Year A: February 6, 2011
Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 58:1-9a
I Can Make A Difference: A Treasury to Inspire Our Children by Marian Wright Edelman (Written for Grades 4 to adult)
Isaiah 58 is a lament of the exiled Israelites in Babylon, a combination of prophetic and divine addresses to the people on the subjects of justice and righteousness, particularly to those who make gestures of piety (e.g. fasting) but make no real difference in the lives of their fellow sufferers. He (the speaker seems to shift from the prophet to God) spells out more clearly for them the meaning of righteousness: Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them? If he were here today, Isaiah would tell them to read Marian Wright Edelman’s beautiful collection of stories and illustrations on loving others as God loves us and treating others with respect. It’s a balanced blend of history, legend, poetry, songs, quotes, and allegories on righteousness in all its forms: courage, honesty, selfless service, perseverance, gratitude, compassion and non-violent struggling for what we believe in. Each of these topic is prefaced with the conviction that “I can make a difference by…” More than half of these pieces are about sacrificing our own interests to make life better for those less fortunate, The words of Martin Luther King, Anne Frank, Sojourner Truth, Eleanor Roosevelt George Washington Carver, Mother Theresa, Vaclav Havel, and many 54 others echo Isaiah’s appeal to stop whining about our own unmerited suffering and do something to change the conditions that cause it.
New Testament Reading: Matthew 5:13-20
This Little Light of Mine by E. B. Lewis (for preschool to grade 3)
Salt and light characterize the life of discipleship. Neither one exists for itself but for what it comes in contact with. Letting your light shine is also the essence of life in community and in mission to the world. This mission, once accepted, insists on carrying itself out, just as one who lights a lamp doesn’t hide it under a bushel but places it high to cast its light far and wide. The African-American spiritual, “This Little Light of Mine” is a musical version of this famous biblical passage and is illustrated in E.B. Lewis’ picture book of the same name. The pictures follow the song lyrics, beginning in a dark room with a young boy in front of a mirror, illuminated by light from a window. He looks out the window into the world, hugs his momma on the way out, and in a series of beautiful rural south images, carries his light to everyone he meets, their troubles becoming opportunities to shine his light, not for his own sake but for the sake of those in his community.
Epistle Reading: 1 Corinthians 2:1-12
The Empty Pot by Demi (for preschool to 4th grade)
The Apostle Paul was faced with growing difficulties in the Corinthian church and knew that his intervention would have to be approached carefully and lovingly to avoid its total collapse. He decided that simple speech, even unsophisticated and faltering, is a more fitting expression of a single-minded focus on Jesus and the Gospel. Rather than using verbal eloquence, he relies on the Holy Spirit and God’s power to get his message across, that faith is grounded on God’s power, not on what we see, hear or conceive in our human wisdom. A child would understand this completely in the context of a Chinese tale illustrated in the picture book The Empty Pot. An aging Emperor summoned all the children to his palace and gave each a seed to grow, and in a year the one who produced the best result would succeed him. Ping was devastated when his best efforts produced nothing while all the other children were raising huge impressive plants. But he decided to bring his empty pot on the day of presentation and in spite of the jeers of his friends, he explained to the emperor how he carefully nurtured the seed to no avail. The Emperor then announced to everyone that the seeds he gave them were cooked and impossible to grow. Ping passed the test of courage, honesty and wisdom that the Emperor was looking for. The elaborate displays that the other children brought were exposed as fraudulent, calculated to impress the Emperor, but were not the truth. So, too, God can see through false speech and calculated acts. Faith is having the courage to tell the simple truth.
This week’s Lectionary Links post is written by Union Presbyterian Seminary student Susan Wills.