Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sunday 26 January 2014 Something Sunday

('Something Sunday' refers to the fact that in the Anglican NZ Lectionary this coming Sunday is described as the '3rd Sunday of the Epiphany' but it could also (should also??) be the '3rd Sunday after the Epiphany' or 'Epiphany 3' or 'the Second Sunday in Ordinary time'. See further here.)

Theme(s): Light in the darkness / Proclaiming the gospel / The kingdom of heaven comes near

Sentence: The people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light. (Isaiah 9:2)


Almighty God,
your Son revealed in signs and wonders
the greatness of your saving love;
renew your people with your heavenly grace,
and in all our weakness
sustain us by your mighty power;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Isaiah 9:1-4
Psalm 27:1, 4-9
1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Matthew 4:12-23


Isaiah 9:1-4

Readers and listeners to readings following Isaiah these past few weeks will see a connecting link here re 'light.'. The anointed one of God will bring light to the world. (Ultimately John's Gospel will report Jesus as declaring, "I am the light of the world.") Isaiah looks ahead to this great day - great because when the light comes, the darkness goes - and Matthew acknowledges that in today's gospel reading by citing extensively from this passage.

Psalm 27:1, 4-9

The troubles of the psalmist (e.g. v. 5, 6) are like darkness surrounding him. The starting point for the psalm is a ringing declaration, "The Lord is my light ..." (v. 1). Light dispels darkness, the psalmist has no need to worry, he is and will be saved from his troubles: "... and my salvation; whom shall I fear?" (v. 1).

1 Corinthians 1:10-18

HEALTH WARNING!! This might not be a passage to read/hear for those used to, even enjoying conflict and division in the church OR simply accepting of ongoing divisions between Christians ... whoops, that is most Christians today (so it seems). Paul lays down a huge challenge for his original conflicting Corinthian readers/hearers when he writes,

"... that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose" (v. 10).

It is possible that we could then reflect on divisions in the church then and now, how we might overcome them, or why today's divisions are not that important if seen in a certain light (e.g. our organic unity is valuable even when we are institutionally divided, etc).

Here I take a different tack and simply focus on Paul's 'why' as he presses for unity. (Noting, incidentally, that this is not a one-off concern of Paul's, see, for instance, Philippians 2:1-5.)

First, observe that Paul makes his appeal in 1:10 'by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.' The church of Christ is the church of one leader and thus is one church. So Paul goes on to argue, in verses 11-13 that this one leader has not been divided. Local leaders such as Chloe, Paul, Cephas should not be confused with the leader or lord of the church, Jesus Christ. Why be united? Christians follow one leader.

Secondly, although he does not say this explicitly in verses 17-18, Paul implies that from the one Christ and his one great saving action (death on the cross) only one message or gospel flows: 'the gospel' (1:17) ... 'the message' (1:18). The single-mindedness of the united church which he appeals for is the single-mindedness of the church which is united in its desire to proclaim the one message and to live out its life as the church in the world according to that one message.

Matthew 4:12-23

Jesus has been initiated into his divine mission, being baptised (Matthew 3:13-17) and tempted/tested (4:1-11). Now he gets into his stride as God's missioner.

1. Matthew explains the initial sphere of the mission: Galilee because that is safe to proceed through. (Matthew also takes the opportunity to demonstrate that pretty much everything about the course of the life and mission of Jesus is fulfilment of previous announcements from God via his prophets, 4:14-16).

2. Jesus preached and the content of his message is simply summed up: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near" (4:17).

But if we ask for a bit more detail, some sense of the content of both 'repent' and 'kingdom of heaven coming near', we get some help by recalling that this was the same message as John the Baptist preached (3:2) and by reading the succeeding verses. Thus:

2.1 'repent' involves turning from sin (see the outcome of John's preaching in Matthew 3:1-12) and going forward with Jesus (see the immediate action following Jesus' proclamation: the first disciples are called to 'follow' him, 4:19).

2.2 'the kingdom of heaven coming near' must mean something about God's will in heaven being done on earth (see, later, 6:10), about darkness turning to light (4:12-16), about the suffering of creation being ended, the general plight of humanity being turned around and life being restored to sufferers: so we see that as Jesus proclaims 'the good news of the kingdom' he also 'cures every disease and every sickness among the people' (4:23).

It is no wonder that crowds flock towards him (4:25). His mission has notable early success.

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