Epiphany 3

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January 27, 2002

Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, you sent your Son to proclaim your kingdom and to teach with authority. Anoint us with the power of your Spirit, that we, too, may bring good news to the afflicted, bind up the brokenhearted, and proclaim liberty to the captive; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Isaiah 9:1-4
{1} But there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. {2} The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness--on them light has shined. {3} You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder. {4} For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.

1. In the former time he brought into contempt… in the latter time he will make glorious:
"...more than a chronological sequence is being depicted. Rather, two qualities of time, judgmental and redemptive, are being contrasted, which continue a major theme from chapter 7 onward…. The language is not just of a wishful thinking for a better time, but the confession of Israel’s belief in a divine ruler who will replace once and for all the unfaithful reign of kings like Ahaz." [1]
The lands in question were conquered by the Assyrians, now they will be restored.
the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali…the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: These are territories was captured by Tiglath-Pileser and turned into three Assyrian provinces in 732-733 b.c.
2. darkness…light: Yahweh struck the northern kingdom with a nation from afar; with them came "only darkness and distress; and the light grows dark with clouds" That will be reversed.
4. the yoke…the bar…the rod: Each is a sign of the oppression of the Assyrians. They will be broken. The captivity of the northern kingdom will end.
day of Midian: See Judges 7:15-25 for the story of the defeat of Midian. Yahweh insists that Gideon diminish his army so that it would be clear that it was Yahweh, not the military might of the Israelites that won the victory.
[5-7: The prophecy of the child called "Wonderful Counselor…" is omitted from the reading. It has already appeared as the first lesson for Christmas 1 in all three years of the lectionary.]

Psalm 27:1, 4-9
{1} The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?…. {4} One thing I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple. {5} For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock. {6} Now my head is lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the LORD. {7} Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me! {8} "Come," my heart says, "seek his face!" Your face, LORD, do I seek. {9} Do not hide your face from me. Do not turn your servant away in anger, you who have been my help. Do not cast me off, do not forsake me, O God of my salvation!

1. The LORD is my light: "According to Isa. 10:17; 60:1, there was in Jerusalem a traditional designation of Yahweh as `or-yisra`el [Light of Israel]." The parallel, salvation, fills the designation with its content.
4. One thing I asked of the LORD: Cf. 1 Kings 3:5, and God said, "Ask what I should give you." Solomon asked for an understanding mind to govern your people. Yahweh responds in verse 11: "Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies…." He also promises riches and honor all your life…I will lengthen your life. The singer in Psalm 27 has modeled his/her desire on that of the wise Solomon.
5-6. The Lord hides and protects, and exalts the singer over his/her enemies.
7-9. "…vv. 7-14 everywhere give evidence of elements of an individual lament." [2] The singer calls on Yahweh to respond to his/her need and not ignore or forsake him/her.
9. your servant: The singer claims that he/she belongs to Yahweh, and therefore deserves Yahweh’s protection.

1 Corinthians 1:10-18
{10} Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. {11} For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. {12} What I mean is that each of you says, "I belong to Paul," or "I belong to Apollos," or "I belong to Cephas," or "I belong to Christ." {13} Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? {14} I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, {15} so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name. {16} (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) {17} For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power. {18} For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

12-13. I belong to…: The nature of the disunity in Corinth has to do with ecclesiastical order, that is, "who baptized whom?" It was not just a difference in the person of the baptizer, but in what that person embodied as a believer. Paul was the apostle to the uncircumcised (Galatians 2:7); Apollos taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, but he knew only the baptism of John (Acts 18:24ff.) until he was further instructed by Priscilla and Aquila; Cephas was the apostle to the circumcised (Galatians 2:8). Different baptisms, different faiths, different denominations. In Ephesians Paul declares that "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all" (4:4-6). Within that one body there is room for a variety of experiences and expressions with one caveat: For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a dif-ferment gospel from the one you accepted… (2 Corinthians 11:3).
14-16. Crispus…Gaius…Stephanas: Crispus was an official of the synagogue in Corinth; not much is known about Gaius (Romans 16:23); members of Stephanas’ household were the first converts in Achaia (1 Corinthians 16:15).
18: the message of the cross is foolishness: Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God's Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned (2:14).

Matthew 4:12-23
{12} Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. {13} He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, {14} so 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-- {16} the 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." {17} From that time Jesus began to proclaim, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." {18} As 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. {19} And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fish for people." {20} Immediately they left their nets and followed him. {21} As 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. {22} Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. {23} Jesus 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.

12-13. Jesus…made his home in Capernaum: Only Matthew says that Jesus moved to Capernaum. He is said to have moved there to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah 9:2). Peter also made his home in Capernaum (Matthew 8:14).
14. spoken through the prophet Isaiah: Verses 15-16 are a citation from Isaiah 9:1-2.
15. Galilee of the Gentiles: Cf. Matthew 10:5f., where Jesus forbade his disciples to carry his mission outside of the people of Israel. "…the designation ‘Galilee of the Gentiles’ has a fictive character. With this Old Testament designation Matthew intends to point on a second level to that which the sending of Jesus has started in the history of salvation: the way of salvation to the Gentiles. In Galilee, the risen Lord will give the disciples the command to make disciples of all Gentiles (28:16-20)…. Matthew thus wants to point to a perspective which applies to the entire ministry of Jesus in Israelite Galilee…. Our quotation thus becomes an expression for the basically polemic claim of the Bible of Israel that the evangelist makes after the separation of church and synagogue and after the destruction of Jerusalem." [3] The quotation is Matthew’s equivalent to Luke’s quotation of Simeon’s song with its reference to the "light for revelation to the Gentiles" (Luke 2:32).
18. Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother: Compare call story with the description in John 1:40-42. Peter (Simon, Cephas) has the most prominent role of the disciples in the narrative of the Gospels. Andrew is regularly listed in the first four disciples. But apart from that we know little about him. Peter and Andrew were from the town of Bethsaida (John 1:44).
19. fish for people: See Matthew 13:47-50: "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind, when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." To fish for people is the process of recruitment, ecclesiastically, a missionary activity, theologically, an eschatological activity.
21. James…John: We know quite a bit about James and John, more than about most of the rest of Jesus’ disciples. They were the sons of Zebedee, and were fishers (Matthew 4:21). Their mother’s name was Mary, and he had a sister named Salome. [4] They were partners with Simon (and Andrew ?) (Luke 5:10). Jesus called them "Boanerges," Sons of Thunder (Mark 3:17) They were with Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mark 13:3), and also in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:33). They asked a special privilege from Jesus (Mark 10:35ff). Their mother also asked for their preferment (Matthew 20:20ff). Jesus foretold their martyrdom (Mark 10:39). John was often with Peter (Acts 3, 4 and 8). He was still alive at the time of the council in Jerusalem, around 48/49 ad (Galatians 2:9). He was a pillar of the church (Galatians 2:9). James was killed by Herod in about 43 ad (Acts 12:2).
23: A summary of Jesus activities in Galilee: teaching, proclaiming the kingdom, and healing. Verses 24-25, which should have been included, report the favorable response to Jesus’ Galilean tour. The verse is repeated, almost word for word, in 9:35, which makes chapters 5-9 and inclusion. "…v. 23 anticipates even the structure of these chapters: ‘The Messiah of the word, the preaching one, is described in chs. 5-7, the Messiah of the deed, the healing one, in chs. 8-9." [5]
The images Isaiah used to encourage the people in Judea and Jerusalem Matthew uses to encourage those who hear Jesus’ words. It is time for a new beginning. The old has passed away, the new has come. Light will come into the darkness, the kingdom of heaven has come near, and the good news of the kingdom of heaven is proclaimed.

     A call for unity among those who should be united but are not, is a theme that is touched on in the lessons: those who disobeyed Yahweh and those who trusted him in Isaiah, the singer and the witnesses in the Psalm, different factions in Corinth, and Christian Jews and converted Gentiles in the Gospel. Disunity has been a prominent characteristic of the Christian church from the very beginning. Not only has it blighted the proclamation of the Gospel of the love of God, but we have become so concerned that we have the necessary tools to exclude those who may differ in their understanding of God’s actions that we are willing to sacrifice the richness and variety of belief that should be permitted, for the sake of universal sameness. All denominational theologies are reductionist; they lead to disunity, division and dissension rather than harmony, agreement and concord. We can never exhaust the diversity and richness of God’s self-manifestation, nor should we restrict ourselves or others in our celebration of that variety.
     Light is another theme that spans the lections. The Lord is our light; his presence and saving power pierce the darkness of our lives. Because we live in his light, and are confident of his love and protection, our joy is increased, and we are able to follow him when he calls.

Hymns [6]
With One Voice (e.g. 762v), Hymnal Supplement 1991 (e.g. 725s) and LBW (e.g. 32).
E=Entrance; D=Hymn of the Day; I=First Lesson, P=Psalm; II=Second Lesson; G=Gospel

271 --E--O Splendor of
380 --D--O Christ, Our
8 --I--The People Who
652v --I--Arise, Your  Light(723s)
       782s, 785s, 76, 455

703s --P--Psalm 27: The Lord
126 --II--Where Charity and
237 --G--O God of Light
784v --G--You Have Come    Down

Prayers of the People [7]
P or A: God has chosen us to be united in the mission of Jesus Christ. Let us unite in prayer for the need of the Church and the world, saying, "Lord, speak in our hearts," and responding, "Have mercy on us and answer us."
A: For the unity of your holy Church, that we may be one as you and the Son are one. We remember especially our partners in the Anglican Church of Canada and their primate, Archbishop Michael Peers. May our bishop(s) _______, our pastor(s) _______, and all Christian leaders be blessed with your Spirit, to honor and promote unity rather than division and isolation. Lord, speak in our hearts, Have mercy on us and answer us.
A: For the unity of all people, that our Government and Parliament and those of all nations be dedicated to the welfare of their people and the common good. Lord, speak in our hearts, Have mercy on us and answer us.
A: For this congregation that it may be a place of unity and mutual concern for one another, that as the apostle desired, there be no divisions, but that we be united in mind and purpose. Lord, speak in our hearts, Have mercy on us and answer us.
A: For the sick and all those in special need of God's care that we now name before you _______. Let Jesus be among us as he was in Galilee, teaching, proclaiming good news and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. Lord, speak in our hearts, Have mercy on us and answer us.
A: For the witness of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, in society, in our homes and congregations. Bless the work of the synods in Canadian missions, especially the newly started mission in Barrie, Ontario, and make the Church a home for those who are in need. Lord, speak in our hearts, Have mercy on us and answer us. P: God, you alone are what we need. Answer us as you know that it will benefit us and those who have asked for our prayers. Take away our fears, unite our minds and let us trust completely in you. Amen.

Or [8]

Presider or deacon
God gives us the cross of Christ to proclaim. United in mind and purpose, let us pray for all in their weakness and division.
Deacon or other leader
For the holy catholic church throughout the world.
For N our bishop, for presbyters, deacons, and all who minister in Christ, and for all the holy people of God.
For this holy gathering and for all who enter with faith, reverence, and fear of God.
For this country, for all nations and their leaders, and for our community.
For all those in danger and need: the sick and the suffering, prisoners, captives, and their families, the hungry, homeless, and oppressed.
For the dying and the dead, and for those who care for them.
For ourselves, our families and friends, and all those we love.
God of dawning light, hear our fervent prayers today and give us the strength to put aside all cares and follow you in your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Scripture quotations contained herein are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U. S. A. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[1] Brevard S. Childs, Isaiah. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001, pp. 80-81.
[2] Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalms 1-59: A Commentary. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1988, p. 332.
[3] Ulrich Luz, Matthew 1-7: A Commentary. Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1989, p. 195.
[4] Mark 16:1.
[5] Ibid., p. 203.
[6]  http://www.worship.on.ca/text/rcla9899.txt
[7]  http://www.worship.on.ca/text/inter_a2.txt
[8] http://members.cox.net/oplater/prayer.htm