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.

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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.

The Second Sunday after Epiphany

1 Samuel 3.1-10—With humor as the life skill of the month, this lesson from the First Book of Samuel in the Old Testament counts as a paradoxically humorous story.  Samuel is the son of Hannah and Elkanah.  Otherwise barren, Hannah visits the Temple at Shiloh to pray for a child.  God hears her prayers and grants her petition.  However, Hannah must offer her son, who she names Samuel, to be a servant of the Temple.  When he is a very young child, she takes him to the Temple and dedicates him to the service of God.  Today’s story picks up when Samuel is a young boy living at the Temple and serving Eli, the Temple priest.  One night Samuel hears his name called out.  Thinking it is old and blind Eli calling him, he replies, “Here I am,” and he gets up and goes to find out what Eli needs.  Eli has not called him and sends him back to bed.  Three times this happens before Eli realizes it is God calling Samuel.  Eli tells Samuel to go back to bed and if he is called again he should reply, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”   Of course, he is called again.  So begins Samuel’s call to relationship and purpose with God.

Psalm 139.1-5, 12-17  God, you know me, every part of me.

1 Corinthians 6.12-20–Paul is dealing with the conundrum of law, faith, and sin.  In an exaggerated expression of the question,  Paul states, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are beneficial.  All things are lawful for me, but not I will not be dominated by anything.”  Paul continues the argument by suggesting that just because you can does not mean you should.  Moreover, the damage done by making bad choices can be severe.  Paul asserts that faith empowers one to choose faithfully.  His argument is based upon his theology of the resurrection that affirms that just as God raised Jesus from the destruction of death, so too, God will raise the Body of Christ–us–to faithfulness.

John 1.43-51–It is hard to ignore the irony of Nathanael’s comment this week, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  Apparently Nazareth is thought to be a backwater, backward place having a reputation for uselessness.  How could anything desirable come from such a place.  Of course, Nathanael has his “head turned around” (in a good way, not an Exorcist way) and he realizes even the “Son of God” can come from Nazareth.  Perhaps we might consider this a lesson in prejudice and bias.  To be sure, it is in the quick shorthand of a Gospel narrative, without any supporting justification for such a dramatic change.  Still, the underlying point is God acts where and how God chooses to act.  Sometimes in Nazareth.  Sometimes in Haiti.  Sometimes El Salvadore.  Sometimes Africa.