Fourth Sunday in Epiphany
YEAR B: January 28, 2018
First Reading: Deuteronomy 18:15-20
(Written for ages 6-9)
Comment: God promises Moses that he will not leave Israel without another prophet to guide and lead them, stating that the prophet would come from amongst them: “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command” (v. 18). Prophet means “one who is called” and we learn from the story of Moses’s call and life in prophecy that it’s not an easy calling or a popular calling. According to David Forney, a prophet is “the moral and ethical agent who summons the people to repentance…[and] anticipates what YHWH will do in the covenant.” Who wants to do that kind of work? Even Moses struggled with his calling to be a prophet of God. In Friends for Freedom we learn a bit about who Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass were as individuals, and then who they were as friends/colleagues working together in their quest for equality for all of God’s children. A prophet is a person who stands between God and people, a person bringing the word of God to the people, a person who does not count success based on popularity, rather on God’s work completed. Anthony and Douglass came up against hecklers, arsonists, egg throwers, and rather hateful individuals seeking to destroy their hard work, but they persisted. When a prophet is hard at work for God in the world, nothing will get in the way of the work being done or the message being spread.
Second Reading: I Corinthians 8:1-13
Sneezy the Snowman by Maureen Wright
(Written for ages 4-8)
Comment: In the midst of a seemingly odd diatribe on food and idols, Paul give the Corinthians a lesson about Christian freedom, community, and love. Using meat as an example to speak specifically to the elite classes (those who can afford meat), Paul explains that if a fascination with one particular item, meat in this case, causes another to lose focus on Jesus Christ by turning back to their recently-departed worship of idols, then everyone must cease utilizing (ingesting) this particular item for the spiritual health of all. Paul explains that Christian freedom means living with a lack of legal restrictions which then open us up to be able to love more deeply, which means we can care for one another better and also exhibit more freely Christ’s love for us. Using meat as an example, Paul shares that he would give it up forever if his eating was harming anyone who saw him eating what they deemed something idolatrous, or food for the idol gods. Being critical of those who use theological arguments to justify their behavior, Paul urges the Corinthians to examine how their behavior and further, justification of such behavior, might be impacting the community as a whole. In Sneezy the Snowman, we meet a very cold snowman who tries desperately to warm up. In doing so, he ends up melting himself and needing his community of friends to “make [him] new again.” After seeing how his own choices were hurting Sneezy, his friends realized how they could each give a little to help Sneezy in a big, less detrimental way. It takes a lot of people working together to figure out the “just right” combination to help Sneezy be both warm and cold at the same time. As the friends each sacrifice something of their own for Sneezy, he learns about how much they care about him, and he learns how to care for himself a bit better, too.
Gospel Reading: Mark 1:21-28
I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsberg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy
(Written for ages 4-9)
Comment: Mark’s gospel lesson today punctuates the theme that messages from God are important, astounding, and worth hearing. While one focus on this text could be the cleansing of the man with the unclean spirit, I choose to look at verse 27 instead: “They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching – with authority!” He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”” A new teaching. A teaching with authority. This is what we can expect from Jesus Christ, son of God. I believe that the most important teaching Christ gave to us while present among us on earth is this: to listen. Everything else flows from listening – love, care, challenging the status quo, casting evil spirits, community, etc. All of it comes from listening first, for when we listen to God’s word, or listen to one another, or listen even to ourselves, we learn. In listening we learn, in learning we adapt, in adapting we ignite change. Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s mom overheard the expectations that women were to find a husband while men were to work. She didn’t like what she heard, so she took Ruth to the library to encourage reading, learning, and making her own choices. Ruth spent her childhood, and life, witnessing (in word and deed) injustice which she vowed and worked, even as a child in school, to change. Ruth worked hard, she learned as much as she could, and she always made her decisions out of her commitment to listening. Then, when Ruth spoke she spoke with authority. Jesus heard the words of the man with the unclean spirit, “What have you to do with us Jesus of Nazareth? … I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” After Jesus listened he spoke with authority back to the spirit, rebuking him, all the while astonishing those gathered to hear Christ teach in the synagogue.
The Revised Common Lectionary Links this week were written by Katie Barrett Todd, director of UKirk Greensboro.