Advent wreath with two candles lit
“Light one candle for peace …”

I learned a few things this morning. That the word “comfort” originates in the word for “strengthen.” That in the Bible verse “I know the plans I have for you, plans for good and not for evil” (Jeremiah 29:11) which is quoted everywhere and shows up that way in about 1,000 memes, the word translated “good” is shalom, which in that context might be even better to translate “well-being” or “welfare” (which is, in fact, how the NRSV translates it). It just changes it a little. And that well-being or welfare includes forgiveness … not holding people’s limitations and inabilities against them … even, making it possible for us not to hold our own limitations and inabilities against us, the way we do sometimes when we get in that space where we are convinced we are not good enough …

That other people’s children are just as clueless as I was at their age (which gave me an opportunity to tell a friend of mine that her children are probably just clueless, because I was at their age, which means she succeeded at not raising her children with a burden of neurotic guilt around “being a good daughter/son,” which is a good thing, really, when you think about it).

That there is possibly something significant about Luke’s peculiar etymology of Barnabas’s name, which literally seems to mean “son of the prophet,” but which in Acts 4:36 is said to mean “son of encouragement” or in some translations “son of consolation” – and which turns out to be the Greek word paraklēsis – which in other contexts, in particular John 14:6, shows up in relation to the Holy Spirit. So this morning we were discussing Acts 13, and talking about how prominent the Holy Spirit is in that text, and that the Holy Spirit is also understood to be the inspiration of the prophets … and all of a sudden the light bulb went off: of course Luke, who is emphasizing the power and work of the Holy Spirit, would take the word “prophet” (someone inspired by the Holy Spirit) and substitute “encourager/consoler” (the activity of the the Holy Spirit), since a prophet who is inspired by the Holy Spirit is going to be speaking by/for the Holy Spirit … which then makes a body think: so, then, doing the work of encouraging and consoling, this is a kind of “prophetic” activity. Different way of thinking about “prophetic.”

“I know the plans I have for you …” Shalom.