Sunday, January 26, 2020

The Presentation Readings & Commentaries

The Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple

The Feast of the Presentation occurs 40 days after Christmas Day, when Jesus, as the first-born male, was presented in the Temple, and his parents undergone purification.  Indeed, this feast is also known as the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Because of the theme of light, this day also became the day to bless the provision of candles for the coming year, hence its popular name of Candlemas.  It is one of a handful of Major Feast that take precedence when it occurs on a Sunday (see The Book of Common Prayer, p. 16).

The Collect of the Day
Almighty and everliving God, we humbly pray that, as your only-begotten Son was this day presented in the temple, so we may be presented to you with pure and clean hearts by Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

1st Reading:  Malachi 3:1-4
Malachi (a name which means “my messenger”) comes from the period after the rededication of the Jerusalem Temple in 515 b.c.e.  Later in the book “my messenger" is identified as the prophet Elijah. There was a tradition in Israel that Elijah would return before “the day of the Lord” (which was possible because Elijah ascended and therefore did not die—see 2 Kings 2:1-12).  Christians came to identify this figure as John the Baptist (Luke 1:17 & 7:27).

3:1 See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; 3 he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

Psalm 84:1-6
Psalm 84 is a hymn of longing for the Temple, and perhaps a song sung by pilgrims when journeying to celebrate the Feast of Booths (Deuteronomy 16:13-15).  This song celebrates the nearness of God and the longing that comes from the heart of a pilgrim for that ever-increasing nearness.

1  How dear to me is your dwelling, O Lord of hosts! *
              My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the Lord;
              my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.
2  The sparrow has found her a house
    and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young; *
              by the side of your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.
3  Happy are they who dwell in your house! *
              they will always be praising you.
4  Happy are the people whose strength is in you! *
              whose hearts are set on the pilgrims’ way.
5  Those who go through the desolate valley will find it
                            a place of springs, *
              for the early rains have covered it with pools of water.
6  They will climb from height to height, *
              and the God of gods will reveal himself in Zion.

2nd Reading:  Hebrews 2:14-18
A major theme of the writer of this letter is the image of Jesus as the high priest who sacrificed his own life (of flesh and blood like our own) and now intercedes on our behalf. Jesus knew our sufferings and trials and so can help us through ours.  The high priest of the Jerusalem Temple was the sole person authorized to enter the most interior chamber of the temple once a year (on the Day of Atonement) to offer sacrifice for the sins of the nation.

2:14 Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. 16 For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.

Gospel Reading:  Luke 2:22-40
Only Luke tells us this story.  It is part of his wanting to show the parents of Jesus as faithful Jews, who carefully followed the law in regard to their son.  The first born of all creatures belongs to God (Exodus 13:2, 12 & 15). The law of purification comes from Leviticus 12, as well as the sacrifice required to redeem the firstborn. Simeon is the fifth person said to be filled with the Holy Spirit in the birth narrative of Luke, and his is the fourth song (which is known by its first words in Latin, Nunc dimittis, and is a canticle prescribed in the Prayer Book at Evening Prayer or Compline.  It is significant that a woman, Anna, is called a prophet.  She is part of Luke’s frequent pairing of men and women in equal number in his Gospel.  The baby presented is celebrated, but there is also a warning that his life will contain sorrow and rejection.

2:22 When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), 24 and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, 29 “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” 33 And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” 36 There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. 39 When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

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.  The Collect of the Day and the Psalm translation are from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2020, Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY  14843, All rights reserved.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Epiphany 3A Readings & Commentaries

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.

The Collect of the Day
Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all peoples the good news of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

1st Reading:  Isaiah 9:1-4
Isaiah of Jerusalem prophesied as the Northern Kingdom (Israel) was being 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. 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. 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. 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.  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.

2nd 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.

Gospel Reading:  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 “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 52:7 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.  All rights reserved.  The Collect of the Day and the Psalm translation are from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2020, Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY  14843, All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for group study.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Epiphany 2A Readings & Commentaries

Behold the Lamb of God!

The Collect of the Day
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.

1st 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 a structure for use in worship.

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.

2nd 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 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.

Gospel Reading:  John 1:29-42
On the 2nd 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.  All rights reserved.  The Collect of the Day and the Psalm translation are from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2020, Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY  14843, All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for group study.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Baptism of Jesus A Readings & Commentaries

Our Gospel reading is Matthew’s version of the story of Jesus’ baptism.

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.

1st 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 40:1) 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.

2nd 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.”

Gospel Reading:  Matthew 3:13-17
Our Gospel reading is Matthew’s version of the story of Jesus’ baptism.  Matthew’s version is the only version 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.  All rights reserved.  The Collect of the Day and the Psalm translation are from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2020, Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY  14843, All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for group study.