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Advent Meditation: Wednesday, December 18, 2019

By Jane Lancaster Patterson

Psalm 49, [53], 119:49-72 •  Zechariah 3:1-10  •  Matthew 24:45-51

Psalm 119 witnesses to the deep love of Torah that was surely at the center of Jesus’s own faith, love that is also evident in the faithfulness of the first slave in Matthew’s parable, the one who sees care of the household as a sacred trust. The parable is part of a series of teachings on the unexpected arrival of the Son of Man, and the stark distinction between the ready and the unready. But here, where a slave-master returns, is where I lose heart. I traveled to Alabama last summer with seminary colleagues to visit the Lynching Memorial, Legacy Museum, and to join in the Daniels pilgrimage. The image of God as slaveholder is almost too painful for me to get my mind around. Of course slave imagery in the New Testament simply reflects economic realities of first-century Galilee, as wealthy absentee landlords put their money into land and wrung profits from it by slave labor. But why is it here? Why doesn’t Jesus use some other metaphor to speak of God’s relentless love seeking us out when we least expect it? Perhaps Jesus must pick up a broken metaphor to communicate with a broken world. Perhaps the parable of the slaveholder’s household is actually an invitation to break out of a world of slaves and masters, to greet the arrival of pure love with mutual unfettered joy.

God of all times and ages, teach us to see the world we are given as a sacred trust and make us ready in Christ to greet you.

The Rev. Jane Lancaster Patterson, PhD, ’93
Associate Professor of New Testament and Director of Community Care
Seminary of the Southwest

Listen to Jane read her meditation and prayer:

The Rev. Jane Lancaster Patterson is associate professor of New Testament and serves as director of community care. She joined the full-time faculty in 2013 after teaching part-time and serving as interim director of Theological Field Education, 2003–2005. She is the author of Keeping the Feast: Metaphors of Sacrifice in 1 Corinthians and Philippians (SBL Press, 2015). In biblical studies, her academic interests include the intersection of literary, political, and theological study of the scriptures. She also teaches in the area of Christian formation, where her work focuses on vocation and Christian practice. She serves as co-director of St. Benedict’s Workshop, a ministry devoted to helping laity live their faith in daily life, and serves the Diocese of West Texas as missioner for adult formation and as a member of the diocesan examining chaplains. She is active as a preacher, teacher, and parishioner at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in San Antonio.

The Advent Meditations and Prayers are a gift to our seminary community and are made possible through gifts to our Annual Fund. Seminary of the Southwest appreciates the support of its friends, alumni, and the communities around the world that its graduates serve for the glory of God. This support ensures that Southwest, as an institution made of individuals dedicated to service to God and their fellow members of the body of Christ, can continue doing its part to build the body of Christ.


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