Epiphany 3C (OT 3)

Reading of the Torah, Aish Synagogue, Tel Aviv, Israel by Roy Lindman (source)


151: January 24, 2016

308: January 27, 2019

Voice in the Wilderness: Sarah Renfro

Psalmist: Richard Bruxvoort Colligan

Featured Musician: Bryan Sirchio, 

Psalmist: Richard Bruxvoort Colligan

Luke 4:14-21

Initial Thoughts

  • Um, that’s not how it ends, is it?

  • First of two-part story, so resist the urge to jump ahead. Next week’s lectionary text starts again at verse 21, and continues through the part where they want to throw him off a cliff.

  • I wonder why lectionary doesn’t pick Isaiah 61:1-2 or 58:6?

Bible Study

  • Literary context.

    • Immediately after baptism and temptation. Last week was Baptism of the Lord Sunday, this is his first public appearance.

    • Skips over 4:1-12, which is temptation, which is Lent 1.

    • Kind of a mixed quote of Isaiah 58:6 and Isaiah 61:1-2.

      • These texts are post-exilic, second or possibly third Isaiah.

    • After this he is run out of town, and heads to Capernaum.

    • Within this story: Things are going well.

      • On his way back home from being baptized

      • News about him spread throughout the whole countryside

      • He was praised by everyone

      • In this one story, Jesus affirms Judaism - Scripture, Synagogue, and Sabbath are all honored.

  • Canonical context

    • Mark 6:1-6 and Matthew 13:54-58

      • Mark emphasizes Jesus’ ordinariness. Names his family, and people wonder how he got such power. The people are repulsed, and Jesus “can’t perform miracles “except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.” He was appalled by their disbelief.

        • Placed after several healings, where response of the people is amazement. Right before death of John the Baptist.

      • Matthew uses Mark story, nearly verbatim. Matthew infers that loss of power came from their disbelief. Places it in different context.

        • Comes right after a series of confrontational parables and right before death of JBap.

    • “The changes convert a short story of confrontation into a programmatic announcement that concerns both the nature of Jesus’ ministry and the character of the church that will follow from that ministry” (Texts for Preaching, Year C, p. 119)

    • Places a prophetic, missional edge onto Jesus’ ministry, and places a strong and powerful confrontation at the forefront - at the very root - of Jesus’ life and ministry.

    • For many, especially in progressive churches with a keener eye toward social justice, point to this as Jesus mission statement - and hence the church’s mission - over and above the Great Commission.

      • United Methodist Church mission statement is an intentional blending of the two. “To make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world.”

  • What is Jesus calling for, exactly? Or is it just a nice flowery speech?

    • Parallels between Jesus’ first sermon and Mary’s Song.

      • “At the risk of over-psychologizing or perhaps, psychologizing in general because it’s the Bible, what if Jesus first learned what it means to bring good news to the poor from the stories that his mother told him? “ (Karoline Lewis, Working Preacher)

      • “Jesus’ sermon in his hometown of Nazareth is not only a life-changing sermon, it is a life-changing act. God has now entered the world as flesh so that no human can be overlooked. No one can be left in a place of oppression. No one is unworthy of God’s good news.” (Karoline Lewis, Working Preacher)

    • Liberation can be a hard message to hear in a comfortable congregation.

      • Preach good news to the poor.

      • Proclaim release to the prisoners.

        • Do we really want this?

        • Is prison system as we know it just?

        • “What if we just freed all the prisoners?” (Lauren Winner, The Hardest Question)

          • “The United States has less than 5 percent of the world’s population. But it has almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners.

      • Recovery of sight to the blind.

      • Liberate the oppressed.

      • Proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

        • Jubilee Year - the year all debts are forgiven.

Thoughts and Questions

  • Liberation can be a hard message to hear in a comfortable congregation. Economic justice doesn’t sound like good news if you are upper-middle class. What may be the prophetic word from this passage that people can hear? People think churches “only want their money.” Luke especially wants your money. Luke wants you to think about your money. Your possessions, and your relationship with them tell a huge part of the story about your relationship with God.

  • This passage is strong antidote to those that claim, “Jesus was born to die on the cross.” According to Jesus’ own words, he was not born to die. He was born to save, free, and liberate. Especially heading into Lent, this could be a good chance to insert some ways of thinking of Jesus’ ministry beyond simply going to the cross. This text, and the people’s response next week especially, reveal some reasons why Jesus was led to the cross beyond simple blood atonement.

  • Paired with Nehemiah - What is the power in public reading of the text? What role does the Bible play in our prophetic work? How can the Bible bring life and power to our prophetic work for social justice? How can we use the Bible in places, or with people, who place no authority in it?

1 Corinthians 12:12-31a

Initial Thoughts

  • Year C - 1 Corinthians 12-15

    • Epiphany 2 - 1 Cor 12:1-11 Spiritual gifts

    • Epiphany 3 - 1 Cor 12:12-31 Body of Christ

    • Epiphany 4 - 1 Cor 13 Love of Christ

    • Epiphany 5-  1 Cor 15:1-11 Christ died for our sins

    • Epiphany 6 - 1 Cor 15:12-20 Resurrection of the dead

    • Epiphany 7 - 1 Cor 15:35-38, 42-50 Imperishable soul

    • Epiphany 8 - 1 Cor 15:51-58 (not used this year) Where O death is your victory?

Bible Study

  • Picks up right where we left off last week. Next week will pick up right from the end of this week and this is not a coincidence- Paul is building a larger argument:

    • Last week 1 Cor 12:1-11,  Spiritual gifts are from God and there are a variety

    • This week 1  Cor 12:12-31a, Spiritual Gifts and the Church are diverse and interdependent on one another

    • Next week: 1 Cor 13, Spiritual gifts, the Church - none of it matters without a foundation of love

  • Before we jump into the interdependent body- let’s look at the radical notion of vv. 12-13

    • Do we truly believe this? On a universal scale?

    • Even if we see this as speaking solely to Christians - how often do we affirm the members of the Christian body who are in prison, or waiting for asylum at the border, or live under oppressive occupation in Palestine, or whose children are working in factories in Bangladesh. It is just as radical today to declare the Spirit baptizes us into one body as it was at the time of Paul.

      • One body - American or developing world, gay or straight, documented or undocumented, incarcerated or free, gender conforming or non-cis, rural or intercity… - what would you add?

  • Context

    • Context of letter - “stress in diversity” is important to note. For a people struggling with hierarchy, status, and diversity, this letter is an antidote.

    • Previously understood that the “lesser” (blue collar workers, drones, serfs, commoners, poor, etc) should be subservient to and serve the “greater” (rich, powerful, strong, military, commercial or political leaders, etc)

      • Very prevalent in Hellenistic world where the client was expected to support and obey their patron

      • Very prevalent when CEO are valued more than factory workers or janitors and senior pastors are valued more than CE directors (Lee C Barrett, Feasting on the Word)

      • A question of value. See more below in thoughts and questions

    • Paul’s letter turns this upside down and places equal value on all the parts of the body (if not greater value on the inferior parts - see 12:22-24)

  • What does it look like when we treat the lesser members of the church, community or business hierarchy with greater honor?

    • They receive greater honor specifically because they are equally indispensable, but are rarely-if ever-acknowledged for their commitment.

  • Diversity - v. 18 - God is the source of diversity, so the diversity, itself, is a gift.

  • A pretty straight-forward extrapolation of what the Body is about.

    • Each body part has its own function

    • All parts are of the same body

    • No function is more important than another. All work together as a part of the whole.

    • Division of labor is not a class-system or hierarchy.

    • No one can be everything.

  • “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” (MLK Jr.)

  • “In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be...
    This is the inter-related structure of reality.” (Letter from a Birmingham Jail, MLK Jr)

  • “The preacher’s task is to get out of the way and let the imagery work its own effect with the congregation.” (Texts for Preaching, Year C, p. 119).

  • Scientifically (google this- there is tons of data on this) - When more people have access to universal healthcare and education - all of society benefits and the opposite is true as well. When access is restricted we all suffer

    • Caring for others should not be done in “our best interest”, but rather should be focused on caring for the other as part of the family of God- however what is good for my neighbor is good for me as well.

Thoughts and Questions

  • What do we do when diversity and acceptance threatens the acceptance or safety of others? Minority communities and populations within our communities are quick and right to remind us that unity in diversity often comes at great risk to the marginalized. What do we do or say when the eye (one group within our community) does say to the hand (another group) I have no need of you (because your life - due to race, sexual orientation, gender identification, legal status, etc)?

  • A value question:

    • This is as much about how we value ourselves as it is about how we and value others. Directly confronts that Henri Nouwen calls “The Five Lies of Self-Identity”:

      1. I am what have

      2. I am what I do

      3. I am what others say about me

      4. I am no better than my worst moment

      5. I am no less than my best moment

    • Our value is claimed by God who created, redeemed, called us and loves us beyond imagination through this life and into the next.

Nehemiah 8:1-3. 5-6, 8-10

Initial Thoughts

  • vv. 4, 6-7: Up to you whether or not to skip it- do not “spring” this on your readers- A lot of funky names

  • Only appearance of Nehemiah in the RCL (one of 3 appearances in the Episcopal Lectionary)

  • Going to require a bit of unpacking- this is not a familiar text or context

Bible Study

  • Nehe-what?

    • Nehemiah - Second half of the book of Ezra - actually combined in the Hebrew Bible- split in the Christian Old Testament

    • Time: 538-430 BCE - After the Babylonian Exile, returned by Cyrus the Persian to Judah and reconstruct the Temple under Jewish rule in 3 waves or phases:

      • Ezra 1-6: Return and Temple is Reconstructed

      • Ezra 7-10: Return and Community is reconstructed

      • Nehemiah 1-7: Return and Walls are reconstructed

    • Traditionally thought to have been written by Ezra (along with Ezra and 1 & 2 Chronicles- although there is dispute about whether the same author wrote 1 & 2 Chronicles)

      • Perhaps is a combination of older traditions compiled and edited by a post-exilic curator

  • What do we do with this passage?!

    • Story about the reading of the scripture in a place where the Jews have been unable to read scripture for YEARS

      • Hard to grasp for those of us who take the freedom of religion for granted

      • Celebration that the long

      • exile is over and God’s promises have at last been fulfilled

    • Jews have been through a terrible time of attack, decline and exile and are trying to reunite as a worshiping community - sound familiar?

      • Ezra is the new Moses- reading the word to unite the people

      • Jews unite under the Torah

      • Jews reform a covenantal community

  • Community at the Water Gate

    • Place where all were welcome to gather- no ritual purification was required - both the clean and unclean could be in the same place

    • Unity of the people of God - “all” repeated in almost every verse of this passage

  • Hearing the Word leads to action

    • They hear the Word and worship God, not Ezra, no the word itself, but the LORD

    • sharing what they have - v. 10

      • Eat, drink and share with those who do not have food or drink!

Thoughts and Questions

  • For those congregations and people who are familiar with the battle of Thermopylae in which ~7000 Greeks held the pass of Thermopylae against ~300,000 Persians (The final group of Greeks was King Leonidas and 300 Spartans, 700 Thespians and 400 Thebians who held the Persians army back while the rest of the Greeks retreated to later defeat the Persians at the Battle of Salamis). This is an interesting other side of the story- the Persians - monstrous invaders of the Greeks were also the liberators of the Jews!

  • What do you want people to do? Every sermon should have an invitation to action (Tony Campolo). Ezra reads the word and the people act!

Call to Worship with Psalm 19

Worldmaking translation/paraphrase by Richard Bruxvoort Colligan


One: The heavens are telling the glory of God;

Many: The earth proclaims God’s handiwork!

One: The sun rises at one end of the sky, its circuit complete at the other;

Many: Nothing can hide from its heat.

One: Our God’s Way is perfect, reviving the soul;

Many: Our God’s Way is sure, making wise the simple;

One: Our God’s Way is good, rejoicing the heart;

Many: Our God’s Way is clear, giving light to the eyes;

One: The awe of God is pure, enduring forever;

Many: Our God’s judgments are true and altogether righteous.

One: They are more to be desired than fine gold,

Many: Sweeter than honey dripping from the honeycomb.

One: Clear your servant from hidden faults, O Holy One

Many: As well as from willful sins.

One: Do not let sin rule me

Many: So I can be innocent of wrongdoing.

All: O my God, let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be a pleasure to you, O Holy One, my rock and my redeemer.

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 Bryan Odeen for our closing music.