We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, who are still here, and we honor with gratitude the land itself and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.

Sunday Links, Feb. 5, 2023 Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany

Readers from Jan 29

Feb. 5, 11:00am – Holy Eucharist

  • Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany
  • Lectionary for Feb. 5, 2023, Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany
  • Bulletin for Feb. 5, 2023, Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Bulletin
  • Morning Meditation , Feb. 6, 6:30am Zoom link Meeting ID: 879 8071 6417 Passcode: 790929
  • Tues, Feb. 7th, Bingo Night 6-7:30PM at Port Royal Fire Department St Peter’s is serving as a Partner in Education with the Caroline County Public Schools. We will be providing snacks for the Caroline County If you would like to help, please bring granola bars, individually wrapped bags of trail mix, or small bottles of water and place them in the back pew.
  • Ecumenical Bible Study, Wed., Feb. 8, 10am-12pm.
  • Village Dinner, Wed., Feb. 8, 4:30pm-6pm. Serving – Baked Ham, Macaroni and Cheese, Candied Yams, Collard Greens, Corn Bread, Peach Cobbler
  • February, 2023 Newsletter
  • All articles for Feb.5, 2023

  • Coming Up!

  • Sun, Feb. 12 Souper Bowl Sunday. Bring a can of soup and a Valentine card for a Village Harvest client.
  • Salt and Light, Epiphany 5

    This week Jesus spends some time telling the disciples how to BE disciples in real time. And so when Jesus was teaching the disciples on the mountain in the Sermon on the Mount, he gave them some illustrations about how to carry out their work, right?” “He told the disciples, “You are the salt of the earth.” And also light.

    Salt preserves and enhances flavor. As salt, we add flavor and zest to the world, and we also preserve goodness in the world. And as light, we reflect God’s glory and bring God’s light into dark places—and there is plenty of darkness in our world.

    This perspective of authentic belief and outward practice described as righteousness runs through all of our readings this week. In short, the question is “Who is your God?” This question is at the very core of stewardship in our faith authenticated, or not, by how we use our time and God-given abilities and how we share our material and financial resources.

    Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount that we are salt and light. We are baptized as partners with Jesus in establishing the kingdom of heaven to preserve the faith of the Gospel for the good of the world. In today’s reading, Jesus gives us our job description, tells us who we are to be as his followers—And that’s all of us. Farmers, parents, horseback riders, nurses, realtors, insurance agents, priests, retired people, students, teachers, accountants, those of us who are still seeking clarity about what God is calling us to do in our lives—regardless of who we are, and who we are to become, God is always giving us work to do, here and now.

    Preservation of our own belief in the Gospel comes through authentic practice of our faith stewarding our time and abilities in prayer, worship, and service of others, and stewarding our material and financial resources to support the mission of the Church. The “scribes and Pharisees” in Matthew’s gospel account are characterized by closing themselves off to the presence of the kingdom of heaven because they were busy maintaining their own kingdoms.

    The Gospel reading is the second week of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus provided this as an instruction manual that directly addressed the Messianic Jews of Antioch, who found themselves deeply embattled by the Pharisees and Sadducees

    As Jesus begins, the audience is apparently his closest disciples (5:1); when he ends, the audience is much broader (7:28). The primary theme of the sermon is righteousness or justice (dikaiosune); the content that follows will give the specifics. Jesus’ teaching opens with the beatitudes (5:3-11).

    Matthew follows the Beatitudes with two sayings, one on salt and one on light. Salt was used as a purifier of sacrifices (Ezekiel 43:24). The images of both salt and light also described the law. Light also referred to God and to the restored Israel after the exile.

    Verses 17-20 explain Jesus’ relationship to the law. Because of the destruction of the temple, the central authority for Judaism during this period was the law, and Jesus was to be evaluated in relationship to it.

    Matthew asserts that a great reversal has taken place: The law is no longer to be the center about which everything revolves. Jesus is the new center, and the law and the prophets must be evaluated in relation to him. That relationship is one not of abolition, but of fulfillment. Matthew sees the law and prophecy as fulfilled in Jesus (11:13). The law pointed forward to, and now finds its meaning in, Jesus.

    Lectionary, Epiphany 5, Feb 5, 2023

     Lectionary, Epiphany 5

    I.Theme –   How should we act in relationship to others? Actions speak louder than words


    The Sermon of the Mount Part 2 – “Salt and Light”.  Stained glass is entitled “Light for Others” and from St. Mary’s church, Melton Mowbray, England

    The lectionary readings are here  or individually: 

    1. Old Testament- Isaiah 58:1-9a, (9b-12)

    2.  Psalm- Psalm 112:1-9, (10) Page 755, BCP

    3.  Epistle – 1 Corinthians 2:1-12, (13-16)

    4.  Gospel – Matthew 5:13-20 

    Isaiah -In today’s verses, God redefines the role of fasting and looks at our role with other. An expression of humility, fasting offers the people an opportunity to do for others what God has already done for them. We need to make a difference for those who live with oppression or poverty or bereavement. The way to serve God is not in pious proclamation but in subversive affirmation. 

    The attitude of the heart and use of the tongue must also reflect charity. The people must give more than food, clothing, or shelter: they must give themselves. Instead of seeking their own pleasure, they must first satisfy the desires of the needy, finding their own desires satisfied by God (58:11). 

    The Psalmist also affirms that the blessed are those whose everyday actions in sharing their riches proclaims their faith and honours the God whom they serve. 1

    Paul in Corinthians asks his listeners to consider his actions, actions rooted in the ancient wisdom of God, a wisdom that he demonstrated before naming. It was important that the folk to whom Paul ministered saw the power of God’s Spirit in Paul’s life before he proclaimed that Spirit.

    Jesus after his initial preaching on the Sermon on the Mount exhorts his followers to consider the impact of their everyday living as people of faith on the communities they inhabit and in which they are called to serve and witness.

    Following on from the Beatitudes, this further teaching of Jesus seems to root his teaching in a context with which the religious authorities of the day would more easily identify and which it would not be as easy for them to distance themselves.

    Here we see Jesus, not abolishing the ancient laws that had become a burden for many people but giving them a makeover so that ordinary people could grasp the essence of love that underpins all of God’s law and teaching.

    II. Summary 

    Old Testament – Isaiah 58:1-9a, (9b-12) 

    Written after the Exile into Babylon (6th century BC), this passage speaks of fasting, but its implications are wider: it encompasses the whole of the people’s attitude towards God. Through the prophet, God issues a legal summons to “my people” for “their rebellion”, for “their sins”.

    The structure of the passage concerns the sin and attitudes of the people (vv. 1-2). The people respond to God with a complaint (v. 3a). God then addresses the people directly, first by challenging their actions (vv. 3b-4), then by pointing to what they should be doing (vv. 5-10), and finally concluding with a future promise as the result of their faithfulness (vv. 11-12).  

    They go to the Temple daily (“seek me”, v. 2) and “delight” (in a sense) to know God’s ways – but their “righteousness” (keeping the Law and seeking godly judgements) are purely ritual, external. Why, they ask, are you ignoring us, God? (v. 3a). The people had called a fast, and wondered why it seemed to have no effect on God. 

    The implication is clearly that they were not fasting as part of devotion to God, but for their own interests. They don’t understand what is means to be God’s people in the world .

    He begins to explain in v. 3b: “you serve your own interest” (delight yourselves, not me) and (as slave masters did in Egypt) “oppress all your workers”:there is a gulf between the rich and the poor. Because your lives outside the Temple are inconsistent with your worship (v. 4a), God will not hear your pleas.  The very fact that they seem so blissfully unaware of God’s displeasure with their delight in God reveals that their humility is false.  

    Here, being God’s people is clearly defined both in terms of specific acts of grace toward the needs of others (food, clothing, shelter), as well as in terms of the larger issues of oppression and injustice that God’s people were actively to oppose (loose the bonds of injustice, undo the thongs of the yoke, let the oppressed go free).

    To those two aspects the prophet also added the obligations of relationship within families (v. 7d), as if to suggest that being God’s people was not just something “out there” for the needy stranger or member of the community. It also applied in the closest of relationships with family and kin (cf. 9:20-21). There was no aspect of life that fell outside of what God would “choose” to be an “acceptable” response to his grace and faithfulness to him. 

    There is the failure to “keep justice.”  “Justice” today tends to be a legal term, but  much of the Old Testament justice involved the basic needs, requirements, or even rights of people living together in community. To “keep justice” implies a diligence in seeing that those in positions of power as well as the people themselves did not deprive some members of the community of the basic needs, requirements, and rights that would allow them to function as part of the community. That seems to be at risk here. 

    You kid yourselves if you think an insincere show of fasting is “acceptable” (v. 5). (“Sackcloth” was worn by mourners and the penitent.) God demands a proper relationship with others, one free from “injustice” (v. 6) and servitude (“yoke”), one in which the rich “share” (v. 7) with the “hungry”, forming one community, giving to the less fortunate. When you do this. God will hear you (“light”, v. 8) “healing” you (restoring you to well-being), and protect you (both before and behind). He will be present with you.

    Vv. 9-12 continue this theme, adding that contempt (“pointing” “the finger”) and slander (“speaking of evil”) are unacceptable.

    There is the problem of God not acting and the people are discouraged.

    The Israelites had been allowed to return home after 70 or so years of exile in Babylon (538 BC). They had expected God to come and establish his dominion over all the earth. But times were hard and the future was anything but certain. It had been nearly 100 years now, and there was no new kingdom and no golden age These people had never seen God’s work in history and had begun to wonder whether it was worth serving God. Apathy and discouragement had dimmed their vision of the future.

    And yet Isaiah could envision a new act of God in history, a new act of deliverance and restoration consistent with the God of the exodus, in which he would deliver his people and open up new possibilities for them. So Isaiah spoke of a new light dawning, a new day coming in which God would be revealed to the world and Israel would be vindicated as his people.  They can only be the light to the nations, can only fulfill their mission as the people of God, as they live out God’s grace in the world.

    In Isaiah and elsewhere, both darkness and blindness are frequently metaphors for lack of understanding (for example, 29:9-10, 42:16; cf. Jer 5:21) , so there are also overtones of Israel’s own darkness in not knowing who they are as God’s people (cf. 42:18-20).

    God will be present with his people, guiding them, strengthening them when they find their trust in him waning, and making them a source of good/godliness for others (“a spring of water”, v. 11). From v. 12, we learn that Jerusalem is still not yet fully rebuilt: God will help them mend the “breach” in the walls, and restore their heritage.

    Psalm -Psalm 112:1-9, (10)

    This psalm portrays the state of well-being of godly people, who hold God in awe (“fear”) and live per Mosaic law (“commandments”). They will be blessed with many powerful descendants (v. 2), wealth (v. 3), and godliness throughout their lives (“forever”). They will be examples to others (“a light”, v. 4). Those who are generous and fair in business and “lend” (v. 5, to the poor, interest-free) will enjoy true happiness, for nothing will cause them to stumble in their trust in God (v. 6); they will be long “remembered”. Their confidence will allow them to “triumph” (v. 8) over “their foes”. (A “horn”, v. 9, was a symbol of strength and power.) But (v. 10), the ungodly are “angry” at the sight of all God gives the faithful; they will perish; God will not hear their “desire”.

    Epistle -1 1 Corinthians 2:1-12, (13-16)

    Paul continues his letter to the Corinthians by following the theme of competing wisdoms. He began in 1:11 confronting the madness which had crept into the Corinthians’ churches, where people were making heroes of special people like Paul. He then continued in 1:18 by challenging the assumptions which underlay such divisions: typical obsessions with power and wisdom, which he links with Jewish and Greek stereotypes.

    Against all this Paul asserts a new kind of wisdom and a new kind of power: the foolishness and powerlessness of the cross. The life poured out there is not the sign of God’s absence but of God’s presence, not the sign of God’s powerlessness or foolishness but the sign of what is truly powerful and wise: the life poured out in compassion.

    Paul is being deliberately subversive of their stance. We can see him almost taking delight in highlighting his frailty and unimpressiveness (2:3-4). His power was through the Spirit (2:4). But Paul’s understanding of the Spirit is different from that of the Corinthians, who see the Spirit in terms of miracle and power.

    For Paul the Spirit is the Spirit of Christ and brings to life again that same Christ of the cross. Paul does not see the Spirit replacing the Christ of the cross, but rather helping bring that same presence to bear because this is the way God is. That is why when Paul seeks to live in the power of the Spirit, his life takes the shape of the cross: bearing love to others even when life turns ugly – as ugly as the cross.

    Paul has decried divisions in the church at Corinth: people have attached themselves to particular leaders because of their eloquence (and other personal traits). Now he says that when he first “came to you”, he purposely avoided eloquence (“lofty words”) and gave the Spirit full reign in bringing people to Christ. To avoid a personality cult, he came neither promoting his own qualities (v. 3) nor using erudite (“plausible”, v. 4) rational arguments. What has happened at Corinth bespeaks immaturity in the faith.

    While with “mature” (v. 6) Christians, he does speak “wisdom” ( a total God-centered view of the cosmos – not popular wisdom, and not that of political and religious “rulers”), with the immature Christians at Corinth he speaks only basics of the good news: God’s plan of salvation, decreed by God before creation. He does so in order that they may reflect God’s power (“glory”, v. 8). (Had the “rulers” understood this plan, they would have let Jesus live.) But they are so immature (indeed “unspiritual”, v. 14) that even the basics are beyond them, (“secret and hidden”, v. 7). God has revealed to the mature “through the Spirit” (v. 10) “things” about God’s love (v. 9) that are hidden from others. Just as one person can never plumb the essence of another completely, so only the Spirit can know God comprehensively. Through the Spirit, we (the mature) understand God’s gifts to us (v. 12), which can only be described in spiritual terms. But most of you have never received such gifts, so they make no sense to you (“are foolishness”, v. 14); they are only discernable in a spiritual way. The mature do discern such gifts – and you should not doubt it (“scrutiny”, v. 15). You should refrain from instructing them – for they are one with Christ, of his “mind” (v. 16).

    Gospel – Matthew 5:13-20

    Since we did the Presentation in the Temple on Feb. 2 we missed the Beatitudes and the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew Chapter 5. Actually there are 5 weeks of passages from the sermon prior to Lent 

    Jesus provided this as an instruction manual that directly addressed the Messianic Jews of Antioch, who found themselves deeply embattled by the Pharisees and Sadducees

    As Jesus begins, the audience is apparently his closest disciples (5:1); when he ends, the audience is much broader (7:28). The primary theme of the sermon is righteousness or justice (dikaiosune); the content that follows will give the specifics. Jesus’ teaching opens with the beatitudes (5:3-11).

    The key meaning is this “..Joy or enduring happiness is discovered when we live outwardly focus on the needs of others”

     Marek Zabriskie, the creator of the Bible Challenge has written “The world teaches us to obtain all that we can get for ourselves, to strive to succeed and not to fail, to be strong and not weak, to be aggressive and even to use violence, if others threaten to harm us, and to avoid unjust punishment or persecution.

     In the Beatitudes, Jesus, turns the logic of the world on its head. He calls for living a counter-intuitive life with God. “

     The writer of the Hidden Gospels provides a list of them 

    “Each of the nine couplets invokes supportive and constructive attitudes of heart—practical assistance for beginning and withstanding the inner challenges of a spiritual journey 

     1. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

     2. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

     3. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

     4. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

     5. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

     6. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

     7. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

     8. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

     9. “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the  prophets who were before you ” (Mt 5:1-12)

    The beginning sentence of each paragraph this week just after the above gives the clue meaning of it 

    1 Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth;

    When Jesus tells his disciples to “be salt,” he is drawing on a number of Old Testament uses for salt. It was used for seasoning, preservation, and purifying (2 Kg. 2:19-22). It was used to ratify covenants (Num 18:29; Chr. 13:5) and in liturgical functions (Ex 30:35; Lev 2:13; Ezek 43:24; Ezra 6:9). To eat salt with someone signified a bond of friendship and loyalty (Ezra 4:14; Acts 1:4). Salt scattered on a conquered city reinforced its devastation (Jg 9:45) (Reid, 35). 

    In rabbinic metaphorical language, salt connoted wisdom (Hill, 115). Today, salt adds flavor to food, cures food, creates traction on icy roads, and can serve as an antiseptic in wounds.

    Since salt is a very stable, non-reactive compound, the only way it can lose its flavor is by being diluted with water

    There are several ways scholars have suggested the disciples can lose their flavor. It all comes down to submitting to pressure

    – Bending under persecution
    – Bending under the pressure of the surrounding culture

    2 “You are the light of the world.

    You are blessed, now go and be a blessing.

    In Jesus’ usage, the light is not simply to allow others to see whatever they wish but it is for others to witness the acts of justice that Jesus’ followers perform. Beyond that, it allows the audience to recognize the cause of these actions, the God of heaven.

    Scripture scholar John Meier reminds us that there are two facets of the light image: it is meant for all, and it can be smothered only by the disciples’ own failure. In a one-room, windowless house, the lamp would stand in a central place where its rays could extend as far as possible. To extinguish the flame without sparks, the homeowner would place another vessel over the lamp. That thought can prompt self-examination: how do we undercut our own mission? How do we dim our light by lack of confidence, preoccupation with lesser things or a failure to believe?

    3. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill

    In 5:17 the emphasis is not on abandoning or abolishing the Jewish faith, but fulfilling and upholding. 

    Jesus, says Matthew, did not come to lead people away from scripture but to lead them to take it seriously.

    The paraphrase might be – Don’t think that my teachings replace or reduce the law and the prophets. And don’t think you can skip the details. Details count. But something more than the details is also needed. You must align your whole self with what God desires – that is what those in Heaven are like.

    But he chooses to “fulfill” the law in the sense of interpreting their meaning for contemporary practice.

    .. For Matthew there is continuity here. The disciples of Jesus stand in continuity with Israel, are true Israel in what it was called to be. The city on the hill would evoke Zion and the prophecies about peoples coming to worship God and learn of his Law on Zion from all peoples of the earth (as the magi did)

    So putting it together   

     The disciples are to be salt and light by living the commitments and virtues Jesus states lead to blessedness in the Beatitudes (5:1-12). Matthew, out of his Jewish background, is not afraid to speak of the rewards for faithful discipleship (5:12).  

    Just as “salt” and “light” relate to the functions of Jesus’ faithful followers in the world, so Jesus’ emphasis on the law is about doing good

    Salt and light are similar in that they are not useful by themselves – the value comes in application to other things. In Jesus’ usage, the light is not simply to allow others to see whatever they wish but it is for others to witness the acts of justice that Jesus’ followers perform. Beyond that, it allows the audience to recognize the cause of these actions, the God of heaven.  

    You are the one to get it going, looking beyond your own circumstances and look to the whole world 

    Set an example. Not to get fame and glory for yourself, but so that others will see God’s goodness. 

    III. Articles for this week in WorkingPreacher: 

    Old TestamentIsaiah 58:1-9a, (9b-12) 

    PsalmPsalm 112:1-9, (10)

    Epistle – 1 Corinthians 2:1-12, (13-16)

    Gospel –  Matthew 5:13-20