Sunday, January 27, 2013

Third Sunday After Epiphany

Today’s Scriptures: Lectionary selections from the Revised Common Lectionary Year C

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

Psalm 19

1 Corinthians 12:12-31

Luke 4:14-21

Today’s Reflection:

The biblical text uses so much figurative language that we are sometimes stumped for the exact meaning. We study the languages of the time it was written for clues. We look at the context of the passage. And we look at the Bible as a complete document to discern some of the meaning. Even with all these helps, there continues to be much disagreement about the meaning of passages. Today’s passage from 1 Corinthians, though, is one of broad agreement: our body serves as a symbol of the Church.


Paul clearly lays out the functions of body parts and how, traditionally, we treat those different parts. No matter what we think of the parts (less/more honorable, less/more respectable) we rely on them to have a complete church. We all have different “less honorable” and “more honorable” members in the church. In some churches it is the drug addict, in another the poor, in another the convict. Regardless of the criteria, Paul makes it clear the church has room for everyone and everyone has a role in the church. I the arm (teacher) may have difficulty accepting or understanding the knee (prophet) but I have trouble getting where I am going without it.


While sometimes we struggle with the role we have in the church, in my experience we often struggle more with the roles we do not have in the church. The struggle does not come from a malicious place, quite the opposite; it comes from the yearning to serve. We desire to be faithful and active disciples for Christ and we want to do it all. God created us limited, flawed beings so we cannot do it all and we learn to rely on others.


Understanding how the body of Christ, the Church, fits together also helps us understand God, the Trinity. As we are in the Epiphany season, we are learning to better understand Christ. Today’s passages serve well to do that. The Corinthians passage reminds us how the body parts fit together to make us whole people. We see the same thing in Luke as it leads us up to an early rejection of Jesus. He returns from the forty days in the wilderness and goes to his home synagogue. Everything was normal until he sat to teach on the passage he read. He proclaims the prophesy fulfilled, and these people who have known him since childhood, wanted to push him off a cliff.


The passage begins, “Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit…” Just like our body, each part of God – Father, Son, Holy Spirit – must be present for God to be complete. They are all one, but they serve different functions. They are each unique, but they create the “God body.” Jesus experienced some of the limitations of humankind when he was born into an earthly body. The Spirit guided him and allowed him to overcome many of those physical limitations – the same Spirit that is with us today – while the Father directed the events.


Scripture provides a variety of names for each portion of the Holy Trinity, and likely, just as I have favorites, others do too. Just as I often want to be a control freak and do everything, the passages today helped me understand that even God delegates responsibilities to those parts best suited to do the job. Knowing that I am not alone as the arm, but I have a whole body to help me out does not eliminate some of the stress I have from wanting to do too much, but it certainly alleviates it. God, the Holy Trinity, is love and in that love God takes care of us.

Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings, copyright © 2005 Consultation on Common Texts.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Second Sunday After Epiphany

Today’s Scriptures: Lectionary selections from the Revised Common Lectionary Year C

Isaiah 62:1-5

1 Corinthians 12:1-11

John 2:1-11

Today’s Reflection:

I am a universal thinker. I tend to start with the big picture and then drill down to the details. Very often when we consider God, we think of him in charge of broad spectrum activities. He did create the universe. Today we get the picture of a God who is concerned about our daily lives. He is in the details.


In John we are given a picture of Jesus at the start of his ministry with his mother and disciples present. We see Jesus, just beginning his ministry, getting pressure from his mother to perform a miracle. As an obedient child (we are our parents’ child no matter how old), he helped the wedding host by turning water into wine. As much as the passage reveals a modest man doing just as he is told, it raises some questions. What miracles had he done through his childhood that Mary would come to him for this one? What was life really like around Joseph’s shop with the child/adolescent Jesus?  And red or white?


I have always been fascinated by Mary’s request of Jesus. The wine is not the only food miracle Jesus performs, but it is one that does not serve an immediate need. It fulfills a social norm. The lesson I take away from this passage expands my understanding of Jesus: he cared for all parts of people’s lives, not just their immediate needs. Providing the wine for the wedding allowed the celebration to continue unabated with joy for all the people. Jesus wanted tradition/culture preserved.


The wedding at Cana of Galilee reveals a compassionate Jesus who is concerned about the daily needs of the people. The wedding celebrations could have continued without the wine, but it did not support the tradition of a seven day celebration with feasting and drinking. Jesus did what he could do to support tradition and maintain the reputation of his friends. In addition to his mother he respected the tradition of the community.


Like many of the miracles Jesus worked in the lives of individuals, very few people knew about it. It was specific to the people for whom it was performed. Miracles are personal. The first disciples were also in attendance and this was the first miracle they witnessed which strengthened their belief in him.


When we consider God (the entire trinity) we often think about the global/universal/creation – big picture nature of God. The Gospel today reminds us that God is intensely personal and considers our daily activities. He desires good things for our lives – even when in the scope of divinity, those good things seem trivial. If all things matter to God, then perhaps they should matter to us.

Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings, copyright © 2005 Consultation on Common Texts.


Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Baptism of the Lord

Today’s Scriptures: Lectionary selections from the Revised Common Lectionary Year C

Isaiah 43:1-7

Psalm 29

Acts 8:14-17

Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

Today’s Reflection:

Dunk ‘em! Dab ‘em! The denominational debate about baptism has always fascinated me because so much passion gets spent on the symbolic act when much less energy is spent on the spiritual salvation of people. The symbolic is much easier since it is visible for all (exactly as intended). As we remember the baptism of the Lord, we can gain some perspective on what exactly baptism means to us. As it is still Epiphany season, the revelation of Jesus as the Christ comes to us in every lesson and Bible reading throughout the year, and today his baptism reveals much about our connection to him. Today’s focus on the baptism of the Lord offers us insight into the transformation of our own baptism and all that comes with it. Out baptism, like Christ’s, involves a symbolic and spiritual transformation.


The baptism of Christ demonstrated both the symbolic (physical) and spiritual nature of baptism. He was baptized in the water to demonstrate the symbolic cleansing gained through repentance(though we need it and he did not). We continue to follow his example to symbolically demonstrate the cleansing we received through our repentance. Just as the water baptism did not make Jesus the Christ, we know our water baptism does not make us Christian. It is a symbolic step we take to publically demonstrate the transition in our life. Going through the public action helps us find support and holds us accountable as we have a congregation witness our declaration of change.


The real transformation comes internally as we gain access to the Holy Spirit through our repentance and acceptance of Christ as the way the truth and the light. Jesus’s baptism brought all three portion of the Trinity together: father, son, Holy Spirit. The coming together of the Trinity gave a glimpse of what we could expect when the Holy Spirit was released into the world as a guide for all who believe. We now have the full power and wisdom of God with us (as demonstrated by the disciples Christ sent out). Our every action after our baptism should reflect the change. We are faulty people and will never reach the perfection of Christ, but we have the opportunity through our baptism in the Holy Spirit.


Baptism is one of the most powerful parts of Christianity. It, along with communion (or the Lord’s Supper) are the consistent symbolic acts across Christian denominations. As both a symbolic representation and spiritual transformation nothing is a more meaningful act in our faith. Today as we reflect on the baptism of the Lord, let us also reflect on our own baptism and just what it means in our life.

Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings, copyright © 2005 Consultation on Common Texts.


Sunday, January 6, 2013


Today’s Scriptures: Lectionary selections from the Revised Common Lectionary Year C

Isaiah 60:1-6

Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14

Ephesians 3:1-12

Matthew 2:1-12

Today’s Reflection:

More than two thousand years after Christ’s birth, we still revel in his revelation to us. The night of his birth, the locals experienced the arrival as he was revealed to the shepherds. Today at Epiphany we celebrate the revealing to the remainder of the world: Gentiles, symbolized in the magi, traveled to worship him. Even though we “know” him, we can always learn more by spending time in the scriptures. Our childhood Sunday School lessons do not always prepare us for the tough lessons of the adult Christ.


The familiar story in Matthew of the wise-men or magi coming to the Christ-child after following the star is requisite for this season. Of course the typical, “There Was No Such Star” headlines came in the science sections of various papers this week. I agree, there was no “star” in the way we would define an astronomical body. Had there been, Herod’s astronomers would have been all over it and he would not have sent the wise men to go find the baby and then report back to him. He would have beaten them there, swords drawn. Just as God provided a pillar and a fire for the Israelites, God is quite capable of creating a shining anomaly that moves as a guide for wise men from another region. The kind of star or astronomical alert provided to the wise men is irrelevant; what matters is that God revealed his son to all the peoples of the world, not just the Jews.


The other passages today also reveal Christ and his actions through the Church. Isaiah particularly addresses the Church and the way the Church should be seen in the world – with all people coming to the Church as a beacon of light and right in the world filled with darkness. Sadly, there is too much strictly enforced dogma, “believe as I believe or you are going to Hell,” in many churches around the world today. Instead of light, that darkness of hate and fear drives the world away from the Church. Too many have become self-focused churches rather than Christ-focused churches. Without Christ in the church, there is no light. Those churches that attempt to enforce a legalistic code on the world around them completely miss the point that Christ died on the cross to replace the legalistic code that had not worked with God and the Jews since the giving of the law through Moses.


In the Psalms passage, the author keeps returning to the care of God for the poor, the needy, and the weak. Who among us is poor, needy, or weak? We all are for we have sinned. We all need his righteous judgment, defense, and deliverance. One key point about the God of these passages (and the Bible in general) is that he keeps watch for the oppressed peoples. He never looks after the wealthy and powerful unless it is to bring them down as happens repeatedly in the prophets. When the rich and powerful fail to care for the poor and powerless, God steps in and does it for them at their expense. We all need God to look after us in our failures, but we also want to be certain we are doing the things to look after those more needy than we are or God’s visit to us will not be what we expected.


The Ephesians passage reinforces the Christ who came for the entire world. This savior was for all the world and through him all who believe in him have access to God and the salvation he offers. The zeal in this passage contrasts with much of Paul’s writing which tends toward the legal and pedantic, but here he excitedly proclaims the expansion of God’s kingdom to the entire world.


This Epiphany, as we celebrate the revelation of Christ, let us take time to examine what he truly revealed to us through his life and his teaching. Are we truly being the people he expects us to be? Being Christian, being Church, to the entire world sometimes forces us to move out of the traditions with which we are comfortable and truly examine his calling for us. We have to move away from the dogmas that limit our vision of Christ and draw toward the lessons taught through the Holy Spirit. As we make our way through the Epiphany season, may we open our spirit to the Christ who reveals himself to us more than the Christ we are told exists.

Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings, copyright © 2005 Consultation on Common Texts.