Thursday, January 10, 2013

Lectionary Notes for Baptism of the Lord, Year C

Readings for Baptism of the Lord Sunday, 1/13/13:
Isaiah 43:1-7, Psalm 29, Acts 8:14-17, Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

Isaiah 43:1-7:
  • "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine." This is my mother's favorite Bible verse, and I can see why she likes it: we are called by name by God. Why were you named what you are named? What's the story behind it? I was named for Beth in Little Women, and after the middle names of two of my aunts. We are God's creations, and named by God, we belong to God. There is strength and comfort in that.
  • Later on in these verses, I feel less comfortable with the imagery, though I understand the point the author is trying to communicate. There is such comfort in knowing that God is with us in all situations, that God created us, walks with us through the waters, protects us from fire, etc. But does it always have to be at the expense of those we name as our enemies? What about the people and nations that God gives in this text in return for our lives? Don't they get this same protection from God too?

Psalm 29:
  • "The Voice of the Lord" - I guess I've never noticed this psalm before, which speaks primarily of God's voice.
  • It is also visualizing God creating or in relation to a strong and powerful thunderstorm, which may be based on a psalm to the Canaanite god, Baal (see Chris Haslam's comments on this) God over the waters, God's glory thundering, breaking the cedars, flashes forth flames of fire, "the voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness." What can we do with these images? I am currently leading a Bible-study, Companions in Christin my church. This week's lesson is on using our imagination to read the scriptures. Certainly this psalmist used imagination to create this imagery, to make God's voice come alive.
  • What imagery would you use to describe/envision God's voice in your life? I like the process theology metaphor of God's lure, God slowly luring me with God's voice until slowly, step by step, I followed.
Acts 8:14-17:
  • A mini-Pentecost sort of text. Also a strong passage for Trinitarian creeds, calling not only on Christ's name for those accepting God's word, but also needing this Holy Spirit to be filled. Hence, in our UMC liturgies, we baptize "in water and spirit", in the name of all three persons of the Trinity.
  • The word in Greek for 'spirit' is pneuma, meaning literally wind or breath, but metaphorically spirit or ghost. Also, usually when "holy spirit" occurs in the New Testament it is 'a' holy spirit not 'the' holy spirit as we usually say - there is no definite article attached.
  • "They received the Holy Spirit" - the word 'received' from the Greek elambanon, can mean receive, but also, and I find more interestingly, come upon, overtake, seize, and possess.
Luke 3:15-17, 21-22:
  • This week's reading picks up pieces from our gospel lesson in Advent 3. In that text, John the Baptist was preaching/teaching the crowds about how to repent in preparation for "the wrath to come." Here we pick up the verses that then emphasized John's role as the forebear, the messenger preparing the way for Jesus.
  • Again, some of these images of the threshing floor, the granary, etc., lose their meaning for us if we don’t understand these processes ourselves. A winnowing fork, for example, was used to toss wheat into the air, where the wind would separate the wheat grain from the light chaff. See this article for more details.
  • This is the event that marks the beginning of Jesus' ministry, and is significantly recorded in all four gospels. We might all wish for the heavens to part and for a dove to descend and for God to declare in front of all that we are pleasing and beloved in God's sight, but it doesn't usually work quite that way for us. How does it work for us? How can we know God loves us? What are the markers and milestones in our lives and ministries? How can we play John to someone, preparing them, providing a space for them to begin their calling?
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