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5th Sunday After Epiphany, February 5, 2017

Fifth Sunday After Epiphany (Year A) 

Scripture Readings*: Isaiah 58:1-9a, (9b-12), 1 Corinthians 2:1-12, (13-16), Matthew 5:13-20, Psalm 112:1-9, (10)

Isaiah 58:1-9a (9b-12)

Isaiah pleads with his listeners to grasp the reality of sin. He describes a superficial religiousness (vv. 1-3a) that uncovers the hypocrisy of a people whose personal lives – and society – are corrupt (vv. 3b-7). However, if Israel desires a spiritual reformation and puts away “the yoke of oppression,” God will answer His people’s prayers and sustain them.

1 Corinthians 2:1-12 (13-16)

Paul abandoned the approach taken by itinerant philosophers and teachers when he came to Corinth, to rely totally on God’s Spirit in his presentation of the Gospel (2:1–5). Paul’s present appeal does display “wisdom,” but a secret wisdom, which is beyond the comprehension of mankind (vv. 6–10a). The Spirit of God (who, being God knows the thoughts of God) has revealed that wisdom in words. And these spiritual truths (contained in those Spirit–shaped words) are interpreted by the Spirit to those, who through faith in Christ possess the Spirit.

Matthew 5:13-20salt-07

When we wish to stress someone’s solid worth and usefulness, we say of that person: “People like that are the salt of the earth.” In the ancient world salt was highly valued; often connected with purity. Salt was a common preservative, used to keep things from going bad. As followers of Christ, we have a certain antiseptic influence on life.

People need light to see. As followers of Christ, our lights are to shine before others so that others will see the glory of our Father in heaven.

Taste and See That the Lord Is Good

Good parents live out and model for their children how to live. Children learn to be honest by observing the honesty of their parents. They learn responsibility, kindness, and compassion the same way.

In a very similar way, people around us learn about God. If they see hypocrisy and “religiosity,” it is the same as a parent who instructs, “Do as I say and not as I do.” That’s why today’s readings are full of concrete examples of how we are to live, revealing God to the world around us.

Isaiah’s words tell God’s people – and us – to break the bonds of injustice, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and clothe the naked. Jesus tells us to bring flavor and preservation to the world – to shine a light that reveals both a dwelling place and the glory of God.

Through us, the world can taste and see the goodness of God. Through us, God is revealed and the world restored.

Prayer for Fifth Sunday After Epiphany – “Set me free, O God, from my sin and free me to live out the abundance of Your life through Jesus Christ. Blessed be God forever. Amen.”

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year A

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