Monthly Archives: January 2015

4th Sunday After Epiphany, February 1, 2015

Fourth Sunday After Epiphany (Year B)

Scripture Readings*: Deuteronomy 18:15-20, 1 Corinthians 8:1-13, Mark 1:21-28, Psalm 111

Deuteronomy 18:15-20

Moses said that God would bring the nation a greater Prophet (18:15), that is, Jesus Christ (Acts 3:19–26). Every prophet that arose after Moses would share in an aspect of the hope for this greater Prophet. The word “prophet” (Deut. 18:15) means one who speaks for another (Exod. 7:1–2). The biblical prophet was one who spoke forth a message for God (Deut. 18:18; cf. Jer. 1:4–7).

1 Corinthians 8:1-13

Most meat that was available in the marketplace came from animals sacrificed in the temple. To the more scrupulous in the community all of this meat would be suspect. However, some Corinthians felt more mature because they were convinced that idols had no reality—“for there is but one God.” Therefore any food offered to idols was still fit to eat.

Paul stresses that “love,” not knowledge, is the key to Christian conduct. It would be better not to eat meat, even if one’s conscience allows, than to lead a fellow believer into sin.

Mark 1:21-28capsynagogdemoniac

The town of Capernaum becomes the base for Jesus’ operations. Here Jesus displays his authority, which astonishes those who encounter it, and which calls forth an immediate response. The bystanders recognize his authoritative teaching. So does the man possessed. If the crowds recognize the authority of Jesus, the supernatural world knows who he really is—the ‘Holy One of God’ (v. 24). Jesus must do battle with the forces of evil. This episode in the synagogue contains all the elements of struggle that Jesus will encounter as he makes God’s presence real among his people.

Here Is Your God

What does God look like? It’s an age-old question. Today’s readings give us a glimpse of God that causes us to look again – at God and at ourselves.

Moses’ words offer hope of a Prophet who does not strike fear into the hearts of men. His words speak of One whose voice offers reconciliation. In Paul’s words, we hear love trumping law. No matter how “lawful” our actions, they must still meet the needs of others if they are to meet with God’s approval. And in the words and actions of Jesus, we see restoration. Evil is cast out and man is made right with God.

Reconciliation. Love. Restoration. This is what is seen when God is revealed. It’s a reflection our world longs to witness.

Prayer for Epiphany – “Loving God, reveal to me Your mercy so I, in turn, may reflect Your loving mercy to a world in need. Blessed be God forever. Amen.”

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*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B

 

3rd Sunday After Epiphany, January 25, 2015

Third Sunday After Epiphany (Year B)

Scripture Readings*: Jonah 3:1-5, 10, 1 Corinthians 7:29-31, Mark 1:14-20, Psalm 62:6-14

Jonah 3:1-5, 10

Chapter 3 represents Jonah’s ‘ground-hog day’—a chance at a re-run of that monumentally significant day when he began the long defiant walk from his home, headed for the port of Joppa (1:3). Now God speaks again. This time, the citizens of Nineveh believe God and repent.

Jonah was not the first servant of the Lord to have been given another chance. He will not be the last. Although God is unchangeable in character, He may change His conduct toward men as they change their attitude toward Him. Repentance in man is a change of will. Repentance in God is God willing a change.

1 Corinthians 7:29-31

The secular view of the indestructibility and the unchanging future of the world was the subject of first-century discussion. For the Christian the concept of time (kairos), had changed radically. Life now took a new perspective, so marriage, grief, and making money must not be all consuming. These all looked different with the new Christian clock, for the world in its present form was passing away, it was not indestructible. Within this theological framework, Paul expresses his concern that those who raise the issue should be free from life’s burdens in the present distress.

Mark 1:14-201-Duccio_Calling

Jesus begins His ministry following John’s arrest. The prophets had anticipated the “fulfilled time” as the era when God’s rule would become a reality. The necessary response to God’s work in Jesus was repentance (a change in life direction) and trusting in the good news of God’s reign.

Jesus’ call to the first disciples included a demand: “Follow me,” and a promise, “I will make you fish for people”. In the Old Testament fishers caught persons for God’s judgment (Jer 16:16–18). Here persons are caught for salvation. The immediate response of leaving nets and father illustrates the sacrificial commitment of those first disciples.

Here’s Your Chance

We’ve all said it: Just give me a second chance! At the heart of that request is the acknowledgement that our priorities were out of order. Today’s readings remind us that priorities – and choices – are important.

Paul’s words to the Corinthians set perspective on the temporal and the eternal. And in the Gospel reading, we see why those words remain important to us today. When Jesus calls, we are presented with a choice – maintain the status quo or discover a new way of thinking and living. Unless our priorities are clear, we can miss the call and the choice. Simon, Andrew, James, and John knew their priorities. Because of this, they were ready when Jesus called.

He’s still calling. Here’s your chance. Will you follow?

Prayer for Epiphany – “Gracious God, establish Your will in me and open my ears to hear Your voice, proclaiming the glory of Your salvation to others. Blessed be God forever. Amen.”

Get FREE printed devotionals for all seasons in Year B (Dec. 2014 – Nov. 2015)

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B

2nd Sunday After Epiphany, January 18, 2015

Second Sunday After Epiphany (Year B)

Scripture Readings*: I Samuel 3:1-10 (11-20), I Corinthians 6:12-20, John 1:43-51, Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17

1 Samuel 3:1-10 (11-20)

Samuel had been dedicated to the Levitical ministry at Shiloh and had undergone training in the things of the Lord. However, he had not yet been addressed by the direct revelation of God (v 7). The time came for the Lord to fulfill His promise to remove Eli’s priesthood and establish another, so the divine silence was broken. While Samuel was reclining in the tabernacle attending to the burning lamp, he hears the voice of the Lord but mistakenly takes it to be that of Eli. Finally Eli discerns that the boy is being addressed by the Lord and advises him to submit himself to whatever the Lord would have him do.

1 Corinthians 6:12-20

Sometimes, general statements need qualification. In Corinth, the words, “Everything is permissible for me…” had apparently become a slogan to cloak the immorality of some in Corinth. Although the statement is true, it required qualification. Paul qualifies the wonderful freedom we have by cloaking it with the principle of love toward self and neighbor.

Liberty that is not beneficial, but detrimental to someone else, is not loving (1 Cor. 8:1; 10:23) and is to be avoided. Although everything may be permissible, it may not always be for our best interest. When liberty brings slavery… it violates love of self and others.

John 1:43-511280px-Sunrise_in_the_fog_7723

Philip’s testimony to Nathanael stressed that Jesus is the Promised One of whom Moses (Deut. 18:18-19;) and the prophets (Isa. 52:13-53:12; Dan. 7:13; Micah 5:2; Zech. 9:9) wrote. Surprisingly Philip called Jesus … the son of Joseph. But this is what the disciples would have believed at this time. Yet Nathanael would soon recognize that He is “the Son of God” (John 1:49).

Ouch, That Hurts!

Oh, that God’s Epiphany in our lives would resemble our Nativity displays – a cute baby, adoring mother, and worshiping Magi – something to smile at as we hurry on with our day-to-day lives. But God’s revelation can sometimes stop us in our tracks, confronting us with our need to radically change how we live our lives. Sometimes, it’s a painful illumination.

Today’s readings show us exactly this. God’s call to Samuel brings about a choice between his love for Eli and his love for God. Paul’s words to the church in Corinth pit their physical desires against their spiritual desire to follow God. And the words of both Philip and Jesus force Nathanael to confront his doubts about Jesus and the direction for his future.

To truly experience the power of Epiphany, we must open ourselves up to see God as He reveals Himself – not as we wish Him to be. But the revelation of Christ in our lives will always result in our greater transfiguration to more fully reflect Him.

Prayer for Epiphany – “Almighty God, help me to hear Your Word and embrace Your calling so I may reflect You; and in so doing, cause others to know and worship You. Blessed be God forever. Amen.”

Get FREE printed devotionals for all seasons in Year B (Dec. 2014 – Nov. 2015)

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B

1st Sunday After Epiphany, January 11, 2015

First Sunday After Epiphany (Year B)

Scripture Readings*: Genesis 1:1-5, Acts 19:1-7, Mark 1:4-11, Psalm 29

Genesis 1:1-5

Light was God’s answer to the dominance of darkness. It was the Lord’s first positive move toward completing the full program of creation. Without it, the other steps would have been meaningless. The creation of light ended the reign of darkness and brought on the first day. When the Creator looked upon the product of his will, he found it perfectly complete and admirable; and he was pleased. The Apostle John reminds us: “God is light, and in Him there is no darkness” (I John 1:5).

Acts 19:1-7

When Paul arrived in Ephesus he met twelve men who had become disciples of John the Baptist. They had been baptized by John and knew his message of the coming Messiah but did not know Jesus was the Messiah. And, they knew nothing about the Holy Spirit. Paul’s teaching assures them that Jesus is the fulfillment of John’s teaching, and they are baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Paul lays his hands on them and they receive an outward demonstration of the gift of the Holy Spirit, which confirmed God had accepted them.

Mark 1:4-11Joachim-PATENIER-The-Baptism-of-Christ-1515-Kunsthistorisches-Museum-Vienna

Whenever notable people were to come to a city, roads were repaired so their journey would be easier. The people of Israel were at that time in a “spiritual wilderness,” and John had to get them ready for the arrival of the Son of God, the Servant (Luke 1:13–17, 67–79). He wanted to lead them out of their spiritual bondage in a “second exodus” that would bring them salvation. John’s ministry was effective and the people responded enthusiastically.

Jesus was not baptized because He was a repentant sinner, since He is the sinless Son of God. His baptism in water was a picture of His baptism of suffering on the cross (Luke 12:50) when the “waves and billows” of God’s judgment went over Him (Ps. 42:7; Jonah 2:3). He “fulfilled all righteousness” through His death, burial, and resurrection (Matt. 3:15). The voice of the Father and the presence of the Spirit as a dove both acknowledged the deity of the Servant.

Gimme A Sign!

Epiphany means to “reveal” or “to make known.” Throughout church history, Epiphany has celebrated the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles, symbolized by the revelation to the three Wise Men. Epiphany is closely connected to the baptism of Jesus and the miracle at Cana, when Jesus turned water into wine. Traditionally, Epiphany has been a day of baptism and also a day when houses were blessed, a visible sign of a renewed commitment to serve and honor God.

So what’s the big deal? In our modern day and age, why Epiphany?

Like Christians of old, we still need a sign. We need God to use the visible to reveal the invisible. In the waters of baptism, our spiritual rebirth becomes tangible. In the blessing of our homes, we visibly renew our commitment to welcome Christ into our homes on a daily basis. In the signs and sacraments of faith, God illuminates His presence and power, driving away the darkness and allowing us to see His Kingdom at work in our lives.

Prayer for Epiphany – “Almighty God, who revealed Christ to the Wise Men and His deity on the day of His baptism, reveal to me Your presence and glory in my life. Blessed be God forever. Amen.”

Get FREE printed devotionals for all seasons in Year B (Dec. 2014 – Nov. 2015)

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B