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Friday, January 21, 2011

The Third Sunday after the Epiphany: 3 Ordinary Time

But mark both their faith, and their obedience. For though they were in the midst of their work (and ye know how greedy a thing fishing is), when they heard His command, they delayed not, they procrastinated not, they said not, “let us return home, and converse with our kinsfolk,” but “they forsook all and followed,” even as Elisha did to Elijah.” Because such is the obedience which Christ seeks of us, as that we delay not even a moment of time, though something absolutely most needful should vehemently press on us. Wherefore also when some other had come unto Him, and was asking leave to bury his own father, not even this did He permit him to do; to signify that before all we ought to esteem the following of Himself.

From St. Chrysostom's Homilies on Matthew

Matthew 4:12-23

12Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 13He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15“Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” 17From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

18As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 19And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” 20Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

23Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.

A Little Bit for Everyone

Some interesting articles on this passage:
Interesting read this week: Dylan's Lectionary Blog, Epiphany 3, 2005. Biblical Scholar Sarah Dylan Breuer looks at readings for the coming Sunday in the lectionary of the Episcopal Church. "Becoming a "fisher for people" is going to bring these Galilean fishers not only into relationship with Jesus, but into a whole new network of relationships with others. Their relationship with Herod Antipas and the powers of this world, with the hated toll collectors, with their neighbors, with their families, with Gentiles and Pharisees, with anyone who hears Jesus' call and, responding to it, becomes a sister or brother ... none of these will ever be the same."
Let your word dawn in splendor upon our community to dispel the shadows of division adn to disperse the gloom of discord.  United in the bond of your love, may we become a radiant sign of salvation and hope for all who journey from darkness toward the light of your new day. Amen

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

Some thoughts...

The Presbyterian minister Matthew Henry begins his 1708 commentary with these words: "He went not to Herod's court, not to Jerusalem, among the chief priests and the elders, but to the sea of Galilee, among the fishermen. The same power which called Peter and Andrew, could have wrought upon Annas and Caiaphas, for with God nothing is impossible. But Christ chooses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise." Matthew Henry's Commentary. It is a wonderful image that captures an important theme in the Gospel of Matthew and that is that the incarnation and the word spring forth from the countryside in the midst of the people.

A new light is dawning as the word takes root in the hearts of the people of God.  Jesus emerges from the time of testing, his wilderness pilgrimage, a new Israel whose body is made up of the whole people of God - not only the kings or the religious rulers of the day.

The words of the hymn written by Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895) echo in our ears:

Jesus calls us; o'er the tumult
of our life's wild, restless sea,
day by day his clear voice soundeth,
saying, "Christian, follow me;"

as, of old, Saint Andrew heart it
by the Galilean lake,
turned from home and toil and kindred,
leaving all for his dear sake.
Jesus' public ministry is underway bay the Galilean lake. Mimicing other preachers of his time Jesus is spreading the Word.  With a wider view to the whole Gospel text we can also see developing in Matthew's Gospel the play between Jerusalem and Galilee; with Capernaum as his home base.  The movement is spreading and growing. Daniel J. Harrington (Matthean scholar) believes this story would have particular meaning to those who first heard the story of Jesus as Matthew's community was most likely in the very vacinity of Jesus' first days of public teaching. (Matthew, 74)

Harrington also points out that the call of the disciples is not the normal way in which followers gather around a teacher of Jesus' time. It would have been normative for the disciples to seek out the teacher.  This is true today in both the arts and in higher education.  Matthew tells us that Jesus seeks the follower, Jesus calls them. God is seeking us and beckoning us to become open.  How often in our own spiritual journeys do we discover that as we seek to find we realize we were already found?

The Gospel lesson this week is an opportunity for us to speak about how the incarnation takes root in the world around us. Jesus came and walked and preached in a very real place. He found and called to very real people.  For Anglicans all over the world and in the Episcopal Church we share and understand the importance of contextual ministry. The adoption of parochial life, custom of worship, even the prayers (while rooted in our Cramnarian liturgy and confession of a creedal faith the life of our tradition always is found in the incarnational reality of how exactly the Gospel takes root in any one particular place.

The study guide to the Five Marks of Anglican Mission include this important reflection on the nature of mission in context:
Mission in context
All mission is done in a particular setting - the context. So, although there is a fundamental unity to the good news, it is shaped by the great diversity of places, times and cultures in which we live, proclaim and embody it.
It reminds me of the video from the 1990's called the many faces of Anglicanism.  Each of us spread across the Diocese of Texas, the country, or the world are given the opportunity, called by Jesus Christ, to make incarnationally present the transformative love of Jesus Christ. 

There are two pieces of literary importance in this text that at this point bear some consideration. Here I am relying on Davies and Allison (Matthew, The International Critical Commentary, 398).  Jesus does not really call. It is not an invitation.  The words used are an "unconditional command" an "imperative."  The truth is that Jesus' words to the disciples is more of a charge. 

The second piece of literary importance that is mentioned in numerous essays on this passage, but I am relying here specifically on the Davies/Allison commentary, is the fact that the art of fishing is paralleled in the scripture with the reign of God. See the reference to Jeremiah 16.16.  Tertulian popularized this parrallel.

With these two pieces in mind we see that we are not only firmly rooted in place and time, within a particular missionary context, but that we are charged by the call of Jesus Christ to bring about the reign of God.

We are to work together with other Episcopalians and other Christians to change and transform the world around us.  Our cities and our communities, our work places, our homes, our families and friendship circles are to changed and transformed througho our work with Jesus Christ to resemble the reign of God - the kingdom of Heaven. To discover the vision of this particular work preached by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew we will see it building and growing as we move forward following the crowd and disciples to the sermon on the mount.

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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