When most of us hear the term "discipline," we instantly think of practices and structures that restrict us.

That's how the word seems to be employed in the second reading (Heb 12: 5-7, 11-13). "My child," the unknown author writes, "do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by Him; for whom the Lord loves, He disciplines; He scourges every child He acknowledges." We endure disciplinary pain now so we can be free of pain in the future.

But when we listen carefully to our other two readings, we discover the "Lord's discipline" is unlike any other form of discipline we've ever experienced.

Two notions

Though both Third-Isaiah and Luke deal with salvation, each presents us with a different picture of it. Concepts of salvation are limited by the period of salvation history in which we live. Each differs from the other because of those limits.

Since, for instance, five centuries before Jesus no one knows anything about a heaven or hell as we know it, the prophet who addresses the newly-freed Jewish exiles can only develop his vision of salvation within the confines of the here and now (Is 66: 18-21). Jesus and Luke, on the other hand, have the advantage of being able to use the insights of the Wisdom authors who wrote a century or two before. They can carry their concept of salvation into eternity (Lk 13: 22-30).

Yet, whether they situate salvation here or in heaven, each offers an insight into salvation which disturbs their original communities.

Third-Isaiah's vision is rooted in a restored and rebuilt Jerusalem. Totally destroyed by the Babylonians in 586, BCE, the Jewish capitol is still in ruins almost 80 years later when the prophet speaks about those refugees who will return triumphantly "from all the nations...on horses and in chariots, in carts, upon mules and dromedaries, to Jerusalem, (Yahweh's) holy mountain."

It's a beautiful concept, but there's one problem. "Those who will return" will include more than Jews. "Nations of every language shall come," Yahweh promises, "and see my glory." God intends Gentiles to be in the mix. And they won't be coming just to observe a Jewish event. "Some of these I will take as priests and Levites, says the Lord!"

Y'all come

This statement blows even the minds of those in today's Church who debate the priestly ordination of women. Unlike the Christian priesthood, Jewish priests were born priests. No man born outside of a priestly family could ever dream of standing at the altar and offering sacrifice to Yahweh. But now not only non-priests, but non-Jews are being invited to join this highly restricted ministry!

In a parallel way, after Luke's Jesus admonishes His followers to concentrate on their own road to salvation instead of worrying about other peoples' chances, He warns them not to be surprised at how makes it into the heavenly banquet.

"There will be wailing and grinding of teeth," he warns, "when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets...and yourselves cast out. And people will come form the east and west and from the north and south."

In other words, faith in Jesus doesn't guarantee salvation. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the prophets can testify to that.

Third-Isaiah and Luke believe that the "Lord's discipline" is a broadening, not a restricting experience. True followers of God are always expanding their filed of vision, not narrowing it. Those disciplined in the Lord experience God working in people and situations that the undisciplined never seem to notice.

No wonder so many "religious folk" long for a non-godly discipline in their lives. It's a lot easier to endure.

(08-23-01)