Monday, January 22, 2018

Epiphany 4B Readings & Commentaries

After calling some disciples, Jesus continues this teaching,. . .  He then enacts this teachingin his first exorcism/healing. 

1st Reading:  Deuteronomy 18:15-20
Our first reading is the authorization of prophets in the life of Israel.  They will be “like Moses” in that they will be intermediaries, for the people cannot bear to hear the word of God directly.  Also like Moses, they will speak words from God and about the God of Israel, which is one way to tell whether they are authentic or not. It became an expectation among Jews that God would one day send “a prophet like Moses,” which some project onto John the Baptist or Jesus.

18:15 The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet. 16 This is what you requested of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said:  “If I hear the voice of the Lord my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.” 17 Then the Lord replied to me: “They are right in what they have said. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command. 19 Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable. 20 But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak—that prophet shall die.”

Psalm 111
Our psalm is a song of praise to the God of the covenant who is gracious and merciful, faithful, and just.  In Hebrew it is an acrostic poem, with each succeeding line beginning with a subsequent letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

1     Hallelujah!
       I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, *
              in the assembly of the upright, in the congregation.
2     Great are the deeds of the Lord! *
              they are studied by all who delight in them.
3     His work is full of majesty and splendor, *
              and his righteousness endures for ever.
4     He makes his marvelous works to be remembered; *
              the Lord is gracious and full of compassion.
5     He gives food to those who fear him; *
              he is ever mindful of his covenant.
6     He has shown his people the power of his works *
              in giving them the lands of the nations.
7     The works of his hands are faithfulness and justice; *
              all his commandments are sure.
8     They stand fast for ever and ever, *
              because they are done in truth and equity.
9     He sent redemption to his people;
       he commanded his covenant for ever; *
              holy and awesome is his Name.
10  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
       those who act accordingly have a good understanding; *
              his praise endures for ever.

2nd Reading:  1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Reading First Corinthians, as a whole, it is clear some in that community believed they had attained a higher level of spiritual knowledge and, therefore, the right to instruct the community.  Paul quotes some of their frequent sayings.  He offers a mild rebuke and then uses the question of whether it is right for Christians to eat meat sacrificed to idols to teach about the responsibility of the individual to the community.  Freedom, yes, but it is freedom responsible in community. We are our brother’s and sister’s keeper.

8:1 Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 2 Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; 3 but anyone who loves God is known by him. 4 Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “no idol in the world really exists,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5 Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as in fact there are many gods and many lords—6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. 7 It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 “Food will not bring us close to God.” We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9 But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols? 11 So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed. 12 But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall.

Gospel Reading:  Mark 1:21-28
We have been told a few verses earlier that Jesus’ principal message was “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” After calling some disciples, Jesus continues this teaching, which people receive as having authority (or power) unlike anything they have heard from their usual teachers.  He then enacts this power in his first exorcism/healing. The demons of oppression cannot withstand the kingdom that is at hand.

1:21 Jesus and his disciples went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24 and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

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 Psalm translation is from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are by Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843, , copyright © 2018.  All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for congregational use, with attribution.

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