EPIPHANY 2 Study & Meditaton

EPIPHANY 2   01-17-2021

FIRST READING:  1 Samuel 3:1-20

From the time of his birth, Samuel had been dedicated to the Lord, offered by his mother Hannah. As a child he served the aged priest Eli in the sanctuary at Shiloh. This reading tells of Samuel’s call at that holy place.

It is a new way to hear. In a time when visions are rare and unexpected, the Lord comes to Samuel and calls him to speak the divine word of God. Though he is just a boy, Samuel is willing and responds to God obediently, as Eli the priest has taught him to respond. This marks the beginning of Samuel’s faithful service to God as both a prophet and a judge. God calls even the youngest children to serve!

He was much needed in that time. After the twelve tribes of Israel had occupied the Promised Land, they were bound together in a loose confederation. In times of crisis, inspired leaders called judges (Gideon, Deborah, and Samson, for example) would rally the people together. But there was no sense of national or spiritual unity, and the Book of Judges tells us that “everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” 

This situation changed because of the work and ministry of Samuel. He would unify the people of Israel as no previous leader since Joshua. He bridged the gap between the period of heroic judges and the monarchy, and he anointed Israel’s first two kings, Saul and David.

Note that Samuel’s first message from God rebuked Eli, the priest who had raised him from childhood. Young Samuel was afraid to tell what he heard, but Eli was pressing him and young Samuel found the courage.

Do you pray with an attitude of (a) “Speak, Lord, your servant listens” or (b) “Listen, Lord, for your servant speaks”? How can you learn to listen more and speak less when it comes to your relationship with God?

When did you feel called by God to deliver the Lord’s “bad news”? Were you able to remain obedient and to accept the consequences of acting on it? Or did you completely block the message… pretend you didn’t hear… intentionally change it to make it more “soft” or “safe”?

Today’s text tells us, “The word of the Lord was rare in those days…”  Would you apply those words to our age, our time? Do you ever ask and wonder, “Where is God?”

Do we ever confuse God’s Word with the voice of others, or vice versa?

 

PSALM:  Psalm 139

The author of Psalm 139 is humbled, astounded, and thrilled to recognize how GOD the infinite is also GOD the intimate. The author marvels at this deeply personal relationship with God the great Creator… and is stirred to wonder and praise to realize what a marvelous creature he is. He bursts forth with stirring thoughts:

Where can I go, where can I hide? Everything I do, every thought that goes 

through my mind, every step I take, every plan I make, every word I speak… 

my past, my present, my future – YOU, Lord, know. YOU know the best about 

me and the worst about me… my good, my bad, and my ugly… YET YOU LOVE ME. 

Sometimes this comforts me, sometimes this frightens me, always it is beyond

my comprehension. Lord, you are awesome!

So writes the psalmist. So we think sometimes.

You might also take a look at Job 7. In response to one of his unhelpful friends, Job cries out in God’s direction about his comfortless suffering: months of futility and hard service, wearisome nights and painful body, a brief lifespan without any hope, an anguished and tormented spirit, terrifying visions, a longing for death to end it all. Read especially Job 7:17-21, where Job wonders why God won’t just leave him alone, why God has to concern himself to interfere with a mere little human person. This is so different from Psalm 139 or Psalm 8!

In your life’s journey right now, does God seem near or far away? Does this cause you to wonder and rejoice or to complain and regret?

SECOND READING:  1 Corinthians 6:12-20

Paul helps the Christians in the city of Corinth understand that God has claimed the entirety of their lives through the death of Christ. It is a new way to be. Our human relationships and conduct, even our sexuality is to reflect the reality that we belong to Christ and that the Holy Spirit lives within us.

“All things are lawful for me.” Some of the Christians in this faith community have stressed individual freedom and believe that they can do WHATEVER they please.[Does this sound somewhat familiar in these COVID-19 pandemic days in our United States of America?] Some of the Christians in this faith community have been influenced by Gnosticism, believing that they can hold onto spiritual knowledge about God and practice spiritual piety, but have complete freedom with their physical bodies to fulfill their personal human appetites for food, sex, or any other desire. By the way, Corinth in those days was a busy, large seaport… with bars and various shrines and temples for gods and goddesses… known for its wealth, its luxury, its drunkenness, its sacred temple prostitutes, its loose morals. In Paul’s day, if you were accused of “acting like a Corinthian”, it always had something to do with what the accusers considered to be immoral behavior, loose living.

Paul offered a different word. What you do with your body, what you eat or how you act, is not separate or irrelevant to your spiritual nature. You are a whole and integrated – yes, even a sacred – self of body, mind, and spirit… created by God, redeemed by Jesus Christ, and bearing the Holy Spirit. Paul writes, “For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.” 

We are in the image of God. We are called to dedicate our entire self to God, to conduct ourselves in a way that pleases God. 

GOSPEL READING:  John 1:43-51

In the Gospel of JOHN, Jesus’ ministry begins with the call of disciples, who then bring others to Jesus.  Before today’s reading Jesus invites Andrew to “Come, and you will see”… and Andrew rushes off to find his brother Simon, then brings him to meet Jesus. Then, on this “next day”, Jesus calls Philip to “Follow me”… and Philip finds Nathanael and tells him about Jesus. But, in today’s reading, Nathanael is about to break the chain reaction. When told where Jesus came from, he wonders, “Nazareth? Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

Some people got a little edge to them, a little attitude, a little negativity. They are sometimes a little too skeptical and critical… they aren’t easily convinced. They like to find fault with this or that, they like to pass judgment on that person or this person. Sometimes they seem to just try to cut your excitement, cut your spirit, extinguish your joy. Most of us have probably met people in our lives like this – they might be our family, our friend, even our fellow church member. And we care about them, we love them – we honestly do! – but sometimes it’s a challenge, and we have to learn and practice looking beyond this personality trait, this fault… just as God looks beyond our faults

Nathanael smirked, Nathanael laughed, he dismissed and discounted. Philip did not retort back with something, he didn’t get defensive, he didn’t walk away hurt and angry, vowing to never again share something important with Nathanael. He said the same words to Nathanael that Jesus had earlier said to Andrew and that other disciple just the day before… only Philip wasn’t present to hear that.

“Come and see.” Such simple, clear, inviting words. “Come and see.”  NOT “Do you know where you are going to spend eternity?” NOT “Have you given your life to Jesus?’ NOT “You’re going to hell if you don’t repent right this moment!” NO pushing… NO demanding… NO judging and condemning. JUST inviting.

“Come and see.” These are the words that you and I should say to others.

If they aren’t interested… if they dismiss what we’re saying… if they make fun of us, give some sort of smart or angry response… if they wonder, “Can anything good come out of JESUS?”… if they worry, “Can anything good ever come out of ME?”, that’s OK. Ultimately, each person has to meet Jesus one-on-one, a personal encounter, a personal response.     

Who are you telling? Who do you need to share with? Who needs an invitation to hear the GOOD NEWS about Jesus?

God keeps coming after us, finding us, and calling us. And then God sends us to others.

 to the four Gospels for the proclamations of the arrival and birth of Jesus Christ into our world.

MARK has nothing to say. His account begins with Jesus as a grown man, coming from Nazareth to the Jordan River to be baptized by John.

MATTHEW tells of a genealogy that can be traced all the way back to the great Jewish patriarch Abraham

(and his wife Sarah) – 42 generations in all. He speaks especially of Joseph – Joseph’s righteousness, Joseph’s dream, Joseph’s obedience to God. He merely mentions the birth of Jesus with almost no detail. Then he tells of the visit of the wise men and their gifts; the escape of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus to Egypt for a while to avoid Herod’s paranoia-turned-genocide; and their return after a while to Nazareth.

LUKE has the fullest account, one that is fairly familiar to us, including:

the angel’s visit to Zechariah, and the foretelling of John the Baptist’s birth;

the angel’s visit to Mary and the foretelling of the birth of Jesus;

Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, the mother-to-be of John, confirming Mary’s own pregnancy and causing Mary to

burst into song;

the birth of John and his father Zechariah’s spoken prophecy;

and, of course, the stated time in history and the census journey to Bethlehem… no room in the inn… the birth

and the baby placed in a feed trough… angels hovering and rejoicing, shepherds hurrying to see

and telling;

then the naming of Jesus at 8 days;

then the presentation of Jesus and Mary’s purification rite in the Temple at 40 days, leading to prophecies from

old Simeon and also from old Anna;

and, finally, the 12-year-old Jesus not as lost as his parents thought, in the Temple, in his Father’s house.

And then there is the JOHN… this Sunday’s reading. The first sentence in the Gospel of JOHN echoes the first sentence in the entire Bible to draw an unmistakable parallel between two unrelated texts that are separated by 2,000 years in the authorship (give or take a day or two).

The elegant words of GENESIS 1:1-3 read:

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void

            and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the 

    waters. Then God said, “LET THERE BE LIGHT”… and there was light.

JOHN begins his Gospel this way:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was

    in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one

     thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of

     all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

Why does JOHN do this, begin his Gospel like GENESIS? Well, in JOHN 1:1-18, John the writer, the

deep thinker, John the poet wants to make two connections between GENESIS and Jesus. He wants to say:

#1    In Jesus, God created the world.

#2    In Jesus, God redeemed the world.

JOHN wants to connect creation with redemption, the Creator with the Redeemer, first life with new life. The same eternal Word of God that had created life “in the beginning” was spoken forth again in the awesome new beginning of “the Word became flesh and lived among us.”

What God said in this awesome new beginning, this living Word, was born of a young woman

       in a stable in a little town. But JOHN doesn’t speak much about this.

What God said was expressed in a little, tender baby, dependent on others for nourishment,

       protection, and love. But JOHN doesn’t say much about this.  

What God said would grow up among us as one of us. And JOHN does say that. 

What God said would be an infant, a toddler, a child, and a young man… and would be

       vulnerable to temptation and weariness, to fear and anger, to the hatred and sin of others,

       and to death. And JOHN does tell the story of all this his way.  

JOHN’s interpretation of what God said to us is, in essence:

    “LET THERE BE A LIGHT FOR THE WORLD!

      LET THERE BE LIFE FOR THE PEOPLE!

      I CREATED YOU, I LOVE YOU… AND NOW I AM REDEEMING YOU, SAVING YOU.

      NOW LOVE ME BACK!”

Who would refuse a gift? Why are some people uninterested in the life-giving grace of God?

 

God has no other word to say, no other sign, no other light to give than this man Jesus, born to

       be our Brother, born to die our Redeemer. As the twelve days of Christmas approach their

       end, may we lay bare our hearts to God’s own Word, accept the message we have heard, 

       not refuse the Savior’s mission, and resolve to keep him, Jesus Christ, God’s Word among

       us, the Word-made-flesh, today and always.

God’s living Word in Christ continues to dwell among us and even inside each of us. May Jesus

       Christ shine out through us to a hurting world that knows the night and needs the Light!

“MERCY CHRISTMAS AND HOLY NEW YEAR!”

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