The gospel is the good news that Jesus takes believers with him in passing through death to life.

Sunday, 2/10/13

The first two readings should be especially interesting to you. Let’s start with the second one which is from Chapter Fifteen of Paul’s First Letter t the Corinthians. The passage explains the gospel that we must believe in to be saved..

As you know, the word gospel means the good news. Specifically, it is the good news that Jesus passed through death to life, and he will pull us through if we “hold fast.”

When we hear mention of the gospel we tend to think of the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. But for Paul, who was put to death before those four were written, the gospel begins with the news that Christ passed through death to a life beyond death, and his gospel concludes with the good news that Christ pulls us through death to life if we hold tight to him.

Let’s go back to the first reading. In it Isaiah spoke of a vision, or a dream, that he had in the year King Uzziah died. Of course none of us know anything, or care anything, about King Uzziah, but mention of the year of his death is something that separates our Old Testament from the scriptures of all the other ancient religions.

There is an amazing sameness about the primitive scriptures of the Chinese, Japanese, Buddhists, Hindus, Aztecs. That sameness is that each of them opens with a myth of how the gods came down on their sacred mountain giving them their land to live on. It was Mount Meru with the Hindus and Buddhists, Mount Taishan with the Chinese, Mount Fuji with the Japanese.

What’s so different about the Old Testament is that it records what happened in real time in our world. Isaiah had that vision the year that King Uzziah died, which was 742 B.C. The same note of authenticity runs all through what we believe. Like, we have St. Luke opening his Gospel by assuring us that he checked all his facts with the original eyewitnesses.

 While we are at Isaiah’s wonderful heavenly vision, let’s look at a three of its details.

First, God’s heavenly abode which Isaiah saw in his vision was the model from which Jerusalem’s temple was fashioned: with God enthroned above the altar, and the temple gates shaking with the outcry of the Seraphim.

Secondly, what the Seraphim cried was. “Holy, holy, holy.” The actual Hebrew word in the Old Testamen:  kabod. Kabod, kabod, which exactly translates as, “Aloof, aloof, aloof!” 

Now, Jesus didn’t go along with picturing God as aloof.  He said, “You must be complete, as your heavenly Father is complete.” (Our Bibles mistakenly translate Matthew 5:48 as Jesus telling us we must be perfect. That's wrong, but our Bibles do well in translating what the angels cried as, "Holy, holy, holy." And, our early English speakers did well in coining the word “holy” by knocking the “w” off of “whole.”

Thirdly, since the Old Testament's Hebrew word for a prophet, which was “Nabi,” originally was  a child’s word for a mouth, people saw a prophet as one who lets God use his mouth for speaking truth to mankind. Before Isaiah’s mouth could be used for speaking God’s word it had to be seared with a hot coal.

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