Monday, January 28, 2013

Lectionary Notes for Fourth Sunday after Epiphany, Year C

Readings for 4th Sunday after Epiphany, 2/3/13: 
Jeremiah 1:4-10, Psalm 71:1-6, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, Luke 4:21-30

Jeremiah 1:4-10
  • Similar to Psalm 139:13 - "For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother's womb."
  • "I am only a boy" - Does Jeremiah mean that he is actually chronologically young? Perhaps, perhaps not, but that detail doesn't actually hit the point. Jeremiah is saying that he feels unequipped, not nearly mature enough to be 'appointed ... a prophet to the nations.' This is a feeling we can all relate to - inadequacy in God's eyes and our own. When will we remember how often God chooses the ones that seem unprepared, and that they succeed in God's plans with God's aid.
  • "Now I have put my words in your mouth." I love this imagery - it's another reminder to Jeremiah and to us that we don't have to make up our message on our own - when God calls us, God also provides us with the message to spread - we don't have to make up the Good News - god has already given it to us.
  • "To pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant." - Here I feel my frequent discomfort with these images of God appointing someone to teal down and destroy other nations. On the other hand, if you think about the famous "there is a season" passage from Ecclesiastes 3, there is some similar language going on here. If Jeremiah as prophet needs to lead people back to the right paths of living, perhaps we need to be torn down before we can be rebuilt.

Psalm 71:1-6:
  • "Help me God!" That seems to be the main message of this psalm - a sense of urgency, of real danger, the enemies closing in. This is often the situation we find ourselves in when we finally remember to turn to God for help.
  • Rock/Refuge/Strength/Strong Fortress - Images of God as strong and solid, providing comfort and stability when everything else seems shaky and uncertain.
  • Hope - as desperate as this psalmist feels, the hope is still placed in God. That takes great faith. When nothing is left, to keep hoping.
  • "from my youth" "from my birth" "from my mother's womb". These phrases make it sounds as though our psalmist had a long journey of faith walking with God. This psalmist knows, from experience, from growth in faith maturity over time, where to turn in crisis.

1 Corinthians 13:
  • Child/Adult - The child/adult imagery at the end of this chapter remind us quickly that when it comes to understanding God, understanding this kind of godly love, we are indeed still very much children! We are all God's children, after all.
  • Love - weddings. This passage is of course one of the most famous passages and most frequently read at weddings. It sounds pretty and it's about love, making it a great candidate - but it's more than pretty - it's challenging. It's actually a picture of what marital love can strive after, but rarely starts out with.
  • Unconditional Love - can we ever love unconditionally? God can - that the blessing. We are not so good at it. I suspect the closest humans are able to come to unconditional love is in the love of a parent for a child, though obviously even this is not always the case. There is always some atrocity that can be committed that can break even our deepest bonds of love. Knowing that, isn't it so much more amazing that there is nothing that can change God's love of us?

Luke 4:21-30:
  • "All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth." This is a confusing sentence to me - what words of Jesus amazed them? He was reading the scriptures, with which they would be familiar. He said that they were fulfilled in their hearing. Obviously, this would be the amazing part to them, but you would not think that this would cause them to speak well of his 'gracious' words. My only though, based on his response to them, is that they interpreted themselves only as the recipients of this good news that Jesus shared with them (in last week's passage).
  • Jesus sets them straight - he tells them stories of Elijah and Elisha where even though others of God's chosen people were available, the ones chosen by these prophets to receive God's message/grace were Gentiles. God's good news, the release, God's favor, the recovery, all of that is for those who don't normally have a shot at it, Jesus says.
  • How quickly they change their attitude, trying to throw him from the cliff. They don't want to hear about grace, relief from oppression, recovery, and God's favor if it is not for them first. Do we? Who is God's good news for? Certainly we are included, but those of us that already have many privileges and blessings must understand that God comes first to the last, the empty handed, the hungry, and the poor. These are indeed God's chosen special ones in their own right. Can we get excited about that? God calls us to!
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