing washes our sins away except repentance. Since the Lord told Peter to forgive up to seventy times seven instances of sin, at what point would the Lord stop forgiving us?
Divine Providence 280
The Lord forgives everyone's sins. He does not accuse us or keep score. However, he cannot take our sins away except by the laws of his divine providence; for when Peter asked him how many times he should forgive someone who had sinned against him, whether seven was enough, he said that Peter should forgive not seven times but seventy times seven times (Matthew 18:21, 22). What does this tell us about the Lord, who is mercy itself?
Readings: Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11, Mark 1:1-8, Secrets of Heaven #220, True Christianity #457:3 (see below)
Photo by Johannes Plenio: https://www.pexels.com/photo/bright-sunbeams-illuminating-forest-path-at-dawn-4084699/
Welcome back everyone, to our fall season at the Church of the Holy City!
Back in July before our hiatus, when I was thinking ahead about how to start off the new church year, I decided to just read through the gospel of Mark, to see if there was anything that spoke to me, needing to be preached.
I didn’t get past the first eight verses.
There is something so straight forward and powerful about the way Mark starts off his gospel. Matthew starts with a long linage, Luke starts off with an elaborate birth narrative, and John starts off with a poetic rumination on light and darkness. But Mark just starts with: Hey, I’ve got some amazing news! The meaning of the greek word that we translate as gospel, is of course, good news or glad tidings, and Mark gets right to it.
Well, almost. We are first introduced to John the Baptist, one who is preparing the ground for the work of Jesus. We may well be very familiar with these verses, as some version of them comes around in the lectionary every year at the beginning of Advent. But, narratively, John the Baptist often feels a little out of place in Advent. He is placed there because he is “preparing the way for the Lord”, and at Christmas we celebrate the birth of that Lord. But in reality, John’s words were a preamble to the ministry of the adult Jesus, not the birth of the baby Jesus, so this year, I’m pulling John out and placing him right at the beginning, where we could argue he is supposed to be.
What is John doing? We are told he was preaching that people should engage in a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. A symbolic act in an ordinary river to mark and support each person’s regret for harms caused, and a desire to do better in the future. Without getting into an analysis of how this compared to contemporary religious practices, one important nugget to be gleaned here is the idea that *we* can play an important role in our own spiritual life, in our own spiritual transformation. That there are things we can do to repair harm, grow our edges, and move ourselves forward spiritually.
This is pretty good news on its own for anyone who is feeling stuck. But John wasn’t finished. He said further: “After me comes the one more powerful than I…I baptize you with water but he will baptize you with the holy spirit.”
There is one coming…
As a community, we certainly find ourselves in a time of grief, my dear friends, grappling with the sudden loss of a beloved church member. In the midst of this, how can anything feel like good news? And yet, we Christians call the Friday before Easter “Good,” a day marked by betrayal, violence and loss. We are so used to the name Good Friday that perhaps sometimes we forget what an enormous act of absurdity it is to call it so, what an enormous act of faith it is to name God’s intentional presence and solidarity in the midst of such chaos and brokenness.
But today John the Baptist stands before us and declares: There is one coming…There is one coming who is deeply invested in your journey, one who identifies so deeply with human suffering that they would willingly suffer too, for us and with us. And this one is our God, a God of Divine Love and Divine Wisdom, of humility, compassion, and action. In grief, when all turns to grey, and the word “good” feels like ashes, one thing we can be sure of is that God comes alongside, and walks with us and supports us, a deep companionship that tells us “It hurts, I know.” Because our God does know.
What else would John the Baptist have us know today? Two more things, I think: a hope and a call.
First, we are introduced to the hope that the one coming will baptize us with the holy spirit. This tells us that God’s presence is not only marked by companionship and solidarity but also is active and generative. Even in the most difficult of times, our smallest willingness, our smallest surrender, our smallest faithfulness, is held and cherished by God, and is protected by God, and when we are ready God will blow on the embers to create a flame. God will multiply our hope, our courage, our love, with God’s holy action. We may not always feel this work happening, but it is always happening nonetheless.
And second, we note *The Call* contained within the text, the implication that we all have a role to play in preparing the way for the Lord. John the Baptist was a “voice of one in the wilderness,” speaking of a way forward and through a symbolic wasteland. We all have wilderness times of the heart and soul. And we all see the ways in which our modern world manages to find new and innovative ways of being a wilderness to us, in our disconnection to each other, in the places where we witness the disappearance of empathy and compassion, in the times where self-interest seems to reign supreme.
And the antidote to wilderness is to forge community together. John wasn’t the “voice of one” just to hear himself speak into the nothingness. He was the “voice of one” in order to become more than one, to reach out to others, to gather, to reassure, to invigorate and to connect. Just as the gospel writer Mark was doing by writing all of it down and sending his gospel out into the world. The text tells us that people came to John and confessed their sins, spoke their truth and made a connection to someone who would listen, allowing them to believe they could truly come up anew from the water.
So, what can we do, then, to prepare the way of the Lord for each other?
Just like John we can speak the truth of the one who is coming - a continual baptism of water quenching the thirst of our aloneness - reminding us of the the truth of God’s loving and giving nature. And, we can make God’s presence known though loving action, the making and holding of compassionate space, the giving of care and concern - a continual baptism by the holy spirit which unites us into an image of heavenly community. We hear of these dual tasks in our Swedenborg readings this morning, and note that they are a mirror of the heavenly marriage at the center of all creation, the union of Divine Wisdom with Divine Love.
And so Mark starts out his gospel with the assurance that God is coming to assist us in our journeys. With the assurance that God is invested in the process of spiritual growth, in the process of repentance and repair, in the ways we can all shake off the cycles and the voices and the fears that would keep us contracted and afraid and cruel. With the assurance that God is so invested that God is coming in person in order to baptize us all continually, to provide a baptism not dependent on one special river but on God’s essential connection to each of us: the Holy Spirit.
And today we receive this news from Mark, news of a God who loves us, a God who comes to us, a God who knows our suffering and yet speaks to us of a hope beyond it. If we cannot call that good today, at least perhaps we can call it enough.
Isaiah 40: 1-5, 9-11
1 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed…
3 A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD ; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.
5 And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
9 You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!”
10 See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.
11 He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart…
1 The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God,
2 as it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way” --
3 “a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ ”
4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.
7 And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.
8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Secrets of Heaven 220
…The voice of one shouting stands for a proclamation of the Lord's Coming; and in general for every time his coming is proclaimed, as for instance in the case of regenerate people, who hear an inner call.
True Christianity 457:3
God loves every one of us but cannot directly benefit us; he can benefit us only indirectly through each other. For this reason he inspires us with his love, just as he inspires parents with love for their children. If we receive this love, we become connected to God and we love our neighbor out of love for God. Then we have love for God inside our love for our neighbor. Our love for God makes us willing and able to love our neighbor.