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Friday, January 14, 2011

Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A

"Do not, then, seek Christ elsewhere than where Christ wished Himself to be preached to you; and as He wished Himself to be preached to you, in that fashion hold Him fast, in that manner write Him on your heart."
From Augustine's Tractates on John: Tractate VII (1:34-51)

John 1:29-42

29The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ 31I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” 35The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!”

37The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o”clock in the afternoon. 40One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). 42He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).

Picture is from Hagia Sophia (Church of the Holy Wisdom), Istanbul

A Little Bit for Everyone

Some interesting articles on this passage:
Interesting read this week: "Sent of God to Witness," commentary by Fred B. Craddock from The Christian Century, 1990. At Religion Online. "Since temptation is commensurate with strength, the unusually gifted face tests that the rest of us do not."
On all who hae been sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be saints let the Spirit descend and remain, so that filled with grace and peace, we may reveal the One whom we testify to be the Son of God, who lives and reings with you in the unity fo the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen

From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year A, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.

Some thoughts...

In this weeks appointed Gospel lesson we see a continuing pattern of acknowledgement about the person of Jesus asproclaimed by the first Christians.  Last week we were given a vision of Jesus Christ asSon, servant, inaugurator of the new exodus and creation, and the one who fulfills all righteousness.  This week we hear in the voice of John the Baptist that Jesus is: Lamb of God, the pre-existant one, the one on whom the Holy Spirit descends, and as the chosen one.  The theme of our season of the Epiphany (a season of God with us) is a season where in we are able to proclaim and speak clearly about the person of Jesus Christ and our understanding of him as followers.

As theLamb of God we understand Jesus in terms of the suffering servant from Isaiah.  Our early church fathers also saw him clearly as the paschal lamb provided by God for the sake of the world. The Johanine scholar Raymond Brown writes, "John the Baptist hailed Jesus as the lamb of Jewish apocolyptic expectaton who was to be raised up by God to destroy evil in the world, a picture not too far from that of Rev. xvii 14." (John, vol 1, Anchor Bible, 60)

Tying in the first words of John's Gospel, the Baptist reminds us of the concept that Jesus is the incarnation of God and intimately involved in the creation itself. There is some debate around the idea that this may be more the author's plemic than the Baptist's prophecy.  However, this line of thinking seems less interesting than the idea that the first Christians proclaimed and understood that Jesus was God. The second person of the Trinity in accordance with the creeds that would later be formed but nonetheless grounded in these first thoughts.  What also seems clear is that many believed Jesus in their first hand experience to be the "one to come" prophesied in the writings of the Old Testament. (Brown, 64)

Jesus is the one upon whom the Holy Spirit descended. We understand as did the first followers that this is an indication not simply of his holiness but that Jesus was an instrument of God.  He is in the words of Isaiah the Messiah, the servant, the one to lead us. 

We end the scene with the identity of Jesus as the Chosen One. Each of the previous theological typologies for understanding the person of Jesus lead to this one.  Jesus in his baptism is the one in whom God is pleased. While we might look over our long and sacred history and see those saints that came before Jesus and those that came after we cannot help ub recognize the first Christian testimony that Jesus is the uniquely chosen one by God to provide deliverance and new life to God's people - gentile and jew alike. 

It is a marvel that our author could provide such a rich Isaian Christology in these first verses of his Gospel.  We have an opportunity as preachers and teachers to share this unique scriptural witness with those around us.  More importantly that as we listen and engage in conversation with those around us we are showing this Christology already at work in their lives and the lives of those in our community.

The challenge this week will be the primary pastoral challenge of the Gospel - to connect the unique story of Christ with the everyday lives of God's people.

The Lambeth Bible Study Method
This Bible study method was introduced by the African Delegation to the Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Church. It is known by both names: "Lambeth" and "African." This method is derived from the practice of Lectio Divina. The entire process should take about 30 minutes.
Question #5: "Briefly identify where this passage touches their life today," can change based upon the lesson. Find lesson oriented questions at this website:
Opening Prayer: O Blessed Lord, who caused all Holy Scripture to be written for our learning. Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that we may embrace and hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
1. One person reads passage. This person then invites a member of the group to begin the process.
2. Each person briefly identifies the word or phrase that catches their attention then invites another person to share.
3. Each shares the word or phrase until all have shared or passed using the same invitation method.
4. The passage is read a second time, preferably from a different translation. The reader then invites a person in the group to begin the process.
5. Each person briefly identifies where this passage touches their life today, and then invites someone who has not shared yet.
6. The passage is read a third time, also from another translation, and the reader invites a person to start the process.
7. Each person responds to the questions, "What does God want me to do, to be or to change?"
8. The group stands up in a circle and holds hands. One person initiates the prayer “I thank God today for …” and “I ask God today for…” The prayer goes around the circle by squeezing the hand to your right.

9. When the circle is fulfilled, the person who initiated the prayer starts the Lord’s Prayer, “Our father…”

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