The Reverend Elizabeth Bowyer
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Introduction to the Readings for the first Sunday after Epiphany,

January 15, 2017

This morning we celebrate the first Sunday in the season after Epiphany.  It’s a season when we hear stories of promise and of hope for a decidedly different future.  It’s a season when we are given stories of how God manifests Godself in and through all sorts of surprising people, people not so very different from you and from me.   

 

In his introduction to the Book of Isaiah in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Dr. Walter Brueggemann tells us that the book of Isaiah is divided into 2 parts separated by a gap of 200 years.  In broad terms

Chapters 1 – 39 talk about judgement and loss and is closely linked with the prophet Isaiah

Chapter 40 – 66 the second part articulates hope

Today’s reading from the Old Testament comes from the second part of Isaiah and is the first of 4 poems that speak of Israel as God’s servant. The Church has taken these poems to refer to Jesus even though it seems unmistakably clear that the primary reference in these poems is to Israel as God’s servant. It talks about the servant enacting God’s transformative healing and mending of the whole world. It is specific about Israel’s’ vocation and mentions justice 3 times

We begin with an ancient story of prophetic promise coming to us from the lips of the prophet, Isaiah who was a voice of hope for a community of isolated and discouraged ones living some 500 years before the birth of Jesus.

Reading from Isaiah,  Chapter 42, verses 1-9.

  God’s servant brings justice

“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.

He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street;

a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;

he will faithfully bring forth justice. 

He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching. 

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;

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, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the darkness of those who sit in darkness, I am the Lord, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to idols. 

See the former things have come to pass, and new things I know declare;

before they spring forth, I tell you of them.”

Here ends our first reading from scripture this day.  May it offer us hope and confidence in the timelessness of our God who has provided and will continue to provide us with the leadership we need to see us through when times feel harsh and oppressive.

 

Our chosen hymn in response to our reading from Isaiah is Psalm 29,

found at VU p. 756. Ascribe to God all glory and strength. 

We begin with the refrain.

 

This morning, we are also invited to ponder how God manifests Godself in all sorts of surprising people and surprising circumstances.

Think with care how the good news this morning might fit (or not) with your own experience of being called a child of God, a beloved one blessed by the holy to serve in our church community and in the wider world.

May we hear with fresh ears and open hearts our reading from the gospel according to Matthew and the account of Jesus’ very public baptism in the river Jordan by his cousin, John the Baptist.  Reading from the gospel according to Matthew, Chapter 3, verses 13-17  Jesus is

Jesus is baptized

“Then Jesus came from Galilea to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 

John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 

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. 

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. 

And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

Listen to what the Spirit is saying to the church.  Thanks be to God, amen!