Friday Facts: Lectionary A – Advent 1

With the start of a new church year and with the Revised Common Lectionary coming back to Year A, I’m starting a new weekly feature here on Trout and Cast Iron. Every week, I’ll read through the lectionary texts for the following Sunday in their original Hebrew and Greek. On Friday, I’ll choose one of the texts, provide a new translation, and highlight one point of interest from a linguistic, ancient history, or concordance point of view. The hope is that Friday Facts can provide a spark to preachers who find themselves preparing their Sunday sermon on a short schedule. I kick off the inaugural post with a reading from the prophet Isaiah.

Isaiah 2.1-5

1 The word that Isaiah, son of Amos, saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.2 And at the end of days, it will happen that the mountain of the house of YHWH will be established as the highest of all mountains, and it will rise above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. 3 And because the Torah will go out from Zion and the word of YHWH will go out from Jerusalem, many peoples will come and they will say, “Let us go up to the mountain of YHWH, to the house of the God of Jacob. And He will teach us His way and we will walk in His way.” 4 And he will judge between nations and he will maintain justice for many peoples and they will hammer their swords into mattocks and their spears into pruning knives and nation will not lift up sword against nation and they will not learn war again. 5 O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of YHWH.

Those of you familiar with New Orleans jazz may recognize Isaiah 2.4 as the source of the famous song, Down by the Riverside, whose lyrics proclaim that “I ain’t gonna study war no more.” Of further preaching interest, verses 2-4 occur verbatim in Micah 4.1-3. And of the most preaching interest, the words from verse 4, “they will hammer their swords into mattocks and their spears into pruning knives” appear Joel 3.10, but with two important differences. The first difference is that in Joel, the verb “hammer” is an imperative. Rather than predict the change, the prophet Joel commands. The second difference is in the objects being hammered. Rather than hammering “swords” into “mattocks” and “spears” into “pruning knives,” the prophet Joel commands the nations to blacksmith their gardening implements into weapons!

The upshot of looking at Isaiah’s words in light of their two prophetic parallels is manifold, and if nothing else, it teaches that preaching on prophecy requires an eye for context. To tell a congregation that Isaiah requires them to change their warlike ways into gardening is no less misleading than telling them that Joel requires them to sharpen their gardening tools for battle.

To the end of contextualizing Isaiah 2.1-5, the beginning of verse 2 looms large. As Isaiah says, all of the future verbs in 2-4, all of the rising and flowing and coming and hammering, take place “at the end of days.” Placing the prophet’s words in their eschatological context transforms them from an ethical program into gospel promise. Through the prophet Isaiah (and the prophet Micah and even the prophet Joel), God promises that our present tendency to turn even the most benign tools into weapons will be undone.

Fall (and Fancy Pork Chops)

I am a fall convert. Growing up in southern California, where we didn’t really have seasons in the proper sense, summer was always the main attraction, the season for camping in the mountains and fishing a the cabin. But, since moving north to Minnesota, fall has captured my attention. I have come to enjoy wearing sweaters and stomping around in boots and feeling the crispness in the morning air.

The coming of winter lends an urgency to everything in fall. The fish and the fishermen become a little more urgent, both knowing that the season is coming to an end.  There is the urge to sneak out for just a few more minutes every afternoon, to get as many casts in as possible before the long winter of fly-tying and reminiscing.

And even the garden takes on a hurriedness. The shortening days and the uncertainty of the first frost date adds an extra stress to the effort to get the garlic in the ground and to protect the plants for the winter.

I have come to love fall because it is a fleeting season. In summer or winter, I can always convince myself that it’s too cold or too muggy to go outside, but fall in Minnesota inspires me to get busy and to get outside. In fall, I can always find an excuse to go fishing, to go for a hike, or just to go outside and soak up the last warm rays for a few months.


Flambéed Pork Chops with Apple, Squash, and Onion Compote

In the fall, I like my food to be a nice transition point between the freshness of summer grilling and the heavy stews and roasts to come. This recipe is adapted from Andreas Vierstad’s fantastic cookbook Kitchen of Light. It’s a simple dish, but the flambéing adds a dramatic touch that makes it suitable for entertaining.

Ingredients

  • 2 frenched pork chops, about 1″ thick
  • 1/2 of a butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1″ cubes
  • 2 apples, cored and chopped
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/3 cup of dill-flavored aquavit, such as Gamle Ode
  • sea salt
  • black pepper
  • olive oil
  • butter
  • 1 match or lighter

About an hour before you’re ready to eat, preheat the oven 375 degrees. Put the butternut squash in a ziploc bag, then pour in about a tablespoon olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, then toss to coat. Place the squash on a baking sheet, then bake for 45 minutes.

Once you have the squash in the oven, remove the pork chops from the refrigerator. Pat them dry, then rub each chop with 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, and 1 teaspoon thyme. Set aside and allow the chops to come to room temperature.

When the squash is finished baking, begin making the compote. In a large pan with high sides, heat 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the onions, and cook, stirring often, until they have begun to brown and caramelize, about 10 minutes. Add the apples, and cook until they have softened, about five more minutes. Mix the squash into the onion and apple mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then turn off the heat and cover.

Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat. When the skillet is hot enough that a splash of water sizzles, add a tablespoon of butter. Add the pork chops. Cook on high heat until the chops are seared on both sides, about two minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low, then cook for an additional two minutes on either side.

Once you place the chops in the pan, measure out the 1/3 cup of aquavit and have the match or lighter close at hand. When the chops are done, pour the aquavit into the pan, then light it with the match (the flame will really shoot up, so be careful not to drop the match into the pan). Let the flame subside, then transfer the chops to a plate and let them rest for five minutes.

While the chops rest, add a pat of butter to the pan and deglaze, scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon. Cook another minute, then pour over the chops.

Serve the chops with the compote, rice or potatoes,
and a green salad on the side.

Flambe!

Trout and Cast Iron?

The delightfully witty episcopal priest, Robert Farrar Capon, once praised the wedding service in The Book of Common Prayer for being full of “death and cast iron.” I love the poetry of that description, and I hope, when people look back on my life and work, they can say (with slight modification), “Now, Kristofer Coffman, there’s a man whose life was full of trout and cast iron.” For me, to be full of trout and cast iron means to be full of the edges in this world where the beauty of God’s creation meets the stark fight for survival. It means to be full of things that take grease and care and last a lifetime. It’s not a way to save yourself or to improve your credit score, but it is a life of learning new things and taking old things seriously.

This blog is  about church history,  Bible translation, preaching, and all the other assorted things that make up my life as an almost pastor and a would be academic. To be honest, there will be nothing really new here; but, there will be a lot of old things that I think have been overlooked for too long, to the detriment of American Lutheranism. And because words are my chosen medium, this blog is also an exercise in learning to write. In A Movable Feast, Ernest Hemingway said that when he sat down to write, he started by trying “to write one true sentence.” This blog is my own personal effort to write one true sentence. Thanks for coming along. In the words of the inimitable, Rob Gronkowski, “Stay hyped.”

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