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Friday, January 6, 2017

Epiphany 3A January 22, 2017

Quotes That Make Me Think

"When Christ calls, he beckons us beyond the point of familiarity, asking us to risk doing something we don?t know how to do, to become someone we?re not yet sure we know how to be."

"What About Zebedee?" Mark Ralls, The Christian Century, 2005.

"What an encouragement this story of Christ's ministry must have been to Matthew's church, and what an encouragement to us who may be frightened to give bold witness in the dangerous and nervous times in which we are called to be the church."

Reading the Bible by the Sea of Galilee.
"Preaching Matthew 4:12-23," Thomas H. Troeger, Lectionary HomileticsSample.

"Why does the incarnation of the word of God not start in Jerusalem, but instead begins out in the Gentile countryside? "

"Out of Nowhere," Russell Rathbun, The Hardest Question, 2011.

"In one sense it was a problem of idolatry. The Corinthians were putting certain leaders into a place that really belonged only to God."

"First Thoughts on Year A Epistle Passages in the Lectionary: Epiphany 3,"William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons from

Prayer 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. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.
From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year A, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.

Some Thoughts on Matthew 4:12-23
Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

Resources for Sunday's Gospel

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 by the Galilean lake. Mimicking 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 to his call. 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  very real people. 

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 critical literary criticism about the text, 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 parallel. 

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. 

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 in unison with God's beckoning siren call. Our cities and our communities, our work places, our homes, our families and friendship circles are to changed and transformed through 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.

Some Thoughts on 1 Corinthians 1:10-18

Resources for Sunday's Epistle

What is the consequence of our rivalry? Have we not in our own way tried to speak on behalf of God? have we not said that so and so is clearly speaking God's word?  Have we not taken sides with different preachers, teachers, and theologians?  

After so many years the reality is stunning that humanity has not changed all that much. We Christians still argue and throw words at each other. We take sides on major and minor theological issues.  We claim some kind of orthodoxy based upon our right thinking with the right people on the right things.

Paul believed that such behavior jeopardized the mission of the church.  Paul believes that whenever we take the focus away from the Gospel of Good News and Salvation in Christ Jesus and place it upon our human correctness we sap the power of the cross and its forgiveness.

People will say that conservatives have brought about the collapse and irrelevancy of the church with their dead traditions.  People will say that liberals have brought down the church by virtue of their progressive agenda on women and sex.  The truth is, as in Corinth, we have taken the focus off the power of Jesus Christ (and himself alone) to save us by the mighty power of the cross.   

All of us have lacked faith in the power of God to sort such divisions out.  We have lacked hope enough to believe that God wanted something different from us. We have not had the courage to do the hardest thing which is to remain together for the sake of the Gospel. We have failed God by choosing to divide up the spoils of a long dead medieval church for the benefit of our own power.  We are no different than Apollos or Cephas but the difference between us and Christ Jesus is stark.

We are in need of repentance.

We are in need of kneeling before the cross of Christ and asking for grace and mercy.

And, when the message is clear that even we are forgiven, we need to reinvest all of our energy, power, authority, and money in reconciliation and then the work of evangelism and service.

Some Thoughts on Isaiah 9:1-4

The beginning of Isaiah is not all sweetness and light but this passage holds with in it a spark of the hope that is to be brought to God’s people in Babylon. Here Isaiah prophesies that in time that which is dark will be filled with light. That those who struggle and suffer will have the mantel of slavery lifted from their shoulders. The season wherein the powers of this world to continue to inflict suffering upon God’s people will come to a close. This will all be brought about by a continuation of the the Davidic royal line.
This passage is particularly important to Matthew in his gospel. He does something interesting with it. Matthew weaves this passage with Isaiah 42:7. He changes the “walking” (in the original passage) to “sitting” (from 42). By doing this Matthew links the two passages. What he is doing is reading that the light is Jesus, that Jesus is the one to continue the Davidic line, that all the nations will know and bear witness to this light, and that God’s people (all people – universally speaking) are to be brought into the light by Jesus.
What originally was read as a prophecy about the Northern Kingdom of Israel and God’s deliverance of his people enslaved to foreign powers now is read through the eyes of the Gospel as identifying the work and mission of Jesus.

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