Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sacred Space
1 Sam. 3:1-10; 1 Cor. 6:12-20[1]
Some of you know that I’ve been trying to lose 20 pounds for a while now. I guess about the last 6 years! It’s no secret that one of the keys to losing weight is a regular exercise program. I did try it—mainly motivated by the desire to lose the belly I developed in my forties! One of the things I realized recently about why I could never stick to anything is that I was essentially doing it on my own. About six months ago I walked into a yoga class at the YMCA, and I’ve hardly missed a class ever since. There’s something about having a class to make at a certain time that helps me follow my exercise routine more regularly. But more importantly, the fact that I’m working out with other people instead of essentially on my own makes it much more fun—even though it’s still hard work.
Our lessons for today confront us with the reality that spirituality is something we have to work at—it doesn’t just come naturally, it has to be cultivated. In our lesson from Samuel, we hear about a boy called to fill the vacuum left by priests who had so thoroughly abandoned their calling that “the word of the Lord was rare in those days” (1 Sam. 3:1). The sons of Eli were blaspheming God by using their position to fleece people who were just trying to worship God. The result was a spiritual impoverishment over the whole land. Our lesson from St. Paul shows us a congregation that had let their new-found freedom in Christ turn into license to do just about anything they wanted, using the slogan, “all things are lawful.” But again, it seems to me that their casual approach to faith resulted in the poverty of their souls that they tried to fill by indulging their desires.
I think we can identify with these lessons. It seems to me that we can see signs of our own spiritual poverty all around us. We define our lives by the clothes we wear and the cars we drive. We are constantly chained to some kind of electronic device or another, constantly staring at some kind of screen. It’s no wonder we feel so lonely and so isolated, so cut off from God and from the life of God’s Spirit in the world. It’s no wonder we are driven to try to fill that emptiness with other things or to use all kinds of substances to at least dull the pain.
Ironically, although our spirituality seems to be at an all-time low, in some respects “religion” seems to be doing better than ever. But it’s a religion that reminds me of something the prophet Isaiah said: “these people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Isa. 29:13). It’s pretty obvious that religion these days can be just a veneer to cover over the way we really live. It’s no wonder so many people can say “I’m spiritual, but not religious.” And yet, I’m not so sure that works any better than our superficial religion. What a contrast to the joyful lesson of Epiphany that God is here among us. As I said last week, the good news of this season is that wherever we are, God is there, loving us, nurturing us, drawing us into the joy of God’s life and love. And yet, it seems that we have embraced a way of life that reinforces the feeling that we are god-forsaken, cut off from God’s presence and the joy of God’s life and love.
The hard truth is that a sense of God’s constant presence isn’t something that comes any more automatically than getting back into a regular exercise routine. Religion has played a role in keeping God at a distance by designating only certain spaces as “sacred space” where God is present and by separating all but the special few from that “sacred space.” But the idea that God is separated from us tends to interject separations into all of life: we separate body vs. soul, individual vs. community, and humanity vs. the natural world. It seems to me that all these forms of segregation isolate us from creation, from one another, and from God.[2] The reason for that is because it is in the world around us, in other people, and in God’s creation that we experience God’s presence through the Spirit.
If we want to integrate our lives more fully into the freedom and joy and exuberance of God’s Spirit, it will take some effort. True “spirituality” is something that has to be cultivated—it’s not just the default mode that we fall back on when we reject organized religion for all its many flaws. Genuine spirituality is something you have to practice. For some people, the traditional ways of doing that will work—you study the Bible, you pray, you give, etc. For other people, it will take different practices, practices that reinforce the truth that all the space around us as sacred space because it is constantly inhabited by God’s Spirit. In a recent book called An Altar in the World, Barbara Brown Taylor discusses ways of recognizing that—practices like taking time off, engaging in physical labor, feeling pain, pronouncing blessings, and getting lost![3]
We’re not much into cultivating things these days. We’d much rather just pull up to the drive through and take home whatever it is we want. Or order something on the Internet and have it on our doorstep the next day. But if we want to live in the joy of God’s presence and God’s life and love, we are going to have to be intentional about seeking to integrate our lives into our faith. We’re going to have to cultivate a sense of Gods’ presence through the Spirit that constantly surrounds and fills us.
One way I’ve found helpful is to turn off all the distracting noise and all the devices we use to escape reality and just pay more attention to what’s going on right here and now. Another way I’ve found helpful is to avoid the “lone ranger” approach and make cultivating spirituality a group effort.[4] That’s why we do things like having Wednesday Bible Study and evening prayers and a Servant Leadership School. Practicing our faith and our spirituality can be much more meaningful in a group that on your own—much like my experience with my exercise routine. I can’t guarantee automatic results. But I can guarantee that if you intentionally practice your faith in these ways, from time to time, sometimes when you least expect it, the Spirit will surround you and fill you with a sense of God’s presence that leaves you seeing every part of your life as sacred space.

[1] © 2012 Alan Brehm. A sermon preached by Rev. Dr. Alan Brehm on 1/15/12 at First Presbyterian Church, Dickinson, TX and at A Community of the Servant-Savior Presbyterian Church, Houston, TX,
[2] Cf. Jürgen Moltmann, The Spirit of Life: A Universal Affirmation, 173.
[3] Cf. Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World, xv-xvi.
[4] Cf. Taylor, An Altar in the World, 9, where she says that “houses of worship” are places “where people of faith meet to say their prayers, because saying them together reminds them of who they are better than saying them alone.”
God is Here!
Gen. 1:1-5[1]
As most of you know, I have become a parent again—I'm helping raise my beautiful granddaughter Avery. Because she’s had some instability in her short life, we’ve done things like letting her keep her nighttime bottle longer than most pediatricians would recommend. It was difficult getting her off that at first, but she made the transition just fine. Now we’re helping her make the transition from having someone in the room when she goes to sleep at night to going to sleep on her own. Our motivations are mixed on this one—it’s important for her to learn to do that, but we also want her to be able to put herself back to sleep on her own when she wakes up in the middle of the night!
We got some professional advice on this, and you might find the method interesting. We go through her normal bedtime routine, and we sit in the chair by her bed like usual. Then we “remember” we have to go do something “right quick” and we’ll be “right back.” We stay gone for a short time at first—only 30 to 45 seconds. Then we come back and sit down again for a short time. And then we “remember” that we have to do something else, and we’ll be right back. And we stay gone a little bit longer each time, until we come back and find her asleep. She’s essentially learning that even when Grandpa isn't right there, physically present in the room, he's still there.
I think that’s a lesson most of us are still learning when it comes to God. Even when we don’t feel like God is anywhere near us, God is always as close to us as the air we are breathing.[2] Wherever we are, God is there, loving us, nurturing us, drawing us into the joy of God’s life and love.[3] Unfortunately, I doubt that there are many people in this world who really believe that. Even in church. Especially in church!
I think part of the problem is that traditional religion has tended to promote the idea that God is essentially estranged from us. God is “up there,” distant, remote, and unconcerned. We have to do something very, very special to get God’s attention, and even then, we may or may not succeed. That may work for some people. But I personally find that way of looking at God very unsatisfying. I don’t want a God who may come around for brief and fleeting encounters any more than I want a spouse who comes by for a visit once in a blue moon! I want a God who’s always there for me. I suspect that I may not be alone in that.
One of the reasons why I’m such a proponent of the Bible is that I firmly believe that’s the way it actually depicts God. I firmly believe that the witness of Scripture is that God is with us all continuously. In our lesson from Genesis for today, the Bible uses the language of the Spirit to express this conviction. It describes the Spirit of God as “hovering” or “resonating” over the world as it is being formed and ordered by God’s creative Word.[4] I believe that, from the very beginning, God has been fully present to everyone and everything in this world. And God is still with us because the Spirit of God still “hovers” and “resonates” over and around and in us all.[5]
The idea that God is constantly with us all through the Spirit’s presence is one that pervades human spiritual and religious experience. We have used many names for this “presence” throughout the centuries—the ancient Chinese called it “Chi.” Buddhists spoke of it as an emptiness that connects us all together![6] Whatever the word for it, religions of all kinds have by and large operated from the conviction that there is a powerful spiritual life force that pervades and upholds and fills everything.
One of the things I find interesting is how many of these religious and spiritual traditions use breathing as a means of quieting the distractions that compete for our attention and encountering the presence of something greater than ourselves. The reason I find it so interesting is that when the Hebrew Bible speaks of the Spirit of God hovering over all things at the beginning of creation, the word for “Spirit” is the same word as the “breath” that is later breathed into human beings to bring them to life! In a very real sense, the various spiritual traditions in our world echo the biblical conviction that the Spirit hovers over all creation, resonating with all living beings, giving them breath, and filling them with the life-giving presence of God. [7]
It’s amazing how quickly children pick up on things. The second night of the new bedtime routine, Avery was already anticipating our pretenses for slipping out of the room. But it’s also amazing how quickly children can learn. After only a few nights of the new bedtime routine, she’s already learning that I'm still there with her, even if I'm not right there in the room. That’s a lesson I think most of us are still learning when it comes to God. The biblical story of creation teaches us that from the very beginning, God has been right here. And God is still right here with us all. Even when we don’t feel like God is anywhere near us, God is never any farther away from us that the very breath we fill our lungs with. All we have to do to become aware that God is right here with us is to just breathe! Wherever we are, God is always here.

[1] © 2012 Alan Brehm. A sermon preached by Rev. Dr. Alan Brehm on 1/8/12 at First Presbyterian Church, Dickinson, TX and at A Community of the Servant-Savior Presbyterian Church, Houston, TX.
[2] Cf. Jürgen Moltmann’s concept of God’s “interpenetration” of all creation; see Trinity and the Kingdom, 39, 104-5. See also Jürgen Moltmann, God in Creation, 9; Jürgen Moltmann, The Spirit of Life, 161. See further, Paul Tillich, “Spiritual Presence,” in The Eternal Now, 86-87.
[3] Moltmann, God in Creation, 9-17.
[4] There is great debate whether the reference in Gen. 1:2 is to a “great wind” that is part of the chaos God tames through the creative word, or whether it refers to the “Spirit of God” hovering over the primordial deep as an agent of creation. Cf. Claus Westermann, Genesis 1-11, 106-8; cf. also Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 16-17.
[5] Jürgen Moltmann, God in Creation, 9-10, 96, 98-103. Cf. Paul F. Knitter, Without Buddha I Could Not Be A Christian, 22- 23.
[6] Cf. Knitter, Without Buddha, 18-23, where he explores the Buddhist concept of “emptiness” in terms of Thich Nhat Hanh’s conception of it as “InterBeing,” or “the interconnected state of things constantly churning out new connections, new possibilities, new life” (ibid., p.12).
[7] Cf. Jürgen Moltmann, The Spirit of Life, 34-35; Peter C. Hodgson, Winds of the Spirit, 277-79.
Love Came Down[1]
By now, Christmas has come and gone for most of us, even though it is only the “Eighth Day of Christmas.” For most of us, this is a time not for celebrating the fulfillment of God’s promises in the birth of the Christ child, but rather a time for recovering from the Christmas frenzy. For most of us, it’s a time to return gifts that either don’t fit, or aren’t quite right, or that we simply don’t want. Then there’s the rush to take down all our decorations so that our household can “get back to normal.” For many of us, these days are the beginning the long, gray, dreary experience of January. It’s a time for riding out the winter until springtime comes around. Truth be told, we are entering what is for most of us the least favorite time of year.
Maybe that’s why we put such emphasis on “New Year’s Resolutions.” In order to take our minds off the post-Christmas “hangover,” we determine what we’re going to do differently with our lives in the New Year. Part of that is deciding what we’re going to “give up” this year. You know, those bad habits we’ve slipped back into. Those foods we’ve been eating that we know good and well we shouldn’t. But I think it’s also a time when we think about what we’re going to do differently with our lives.
I saw an amazing movie last night for my New Year’s Eve celebration—Martin Scorseses’ contemporary masterpiece, “Hugo.” It’s the story of a boy living in the Paris train station who, like everyone else around him, is looking for the purpose of his life. After his father, a watch-maker, dies in a tragic fire, all Hugo has to figure it out the purpose of his life is an “automaton” that his father found in a museum attic. It was a mechanical person—essentially a robot—that was broken and tarnished from disuse, and together they set about to repair it. But after losing his father, Hugo must carry on alone as best he can.
When Hugo’s father dies, his uncle Claude takes him to live in the train station and help him keep the clocks working. But Claude is a drunk and soon disappears, leaving Hugo to make his own way. As he continues to maintain the clocks, Hugo also searches for a way to repair the mysterious automaton. As he steals food to keep himself alive, he also steals toy parts from a shop in the station run by a bitter old man.
As it turns out, however, the toy shop keeper is none other than Georges Méliès, a famous pioneer in movie-making who created “movie magic” through a variety of innovative techniques. But the devastation of World War I left him virtually bankrupt, able to barely support himself by running the toy shop. Part of Hugo’s quest is connected to Mssr. Méliès, because he was the original maker of the automaton that Hugo is trying to repair. In the end, with the help of Méliès’ god-daughter Isabella, Hugo not only finds his own purpose, but also helps restore Mssr. Méliès to his calling as a visual “magician.”
As a person who gave up his calling for the sake of integrity, and then gave up his career for the sake of his kids, I resonate with the struggle to find meaning and purpose in life when it seems that I cannot do what I was born into this world to do—to teach the Bible to people who want to become ministers. Make no mistake—I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the two communities of faith I serve as Pastor. But I still struggle with the loss of what I thought was my life’s purpose.
But I think “Hugo” exposes the flaw in our thinking about purpose and meaning. As I did when I was younger, we tend to think that our purpose and meaning in life has to do with accomplishing something. It seems to me that the purpose of all our lives is the calling to embrace the divine compassion that is at the heart of all things and to share that compassion with those around us in any and every way we can. That’s what Hugo does by repairing the automaton and in the process restoring Georges Méliès to his vocation as a visual “magician.” The purpose and meaning of our lives is to open ourselves to the love at the heart of all things and share that love with those around us in our world that can be incredibly loveless at times.
I’m going to be giving up some things this year—at least I hope. I’m going to try to give up being short-tempered in stressful situations. I’m going to try to give up thinking about myself so much and think about others more. But one thing I will never give up is the conviction that at the heart of all things there is a divine compassion that defines and surrounds us all constantly. I actually learned this most lesson profoundly from studying Buddhism!
But it is a conviction that is central to our faith as well. Our lesson from St. Paul for today uses this language to describe it: “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God” (Gal. 4:7). The Spirit that God pours into all our hearts is a Spirit of compassion. It is a Spirit that embraces us and makes us a part of a family defined by God’s love. It is that compassion that gives us our meaning and purpose in this life. And so I’m going to resolve to try to live into what I believe is the true purpose of my life—to open myself to God’s love that constantly surrounds me and try to share it with those around me. I hope you will consider doing the same.

[1] © 2012 Alan Brehm. A sermon preached by Rev. Dr. Alan Brehm on 1/1/12 at First Presbyterian Church, Dickinson, TX and at A Community of the Servant-Savior Presbyterian Church, Houston, TX.
God’s Favorites
Isa. 61:1-4. 8-11; Lk. 2:14[1]
“Playing favorites” never has a positive connotation. Whether it’s in the home or at work or among friends, when you start “playing favorites,” someone gets special privileges and someone gets passed over. It can wreak havoc in any context, creating strife at work, hard feelings among friends, and painful humiliation in the home. There’s really nothing good you can say about playing favorites. Anybody who has raised children knows a little something of the challenges of playing favorites, and I think this is especially true for those of us with blended families. In a blended family, it's important never to “play favorites” with your kids. In a blended family, you can't view them as “your kids” or “my kids”; they are “our kids.” Of course, it doesn’t always work out that neatly. But we do our best to avoid “playing favorites,” because it can destroy the very fabric of a family.
I think “Playing favorites” is something to be avoided in just about every situation involving human relationships. And yet, it would seem that at the heart of the Christian message is the idea that God plays favorites![2] It would seem that the story of the Scriptures is that God chooses a family to bless in a special way above all other families. God chooses a people to liberate so as to be unique above all other peoples. God chooses a nation to honor as a favorite possession treasured above all other nations. It sounds like God is “playing favorites”!
In fact, the phrase at the heart of our Christmas celebrations, “Peace on earth, good will toward men,” is a prime example of this problem. As I mentioned last week, the best evidence we have is that it should actually read, “Peace on earth to men of good will.”[3] As one translation says it, “peace on earth” is for those “on whom God’s favor rests” (Lk. 2:14, NIV). Again, that sounds like God is “playing favorites.” It sounds like the good news of peace on earth is not for all people, but only for God’s favorites.
But I think it’s important at this point to ask on whom does God’s favor rest. Does God’s favor rest on just the few, only the chosen, only the righteous? That idea is not consistent with the strange Kingdom of Heaven we’ve seen and heard about in Jesus’ parables. In fact, it’s not even consistent with the Angels’ announcement of “peace on earth” itself. It was made to shepherds, the ultimate outcasts in the Jewish world of that time. It seems to me that the announcement of “peace on earth to all whom God favors” (Lk. 2:14, NLT) precisely to those who would seem to be the most disfavored of people indicates that it’s God’s peace for all that is the promise of Advent. It’s God’s good will toward the whole human family that the Angels’ Christmas declaration is talking about![4]
It’s the same message of the prophet Isaiah: in our text for this week, the prophet Isaiah announces “the year of the Lord’s favor.” This is shorthand for the “year of Jubilee,” the time when all debts were cancelled and all property sold or mortgaged was returned to the original owners. Isaiah reminds us that in “the year of the Lord’s favor,” God comes to set right everything that has gone wrong, which make it possible for all people to thrive.[5] It’s a time when God’s grace defines life for all people.
But Isaiah reminds us that this also involves “the day of vengeance of our God.” To some extent, God’s coming to set things right involves an element of “judgment.” But as we have seen many times, from the perspective of God’s grace “judgment” is never simply punishment. We might envision it as “preparing the way for the Lord,” as making straight what is crooked in order that it may be set right.[6] It is a matter of restoring us all to the people we were meant to be.[7] And it extends ultimately to all humankind—just and unjust, righteous and sinful alike.[8]
It seems to me that we all long for that kind of acceptance; acceptance that is complete and unconditional. Any kind of “playing favorites” hinders that. I know, because I’ve been on both sides of that game, and I’ve seen how much harm it can do. I’ve been the favored child, and I’ve experienced the false sense of privilege and entitlement that goes along with that. I’ve also been the disfavored one, and I’ve experienced the humiliation and the pain of being rejected. So to me, the suggestion that God would somehow “play favorites” and inflict that kind of experience on a single solitary person is appalling in the extreme.
But that is not the good news of the gospel! The good news of the Christmas Gospel is that Jesus has come so that now God’s favor rests on all people alike, with no exceptions! The Angels’ announcement means that it is now the “year of the Lord’s favor;” it is the time when God’s grace defines our lives—all our lives. The joyful message of the angelic choir, “peace on earth to all whom God favors,” is that now we are all—with no exceptions—“God’s favorites.”

[1] © 2011 Alan Brehm. A sermon preached by Rev. Dr. Alan Brehm on 12/11/11 at First Presbyterian Church, Dickinson, TX and at A Community of the Servant-Savior Presbyterian Church, Houston, TX.
[2] And this, despite the fact that the Bible claims several times that God doesn’t “play favorites” (2 Chron. 19:7; Acts 10:34; Rom. 2:11; Gal 2:6; Eph. 6:9)!
[3] Cf. F. Bovon, and H. Koester, Luke 1 : A commentary on the Gospel of Luke 1:1-9:50, 91.
[4] Cf. Fred B. Craddock, Luke, 36
[5] Cf. James L. Mays, Psalms, 311, “Righteousness is the rightness that makes for life and shalom.” Cf. also Jürgen Moltmann, The Way of Jesus Christ, 121.
[6] Cf. Christopher R. Seitz, Isaiah 1-39, 192; cf. also Jürgen Moltmann, The Coming of God, 243-44, 255.
[7] Cf. Claus Westermann, Isaiah 40-66, 367, where he points out that “vengeance” in Isa. 61:2 refers to restoration; cf. The Inclusive Translation, “day of vindication.” See also Isaiah 10:20–27; see also Jeremiah 30:1–9; Micah 5:7–15; Zechariah 8:1–8; 12:1–13:6; 14:1–21.
[8] Isaiah 2:2-4; 25:6–10; 45:20-25; 52:7–10; 66:18, 23; see also Micah 4:1-3; Jeremiah 3:17; 16:19.

Peace on Earth

Isa 40:1-11; Mk. 1:1-8[1]

As most of you know, I spent about 5 days last week in Cameroon. What you may not know is that I was for the most part accompanied by Presbyterian nuns. Yes, in Cameroon there is an order of nuns called the Emmanuel Sisters who are Presbyterian! I think they’re probably the only Presbyterian monastic order in the whole world! But based on my experience with them, I say may their tribe increase! Of course, my view may be biased a bit. They did look after me with kindness and vigilance—concerned to make sure my every need was met!

But there was something more to it than just the fact that they treated me like royalty for those few days. What I experienced among them was an incredible amount of joy. Make no mistake—they live rigorous lives. They are up at 5 am for the first of 7 rounds of worship throughout the day. And when they are not at their prayers they are at work, making ordination gowns and stoles for all the new Presbyterian ministers, making communion wafers for the whole Presbyterian Church in Northwest Cameroon, making yogurt and butter, cooking, cleaning, etc. Their lives are full of work. And they do it with such amazing joy it’s hard not to be infected by their spirit.

I think one of the things that enables them to live such difficult lives with so much joy is that they experience the peace that we all hope for and long for at Advent. I think in part it is their constant spiritual focus. Their days are literally punctuated by worship. They sing the Psalms and read the Scriptures and pray, and they do it all with an African flair. That means when they are singing their praise songs, they’re dancing and shaking rattles and playing drums and other instruments. It seems to me that their joyful focus on worship is a powerful means of enabling them to be filled with peace.

Advent is a special time of year for us. Or at least it can be. If we can survive all the hustle and bustle, all the pushing and shoving of the pre-Christmas buying frenzy without letting it completely sour the way we view life, Advent can be a special time of year. It is a time of looking. A time of looking for the promise that our faith holds out to us: “peace on earth to all whom God favors” (Lk. 2:14, NLT). That translation may be different from what you’re used to. The traditional one says, “peace on earth, good will toward men.” But I think they say the same thing, except the first one says it better. It’s God’s peace on earth that is the promise of Advent. It’s God’s good will toward the human family that Christmas is talking about! [2]

And that good will is very specific. In the book of the prophet Isaiah, the good news of Advent is that God comes to reconcile and to heal and to restore all people, along with all creation. That’s why Isaiah could speak of God’s coming like a shepherd who gently carries the lambs who are either too weak to make it back to safety or who perhaps have been injured (Isa. 40:11). And the prophet’s message of restoration fills the whole book of Isaiah—with promises of the end of violence and warfare (Isa. 2:4), of the end of suffering and oppression (Isa. 25:8); a promise of a rich feast set for all peoples (Isa. 25:6), of God coming to set right everything that has gone wrong (Isa. 28:5-6) and to restore and heal those who are weak and injured (Isa. 35:3-6).[3]

And part of the “Good News According to the Prophet Isaiah” is that “the word of our God will stand forever.” In this context, that is a bold declaration that God will not leave the promises of salvation, restoration, and renewal unfulfilled.[4] In another passage, Isaiah puts it this way: “as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace” (Isa. 55:10-12). The prophet declared in the name of the Lord that “the word of God” does not return empty, but accomplishes what it was intended for—to bring joy and peace.

I think I got to experience a little bit of that joy and peace on earth, right here, right now. The Sisters of Emmanuel were generous enough to embrace me into their fellowship and share the joy and the peace that defines their lives. I think that’s one of their secrets to a life of joy and peace—embracing all who come into their path. They called it “the heart of Africa.” And it means that you embrace everyone you meet as “my” sister or “my” brother. I only hope and pray that I can cultivate that “heart of Africa.” I pray that I can keep that joy and peace in the midst of all the stress and frustration that we call “the Christmas season.” In fact, I hope that I can keep that joy of “peace on earth to all whom God favors.” And I hope that you can too.

[1] © 2011 Alan Brehm. A sermon preached by Rev. Dr. Alan Brehm on 12/4/11 at First Presbyterian Church, Dickinson, TX and at A Community of the Servant-Savior Presbyterian Church, Houston, TX.

[2] Cf. R. Alan Culpepper, “The Gospel of Luke,” New Interpreters Bible IX:65; Fred B. Craddock, Luke, 36; F. Bovon, and H. Koester, Luke 1 : A commentary on the Gospel of Luke 1:1-9:50, 91.

[3] Brevard Childs, Isaiah, 298-301.

[4] Paul D. Hanson, Isaiah 40-66, 10; cf. Claus Westermann, Isaiah 40-66, 36-37, 42-43.