Readings for Fifth Sunday After Epiphany, 2/9/14:
Isaiah 58:1-12, Psalm 112:1-10, 1 Corinthians 2:1-16, Matthew 5:13-20
- All the readings for today are significant in that this liturgical Sunday - Fifth Epiphany - and the few following - only show up occasionally depending on the date of Easter. Enjoy these texts - they may not appear in the lectionary again for a while!
- vs. 1 - "Shout out, do not hold back!" - What are you holding back? What needs to be shouted out boldly? What holds us back from saying what needs to be said?
- God responds to the people complaining that God doesn't see how devout they are by saying that God knows though they might fast, they still fight and oppress and act violently. Empty devotion doesn't impress God.
- vs. 6-7 - "Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice . . . is it not to share your bread with the hungry?..." Our acts of devotion must be tied with a purpose of justice for all.
- vs. 11 - "You shall be like a watered garden." Doesn't this just sound delightful, especially in the midst of (at least in Syracuse, NY) a cold, snowy winter? That's the kind of abundance and fullness that can only come when our life is lived for the good of all.
- vs. 1 "Happy are those who fear the Lord." I've asked before and again. What does it mean to fear God? Do you fear God? Is this what God wants us to feel?
- vs. 3 - A little prosperity gospel, no?
- vs. 7 Of course fearing God here is set up in opposition to evil - the righteous don't fear evil tidings, because they are secure in the Lord. In this way, verse one makes more sense to me.
1 Corinthians 2:1-16
- Paul says he came to the Corinthians not with "lofty words" but with weakness. That's so counter-cultural, isn't it? Our culture doesn't value weakness. What would it mean for you to present yourself with weakness to show the power of God? What would weakness look like in your life specifically? As pastors, is there pressure to show only our strengths when we present the gospel?
- vs. 9 - Paul quotes an unknown/unclear source - "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him" - This verse was very comforting to me at a time when I wondered why it seemed God's plans and my plans were never the same! The verses following talk about God's wisdom, what God knows, the Spirit knows, and the limits of our human understanding.
- These verses feature in Godspell, and I can't read them without thinking of the different presentations I've seen of these passages in productions.
- Salt flavors, salt preserves/keeps food edible/usable.
- Elsewhere, we read that Jesus is the light of the world. Jesus is the light, we are the light. I think we are the light because the light of Christ is within us.
- "so that they may see your good works." You may debate whether good works are part of "salvation" or not, but either way, we're not excused from doing them, and Jesus says they give glory to God.
- "not to abolish but to fulfill." How many different ways we try to get around that and interpret that statement! Jesus brings the law into fullness - the full meaning of the law. Tie this in perfectly with the Isaiah text - a command - fasting - is not "full" if it is done while abusing others.