Monday, January 30, 2017

Epiphany 5A Readings & Commentaries

The Collect of the Day
Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The First Reading:  Isaiah 58:1-9a, (9b-12)
This reading is from the third section of the Book of Isaiah (56-66), usually dated from the years soon after the return of the exiles from Babylon.  All was not well in the reconstituted community (see also Haggai 2 and Zechariah 7).  There is a back and forth in the reading. The people complain that their acts of piety are not answered (v. 3), but God desires a different kind of fast—one from injustice, servitude, oppression and poverty.

58:1 Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins. 2 Yet day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God. 3 “Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?” Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers. 4 Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high. 5 Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? 6 Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? 8 Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. 9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.
[If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, 10 if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. 11 The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. 12 Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.]

Psalm 112:1-9, (10)
Psalm 112 is a sequel to Psalm 111. Both are acrostic poems. Psalm 111 praises God, and Psalm 112 turns that praise into a description of wise and faithful living. God is to be praised for his faithfulness and justice (Ps. 111), and we are led to live just such a way of life.

1 Hallelujah!
   Happy are they who fear the Lord *
and have great delight in his commandments!
2 Their descendants will be mighty in the land; *
the generation of the upright will be blessed.
3 Wealth and riches will be in their house, *
and their righteousness will last for ever.
4 Light shines in the darkness for the upright; *
the righteous are merciful and full of compassion.
5 It is good for them to be generous in lending *
and to manage their affairs with justice.
6 For they will never be shaken; *
the righteous will be kept in everlasting remembrance.
7 They will not be afraid of any evil rumors; *
their heart is right; they put their trust in the Lord.
8 Their heart is established and will not shrink, *
until they see their desire upon their enemies.
9 They have given freely to the poor, *
and their righteousness stands fast for ever;
they will hold up their head with honor.
[10 The wicked will see it and be angry;
       they will gnash their teeth and pine away; *
         the desires of the wicked will perish.]

The Second Reading:  1 Corinthians 2:1-12, (13-16)
Paul begins this passage by recalling his first visit to Corinth.  He then goes on to the wisdom he speaks to the mature, a wisdom from God, which is a mystery, revealed only through the Spirit.  The quote in verse 9 is from Isaiah 64:4; that in verse 16 from Isaiah 40:13.

2:1 When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 3 And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. 4 My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God. 6 Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. 7 But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him”—10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.
[13 And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual. 14 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. 15 Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny. 16 “For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.]

The Holy Gospel:  Matthew 5:13-20
The Sermon on the Mount continues with two distinct sections.  The first speaks of discipleship using two metaphors: light and salt.  Light is a metaphor common to many religious systems. Salt figured in Israel’s covenants with God (Leviticus 2:13, Numbers 18:19) and in the purification of sacrifices (Exodus 30:35).  The second section may be the heart of the Sermon on the Mount, with its desire to make it clear that Jesus did not come to do away with the law.  For Matthew, Jesus is the law fulfilled.

5:13 Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. 14 You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. 17 Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

The Scripture quotations (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission.  All rights reserved.  The Collect of the Day and the Psalm translation are from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2017, Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY  14843, All rights reserved.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Epiphany 4A Readings & Commentaries

The Collect of the Day
Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The First Reading:  Micah 6:1-8
The prophet Micah was a contemporary of the prophets Hosea and Isaiah of Jerusalem (First Isaiah), exercising his ministry in the 8th century b.c.e., a time when the southern kingdom (Judah) was under threat from the Assyrians.  Micah’s roots were in the common people.  His chief concerns were to restore the heart of worship, which he linked to the doing of justice. Our passage this morning begins with a covenant lawsuit against the people.  The lawsuit includes a review of God’s redeeming acts in Israel’s history (The Balak story is at Numbers 22-24; Shittim at Numbers 25:1-5; Gilgal at Joshua 4:19-24).  A worshipper than asks a question in verse 6: how much is required? The answer is one of the most well- known passages in the Hebrew Scriptures.

6:1 Hear what the Lord says: Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice. 2 Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the Lord, and you enduring foundations of the earth; for the Lord has a controversy with his people, and he will contend with Israel. 3 “O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me! 4 For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of slavery; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. 5 O my people, remember now what King Balak of Moab devised, what Balaam son of Beor answered him, and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the saving acts of the Lord.” 6 “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” 8 He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Psalm 15
Our psalm this morning was most likely an entrance liturgy for pilgrims to the Temple.  It sings of qualities held by the ideal worshiper.  There are ten requirements, the same number as the Ten Commandments.  The number ten had no special meaning other than being a round number that could be ticked off on one’s fingers.

1 Lord, who may dwell in your tabernacle? *
                who may abide upon your holy hill?
2 Whoever leads a blameless life and does what is right, *
                who speaks the truth from his heart.
3 There is no guile upon his tongue;
    he does no evil to his friend; *
                he does not heap contempt upon his neighbor.
4 In his sight the wicked is rejected, *
                but he honors those who fear the Lord.
5 He has sworn to do no wrong *
                and does not take back his word.
6 He does not give his money in hope of gain, *
                nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.
7 Whoever does these things *
         shall never be overthrown.

The Second Reading:  1 Corinthians 1:18-31
One of the primary themes of Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians is “the message of the cross.”  To understand the cross, Paul contends, one must experience it as a saving event in one’s life.  It makes no sense, it is foolishness, if it is not experienced.  It is a completely counter-intuitive thing for most of us, whether we are Jew or Gentile.  God shows his power in weakness.  We cannot boast in a God who is wise and powerful by the standards of the world.  We can only boast in the God of the cross. The quotes are from Isaiah 29:14 (v. 19) and Jeremiah 9:22 (v. 31).

1:18 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. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. 26 Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, 29 so that no one might boast in the presence of God. 30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

The Holy Gospel:  Matthew 5:1-12
The Sermon on the Mount begins with the well-known “beatitudes.”  The sermon covers three chapters of Matthew’s Gospel (5-7).  It is the first of several extended bodies of teaching by Jesus in Matthew.  The sermon begins with blessings.  They are not commandments, but statements: “Blessed are those who…”  The most remarkable thing about these blessings is that they completely reverse the values of most societies. Jesus is claiming those whom society rejects as his kingdom people.

5:1 When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:  3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

The Scripture quotations (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission.  All rights reserved.  The Collect of the Day and the Psalm translation are from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2017, Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY  14843, All rights reserved.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Epiphany 3A Readings & Commentaries

The 3rd Sunday after the Epiphany (A)

The First Reading:  Isaiah 9:1-4
Isaiah of Jerusalem prophecies as the Northern Kingdom (Israel) has been swallowed up by the powerful Assyrians. It is obvious that the Southern Kingdom (Judah) is next on the list for conquest. The future looks bleak.  Isaiah, however, speaks hopeful words. There is a former time of gloom, yes.  But there is also a “latter time” that will be glorious and where light will shine.  Remember, he says, “the day of Midian” (Judges 6-8) when Gideon led the people out from under oppression.

9:1 There will be no gloom for those who were in anguish. In the former time [the Lord] 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.

Psalm 27:1, 5-13
Psalm 27 is a psalm of confidence and trust.  Interestingly enough, this psalm is the only place in the Hebrew Scriptures that calls God “my light.”  This is a highly personal psalm.  Verses 5-13 seem to be a vision of dwelling in the Temple.  The implication is that the kind of trust in God spoken of in the first verse becomes possible through worship.

1 The Lord is my light and my salvation;
   whom then shall I fear? *
         the Lord is the strength of my life;
         of whom then shall I be afraid?
5 One thing have I asked of the Lord; one thing I seek; *
         that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days
                                    of my life;
6 To behold the fair beauty of the Lord *
         and to seek him in his temple.
7 For in the day of trouble he shall keep me safe in his shelter; *
         he shall hide me in the secrecy of his dwelling
         and set me high upon a rock.
8 Even now he lifts up my head *
         above my enemies round about me.
9 Therefore I will offer in his dwelling an oblation
   with sounds of great gladness; *
         I will sing and make music to the Lord.
10 Hearken to my voice, O Lord, when I call;*
         have mercy on me and answer me.
11 You speak in my heart and say, “Seek my face.” *
         Your face, Lord, will I seek.
12 Hide not your face from me,*
         nor turn away your servant in displeasure.
13 You have been my helper; cast me not away;*
         do not forsake me, O God of my salvation.

The Second Reading:  1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Paul has received disturbing news about the Church in Corinth.  There are serious factions that revolve around loyalty to particular people who have been important in the life of the community: Paul himself, Apollos, Cephas (presumably the apostle Peter), and Christ (the faction that has it at least partly right; or this may indicate a particular understanding of Christ that Paul thinks is unhelpful).  The answer is obvious:  the center is Jesus Christ alone. But Paul is more particular than that.  The center is “the message about the cross,” which he knows seems like foolishness to many.  He will continue to speak about this message for the next three chapters of his letter.

1:10 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.

The Holy Gospel:  Matthew 4:12-23
We pick up the story in Matthew as Jesus begins his public ministry (the beginning of chapter 4 is the story of the temptation in the wilderness).  We are given three important pieces of information. He makes his home base in Galilee (a very mixed Jewish/Gentile territory) rather than Jerusalem or Judah.  Second, he calls disciples from among the common Jewish folk of Galilee: fishermen.  Third, his initial message is the same as John’s: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”  But then he goes out “throughout Galilee” not only with the message, but with acts of this kingdom as well.  Matthew calls his message “good news” or “gospel,” (in Greek euangellion, from which we get “evangelism”) a word whose use began with the prophet Isaiah of the Exile (Isaiah 52:& and 62:1).

4:12 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.

The Scripture quotations (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission.  All rights reserved.  The Collect of the Day and the Psalm translation are from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2017, Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY  14843, All rights reserved.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Epiphany 2A Readings & Commentaries

The Collect of the Day
Behold the Lamb of God,
by Allan Crite, owned by
Michael Hopkins & John Bradley
Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world:  Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshiped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

The First Reading:  Isaiah 49:1-7
Our first reading today is the second of the Servant Songs in Second Isaiah (Isaiah 40—55).  The first one (42:1-9) was our first reading last week.  We read this passage this morning and, as Christians, logically link the Servant to the Jesus whom John proclaims in our Gospel reading.  In its original context we do not know who the Servant was; most scholars believe it was meant to be the entirety of God’s chosen people Israel.  What is clear in this passage is that the Servant has a mission not only to Israel, but to the entire world, a major theme of Second Isaiah.

49:1 Listen to me, O coastlands, pay attention, you peoples from far away! The Lord called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb he named me. 2 He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away. 3 And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” 4 But I said, “I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my cause is with the Lord, and my reward with my God.” 5 And now the Lord says, who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him, for I am honored in the sight of the Lord, and my God has become my strength—6 he says, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”7 Thus says the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations, the slave of rulers, “Kings shall see and stand up, princes, and they shall prostrate themselves, because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”

Psalm 40:1-12
Psalm 40 is a psalm of thanksgiving with a hint of lament at its end. There is a definite structure to this psalm. Verses 1-3 are a testimonial of well-being at the hands of God.  Verse 5 may very well be a response by those gathered to hear the testimonial, or perhaps by a priest.  Verse 6 and following is a direct address to God.  This may have been an actual liturgical structure.

1 I waited patiently upon the Lord; *
            he stooped to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the desolate pit, out of the mire and clay;*
            he set my feet upon a high cliff and made my footing sure.
3 He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; *
            many shall see, and stand in awe, and put their trust in the Lord.
4 Happy are they who trust in the Lord! *
            they do not resort to evil spirits or turn to false gods.
5 Great things are they that you have done, O Lord my God!
   how great your wonders and your plans for us! *
            there is none who can be compared with you.
6 Oh, that I could make them known and tell them! *
            but they are more than I can count.
7 In sacrifice and offering you take no pleasure *
            (you have given me ears to hear you);
8 Burnt-offering and sin-offering you have not required, *
            and so I said, “Behold, I come.
9 In the roll of the book it is written concerning me: *
            ‘I love to do your will, O my God; your law is deep in my heart.’”
10 I proclaimed righteousness in the great congregation; *
            behold, I did not restrain my lips; and that, O Lord, you know.
11 Your righteousness have I not hidden in my heart;
     I have spoken of your faithfulness and your deliverance; *
            I have not concealed your love and faithfulness from the
                                great congregation.
12 You are the Lord;
     do not withhold your compassion from me; *
         let your love and your faithfulness keep me for ever.

The Second Reading:  1 Corinthians 1:1-9
Today we begin a continuous reading through the First Letter to the Corinthians during the season after the Epiphany (we will not get the entire way through; we’ll pick it up again next Epiphany in Year B).  1 Corinthians was written to a church in some distress and conflict and Paul’s primary message is the call of Christians to live in community. The greeting of this letter is typical for Paul, as is the thanksgiving for the local church.  It is interesting that here Paul takes a reassuring tone, since later on in the letter he will be quite challenging.

1:1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, 2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:  3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, 5 for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind—6 just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you—7 so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. 8 He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Holy Gospel:  John 1:29-42
On the Second Sunday after the Epiphany we always read from a portion of the latter half of the first chapter of John’s Gospel or the beginning of the second chapter. This is a long tradition in the Church, driven by the ancient need to tell the Cana story close to the story of Jesus’ baptism (it is the Gospel on this Sunday in Year C). This passage is essentially John’s story of Jesus’ baptism, but the central moment here is John’s proclamation, “Behold the Lamb of God.” The story ends with Andrew’s bringing of his brother Simon Peter to Jesus. Even the future leader of the church needed someone to lead the way.

1:29 John saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I 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.’ 34 And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” 35 The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 When 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?” 39 He 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. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). 42 He 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).

The Scripture quotations (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission.  All rights reserved.  The Collect of the Day and the Psalm translation are from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2017, Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY  14843, All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Blessing of a Home at Epiphany

Blessing of a Home
At Epiphany

The members of the household gather at the front door of the home and use chalk to write on the door, the lintel or the stoop:

20 + C + M + B + 17

Alternatively, the above can be written on a piece of paper and attached to the door.  “CMB” stands for both the traditional names of the three magi (Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar) and the Latin for “Christ bless this home:” Christus mansionem benedicat.
All say the rhyme together:
Caspar, Melchior, Balthasar,
Though the light seems very far
Darkness shall be overcome
Christ come now and bless our home

Peace be to this house, and all who enter it.

Inside the Song of Mary is said together
The Lord has shone forth his glory: Come let us adore him.
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in you, O God my Savior, *
for you have looked with favor on your lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed: *
you, the Almighty, have done great things for me,
and holy is your name.
You have mercy on those who fear you *
from generation to generation.
You have shown strength with your arm *
and scattered the proud in their conceit,
Casting down the mighty from their thrones *
and lifting up the lowly.
You have filled the hungry with good things *
and sent the rich away empty.
You have come to the help of your servant Israel, *
for you have remembered your promise of mercy,
The promise made to our forebears, *
to Abraham and his children for ever.
The Lord has shone forth his glory: Come let us adore him.

Leader       The Lord be with you.
People       And also with you.
Leader       Let us pray.

O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the people of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Visit, O blessed Lord, this home with the gladness of your presence.  Bless us who live here with the gift of your love; and grant that we may manifest your love to all whose lives we touch.  May we grow in grace and in the knowledge and love of you; guide, comfort, and strengthen us; and preserve us in peace, O Jesus Christ, now and forever.  Amen.

If desired, Holy Water may be sprinkled in the main room and/or each room of the house.  If in each room, say in each room “Christ bless this house.”  Incense may be burned as well.

When the sprinkling is done, all say

The blessing of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit be upon us and remain with us and our home forever.  Amen.

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Monday, January 2, 2017

The Baptism of Jesus (Epiphany 1A)

The Baptism of Jesus (A)
The First Sunday after The Epiphany

The Collect of the Day
Father in heaven, who at the Baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your Beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit:  Grant that all who are baptized in his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

The First Reading:  Isaiah 42:1-9
In our first reading, Second Isaiah (the prophet of the end of the Exile of Judah in Babylon whose voice begins at 4):1) speaks the first of what are known as “The Servant Songs.”  “The Servant” is most likely meant to be Israel, although Christians have always heard resonances of Jesus in them.  Israel is about to be redeemed, released from exile.  Now it is time to return to life as the covenant people, establish justice, and be “a light to the nations,” which Isaiah proclaims is Israel’s chief calling.

42:1 Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. 2 He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; 3 a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. 4 He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching. 5 Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it:  6 I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, 7 to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. 8 I am the Lord, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to idols. 9 See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them.

Psalm 29
Psalm 29 is an obvious psalm for this Sunday when we read the story of Jesus’ baptism.  Here we have the heavens open and the voice of God on the waters, all images contained in the baptism story.  One thing that distinguishes this psalm is its use of the divine name “Yahweh” (translated, “the Lord”) 18 times.  In addition, the term “voice” is heard seven times.  It’s a reminder that the psalms are poetry!
1 Ascribe to the Lord, you gods, *
      ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his Name; *
      worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
3 The voice of the Lord is upon the waters;
   the God of glory thunders; *
      the Lord is upon the mighty waters.
4 The voice of the Lord is a powerful voice; *
      the voice of the Lord is a voice of splendor.
5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedar trees; *
the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon;
6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, *
      and Mount Hermon like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the Lord splits the flames of fire;
   the voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; *
      the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
8 The voice of the Lord makes the oak trees writhe *
      and strips the forests bare.
9 And in the temple of the Lord *
      all are crying, “Glory!”
10 The Lord sits enthroned above the flood; *
      the Lord sits enthroned as King for evermore.
11 The Lord shall give strength to his people; *
      the Lord shall give his people the blessing of peace.

The Second Reading:  Acts of the Apostles 10:34-43
Our second reading is a portion of the long story of Peter and Cornelius, which includes Peter’s epiphany (revelation) that God has accepted the Gentiles as fellow believers, going against long-accepted Jewish tradition.  In his brief sermon, Peter mentions Jesus’ baptism and the revelatory announcement at it.

10:34 Peter began to speak to Cornelius and the other Gentiles:  “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. 37 That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; 40 but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

The Holy Gospel:  Matthew 3:13-17
Our Gospel reading is Matthew’s version of the story of Jesus’ baptism.  Matthew’s version is the only version of the story in which the voice from heaven publicly proclaims that Jesus is the beloved Son of God.  Matthew is also careful to explain the place of John the Baptist, for those who may be troubled that Jesus submitted to his baptism.  But this is truly an epiphany event:  Jesus is revealed as the beloved Son of God.

3:13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.”  Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

The Scripture quotations (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission.  All rights reserved.  The Collect of the Day and the Psalm translation are from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2017, Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY  14843, All rights reserved.