Last Sunday after Epiphany

2 Kings 2.1-12: This moment of transfer of authority from Elijah to Elisha is of worthwhile significance in the Old Testament Canon.  Among other reasons, it simply illustrates the continuity of God’s revelation in this prophetic tradition.  Even as Elisha asks for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit (i.e. his authority, power, relationship with God), much of the story of Elijah is repeated (doubled) in the Elisha cycle of stories.  Whatever the details of the story, the continuity of authority and importance passing from Elijah to Elisha is essential to the narrative of God’s revelation.

Psalm 50.1-6: This psalm is unique in that it is an admonishment from God.  While most psalms appear to be songs sung to God, Psalm 50 appears to be a prophetic admonition from God to God’s people.  It is a psalm of judgement and warning.  Still hope and redemption is possible; the people must turn back to God.

2 Corinthians 4.3-6: This description of the work of the disciple of Jesus seems concerned with the incapacity of some to understand the gospel.  It seems they believe it possible for some to be distracted by the illusions of the world, preventing them from seeing the “light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.”  Regardless, they are quite definite in their proclamation of the Gospel of God revealed in Jesus Christ.  They are equally certain of their understanding of God’s revelation that flows through them.

Mark 9.2-9: This version of the Transfiguration story involving Jesus, Elijah, and Moses is a great story of the New Testament extending the illustration of the transfer of authority we heard in today’s Old Testament reading.  Jesus, who becomes “dazzling white” is surrounded by the Jewish authority figures of Moses and Elijah.  Peter sees this and affirms the magnitude of the three characters presence in this scene.   But it is not Moses or Elijah who proclaim the transfer of authority to Jesus.  Instead, it is God who declares, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”  Again, we see the importance of the transfer of authority in God’s narrative of revelation.


4th Sunday after Epiphany

Deuteronomy 18.15-20: This passage is a declaration of God’s prophetic tradition.  God’s prophet is not an inherited position, it is not a popularly elected position, it is not a position for which one prepares and is appointed, nor is it a dynastic position.  God’s prophet is “chosen.”  God will “raise up for them a prophet like (Moses) from among them; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything I command.”  Jewish tradition suggests this passage is an affirmation of a never-ending prophetic presence throughout the ages.  Christian tradition sees this passage pointing to a single messianic prophet, Jesus.  The passage from Deuteronomy ends with an admonition to pay attention to the voice of the prophet as well as a means of recognizing false prophets/prophecy.  The language of the Torah is always intriguing and this passage certainly does not let us down.

Psalm 111

1 Corinthians 8.1-13: This is an extraordinary Pauline passage.  Paul rightly asserts that since idols are really empty expressions of religiosity and point to nothing, there is no real individual harm in eating meat offered to idols.  HOWEVER, since not everyone is so understanding, my individual license in eating such meat may cause confusion to someone who is more immature or struggling in faith.  Knowledge and understanding is a wonderful thing asserts Paul.  Yet compassion, concern, and love for those who may yet not understand fully the meaning of God’s revelation in Jesus is more important than knowledge and understanding.  God will know us by our love, not our wisdom and sophistication.  Therefore, Paul reminds us, be sensitive to our brothers and sisters and refrain from doing things that may confuse them.

Mark 1.21-28:  Once again we have a healing miracle of Jesus.  We should all be aware of the deep concern Jesus has with human wellness.  While in Jesus time it may have been his prayer and command that healed the sick and the possessed, in our time it is access to the resources of good nutrition, living wage, and healthcare that helps each individual be well.  As Jesus was concerned about everyone’s wellness, so too should we be concerned with the societal and economic challenges to wellness.

Third Sunday after Epiphany

Jonah 3.1-5, 10–If you enjoy giant fish stories, Jonah is the book for you.  Sunday’s reading is nearing the end of the story.  God sent Jonah on a mission to pronounce a judgement on Nineveh.  Jonah did not want to do this and attempted to flee.  It is in this book we learn of the giant fish that swallows Jonah up and delivers him to the shores of Ninevah.  God again tells Jonah to pronounce judgement on Ninevah.  He relents and pronounces judgement.  The king and people of Ninevah repent, and God decides not to destroy them.  What we don’t hear in today’s reading is how angry this made Jonah.  “All I have been through to pronounce judgement on the people, and now, because they repent, you show mercy.”    There are some very paradoxical issues going on here.

Psalm 62.7-14–An affirmation of the steadfast love of God.

1 Corinthians 7.29–31–Again, Paul is suggesting an end of time or at least a transformation of human reality.  Paul, as always, is encouraging the people to change and begin to look forward to God’s new creation.

Mark 1.14-20–Jesus is inviting people to join him in realizing the fullness of the Kingdom of God, “. . . come near, repent, and believe in the good news.”  In this first chapter, as people respond to Jesus’s radical invitation, we learn of the earliest disciples joining Jesus.

First Sunday after the Epiphany: the Baptism of Jesus

Genesis 1.1-5:  An odd reading from the Creation story, not in its content, but in its brevity.  However, as this is the season of Epiphany, a season captured in the image of a light leading “wise” characters to the birth site of the “new” king, perhaps a short version of the Creation story focused solely on the distinction of light and darkness, day and night is all that is needed.

Psalm 29

Acts 19.1-7: Paul, in this brief reading, is drawing a distinction between the Johannine baptism of “repentence” {repent (metanoia—a turning of the heart from the wrong direction to the right direction) is essential to exploring how it is we move our journeys from brokenness to connectedness with God.  While Paul in Romans affirms salvation is by grace through faith in God (see letter “c” below), repenting or metanoia-turning is a process of us reorienting ourselves to God’s purpose for our lives.  Repenting allows us to realize and experience the unrelenting grace and love of God as we choose to seek God.}  and baptism in the name of Jesus, that is, a baptism into the transformative power of the Holy Spirit manifested by God through Jesus.  Paul is moving baptism from a personal action of metanoia to an ontologically transformative change in our nature by God.  Baptism becomes not only a mark of repentence, but also our new birth by faith in Jesus.

Mark 1.4-11: This is the story of Jesus’ baptism by John.  It is an affirmation of the distinction Paul is making in today’s reading from Acts.  The Gospel of Mark, the Readers’ Digest version of the Gospel, contains only the essential elements of the story of John the Baptist and ends with the declaration by a voice from the heavens acknowledging the person just baptized by John, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”