Third Sunday in Epiphany
YEAR B: January 21, 2018
First Reading: Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins
(Written for ages 4-7)
Comment: At this point in Jonah’s story we see him very begrudgingly heading to Nineveh to forewarn of destruction, as God requested of him. Jonah was an Israeli Jew and Nineveh was the Assyrian capitol, meaning God was asking Jonah to enter enemy territory to spread the news of a need for repentance. Jonah had to be told by God several times to complete this task and much to Jonah’s chagrin, when he did what God asked, the people changed their ways thus earning God’s forgiveness. Mother Bruce fantastically illustrates for us how God can (and will) use us in spite of our feelings. Through the story of the Ninevites we see that God’s promises will be accomplished even through our minimal faithfulness to God’s word. Bruce is a grumpy bear who unexpectedly becomes “Mama” to 4 goslings. Although he feels no desire to parent them, his actions in caring for them throughout the seasons speak differently. The goslings and Bruce become fond of one another, and Bruce comes to accept his “motherly” role toward the geese. A silly tale with even better illustrations teaches everyone that faithfulness is not just about what someone feels, rather what one does. Bruce and Jonah both feel grouchy about their tasks, however they remain faithful through their actions.
Second Reading: I Corinthians 7:29-31
Oh! The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss
(Written for ages 0-99)
Comment: For Paul, Christ’s death and resurrection was an apocalyptic moment. Paul believed that the end was imminent and therefore believed that a new reality would soon take place. This scripture expresses Paul’s belief that the end was so near that, humanity should not worry about focusing on daily tasks and ideas that we build our identity upon, but rather that we should anticipate God breaking in at any moment and creating a new reality. It is not until later that Paul’s eschatological viewpoint lengthens. Oh, the Places You’ll Go! expresses the progress of one who is off on their way in search of something yet to be discovered. As the readers we embark on a journey of discovery for the new reality that is out there for each of us, with a realization that it won’t always be glamorous and wonderful. Just as Paul believes we should not focus on our current context but look to a new reality, Oh, the Places You’ll Go! helps to nudge us forward knowing that wherever we are, whatever abilities we possess, our journey has not yet ended.
Gospel Reading: Mark 1:14-20
I Don’t Want to Be a Frog by Dev Petty
(Written for ages 3-7)
Comment: Mark’s version of Jesus’s calling of his first disciples is short, sweet and to the point. Jesus does not linger on the seashore and doesn’t offer the two sets of brothers an explanation as to what’s ahead. Instead, he merely says “Follow me,” and he does so very quickly expecting an immediate response. The four respond as quickly as they are called, dropping their nets (they were fishermen) and joining Jesus along the shore. Without any discussion,the men seem to have accepted their calling without reservation. As outsiders reading the story we may have a hard time believing that acceptance came so quickly and painlessly to Simon, Andrew, James, and John. More like us, the younger frog in I Don’t Want to Be a Frog verbally objects to accepting his lot in life. He does so many times, which may resonate with us well as we pontificate the meanings behind following Jesus and doing so with immediate, definite acceptance. Little Frog proclaims his dislike with being a frog to several different animals, all of whom reject his proclamations and give reasons for why he can’t change who he is. It’s not until he meets a “fierce hunter” that he becomes okay with accepting his frog-ness. As Little Frog states, “I guess you can’t fight nature,” reminding the readers that when Christ commands us to come and follow, it’s a calling from God that we shouldn’t and can’t fight. Try as we might, our objections and excuses are no match for “Follow me!” when Jesus speaks to us.
Thanks to Union Presbyterian Seminary alumna Katie Barrett Todd for writing the Revised Common Lectionary Links this week.