Holy Homonyms

Luke 3:1-6 – The 2nd Sunday of Advent – for December 9, 2012

“In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius…” (Luke 3:1)

I am “skirting” Bethlehem this year. Click here for why.

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, son of Zechariah in the wilderness.

Whew, that’s a whole lotta name-dropping in the opening of Luke’s third chapter. You’d need the lungs of Olympic swimmers Michael Phelps or Missy Franklin to speak the sentence without an extra breath or two.

But today I’m not as concerned with the names or titles, or the length or breath of a verse, as much as with holy homonyms. In this season of Advent, in the time of an impending baby, an expectant hope, a promise born in darkness, I wonder about holy ways and human longing. So let’s re-imagine Luke’s first words in that third chapter:

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius . . .

In the fifteenth year of the rain of Emperor Tiberius . . .

In the fifteenth year of the rein of Emperor Tiberius . . .

Reign, Rain, Rein! Homonyms are words that sound alike, and yet mean different things. Like gate and gait. Or there’s Sana Claus, a legal clause and cat’s claws. And take an Olympic breath before you declare . . . air, are*, e’er, ere, err and heir.

There’s reign . . .

Jesus was born in the reign of Emperor Augustus. His ministry will begin during the reign of Tiberius.

One of the ways I embrace the Gospels, with their miracles, stories, encounters with the rich and poor, in talk of treasure and tales of healing, of private prayers and public actions, is as an invitation to each blessed reader and hearer of the word to choose. Who or what reigns over your life? Choose! Will it be God or mammon? Jesus or Tiberius? Faith or fear? I could add an interfaith twist by asking . . . Buddha or capitalism, Islam or commercialism? And there’s this frisky homonym:  will you be awed by other humans or merely see anyone different than you as odd? Choose! Continue reading →