Lectionary, Jan. 22, 2023 – Epiphany 3, Year A

I.Theme –   Call to service with a call for unity

 

The Calling of the Apostles Peter and Andrew" – Duccio de Buoninsegna (1308-1311)

The lectionary readings are here  or individually: 

1. Isaiah 9:1-4- Isaiah

2.  Psalm- Psalm 27:1, 5-13 Page 617

3.  Epistle – 1 Corinthians 1:10-18

4.  Gospel – Matthew 4:12-23 

Isaiah provides the foretelling of Christ even at a time of defect.

The Gospel answers the question of the character of this ministry and what got it started. 

John the Baptist’s  death was the spark that caused the ministry to begin. It was necessary to emphasize in this beginning that Jesus’ ministry is aligned with God’s purpose as it is revealed in the Scriptures.   

When the news comes to him about John’s arrest, he makes a different choice,  by withdrawing to Galilee, where he calls his first disciples, preaches the Sermon on the Mount, begins his ministry of healing, and teaches what it means to be the Messiah who is "God with us." 

Unlike the Gospel of John, Matthew does not identify Jesus as the light of the world. Nonetheless, the prophecy from Isaiah makes clear that Jesus’ return to Galilee will be the occasion for those who sit in darkness to see "a great light" (Matthew 4:16-17). No doubt Jesus’ ministry of teaching and healing is the basis for that light.

Jesus calls people as they are, from where they are, being who they are.  At the same time, however, as the gospel narrative proceeds, readers learn that it is the followers of Jesus who bear his light in the world by their own (collective) way of life. In the sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells the people, "You (plural) are the light of the world,. . . Let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:14-16). Jesus’ proclamation that the realm (kingdom) of heaven has come near is the first flicker of a light that will grow and burn among his followers until they are able to “proclaim [it] from the housetops” (Matthew 10:27).

Those first disciples, for their part, might have preferred to keep their jobs, to remain with their families, to stay with the life that they knew. When they see Jesus and hear his words to them, they make a different choice, however; they take a risk, step out in faith, leave behind that which is comfortable and secure. They choose to follow Jesus. 

Paul 25 years after Christ wants the message of Christ to come through despite division in Corinth. Christ name was synonomous with the Church. There was some fragmentation. The Corinthians were putting certain leaders into a place that really belonged only to God. In that sense they were becoming ‘cult figures’. Jesus role needs to be restored. 

II. Summary 

Old Testament – Isaiah 9:1-4 

Isaiah says that a time will come (“the latter time”) when God “will make glorious”, show his power, to three northern regions of Israel made provinces of Assyria after the conquest of 733 BC: “the way of the sea” (Dor), “the land beyond the Jordan” (Gilead) and “Galilee” (Megiddo). (Galilee was known as multi-ethnic, “nations”). The current “anguish” inflicted by God through the Assyrian king upon the Israelites there (the tribes of “Zebulun” and “Naphtali”), will end. The tense of the verbs is mixed perfect and future, so when the “latter time” will be is hard to tell; perhaps it is in the distant future. (In biblical times, northern Israel never regained its freedom.)

As “on the day of Midian” (v. 4), when Gideon led the people of Israel to defeat a vastly superior force of Midianites with God’s help, the people will be freed from oppression. (“Yoke”, “bar” and “rod” are symbols of oppression.) But this conquest will be a holy war; in such a battle, none of the plunder can be kept (“shall be burned”, v. 5), for it is God’s. God will increase the numbers of the Israelites (multiply the nation, v. 3). They will rejoice before God (“you”) as they do in times of plentiful harvest and of victory in battle (“when dividing plunder”). Vv. 6-7 are familiar to us from Christmas: “For a child has been born to us …”. Originally written to prophesy the continuance of the house of David, we also see these words as foretelling Jesus’ birth.

It is the first of the so-called "Servant Songs," a series of four poems written to announce the coming and work of a servant of the Lord whom Isaiah believes is already present among the people in exile or who may be soon on his way to bring a unique sort of deliverance for God’s suffering Judeans. 

Isaiah was not thinking of Jesus of Nazareth when he wrote these words,  

They may have imagined a triumphant return to Jerusalem, a grand rebuilding of the sacred temple, a reconstitution of the holy people, a reclaiming of the grandeur of the chosen people of YHWH. This excitement must only have increased when Cyrus, the lofty king of a conquering Persia, entered Babylon (around 539 B.C.E.) without a battle being fought, quickly deposed the last Babylonian king, Nabonidus, and announced that all captives could now return to their native lands and would receive Persian help to do so. Little wonder that Isaiah quickly named Cyrus, the Persian pagan, the "messiah" (45:2) since with a stroke the mighty Persian had turned the known world upside down. Now surely the halcyon days of Judah were right around the corner.

What is new for Isaiah is the apparent ways in which this servant will go about the doing of justice. "He will not cry (out) or lift up his voice or make it heard in the street" (42:2). First, this servant will be unnoticed in his work, unobtrusive, nearly silent. Here is no Cyrus, leading his armies to victory, parading about with a great retinue of cupbearers, slaves, spear-carriers, chariot drivers. Here is a silent witness for justice. Power will not be his way: "a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench." Still, do not be surprised or amazed at this easily overlooked servant, nor underestimate him; "he will faithfully bring forth justice" (42:3).  
 

Psalm -Psalm 27:1, 5-13

The psalmist expresses his confidence in God. “Light” is linked with “life”. When “evildoers” (v. 2) try to destroy him (“devour my flesh”), they fail to do so. Even if they are many (“army”, v. 3), he is sure that they will fail. He has asked of God that he may worship in the Temple (“live”, v. 4) for as long as he lives, see the “beauty” of what God does, to know more of God; these things he intends to do. God’s “tent” (v. 5) is the Temple, the psalmist’s refuge; there God makes him unreachable by his ungodly foes (v. 6). So he will praise God. He pursues his request in vv. 7-12. May God allow himself to be seen (v. 9); in the past he has seemed hidden from Israel. May God care for him (v. 10). May God guide him in godly ways so that he may not become subject to the “will” (v. 12) of his foes who tell lies about him (“false witnesses”, v. 12). V. 13 is the conclusion: he trusts that he will see the effects of God’s caring, throughout his life.  

Epistle -1 Corinthians 1:10-18

Last week Paul’s noted the Corinthians omission of faith, hope and love for each other as gifts of the Spirit prominent in the Christian community at Corinth where he was visiting. In this reading, we learn of divisions in the church there. Paul appeals for commonality in their thinking about the faith and in their vision for the church. Things need to be set in order. Jesus needs to be restored

He has heard from “Chloe’s people” ( v. 11), who are either  

-members of, and slaves in, her household, or

-the church that meets in her home, or

-those who look to her as leader,

– that their factiousness has reached the level of recrimination (“quarrels”). We do not know what the three (or four) factions believed; perhaps those who “belong to Christ” (v. 12) give allegiance to him without the mediation (and the participation) of the church. (“Cephas” is Peter.)

V. 13 presents three rhetorical questions, to which Paul expects a negative answer (as the Greek shows).  (By “Christ” he means the world-wide church.) To put loyalty to a leader above fidelity to Christ is unacceptable. While Paul probably baptised the first converts in Corinth (“Crispus”, v. 14, “Gaius” and “the household of Stephanas”, v. 16), his prime mission is to teach the faith (v. 17). Claims of belonging to Paul are unfounded.

All are baptised in the name of Christ, so all “belong” (v. 12) to him. Paul teaches straight-forwardly, relying on the message, the “power” (v. 17) of the “cross of Christ” (Jesus’ sacrificial death) to convince people – not “eloquent wisdom”, appealing to reason with clever arguments and rhetorical prowess. To those who hear the message and do not accept it and trust in it, it is “foolishness” (v. 18) about a man who died an ignominious death; they “are perishing” both now and when Christ comes again. But to the faithful (“to us who are being saved”) it bespeaks how powerful God is.


Gospel – Matthew 4:12-23

Jesus has been tempted by the devil in the wilderness. His responses show his complete dedication to the will and purpose of God. He has refused to use his divine power to his own human ends. Now he withdraws from “Nazareth” (v. 13) to “Capernaum”, so he can begin his mission safe from government interference. (John the Baptist has been arrested. Sepphoris, near Nazareth, was a Roman administrative centre. If the authorities seek to arrest him, he can escape more easily from Capernaum – by boat – than from Nazareth.) Matthew is keen to show Jesus as the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecies: he quotes Isaiah in condensed form (vv. 15-16) to show that Jesus is the future ideal king, the Messiah. (In Isaiah, the “sea” is the Mediterranean; here it is the Sea of Galilee.)

“From that time” (v. 17) marks a milestone: the launch of Jesus’ public ministry. Jesus proclaims: turn back to godly ways, to making God part of your way of thinking, for the completion of God’s plan for all created beings is close!

Vv. 18-22 tell of the calling of the first four disciples. (We know “Simon” as “Peter”.) Jesus the teacher invites them to follow him, speaking in their terms (“fish for people”, v. 19) and fulfils Jeremiah 16:16; there the LORD is “sending for many fishermen” to Israel. They give up their trade and “immediately” (v. 20) begin a radically different way of life. Jesus expects, and receives, prompt obedience. He proclaims the “good news” (v. 23) in both word and deed (healing). His ministry is to Jews, but people from “Syria” (v. 24), “the Decapolis” (v. 25, Hellenistic towns) and “beyond the Jordan” also come to him to hear his message.

III. Articles for this week in WorkingPreacher: 

Old TestamentIsaiah 9:1-4

PsalmPsalm 27:1, 5-13 Page 617

Epistle" – 1 Corinthians 1:10-18

Matthew –  Matthew 4:12-23

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