Epiphany 2A

201: January 15, 2017

Voice in the Wilderness:1 Corinthians 1:1-19, Bryan Odeen

Psalm 40:1-11, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan

Featured Musician-“Lamb of God (Agnus Dei)” by Jonathan Rundman from his album A Heartland Liturgy



Tasty Wafer of the Week:



46: January 19, 2014

When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with the flocks,
then the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal those broken in spirit,
to feed the hungry,
to release the oppressed,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among all peoples,
to make a little music with the heart…
And to radiate the Light of Christ,
every day, in every way, in all that we do and in all that we say.
Then the work of Christmas begins. (Howard Thurman)

Exegetical Notes

John 1:29-42 Jesus, John and the calling of Andrew and Simon

Initial Thoughts

  • Didn't we just do this? Yes and we will again next week…

    • John always gets Epiphany 2 to reinforce the synoptics (John-splaining)

      • John is most focuses on epiphany (manifestation of God) and incarnation (God enfleshed in Jesus) - just see the prologue.

      • Lectionary theological connection between the birth (The Word became flesh), baptism (lived among us) and ministry (we have seen his glory) of Jesus (John 1:14)

    • If doing Lectionary- focus perhaps on what is most unique about this text: Agnus Dei- Lamb of God

  • Epiphany - the manifestation of God as human

    • epiphaneia (Gk) - from “to appear” mean “manifest” or “appearance”

    • Acknowledged by Kings - Matthew 2 (Western Church)

    • Acknowledged by God - Baptism

    • Acknowledged by humans - John the Baptist and disciples & Wedding of Cana (Eastern Church)

    • David Toole (Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary - Feasting on the Word – Year A, Volume 1: Advent through Transfiguration.) - Epiphany and the following Sundays are the celebration of incarnation - birth, baptism, miracles. The baby in the manger is not enough of a case for incarnation, we need Epiphany.

      • This string of Sundays that we encounter in the lectionary as "after the Epiphany" serves to remind us that a baby in a manger is not enough to support our theological claims for the incarnation. We need more than Christmas, even if we wait patiently for the arrival of the magi. We need to see Jesus walk into the Jordan. We need to see the clouds part. We need to hear the booming voice name Jesus a beloved Son. We need to hear Jesus himself ask us, as he asks Peter and Andrew in this passage from John, "What are you looking for?" (John 1:38)

Bible Study

  • Baptism of Jesus

    • Baptism of Jesus told through the eyes of John

    • Jesus as the “Lamb of God who takes away the Sin of the World” and “Son of John”

    • Unlike Matthew and Luke- John did not know Jesus until after he was baptized

      • Why was Jesus baptized? To be revealed to John

      • Jesus as the Son of God according to John

  • The Lamb of God

    • John declares this twice

    • Gospel of John setting up Jesus as the universal passover lamb

      • Crucifixion takes place on passover (not the day after like Matthew, Mark and Luke)

      • Just as the lamb is sacrificed to save the Israelites from the angel of death - so Jesus is the lamb sacrifices to save humanity from death.

    • Jesus is not the conquering king but the self-emptying sacrifice. Jesus is the embodiment and incarnation of God’s vulnerability

      • The Lamb is usually interpreted to be the passover Lamb (In John Jesus dies when the Passover lamb would have been killed, but while Passover and the Lamb of passover have clear salvation implications, there is no reference in Exodus to the removal of sin). Jim Brownson

      • Interpretations (from wikipedia-sorry):

        • 375CE Saint Augustine wrote: "Why a lamb in his passion? Because he underwent death without being guilty of any iniquity. Why a lion in his passion? Because in being slain, he slew death. Why a lamb in his resurrection? Because his innocence is everlasting. Why a lion in his resurrection? Because everlasting also is his might."[17]

        • The 11th century Christology of Saint Anselm of Canterbury specifically disassociates Lamb of God from the Old Testament concept of a scapegoat which is subjected to punishment for the sins of others, without knowing it or willing it. Anselm emphasized that as Lamb of God, Jesus chose to suffer in Calvary as a sign of his full obedience to the will of the Father.[2]

        • John Calvin presented the same Christological view of "The Lamb as the agent of God" by arguing that in histrial before Pilate and while at Herod's Court Jesus could have argued for his innocence, but instead remained mostly quiet and submitted to Crucifixionin obedience to the Father, for he knew his role as the Lamb of God.

        • In modern Eastern Orthodox Christology,Sergei Bulgakov argued that the role of Jesus as the Lamb of God was "pre-eternally" determined by the Father before the creation of the world, as a sign of love by considering the scenario that it would be necessary to send The Son as an agent to redeem humanity disgraced by the fall of Adam.

    • Calling the Disciples?

      • Disciples of John first - not fishermen

        • The disciples, Andrew and Simon Peter, are not called by Jesus, but follow because of hearing John the Baptist’s declaration

    • Jesus first words: What are you looking for?

      • A good question for all people coming to church- what are you looking for?

      • Looking for a teacher - are we willing to be taught?

      • Perhaps we just want confirmation bias- a divine justification for our actions.

    • Come and you will see

      • Future tense- no question

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • John’s message is short and simple: Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the World. What is your short and simple message about Jesus? Do you share it?

  • Evangelism is rooted in declaration and invitation: Jesus is the Lamb of God! Come and See! It is not rooted in a condemnation of other religions or fear of hell. Nor it is rooted in vague gimmicky marketing. Simple declaration of belief and invitation to participate in the good news. How do you and/or your congregation practice evangelism?

  • We may ask What would Jesus Do- but perhaps we would be better asking what would John the Baptist do? John is constantly pointing to Jesus and directing others to Jesus

1 Corinthians 1:1-9 - Greetings and Thanksgiving

Initial Thoughts

  • First of six weeks in 1 Corinthians. Reads most of first three chapters, but stops there.
  • There’s not a lot here, but it sets the tone for the rest of the letter.
  • Much of the letter is critical, but criticisms should be seen through the lens of the intro.
    • Two things are mentioned in intro that come up again later:
      • Knowledge
      • Spiritual gifts
    • Knowledge, wisdom, and division are important themes in readings for next few weeks.
  • This reading will also be an Advent reading in December.  RCL makes it Epiphany 2A and Advent 1B (which is same calendar year).

Bible Study

  • Corinth (according to Richard Hays in Interpretation: 1 Corinthians)
    • Before Christ:
      • Prosperous commercial cross roads city.
        • Hosted Isthmian Games, an athletics festival that rivaled the Olympics.
        • Destroyed by Rome, and rebuilt
      • A growing, upwardly mobile city re-colonized by Rome within a couple generations of Paul’s visit.
      • Laws of Corinth were particularly favorable to upward mobility (e.g. Freedmen could have important roles in government)
      • Housed a large Temple to Athena (goddess of wisdom)
  • Paul (according to Richard Hays in Interpretation: 1 Corinthians)
    • Left city in 51 CE.
    • Established church in Gentile community, included slaves, freedmen and some rich merchants.  
    • Letter probably written 53-55 CE.
    • Received a report from “Chloe’s people” about divisions (1:11).
    • Received a letter from the Corinthians seeking guidance (7:1f).
    • Paul “sees the members of the Corinthian church as standing… at a moment of crisis and testing. Will they heed Paul’s words and recover… Or will their community disintegrate” (p 6)
  • Intro to the letter tells community that they have enough.  There is enough grace, knowledge, and spiritual gifts.
    • “The entire letter is focused on building the community into the testimony it has already received, strengthening the Gospel witness in its midst.” Dirk Lange.
    • All the divisions and trouble that Paul will talk about for the next 16 chapters have their solution in the first paragraph.
    • “God’s grace was given to you in Christ Jesus.” (v. 4)
    • Because of God’s grace, “you aren’t missing any spiritual gifts while you wait” (v. 7)
    • “God is faithful, and you were called into partnership with his Son” (v. 8)

Preaching Thoughts and Questions

  • Paul “sees the members of the Corinthian church as standing… at a moment of crisis and testing. Will they heed Paul’s words and recover… Or will their community disintegrate” (p 6)
    • How many of our churches are sitting at similar crisis moments?
    • Are we going to recover or disintegrate?
  • In what ways are we partnering with God through Jesus?  How are we doing the “Work of Christmas”
  • Instead of focusing on what we don’t have, or on divisions that tear us apart, can we focus on what holds us together - the grace of God, which empowers all gifts.  Put the grace first, then the gifts.

Isaiah 49:1-7 The servant speaks

Initial Thoughts

  • A great text for Martin Luther King’s birthday

Bible Study

  • First interpretive issue: Who is the speaker?

    • Israel (v. 3)

      • But verse 6 makes that confusing, seems to be a mission to the tribes of Jacob and to bring back survivors of Israel.

      • Israel has mission to Israel? But also beyond.

    • Intentionally anonymous

      • “It may be that the poem deliberately avoids a specific identity, thus permitting us great freedom in our hearing” (Walter Brueggemann,Texts for Preaching, Year A, p. 101)

      • There is an argument that this was the commissioning of an individual, and that the word “Israel” was inserted into v 3 (Paul Hanson,Interpretation: Isaiah 40-66, p. 128.

        • “Advocates of a collective interpretation, on the other hand, have pointed to passages in Second Isaiah in which the nation or people Israel is designated as ‘servant.’... [I] have concluded that a sharp distinction between individual and community is alien to Second Isaiah’s thought. The evidence when taken as a whole suggests that the Servant of Yahweh is a metaphor richly multivalent in meaning.” It could include Isaiah in particular, Jeremiah, Elijah, the faithful remnant within Israel, or all the people as a whole. (Ibid.)

    • Christian lens - Jesus.

  • Identity of the Servant

    • Belongs to God

    • Sword comes from mouth, not hand. The Word is the power of the servant.

    • Has been a hidden weapon, but one that is used by God, not of the servant’s own power.

    • Strength of servant only comes from obedience to God.

      • “God’s servant does not have a surplus of strength in advance, but is given strength only in the midst of obedience” (Brueggemann, ibid.)

  • Mission of the Servant

    • First is to return from exile.

    • Not enough to raise up tribes of Jacob.

    • “A whole new enterprise bursts on the horizon of the Servant, for which we had been given no clue... Now the scope of God’s dream is international… In a gigantic leap of rhetoric, the poet enlarges the arena of God’s concern to include even non-believers” (Brueggemann,ibid.)

    • This is about “inner-community healthandinternational relations.” Paul Hanson,Interpretation: Isaiah 40-66,p. 126).

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • “The nations are to be illuminated through the servant’s activity and existence. A light is not a focus of attention itself, but serves to open eyes to something previously not perceived” (Christopher Seitz,New Interpreter's Bible, v. IV,p. 433). The purpose of the light is to shine in the darkness, so that others may see clearly. The purpose is to bring about justice and mercy, to reveal God’s love for all creation, not to force others to be a part of the light. This is about missio dei, not conversion. “To be a light to the nations” does not, therefore, mean going out and converting “peoples from far away” by word and therefore associating them on equal terms. Instead it means bearing affliction and hardship  brought about on account of obedience to God” (ibid.). To bear the light is not to be the light, nor is it to ask others to join the light. It is simply to reveal a love and a connectedness that is often hidden.

  • Who is the servant? Is it Jesus? Is it the Church? Is it your congregation? Is it you? Is it all of these and more? Preaching task - To tell the story of how God’s work is being opened to all, and then bring it back down to the local level. In other words, this passage is about a relatively small group of people being used to bring justice to the world, and opening up God’s love to all people. How can this message be transposed to another group of people? The good news isn’t our good news. It isn’t news for this party, or this nation, or this race. It is for all. The Good News isn’t just for this church or this neighborhood - but it also IS for this church and this neighborhood.

Thank you listeners and get in touch!

Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com,@pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Misirlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”,"Real Ride"and“Summertime”) and The Steel Wheels for our transition music (“Nola’s First Dance” from their album Lay Down, Lay Low) and Paul and Storm for our closing music (“Oh No”).