Baptism of the Lord
Year A: January 12, 2020
First Reading: Isaiah 42:1-9
One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recyling Women of Gambia by Miranda Paul
(Written for ages 4-8)
Comment: For 39 chapters of Isaiah the prophet has had mostly bad news. Babylon would destroy Jerusalem and the Temple and most of the Hebrew people would go into exile. Seventy-five years have passed and now the prophet’s voice is full of good news. God is the ruler of all nations; God has forgiven his people; God will bring them home by a straight and beautiful way. In the passage today, the prophet adds something else to this good news – a servant. God is not sending a king or a general to dominate but a spirit-filled servant to bring justice to to the world God created. God has not abandoned God’s people but loves them and will show that love through one who will bring light to the darkness, open the eyes of those who are blind, and set prisoners free. As a little girl in Gambia, Isatou welcomes the introduction of plastic bags to her life that means she can abandon the heavy basket she normally carries on her head. But as the years go by and more and more plastic bags are used and then discarded along road with heaps of other trash, she begins to see the damage they have brought. When she is a young woman, her grandmother’s goats die from eating the plastic bags and she begins to recognize the ugliness on the roads around and is moved to respond. She begins to pick up the dirty, discarded bags, cut them into strips and, with her sister’s help, crochet the strips into recycled purses. More and more friends join to help and the sale of their recycled purses not only help clean up the land, but provides funds to create a community center for their village that provides their efforts to recycle that which once damaged their land turns into an opportunity to help those in her community while making her country beautiful again. In the author’s note, Paul writes that with Isatou’s encouragement and work, their families are healthier, the land is more beautiful, and many women and girls in the town have better income. Wonder together what a servant looks like in God’s kingdom.
Second Reading: Acts 10:34-43
The Big Umbrella by Amy June Bates and Juniper Bates
(Written for ages 4-8)
Comment: Jesus has told his disciples that they are to witness to him In Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the world. As the church is persecuted in Jerusalem, the disciples spread out. Peter has gone to Joppa near Jerusalem and is staying in the house of Simon the Tanner. God sends him a vision that tells him nothing God has made is unclean. All his life Peter has lived by Jewish laws about unclean foods. Now God is telling him something new – that nothing is unclean. At this moment, two servants and a soldier arrive at the door from Cornelius, a Gentile. Peter goes with them and when he arrives at Cornelius’s house, he is compelled to tell them the good news about Jesus. Peter sees that everyone, even people he hadn’t thought God loved, are to receive the good news about Jesus. God’s love and forgiveness in Christ are for everyone. The protagonist in our story today is a simple umbrella. “It loves to give shelter, to spread its arms wide. It loves to gather people in.” And as people and animals of every shape, size and color are gathered under the umbrella’s wide reaching arms, the reader is assured that there is always enough room for everyone under the big umbrella. The reach of the umbrella can tell us something about the reach of God’s love for everyone.
Gospel Reading: Matthew 3:13-17
When God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner
(Written for ages 3-6)
Comment: In his commentary on this passage, Warren Carter says that everything in Matthew up to this point has “establish[ed] Jesus’ identity as God’s agent whose public activity, commencing at 4:17, enacts God’s will and reign.” Within this context and before Jesus begins his public ministry, he appears before John to claim the identity God has given him and to be commissioned to his work in the world. In the presence of the dove, God affirms God’s deep love for Jesus and God’s intentions for Jesus’ life and work. In When God Made You, a young girl hears words of God’s deep love and pleasure in her and considers what God is calling her to do with her life. This combination of love, identify and call are a strong part of both stories today.
The Revised Common Lectionary Links this week are co-written by Virginia C. Thomas and Ann Thomas Knox.