Monthly Archives: January 2017

4th Sunday After Epiphany, January 29, 2017

Fourth Sunday After Epiphany (Year A) 

Scripture Readings*: Micah 6:1-8, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, Matthew 5:1-12, Psalm 15

Micah 6:1-8

The prophet condemns Israel’s leaders and shows the contrast between the corrupt society they had shaped and the glorious and peaceful kingdom to be formed by the coming Messiah/King. God yearns for His people to do good, and walk humbly with Him (vv.3-8). Anything less is displeasing to God. No society that is marked by violence, lying, and deceit will stand – especially when it is called by God’s Name.

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

Paul’s key focus in this passage is that we dare not mix man’s wisdom with God’s revealed message: The cross. God’s wisdom is revealed primarily in the cross of Jesus Christ. Paul points out three different attitudes people have toward the cross:

1) Some will stumble at the cross (v.23a). The Jews were more impressed with miraculous signs, and the cross appeared to be weakness. 2) Some will laugh at the cross (v. 23b). This was the response of the Greeks. To them, the cross was foolishness. It (the cross) defied human wisdom. 3) Some will experience the power and wisdom of the cross (v. 24). Those who have been called by God’s grace and who have responded by faith, realize that Christ is God’s power and wisdom. In the death of Christ, God reveals the foolishness of man’s wisdom and the weakness of man’s power.

Matthew 5:1-12sermon_on_the_mount

Matthew summarizes the preaching of Jesus in a passage known as the “Sermon on the Mount” (chaps. 5–7). Jesus begins with a series of statements known as the “Beatitudes” (5:1–12). These surprising statements of blessing underline the difference between human values and God’s, and call us to view life and success God’s way.

What A Fool Believes

The Doobie Brothers had it right… “What a fool believes he sees, no wise man has the power to reason away.”

Today’s readings might well borrow this popular song for its theme. Just listen to the words of Jesus. “Blessed are the poor… those who mourn… the meek…” Then and now, those words run counter to our get-ahead strategies and philosophies. In a “might makes right” world, there’s no value in being meek. “Happy at all costs” trumps those who mourn any day. And in our “he who dies with the most toys wins” world, there’s no glory in being poor in spirit.

The words of Jesus are no less difficult today than they were when He spoke them more than 2000 years ago. And they are no less true.

So… what do you see?

Prayer for Fourth Sunday After Epiphany – “Almighty God, give grace that I may see and know You, revealing your love and life to those around me. Blessed be God forever. Amen.”

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year A

3rd Sunday After Epiphany, January 22, 2017

Third Sunday After Epiphany (Year A)

Scripture Readings*: Isaiah 9:1-4, 1 Corinthians 1:10-18, Matthew 4:12-23, Psalm 27:1, 5-13

Isaiah 9:1-4

The lands of Zebulun and Naphtali (Northern Israel) had been conquered by Assyria. Isaiah sees a future time when a “great light will be revealed” and the nation will multiply and experience increased joy. This “great light” will be the Messiah, who will be human and deity: “A Child is born… A Son is given” (v. 6).

1 Corinthians 1:10-18

Paul is concerned about the division in the church at Corinth. He stresses three Christian priorities: unity, allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ and the proclamation of the gospel. He asks three questions: Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul (v. 13)? His intent is to have them focus solely upon Jesus so that only the gospel will be proclaimed.

Matthew 4:12-231024px-duccio_di_buoninsegna_036-crop_-715x450

Following the arrest of John the Baptist, Jesus begins his own ministry in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, in the region of Capernaum. Matthew quotes Isaiah, reinforcing that Jesus is the “great light” spoken of by the prophet Isaiah. At that time the population was mixed, with many Jews but also many Gentiles present. The great light dawning in this area (vv. 15–17) may foreshadow the fact that the salvation Jesus brings is for all.

What makes a disciple is his or her willingness to follow Jesus. Following Him produces people who share Christ’s concern for drawing others to God (v.19). People who are truly excited about Jesus are still the best way to communicate the Gospel.

Seeing Is Believing

Today’s readings reveal a future that is yet to be experienced. His nation in ruins, Isaiah’s words reveal a future when his people and nation are restored… prosperous… joyful. Paul’s words and admonition point to a unified Body of Christ. The ministry of Jesus in Zebulun and Naphtali touch the lives of Jews and Gentiles alike, foretelling a salvation for all people.

This season of Epiphany – as well as life’s seasons of epiphanies – does the same. Christ is revealed, as is our future found in Him. The Word enters our life and reveals healing even in the midst of sickness… peace as we wrestle with chaos and uncertainty… provision even as we hear headlines of economic and political turmoil.

As we read today’s scriptures, we recognize that even now, parts of the Word are yet to be fulfilled. The same is true in our lives. Epiphany offers the opportunity to see through eyes of faith the reality God is in the midst of creating. It is this faith – based on the Word of God – He uses to fashion our world and us into His ultimate image of restoration and wholeness.

Prayer for Third Sunday After Epiphany – “Gracious God, open my eyes to see Your glory and the good You are creating in my life and the world around me. Blessed be God forever. Amen.”

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year A

2nd Sunday After Epiphany, January 15, 2017

Second Sunday After Epiphany (Year A)

Scripture Readings*: Isaiah 49:1-7, 1 Corinthians 1:1-9, John 1:29-42, Psalm 40:1-12

Isaiah 49:1-7

From before His birth, God’s Servant was called to His ministry (Jer. 1:5; Gal. 1:15); and God prepared Him like a sharp sword and a polished arrow (Heb. 4:12; Rev. 1:16). Messiah came as both a Servant and a Warrior, serving those who trust Him and ultimately judging those who resist Him.

1 Corinthians 1:1-9

Paul confronts a dysfunctional church by reminding them of their high and holy position in Christ. He reminds them that they have been set apart by God (vv. 1-3) and enriched by God’s grace (vv.4-6). He tells them that they are to wait expectantly for Christ’s return (v. 7), and that they must be dependent upon God’s faithfulness (vv. 8-9).

John 1:29-42ottavio_vannini_san_giovanni_che_indica_il_cristo_a_santandrea

The title: “The Lamb of God” sums up the love, sacrifice, suffering, and triumph of Christ. What John is saying is not that he did not know who Jesus was, but that he did not know what Jesus was. It had suddenly been revealed to him that Jesus was none other than the Son of God.

What’s In a Name?

Ask a parent about their new baby’s name, and they’ll proudly tell you about its meaning or the relative or friend their child is named after. What we are called is important, even defining aspects of our personality or character traits.

Today’s readings remind us of this importance. Isaiah’s words state, “The Lord called me before I was born, while in my mother’s womb he named me.” Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth is a call to live as those who bear the name of Christ, set apart, enriched by grace, expectantly waiting for Christ’s return, and dependent upon God’s faithfulness. In the Gospel, John declares of Jesus, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” And Jesus Himself said to Simon, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas (meaning Peter).”

We are not only made in the image and likeness of God, we bear the name of His Son. As Christians, we reveal to the watching world glimpses of God. In us – because of us – they see Him.

What are we showing them? In us, what do they see of Him?

We are called Christians, named after Jesus Christ. It’s important that we live in such a way as to invite from others the question,” Tell me about the One you’re named after?”

Prayer for Second Sunday After Epiphany – “Loving God, illumine my life by Your Word and sacraments so that You are known and worshiped by those around me. Blessed be God forever. Amen.”

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year A

1st Sunday After Epiphany, January 8, 2017

First Sunday After Epiphany (Year A)

Scripture Readings*: Isaiah 42:1-9, Acts 10:34-43, Matthew 3:13-17, Psalm 29

Isaiah 42:1-9

The chapter begins with the first of several passages known as the “servant songs,” because they deal with a “servant of the Lord.” The ideal servant introduced here is the Messiah, whom God has empowered and called to establish justice on the Earth.

The servant of the Lord’s mission is to “[establish] justice in the earth” (vv. 1–4), and to be “a light to the nations” (vv. 5–9).

Acts 10:34-43

This brief summary of Peter’s sermon is in full harmony with the earlier evangelistic sermons recorded in Acts. The heart of the Gospel is the historic Christ, crucified and risen again, in accord with the teachings of Old Testament Scriptures.

Matthew 3:13-17baptismjesus

Jesus made a special trip from Galilee to be baptized by John. Although John saw no need for Christ to submit to a rite that implied a need for repentance (vv. 13–14), Jesus insisted, saying that it was right to identify Himself with John’s message (v. 15). After the baptism, the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descended on Jesus, and the Father’s voice from heaven identified Jesus as “My Son.”

Everyday Graces

Often, we think of God as a “Grand Canyon” kind of God. Big. Deep. Vast. Awe-inspiring. He is. But most of us don’t live at the Grand Canyon. We live ordinary lives in ordinary communities under ordinary circumstances. What does God look like here?

Today’s readings remind us that God is seen in everyday graces. He is gentle and compassionate, “…a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench… I have taken you by the hand and kept you.” God is waiting to hold and comfort you.

To answer our questions and doubts, God finds practical ways to reassure us, “… to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” He knows that our faith is tested and He is waiting to reassure us of His presence and Lordship.

Why is this important? Because we are people who experience reality through our senses – sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch. God comes to us in the waters of baptism, the Body and Blood of the Eucharist, the fellowship of believers, the flickering of candlelight, and the sounds of hymns. It is these everyday graces that make God real and knowable in our everyday lives. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory…”

Prayer for First Sunday After Epiphany – “Gracious Lord, who clothed Yourself in humanity, help me to meet and see You each day, remembering the covenant of salvation and confessing you as Lord and Savior. Blessed be God forever. Amen.”

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year A