The Reverend Elizabeth Bowyer

Introductions to the readings for the third Sunday after the Epiphany

In keeping with this being the 3rd Sunday in the season of Epiphany, we learn how God’s glory is revealed in Jesus here in the most ordinary of circumstances: a typical Sabbath gathering in the synagogue, at Nazareth.

It must have been quite the experience to be present in that company of friends and neighbours gathered for worship as Jesus, comes straight from his forty day wilderness experience.   Enacting the role of teacher in worship, Jesus declares himself God’s anointed one, the longed for fulfilment of God’s promise as prophesied by Isaiah. 

Imagine yourself with those gathered in that particular moment in time as they begin to come to grips with what is happening in Jesus, son of Joseph, a local carpenter, as he proclaims the good news.

 Reading from Luke, Chapter 4; verses 14-21

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me”

Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit returned to Galilee, and report about him spread through all the surrounding country.  He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom.  He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him.  He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down.  The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.  Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Let us remain seated for our responsive hymn found at More Voices #10  “Come and Seek the Ways of Wisdom”

Our second reading for today picks up from where we left off last week with a story from life in the early church at Corinth. Today, we hear again a word of caution from the Apostle, Paul in his letter to the fractious community, the Corinthians. 

While the tone of the letter might be described as pastoral, it is also clear and firm as Paul calls members of the community into more appropriate ways of being accountable as faithful followers in the way of Jesus.

Reminding them of the Spirit’s unifying presence, he encourages them to be about the work of celebrating their unity in diversity at the same time as lifting up key values of mutual care and respect for all the members in the body of Christ. 

Listen carefully to how Paul’s letter to the Corinthians might guide us in our struggles to be the church in this time and in this place.   

A reading from First Corinthians, Chapter 12; verses 12-31a

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one a part of it”.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.  For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body-Jews or Greeks, slaves or free-and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many.  If the foot would say: “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.  And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be?  If the whole body were hearing where would the sense of smell be?  But, as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 

If all were a single member, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many members, yet one body.  The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of  you,” nor again the head to the feet.  “I have no need of you.” 

 On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honourable we clothe with greater honour, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. 

But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior member, that there be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another.  If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it. 

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.  And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues.  Are all apostles?  Are all prophets?  Are all teachers?  Do all work miracles?  Do all possess gifts of healing?  Do all speak in tongues?  Do all interpret?  But strive for the greater gifts.  And I will show you still a more excellent way.”

Listen to what the Spirit is saying to the church.

Thanks be to God.