Epiphany 1

Home Up


January 13, 2002

Prayer of the Day
Father in heaven, at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan you proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit. Make all who are baptized into Christ faithful in their calling to be your children and inheritors with him of everlasting life; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Isaiah 42:1-9
{1] Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. {2} He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; {3} a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. {4} He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching. {5} Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it: {6} I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, {7} to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. {8} I am the LORD, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to idols. {9} See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them.

     Verses 1-4 are the First Servant Song in Isaiah.
1. my servant: The Servant is introduced for the first time in Isaiah 41:8-9, and identified as Israel/Jacob.
my chosen, in whom my soul delights: See Matthew 3:17.
my spirit: "…the charismatic impulse which moves men to deeds of strength, courage, and wisdom." [1]
3-4. a bruised reed…a dimly burning wick: The servant will not make any waves, but neither will he give up until he accomplishes his purpose, to establish justice.
     Verses 5-9 "is called a response to the Servant Song…. The ideas of the Song are repeated and simplified.
5: Yahweh is described as the creator of the heavens and the earth, and gives life.
spirit: "Spirit" is in parallel with "breath;" it designates the life principle given by Yahweh.
6. I have given you as a covenant to the people: A sign guaranteeing the covenant. This covenant is intended to reach beyond Israel.
a light to the nations: See also Isaiah 49:6 (second Servant Song). This phrase is in parallel with "a covenant to the people." Both indicate that the Servant is a mediator between Yahweh and the gentiles.
7. sit in darkness: This is a metaphor for death in Psalm 143:3 and Lamentations 3:6.
8. I am the Lord that is my name: Yahweh’s name discloses his reality Exodus 3:13, "I am who I am," from the same verbal root. Yahweh is his own source of being.
9. the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare: A new phase of Yahweh’s dealings with his people is about to begin, and the Servant will be the agent who will set it in motion.

Psalm 29
{1} Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. {2} Ascribe to the LORD the glory of his name; worship the LORD in holy splendor. {3} The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD, over mighty waters. {4} The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty. {5} The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon. {6} He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox. {7} The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire. {8} The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness; the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. {9} The voice of the LORD causes the oaks to whirl, and strips the forest bare; and in his temple all say, "Glory!" {10} The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD sits enthroned as king forever. {11} May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace!

     The community is called on to praise Yahweh for his powers over the created order. He is King over all. His majesty is attested by tornado, earthquake, lightening and flood. Yet he gives strength to his people and blesses them with peace.
3-9: Yahweh makes himself known in the thunderstorm. Lightening and thunder, wind and tornado show his power in nature.
6. Sirion: Mt. Hermon (Deuteronomy 3:9) in the Anti-Lebanon mountains.
a young wild ox: The wild ox is the aurochs, bos primigenius, which became extinct in 1627 a.d. It stood 6 feet high at the shoulder. Yahweh’s power is like that of the wild ox (cf. Numbers 23:2; 24:8). The tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh are likened to the wild ox in their warlike prowess (Deuteronomy 33:17)
9. in his temple all say, "Glory!": "This verse, 9b, is the key-verse of the whole psalm—it leads us away from the commotions on the earth up to the heavenly sanctuary where the company of the heavenly beings recognizes and glorifies these very occurrences on the earth as a revelation of the glory of Jahweh." [2]
10. The Lord sits enthroned over the flood: Yahweh has the threatening chaos under his control.
11. May the Lord bless his people with peace: Peace is the health and wholeness, happiness and harmony of a positive relationship with Yahweh the eternal king.

Acts 10:34-43
{34} Then Peter began to speak to them: "I truly understand that God shows no partiality, {35} but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. {36} You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. {37} That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: {38} how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. {39} We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; {40} but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, {41} not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. {42} He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. {43} All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."

34. them: Peter is speaking to Cornelius, a centurion of the Italian Cohort (Acts 10:1) and his family. Cornelius had been instructed by God to send for Peter, and though Peter was opposed to dealing with an unclean Gentile he, too, had a vision in which he was told not to prejudge what God had declared clean. Peter acknowledges that God will receive "everyone who believes in him," and then tells Cornelius and his family about Jesus. The prophets, he says, have promised that "everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through [Jesus] name."
36. the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all: A reflection of, or possibly a paraphrase of Psalm 29:11.
43. All the prophets testify: "No prophetic passages are cited in a speech addressed to Gentiles. Again, we would love to know to which OT prophets Peter refers, in making such a statement (cf. 3:18). It is another instance of the Lucan global way of interpreting the OT; see Luke 24:25-27, 44; Acts 8:35." [3]

Matthew 3:13-17
{13} Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. {14} John would have prevented him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" {15} But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness." Then he consented. {16} And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. {17} And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased."

     "Designating Jesus as ‘Son of God’ is an honor declaration of the highest sort, a status repeatedly stressed throughout the infancy narrative and programmatically stated in he summary of that narrative in 3:17. Public declarations in which a patron/father acknowledged a client’s dedication were of utmost importance in honor-shame societies." [4]
13. to be baptized by him: John’s baptism is "for repentance" ("for the forgiveness of sins" in Matthew and Luke). Two vindications of such a baptism for Jesus are provided: 1) "it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness," 2) God is pleased with his Son (verse 17). Jesus, in turn, deserves the obedience of those who follow him.
17. This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased: See Isaiah 41:1. Matthew has identified Jesus with the Servant in the Song. His name, Jesus, means Yahweh helps; he will bring forth justice to the nations, healing the blind, setting prisoners free, and giving light to those who sit in darkness. His activities reverse the policies of the nations.
"Luke (3:23) tells us that Jesus was about thirty at the time of his baptism…. given the life span in the first-century Mediterranean world, he was hardly a ‘young’ man…. Few ordinary people lived out their thirties…. much of Jesus’ audience would have been younger than he, disease-ridden, and looking at a decade or less of life expectancy." [5]
"The way of the Christian in the gospel of Matthew is the way to perfection in the conduct of one’s life (5:48)." [6] This perfection is not a goal to achieve rather a quality to be expressed. It is the expression in practical terms of the presence of God in one’s life. Jesus was God’s Son and manifested that in his obedience; we, likewise, are God’s children, and our obedience is the evidence of that.

     The contrast between the old and the new is a consistent feature of the New Testament. Everything before Jesus is "old;" he came the usher in the "new." This is expressed both by what Yahweh does—law in the past, love now—as well as how he does it—sending prophets in the past, the Son in the present. The notion is picked up in the Gospel; in the past Jesus would have baptized John, but now John, "to fulfill all righteousness" baptizes Jesus.
     The Gospel reflects the celebration of Jesus’ baptism. The other lessons extend the point made by the Gospel, that Jesus is God’s Son. As God’s Son and therefore without need for repentance, he has identified himself with the needs of his sinful people by participating in John’s baptism for the forgiveness of sins. He has further identified himself with all who believe in him, even a Roman Centurion, who must as a part of his military service, honor gods and engage in acts that were repugnant to the God of Israel. [7]
     If we see ourselves as Gentiles, then we will know that God’s love and mercy is ours only by his gift, not by our deserving. If we think of ourselves as God’s chosen people today, then, too, we are God’s because he chose us. In either case, our lives will reflect who we are and whose we are.
     C.S. Lewis wrote the following in a "The Weight of Glory," a sermon preached June 8, 1941: "…the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people….it is immortals who we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors." [8] If that is so in any fashion, if that is what we are, and what others are, because of what God has chosen us to be in Christ, then our task is clear: to manifest who we are in Christ so others may become what they have been chosen to be in Christ.

Hymns [9]
With One Voice (e.g. 762v), Hymnal Supplement 1991 (e.g. 725s) and LBW (e.g. 32).
E=Entrance; D=Hymn of the Day; I=First Lesson, P=Psalm; II=Second Lesson; G=Gospel

90 --E--Songs of
79 --D--To Jordan Came
751s --I--Praise the Spirit (682v)
652v --I--Arise, Your Light (723s)

312 --II--Once He Came
647v --G--When Jesus Came
188, 194, 88, 486, 195, 373

Prayers of the People [10]
P or A: The beloved of God showed his solidarity with all humankind as he received baptism from John. Let us pray in solidarity with all in need, saying, "Lord in your mercy," and responding, "Hear our prayer."
A: For the baptized community of Christ, that every sister and brother will be brought to thankful response for the grace and love we have been shown by God. May our bishops, pastors and national, synodical and congregational leaders be examples of faithful response and joy in your service. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
A: For the justice that was promised by your faithful prophet, that the bruised may not be crushed and the faint not cry out in vain. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
A: For those who seek the Lord and consider baptism for themselves and their children, help us to provide an learning environment where it is safe to ask honest questions and to seek the truth together. For those who work with Welcome to Christ; planners, leaders, sponsors and adult catechumens, Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
A: For the sick, the troubled and those who mourn, we remember especially _______, let them put their trust in the Messiah who went about doing good, and healing all who were oppressed by the devil. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
A: For all here present who have been chosen in baptism as God's witnesses and invited to eat and drink at the Table of the risen Christ, let us give thanks for being able to serve you. Guide us to those who need your love in word and deed. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
P: O God our true light, you have shown forth your Son to the nations as an emblem of hope. Hear the prayers we have brought to you and bless us as you direct us in ways that will spread the light. Amen.

Or [11]

Presider or deacon
As we celebrate the baptism of Christ, let us offer prayers to God who calls us to pass from death to life.
Deacon or other leader
By the baptism of the Son of God in the river Jordan.
For N our bishop and the presbyters, for the deacons and all who minister in Christ, and for all the holy people of God.
For NN our catechumen(s) and for their families and sponsors.
For all who seek Christ, and for the conversion of the whole human race.
For mercy, peace, and justice throughout the world
For all those in danger and need: the sick and the suffering, the hungry and the oppressed, and those in prison, For the dying and the dead. For our deliverance from all affliction, strife, and need.
Remembering the blessed Virgin Mary, N, and all the saints, let us offer ourselves and one another to the living God through Christ. To you, O Lord.
Holy One of Israel, who breathed across the waters of creation, accept the prayers we offer on this joyful feast, lead us by your Spirit through water and blood, and quench our thirst at the table of your Son. Glory to you for ever.

The Scripture quotations contained herein are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U. S. A. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[1] John L. McKenzie, Second Isaiah: Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1968, p. 36.
[2] G. von Rad, Old Testament Theology, 1:360, quoted by Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalms 1-59: A Commentary. Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1988, p. 350.
[3] Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Acts of the Apostles: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. New York: Doubleday, 1997, p. 466.
[4] Bruce Malina and Richard L. Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992. P. 40 .
[5] Ibid., p. 41.
[6] Ulrich Luz, Matthew 1-7: A Commentary. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1989, pp. 180 f.
[7] See 2 Kings 5:18 for Naaman’s concerns regarding his official religious responsibility.
[8] C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1965, p. 15. Some may bristle at the use of immortal as implying a sufficiency for eternity in created and dependant creatures, but for the sake of the point Lewis is making we may be excused for allowing it.
[9]  http://www.worship.on.ca/text/rcla9899.txt
[10]  http://www.worship.on.ca/text/inter_a2.txt
[11] http://members.cox.net/oplater/prayer.htm