|Ash Wednesday||March 1, 2017||Ash Wednesday, Year A||Matthew 4:1-11|
|Last Sunday after the Epiphany||February 26, 2017||Last Sunday after Epiphany, Year A||Matthew 17:1-9|
|Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany||February 19, 2017||Seventh Sunday after Epiphany, Year A||Leviticus 19:1-2, I Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23; Matthew 5:38-48|
|Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany||February 12, 2017||Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||Deuteronomy 30:15-20; 1 Corinthians 3:1-9; Matthew 5:21-37|
|Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany||February 5, 2017||Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, Year A||Isaiah 58:1-12; Matthew 5:13-20|
|Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany – Reflections on Annual Convention, Susan Tilt||January 29, 2017||4th Sunday after the Epiphany||Matthew 5:1-12|
|Third Sunday after the Epiphany||January 22, 2017||Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||Psalm 27:1, 5-13, Matthew 4:12-23|
|➤Second Sunday after the Epiphany||January 15, 2017||Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||Isaiah 49:1-7, Psalm 40:1-12, John 1:29-42|
|First Sunday after the Epiphany, Baptism of Jesus||January 8, 2017||The Baptism of our Lord, Year A||The Book of Common Prayer|
|Epiphany||January 6, 2017||Epiphany 2017||Ephesians 3:1-12, Matthew 2:1-12|
|Christmas Day, Year A||December 25, 2016||Christmas Day, 2016||Isaiah 52:7-10, Hebrews 1:1-4, Psalm 98, John 1:1-14|
|The Eve of the Nativity||December 24, 2016||Christmas Eve||Isaiah 9:2-7, Luke 2: 1-20|
|Third Sunday in Advent, Year A||December 11, 2016||Third Sunday of Advent, Year A||Psalm 146:4-9, Matthew 11:2-11|
|Second Sunday in Advent, Year A||December 4, 2016||Second Sunday of Advent, Year A||Matthew 3:1-12|
|First Sunday in Advent, Year A||November 27, 2016||First Sunday of Advent, Year A||Isaiah 2:1-5, Ps 122, Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 24:36-44|
Second Sunday after the Epiphany
Sermon Date:January 15, 2017
Scripture: Isaiah 49:1-7, Psalm 40:1-12, John 1:29-42
Liturgy Calendar: Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A
In today’s astounding reading from Isaiah, the prophet spells out an important part of our job description as the modern-day disciples of Jesus.
Today’s reading is known as one of the servant songs of Isaiah, those passages in Isaiah’s prophesies that we Christians believe contain the job description of Jesus himself. And as his followers, we get that same job description.
“Pay attention!” Isaiah says. “Listen up!”
First of all, “God called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb God named me.”
So God has a claim on each one of us Christians. God has called each one of us, and named us as God’s own, even before we were born.
Now here’s the first part of the job description of those of us who are called to be God’s servants.
“God made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand God hid me; God made me a polished arrow, and hid me away in God’s quiver.”
God says to each one of us, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”
Now we all know people who have mouths like sharp swords. This may not be something that we’d aspire to, because we don’t want to be people who wound others with our words.
But here’s what Isaiah is talking about–
Prophets have these mouths like sharp swords. Prophets speak truth to power because God has called them, most of the time over their objections, to speak the truth to someone who is not going to want to hear it. And so when they speak, their mouths become sharp swords to those who don’t want to listen.
Moses objected when God called him, of all people, to go to Pharaoh to bring God’s people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.
Moses had quite a few reasons for why he thought he just wouldn’t cut it as a prophet who would help to free God’s people. Ultimately, his own self-doubt is at the bottom of why he doesn’t want to do what God is asking.
“O my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past, nor even now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”
Haven’t we all felt like that—lacking the words when we need them, especially when what we know that what is right is being challenged? And so we remain silent.
God’s response to Moses is this. “Moses, who gives speech to mortals? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go, and I will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to speak.”
Can you believe the response of Moses to this?
“O my Lord,” Moses said to God, “Please send someone else!”
And so because God is merciful, God appoints Aaron, the brother of Moses, to be the spokesperson in front of the Egyptian ruler Pharaoh, and Moses will do the signs.
My guess is that if Moses had been willing to accept God’s offer and to speak as God asked him to do, Moses would have done just fine as a spokesperson for God. But God will not stand in the way if we decide to limit ourselves—because we have free will, but God will work around us, as God did in this situation by enlisting Aaron to help Moses out.
Isaiah tells us that God calls us to be prophets, and give us mouths like sharp swords. We have the free will not to take God up on this calling, but if we say yes to God, then Isaiah offers the following help as we try to figure out what to do with this calling.
Isaiah points out that as God’s servants, our mouths belong to God rather than to us. That is –our time to speak what God will give us to say is hidden away like an arrow in God’s quiver.
And this is such an important message today for us, who are called by God to be God’s servants, as well as an important message for society in general.
We have all heard a lot lately about the habit of “tweeting.” Now one of the biggest problems with this technology is that it plays on the temptation we all have to just shoot a thought or opinion out into cyberspace, where it lands in the “tweet feeds” of others who are “following” us, where it can land and explode like a hand grenade or even a bomb.
But as followers of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, our job as prophets is to be prayerful and to spend time in discernment about what words of wisdom God is calling us to speak out into the world, and to listen for God’s guidance about when we are to speak these words of wisdom.
In this job description that Isaiah gives us, God goes on to say that we prophets are to be light to the nations, so that God’s salvation can reach to the ends of the earth.
So when we are in prayerful discernment about what we are to say and when, Isaiah reminds us that our words, when they do come out, should reflect God at work in the world—- God bringing salvation.
God’s salvation is about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, but the result of that relationship each one of us has with our Lord and Savior, if the relationship is a living and growing relationship, will produce the words and the light in our lives that will help to bring God’s salvation to the ends of the earth.
I’m talking about God’s salvation as spelled out in scripture over and over, in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, in the words of Jesus himself, summed up in our baptismal vows that we reviewed last Sunday—and God’s salvation isn’t just about you and me and our tickets to heaven. God’s salvation is also about how our living relationships with God result in the desire to work for the common good that God wants for all people.
Summed up handily in our baptismal vows—our personal relationships with God give us a story to tell and work to do–bringing God’s salvation out into the world–to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ by seeking and serving Christ in all persons, by loving our neighbors as ourselves, by striving for justice and peace among all people, and by respecting the dignity of every human being.
Now if we buy into our baptismal vows and if we are willing to serve as a light to the nations and to be an arrow in God’s quiver, then sooner or later, we will be called to speak out—with words that might feel like sharp swords to those who don’t want to hear them.
Isaiah goes on to say that God tells the servant that he (or she) will be deeply despised, abhorred by the nations, and the slave of rulers.
But down the road, the truth will come out. God is faithful, and God has chosen each one of us to be God’s prophets.
So we must not despair.
The psalmist who wrote the psalm we prayed today has been full of despair. But hidden in God’s hand, the psalmist waits patiently upon the Lord.
And after the night of waiting comes the morning of song.
“God has put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many shall see, and stand in awe and put their trust in the Lord,” the psalmist says.
The psalmist goes on to say,
“I love to do your will, O my God; your law is deep in my heart.”
“I proclaimed righteousness in the great congregation; behold, I did not restrain my lips….your righteousness have I not hidden in my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your deliverance; I have not concealed your love and your faithfulness….”
Tomorrow the nation pauses to celebrate Martin Luther King Day. Martin Luther King was a modern-day prophet whose mouth was like a sharp sword to those who enforced racist laws and to those who supported those laws all over this country. He was assassinated because he was God’s prophet.
And yet, Martin Luther King’s words have put a new song in our mouths as we Christians continue, by fits and starts, to work for racial equality in this country.
On Friday, this nation will inaugurate a new President.
It is our job now, as Christians, to pray that our new President and Congress will work for the common good. It is also our job to support our democracy, built on the ideals of the common good. When we say the pledge of allegiance to the flag we pledge allegiance to one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Christians in this country are, as good citizens, called on to be prophets for God’s salvation in this nation—to work for the common good, as Martin Luther King did, to work for unity and for liberty and justice for all, to be prophets and to speak out for the common good.
Today is the day of our congregational meeting, a day to reflect on the year just past. Sometimes this meeting feels like a big pat on the back. “Well done, St Peter’s!”
But as today’s readings remind us—our work is not done!
As our mission statement says, we are to do God’s will.
Now is the day to claim our prophetic role, to keep quiet while hidden in God’s hand, and to speak out when God takes us out of the quiver and shoots us out into the world like polished arrows.
Now is the time to live in hope, and not in despair, because our cause is with the Lord.
Even as we age and can’t do all we used to be able to do, we must remember that God is our strength.
2017 awaits. We are looking for what’s next for us as a congregation.
Jesus invites us, as he did those curious followers of John the Baptist, to come and see where he is staying.
And Isaiah invites us to be prophets, to be polished arrows hidden in God’s quiver, sent out in God’s time to be a light to the nations, so that God’s salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.