Epiphany 3A


202: January 22, 2017

Voice in the Wilderness: 1 Corinthians 1:10-18, Willie Deuel

Psalm 27:1, 4-9Richard Bruxvoort Colligan

Featured Musician - “Follow Me” by John Ford from his album Come to the Light.

  • Director of Music Ministries at St. Mark UMC in Pensacola, FL

  • Husband of regular voice in the wilderness contributor and show supporter Anita Ford

Tasty Wafer of the Week:



47: January 26, 2014


Exegetical Notes

Matthew 4:12-23 Calling the Fishermen

Initial Thoughts

  • Starts immediately after temptation in the wilderness, which we will not get to until Lent.

  • This is the calling of brothers Simon and Andrew, and the Zebedee brothers John and James.

  • This might be a good time to explain the “Synoptic Problem.” If anyone was here last week, they may have heard John’s version of the calling of Simon and Andrew, and it was very different.

    • John 1:29-49 details calling of:

      • Two disciples of John,Andrewand unnamed.

      • Simon, brother of Andrew (renamed Cephas, or Peter)

      • Phillip(from same town as Andrew and Peter, Bethaisda)

      • Nathaniel(friend of Phillip, says, “Can anything good come from Nazareth)

    • None are called fishermen.

    • Phrase, “Come and see,” is used often.

  • This passage leads us right to the Sermon on the Mount, which begins next week with beatitudes

  • Regular church goers who also pay attention may have some questions based on last week’s “call story.”
    • John 1:35-42 In this passage, Simon and Andrew are disciples of John the Baptist.  Jesus tells them to “Come and See,” and they stay with him for a night.  Andrew first believes John’s testimony, then tells his brother Simon that Jesus is the Messiah.  Jesus then immediately changes Simon’s name to Cephas (Peter).
    • No mention of “fishers of men,” and no mention that they are fishermen at all.

Bible Study

  • Jesus was born in Bethlehem, moved to Egypt, then to Nazareth, now moves to Capernaum
    • Eric Barreto points out that these moves were all mandated by God, “to fulfill prophecy”
    • Transient early years for Jesus foreshadows ministry.
    • Jesus’ life was that of an itinerant preacher, wandering healer, searching out those that need God wherever they are.
  • Begins “when Jesus heard that John was arrested.”

    • Synoptics agree that Jesus did not begin his ministry until John was arrested.

    • Was it intentional for Jesus? Did he purposely wait until that moment, or did John’s arrest somehow spur him to action?

    • Tense of the verb that is translated “arrested” is similar to “handed over” or “delivered up.” This is a divine passive tense that implies that it was God who “handed over” John. This implies that John’s arrest was a part of God’s plan - as was Jesus’ arrest later in the gospel story. (Douglas Hare,Interpretation: Matthew, p. 28)

    • Sometimes it moments of crisis that give us the nudge.

      • How many are arrested for civil disobedience, often inspiring others to do more, e.g. MLK in Birmingham Jail, Leah Gunning Francis’s bookFerguson and Faith.

  • v. 13-17 are easy to be throw-away location explanations that has lost meaning to us. Tendency is to skip these and get to the good stuff.

    • John was baptizing near Jerusalem in the Jordan (Bethany beyond the Jordan).

    • Returned to Galilee (about four day journey from baptism)

    • Went to Galilee, left Nazareth (about ten miles from the sea), and settled in Capernaum, in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali,quotes Isaiah 9:1-2

      • “According to the book of Joshua, after the conquest of the promised land, the lower land of Galilee west of the Lake of Galilee, which includes Nazareth, belonged to the tribes of Zebulun; and the area to the northwest of the Lake of Galilee belonged to the tribes of Naphtali. Matthew lumps them together as the primary location of Jesus’ ministry… Isaiah 9:1-2 - When Tiglath-pilesar, king of Assyria, invaded Israel in 732 BCE, he captured Gilead and Galilee, including all the land of Naphtali (2 Kings 15:29). As a result, this region the Assyrian province of Galilee with Megiddo as its capital. That is probably why this region is called, “Galilee of the nations [or Gentiles]” in Isaiah 9:1-2. Matthew will later develop the significance of this phrase when he reports Jesus’ words that salvation is to include “all nations” or “the Gentiles.” The prophecy in Isaiah referred to the birth of a Davidic heir as promise for the restoration of the occupied Assyrian provinces. For Matthew, this message is fulfilled in the life and ministry of Jesus.” (notes in the Common English Study Bible, p. 11NT).

    • This area, according to Jewish history and tradition is a place of political upheaval. Jewish in one sense, Assyrian in another.

    • Capernaum was a growing city because a Roman highway passed along its northern edge.

    • “Matthew alone among the Gospels explicitly suggests that Jesus transferred his residency from Nazareth to Capernaum. The reason is not given.” (Hare, p. 28)

    • “Although the point is implicit only, we are surely on safe ground in assuming that Matthew’s quotation is intended to remind his readers that the preaching ministry begun by Jesus in Galilee in fulfillment of Scripture would eventually issue in the mission to the Gentiles.” (Hare, p. 28)

  • Simon and Andrew

    • Fishing at the side of the sea.

    • “I’ll show you how to fish for people.”

    • “Right away” they left their nets and followed him.

  • James and John, sons of Zebedee

    • In a boat with Zebedee, fixing their nets

    • “Immediately” they left their boat - and their Dad

    • Leaving behind family had much weight

      • Inheritance

      • Security

      • Connection to community

      • Heritage

  • The Kingdom of Heaven is near

    • Same message of John, but different context

    • John stayed put, people came to him,

    • Jesus went out searching, and told them to follow alone.

    • Later, sent them out on their own.

    • “Heaven” instead of “God,” does not imply that Jesus is preaching about afterlife.

      • Heaven would have been a more accessible word to Jewish audience that feared pronouncing the name of God.

    • Kingdom has come near in the activity of Jesus

      • Teaching in synagogues

      • Announcing good news

      • Healing disease and sickness

    • “With the announcement of the nearness of God’s reign, the demand for repentance, the call of the four disciples, and the description of Jesus’ powerful, redemptive activity the stage is set for the Sermon on the Mount. Readers have a notion of who this Jesus is and who teaches in such a radical way and at least some hint of the power and scope of the divine rule.” (Texts for Preaching, Year A., p. 117)

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • Jesus began his ministry after John was arrested. There is a lot that can be made of that statement. Perhaps Jesus was waiting until John’s work was over. Or perhaps there was something about this traumatic event that stirred Jesus to action. Sometimes we all need a wake-up call to realize we need to take action. Perhaps for Jesus it was the arrest of his cousin. What may be our wake-up call? Election, Ferguson, death of loved one, another mass shooting. It may not be a comfortable thought, but sometimes it takes something terrible to happen for people to be awoken.

  • Jesus’ location is often ignored, but he was in a cross-roads kind of a town. It was highly influenced by Romans. It has long history of being Assyrian. It had deep roots in Jewish history. It was a place where there was new growth and a cultural shift was taking place. It also had a Synagogue - a center for Jewish thought, but there is no evidence that Capernaum was a part of the revolt in the 60s. This area was uniquely positioned in that it was influenced by all of these factors. What about your location? What is unique about your place that can be abundant fishing territory?

  • How does existence of today’s church contrast with the wandering, searching ministry of Jesus? Two ways of fishing - going out in a boat, or standing on the shore and throwing out nets. When the church goes “fishing,” are we using ripped nets?  Are we just standing on the shore, hoping for someone to swim into our net? Following Jesus - just going along with the flow, or a radical transformation?

  • What is the Kingdom work that we are doing?  How is the Kingdom of God near today?

    • The Kingdom is near is the prelude to the Sermon on the Mount.  The Kingdom is near when we “do” the Sermon on the Mount, e.g. love your enemies, turn the other cheek, etc.


1 Corinthians 1:10-18 - Has Christ Been Divided?

Bible Study

  • Great reading to introduce Prayer for Christian Unity or the Letter from a Birmingham Jail
  • Divisions in the church
    • Immediate concern of Church in Corinth
      • These division are not historical but are used to make a point
        • i.e. There is no evidence of an Apollos or Cephas faction
    • counters the “if only we could be more like the early church” claims
    • division often leads to hierarchy
      • to separate as “better than”
      • Ex: Baseball:
        • Not enough to be a Yankees fan- you need to hate the Red Sox
        • It is about loving the game
    • How does this translate to the push for denominational identity?
      • “I belong to the UCC”, “I belong to the UMC”, “I belong to the Catholic church”
      • “In essentials unity, in non-essentials diversity, in all things charity”
      • Evangelicals vs Progressives, Biblical faithfulness vs Social Justice, etc
    • The focus is Christ and God
  • Theology of the Cross
    • “The gospel is given in the cross as self-sacrifice, giving oneself up in response to and care for the other, the cross as bearing the burdens of others—not as self-denial and resignation, but in joy and thanksgiving. To claim anything else empties the cross of Christ of its power.” - Timothy Sedgwick, Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary - Feasting on the Word – Year A, Volume 1: Advent through Transfiguration.
    • Contrasted with “eloquent wisdom”
      • Not orthodoxy
      • Not orthopraxis
      • Christian faith is a way of life
  • Can we be united in a way of life?
    • What are the essentials that bind us together?
  • v. 16 - awesome- way to backtrack Paul
  • v. 17 - separates Baptism from the Good News
    • Do our rituals mean anything is devoid of the Good News?
    • How do we ensure that our worship, our practices, our sacraments are tools to communicate the good news?

Preaching thoughts

  • When caught up in church conflict and division do we remember that all are still our “brothers and sisters”?
  • What is the unifying essential which bind your local church or regional or global Christianity together?
    • How do we live that essential unity out?
  • How do we overcome pastor-worship, issue-worship, program-worship?
  • Do our worship, programs, budget, rituals communicate the good news?
    • What is the good news? Think back to Peter’s sermon in Acts 10
  • How do we share the Good News which seem increasingly foolish to our culture? (evidence being the increasing number of nones)

Isaiah 9:1-4 The servant speaks

Initial Thoughts

  • Contextualizes the Matthew quote...kind of

  • Christmas text revisited in light of Jesus’ ministry- great opportunity to connect the ministry to the baby

Bible Study

  • Zebulun and Naphtali were some of the first Northern Tribes to be assimilated and thus destroyed by the Assyrians in 733-730 BCE - a promise that what happened to them will not happen to you

  • Historical context is unknown:

    • Pre-exilic: breaking the Assyrian rod and proclaiming the accession of Hezekiah

    • Post-Exilic: breaking the Syro-Ephraimite coalition and proclaiming the accession of Josiah

    • Either Way this message comes to an oppressed and occupied people

    • Either way: the oppressed or heard, the rod of the oppressor is broken, those who walked in darkness are not left there, but they will be led out of darkness by the birth of a new “king” (v.6)

    • Brueggemann - “What we have is a glorious, celebrative affirmation that Yahweh, through a human Davidic king, will create a wondrous new possibility for Judah that is unqualified and unconditional. The theological point is Yahweh's capacity and resolve for a newness that is completely fresh and without extrapolation from anything that has gone before. (Isaiah 1-39, p.82)

    • Just as this text may have been interpreted first for Hezekiah, then Josiah, so now Jesus as the agent of God unconditional blessing and grace

  • Pastoral and prophetic - this passage is much more pastoral than prophetic. A message of hope and comfort that how things is not how they will be - hope in God.

    • Very different from the voice in Isaiah 1-2

  • What is the good news for:

    • Oppressive political or corporate system who have walked in great darkness?

    • People living in a land of darkness shoulding the yoke of racism, sexism, and inequality?

    • For those anxious about their legal status, rights, healthcare and employment in the coming months?

    • For those who see a new regime as the light leading them out of the darkness?

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • The light of Yahweh is both for those who dwell in a land of great darkness (perhaps because they had no other option) AND those who (seemingly willingly) “walked in darkness”. The light is both for the oppressed and the oppressor. There is a vision of peaceful celebration and victory- not liberation that leads to domination.

  • January 16, 2017 is supposedly the most depressing day of the year for those living in the Northern Hemisphere. How might your church, your preaching or your presence shine a light into the darkness of depression and mental illness.

  • For those who are anxious and depressed this text opens an opportunity to point to what in which God’s light has shone in great darkness in scripture, inyour community, your nation.


Thank you 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”).