Epiphany 4 Study

EPIPHANY 4   01-30-2022

FIRST READING:   Jeremiah 1:4-10

These were troubled times that Jeremiah lived in. His nation of Judah (the southern kingdom of Jews that remained after the northern kingdom of Israel had fallen to the Assyrians many years before) was now nearing the end of its own political life under the threat of Babylonian expansion. At the same time, under the leadership of King Josiah, there was a movement to repent, reform, and rededicate in their faith relationship with God.

Jeremiah was a young priest helping to serve and lead in the worship of God. It seems that he would have preferred to continue in this vocation. However, God called him to also become a prophet, not only to Judah but to the other nations as well.

Today’s reading speaks of Jeremiah’s call – “even before God formed him in the womb” – and his reluctance to do this prophetic ministry. But there could be no excuses, because God had already consecrated and appointed him… and in these verses God even “zaps” him and “puts (the) words in (his) mouth. Jeremiah would serve, not always willingly and not without much persecution and internal struggle.

Have you ever felt like God had a plan for your life, a challenging task for you to undertake, a courageous word for you to speak? Doesn’t it sometimes feel like we have not chosen God but that God has chosen us? Have you – like many prophets and servants of God including Jeremiah, Joshua, Ezekiel, Mary, Paul, and even Jesus – needed to hear those reassuring words “Do not be afraid” in order to risk and obey? What excuses have you tried over your faith journey to escape God’s call? 

You and I are never too young, or too old, or too busy, or too anything – to live up to God’s truth.  May God give us the humility to trust God’s call and the boldness to live it out! Step into the challenge of God’s mission.

 

SECOND READING:   1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Paul is writing to a congregation that he helped to found, a congregation that has many different gifts among its members but also much disunity. In previous verses he used the human body as a metaphor to describe the form and function of the Christian community of faith. He wants the sisters and brothers in this Corinthian community of faith to understand that the Church can only function correctly as a healthy body of connected interactive parts. He wants them to think of their congregation as diverse members unified by the Spirit in loving community and the mission of sharing and serving Jesus Christ.

In this Corinthian community of faith – and also in many other Christian congregations – some are thinking, insisting, and acting that they are more holy or more right, or more powerful or more honored than the rest of the members. Paul makes it pretty clear in today’s reading that, no matter what else God calls us to do or say or be, God calls us to love… and that nothing really matters without love.

Every congregation wants to think of itself as a gathering of loving people who embody the loving spirit of Jesus, who accept and affirm one another and nourish all that is good. But we need to be reminded now and then of the hard truth that warm, fuzzy thoughts and soft, sentimental statements are not enough. Jesus Christ, the living Word, calls and challenges us to loving action – patient, kind, not envious or arrogant or insisting on its own way – and this loving action is not just toward those whom we like or to those who are like us.

When we were children, we might have insisted on our own way. But, just as children hopefully grow up and out of their self-centered stage, we too might grow into more mature adults who have the capacity to care for others. The love described by Paul is God’s love flowing through us and extending to others. The Spirit creates in us something new and powerful, a capacity to share God’s love shown in Jesus Christ. We love because God first loved us. We love because we are freed in Christ to love with a genuine regard for others, not because we will get something out of it. That love lasts. That love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”. 

What signs in our lives indicate that we still ‘see in a mirror, dimly”? 

Let us think love, say love, do love, and be love. Let Christ lead us and teach us. Let the Holy Spirit fill and empower us.

 

GOSPEL READING:  Luke 4:21-30

It was going so well. The hometown crowd of Nazareth was impressed, happy, and hopeful about the public ministry of Jesus. They were so proud of “one of us – Joseph’s son!”

But why did Jesus keep talking, and why was he saying what he did?

Were the home folk expecting Jesus to prove himself with miraculous signs and amazing wonders? Were they thinking that he belonged to them, were they dreaming of all the blessings and benefits that would be in Nazareth’s future?

According to today’s reading, everything turned sour and even bitter when he almost seemed to be rejecting God’s own people, God’s chosen race, we Jews – and even this village, his own town, us! – and lifting up strangers, foreigners, non-Jews, outsiders, barbarians, people who don’t believe in God and don’t belong to God and who aren’t really loved by God like we do and are!

When Jesus preached the truth of God’s inclusive love, it brought rejection and a steep cliff. It still does.

But it can also transform our interpersonal relationships and inspire a new understanding of our mission. The good news of Jesus Christ – the sacrificial love that he preached and embodied and died for – should be the very essence of who we are now and who we seek to become.

They wanted to kill him, to kill his message. Somehow Jesus slipped through the crowd and got away. That time he escaped. And note that he didn’t seek to return violence for violence. He just walked right through the crowd and continued on his way. Pushed to the brink, he just moved on beyond the anger, beyond the opposition, beyond the real and immediate danger, to continue his mission of telling, revealing, and embodying God’s GOOD News to a sin-sick, suffering, sorrow-filled world.  A whole world, not just a select few!

I wonder, did anybody follow him down the hill and away into the sunshine? Was his little band of disciples right behind him or did they run and catch up later? How and when are WE still following him?  

How can you and I look to minister to the outsider and the oppressed? 

Have you ever tried to throw Jesus off a cliff and out of your life? 

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