The Reverend Elizabeth Bowyer

Introduction to the readings for

the second Sunday in the season of Epiphany

In our first reading from the Hebrew text, the prophet Isaiah speaks to a dismayed and discouraged people as they return home to Jerusalem after four decades in exile.  A day will come, Isaiah tells them, when the light of their shared efforts will draw all nations to them bearing gifts and offering homage.

Reading from Isaiah 60: verses 1-6 Arise, shine, for your light has come

“Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of God has risen upon you.  For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but God will arise upon you and God’s glory will appear over you.  Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.  Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far away; and your daughters shall be carried in their nurses’ arms.  Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you.  A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah (pronounced ehf-ah); all those from Sheba shall come.  They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.”

In response to our reading from Isaiah, we turn now to Psalm #72 found at p. 790 in Voices United.   We will be reading responsively from Parts One and Two beginning with the refrain at the top of the page.

Refrain is played and then sung once:

Hail to God’s own anointed, who rules in equity

Reader:  “God’s anointed defends the poor” 

Give the ruler your Justice, O God, and your righteousness to the royal heir, for judging your people rightly, and upholding the poor with justice; that the mountains may bring forth peace for the people, and the hills, prosperity with justice.

Refrain: Hail to God’s own anointed, who rules in equity

May your anointed defend the cause of the poor among the people, save the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor.  May your anointed live as long as the sun endures, as long as the moon from age to age.

May your anointed be like rain falling upon the grass, like showers that water the earth; may your anointed be one in whose days justice shall flourish and peace abound till the moon is no more.

Refrain: Hail to God’s own anointed, who rules in equity.

May the rulers of Tarshish and the isles pay tribute, the monarchs of Sheba and Seba bring gifts.  May all rulers do homage, and all nations render service.  For your anointed shall deliver the needy when they cry, the poor and those who have no helper.  Your anointed shall have pity on the weak and the needy, and save the lives of the poor.  From oppression and violence your anointed shall redeem their life, and count as precious their blood.

Refrain:  Hail to God’s own anointed, who rules in equity.

This morning we continue on from where we left off last Sunday in the gospel of Matthew with the story of the Magi.  You may remember this ancient story about those foreign astrologers and their willingness to risk a long journey.  You might also remember how profoundly changed they are as a result of having encountered both the light of God’s love in the stable in Bethlehem and the fierce darkness of King Herod and his hunger for information and power. 

Warned by an angel in a dream not to do Herod’s bidding, the Magi disobey Herod’s command to share the tiny babe’s location.  Instead, they return home by a different route.

This morning’s readings also speak to journeys, dreams, and decision making beginning with the Holy Family’s escape to Egypt.

Listen to what resonates for you as we consider these vignettes from Scripture this second Sunday in the season of Epiphany.

Reading from the gospel according to Matthew, Chapter 2, verses 13-23:

 Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said:  “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”  Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod.  This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:  “Out of Egypt I have called my son.” 

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the Wise Men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.  Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:

“A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”

When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said: “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.”  Then Joseph got up, took the child, and his mother, and went to the land of Israel.  But when he heard that Achelaus (pronounced Ah-Kee-las) was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there.  And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee.  There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled.  “He will be called a Nazorean.” 

Here ends the reading. 

Listen to what the Spirit is saying to the church.

Thanks be to God, amen!