Sunday, January 30, 2022

Epiphany 5C Readings with Commentary

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. 

First Reading:  Isaiah 6:1-8 [9-13]

Our first reading is Isaiah’s call story.  It is given historical context:  the death of Uzziah occurred around 740 b.c.e. The setting matches descriptions of the Jerusalem temple (1 Kings 22:19-23; Ezekiel 1:4—2:1).  Seraphs are a form of angelic being, whose sole purpose is the praise of God.  Isaiah must be cleansed to stand in the presence of the holy, and to answer his call.  The message the prophet is to convey is startling.  God wills a people who do not comprehend and cannot be healed! The prophet asks, “How long?”  “Until,” God says, Israel is but a stump.  This must be taken in relation to the entire scope of the book of Isaiah.  The judgment is harsh. Israel will be undone, but “a shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse” (11.1).

6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. 2 Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. 3 And one called to another and said:  “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” 4 The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” 6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7 The seraph touched my mouth with it and said:  “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” 8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”

[9 And he said, “Go and say to this people:  ‘Keep listening, but do not comprehend; keep looking, but do not understand.’ 10 Make the mind of this people dull, and stop their ears, and shut their eyes, so that they may not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and comprehend with their minds, and turn and be healed.” 11 Then I said, “How long, O Lord?” And he said: “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is utterly desolate; 12 until the Lord sends everyone far away, and vast is the emptiness in the midst of the land. 13 Even if a tenth part remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak whose stump remains standing when it is felled.” The holy seed is its stump.]

Psalm 138

Psalm 138 is a thanksgiving for deliverance from a time of trouble.  Verses 5-7 could be an early hymn of praise on their own.  The last verse is characteristic of biblical faith:  a statement of trust in God coupled with a reminder to God to follow through on this trust.

1 I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with my whole heart; *
        before the gods I will sing your praise.

2 I will bow down toward your holy temple
    and praise your Name, *
        because of your love and faithfulness;

3 For you have glorified your Name *
        and your word above all things.

4 When I called, you answered me; *
        you increased my strength within me.

5 All the kings of the earth will praise you, O Lord, *
        when they have heard the words of your mouth.

6 They will sing of the ways of the Lord, *
        that great is the glory of the Lord.

7 Though the Lord be high, he cares for the lowly; *
        he perceives the haughty from afar.

8 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you keep me safe; *
        you stretch forth your hand against the fury of my enemies;
        your right hand will save me.

9 The Lord will make good his purpose for me; *
        O Lord, your love endures for ever;
        do not abandon the works of your hands.

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Near the end of this letter, Paul turns to Jesus’ death and resurrection.  In all his letters, this is his most complete discussion of the topic.  In part he is responding to some who claim there is no such thing as the resurrection of the dead (vv. 12 & 35).  He begins in this first portion of the chapter by reminding the Corinthians of what he has “handed down” to them, that is, the witness to Jesus’ resurrection, including to Cephas (Peter) and the other twelve, and to James (the Lord’s brother), and, finally, to himself. 

15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, 2 through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain. 3 For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received:  that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.

 The Holy Gospel: Luke 5:1-11

Jesus calls his first disciples, the fishermen Simon (to whom Jesus will later give the name Peter), and the brothers James and John.  This calling happens quickly and simply in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, but Luke adds a display of Jesus’ prophetic power with the cast for fish, and Simon’s protest of his unworthiness.  The miracle extends from the declaration of the angel Gabriel to Mary that “nothing will be impossible with God.”  Simon’s confession of himself as a “sinner” is a foreshadow of things to come.  Those who find themselves categorized as sinners are chief among those who respond in faith to Jesus, and those whom the disciples are sent out to “net.”

5:1 Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, 2 he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6 When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” 11 When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed 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.  All rights reserved.  The Collect of the Day and the Psalm translation are from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2022 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for group study.

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