I. Establish the text
A. Select the Pericope: Isaiah 61:1-11
C. Other texts for Year B for 3rd Sunday in Advent
- Psalm Psalm 126:1-6
- Second Reading 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
- Or alternate Second Reading Luke 1:46b-55
- Gospel John 1:6-8, 19-28
D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?
1a The first time I preached, I imagined I was like a little league batter holding the bat fearfully, but with the coach’s firm arms around me, his hands over mine, helping me to steady the bat, reminding me to watch the ball all the way until it hit the bat, then at the exact instance he commands into my ear: “SWING!” Thus my prayer is that God will speak into my ear for the sake of hitting a home run for the Gospel!
1b-3a The definitive statement of what to preach!
3b-4 This is the hoped for change in the hearers of the Word of God. (NB: see quote at end from Rabbi Diamond.)
5 While others will share our work, it also means that others will control our possessions. If we bring others into the church, it also means that our church family will change.
5 Change of subject from 3rd to 2nd person.
6 These are the rewards that a growing church can claim!
7 Change of subject back to 3rd person and of speaker from the prophet’s presenting of the Word of God to the very words of God.
7 THE REASON FOR THE SEASON!
8 Justice is not forgotten in the making a new covenant with God.
10 Shift of speaker back to the prophet.
E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?
- I am at a loss as to why the RCL omits vv 5-7.
- The opening words “The spirit of the Lord LORD is upon me” suggest the beginning of a new prophecy.
- Chapter 62 follows from 61:10 with more exhortations for praise. The tone shifts sharply in Chapter 63 towards the laying of guilt before Israel, while continuing the theme of salvation.
F. Are there any significant variants in the manuscripts? Why?
3 BHS notes that /L’BLY TsUN/ “mourner of Zion” is “probably added”. However, all the translations on my self, except the REB, include these words.
II. Literary Study.
A. What is the history of the text? Who wrote it? When? In what social context? What Historical/Religious/Sociological factors influenced its writing?
- Written by post exilic scholars of the Isaiah’s school. Often referred to as Third Isaiah. If so, it may have been written to celebrate return from exile.
- In canonical form, it appears as having been written at the time of exile. Thus it calls out to the people to rejoice in the face of the tribulations of captivity.
B. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?
1-2 Luke uses a paraphrase of this as Jesus’ self-identification when teaching. In that context, Jesus is the ONE upon whom is the spirit of God. But Isaiah permits a broader usage.
C. Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms
1 /RUC/ Spirit/breath. This is the same word used in Gen 1:2 for the breath/wind of God that hovered over the face of the waters. When used as “breath” it often means gusty breathing. It conveys “speech” that come with breath. When used as “wind”, this word suggests a ‘breath of heaven’. When used as “spirit”, it stems from recognition that breath is essential for the life of flesh. (BDB p. 924a) Thus “spirit” in the sense of that which is divinely animating.
1 NIV uses “Sovereign LORD” for /’aDoNaY YHVH/, which may be preferable to the NRSV “Lord GOD”.
1 Hebrew reads: to proclaim to captives: “freedom” and to prisoners: “release from darkness.” Emphasizing what is proclaimed.
1 /PQC-QUC/ “Release;” Lit. “Opening of eyes” NIV: “release from darkness.”
7 NIV, TEV, & NJB interpret this like: “because of shame … will receive double” NRSV, REB, NAB: “Because having received double shame.”
D. What is the literary style of the text? And how does it affect the reading? What does a poetic form do to the meaning? Lament/Praise/Petition? Any subtle variations in the repetitions? What is emphasized/minimized by the repetition?
- This is usually indented as poetry. But may be more similar to modern liturgical writings.
III. Question the text.
B. Are there any unusual details? Un-named characters? ‘Pointless’ description? Meanings of names of characters? What does a literal meaning of natural metaphors imply?
11 Here it is the earth or a garden that causes roots and stems to put forth. Elsewhere is this not attributed to God?
C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?
- COG: To proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor!
- Music: “All Hail the Power of Jesus Name!” Tune: CORONATION
D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.
- This text calls the people to rejoice for the coming of the salvation and vindication of the LORD, even though this is not yet at hand.
F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?
- A Christian congregation will hear this as the words of the eternal Christ spoken through the prophet Isaiah. Yet it is a song of one who has received the garment of salvation, rather than that of the one who bestows it.
- I will need to connect this passage to the hurtings of the congregation, so that they may rejoice with Isaiah for the promise of redemption in the Lord.
IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?
Henry Sloan Coffin, “The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 40-66: Exposition”; The Interpreter’s Bible (Abingdon, 1956). “The contrast between ‘the year of the LORD’s favor’ and ‘the day of [his] vengeance’ is important: grace is God’s constant attitude toward [people]; vengeance is an occasional judgment necessary to remove obstacles to his grace.” “Such rejoicing in God alters the spiritual climate, clears the atmosphere so that his face is more plain, and restores morale.”
V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?
Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond
A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?
God’s promise of salvation is always before us, yet we must rejoice today because we look to the future with assurance of God’s justice and redemption.
B. Focus Statement: Central, controlling, unifying theme.
Although we may be afflicted, brokenhearted, and bound to circumstances, although we see ruins of what was around us, God calls us to rejoice in the promise of the year of his favor, for in worshiping the Lord we can see new possibilities.
C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?
To learn to sing God’s praises in the face of adversity.