Before we are anything else, we are loved…
(House Church 1.27.2019 // Epiphany - Year C - Track 2)
The season of Epiphany, is a continuation of Christmas before turning to Lent and looking toward the Passion. Epiphany celebrates the manifestation (epiphany) of Christ to the Gentiles (symbolized in the Magi), Jesus Baptism, and Jesus miracle at Cana.
Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
First Reading - Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10
All the people of Israel gathered together into the square before the Water Gate. They told the scribe Ezra to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had given to Israel. Accordingly, the priest Ezra brought the law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding. This was on the first day of the seventh month. He read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the law. And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, "Amen, Amen," lifting up their hands. Then they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. So they read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.
And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, "This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep." For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, "Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength."
The Response - Psalm 19
1 The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the firmament shows his handiwork.
2 One day tells its tale to another,
and one night imparts knowledge to another.
3 Although they have no words or language,
and their voices are not heard,
4 Their sound has gone out into all lands,
and their message to the ends of the world.
5 In the deep has he set a pavilion for the sun; it comes forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber; it rejoices like a champion
to run its course.
6 It goes forth from the uttermost edge of the heavens and runs about to the end of it again;
nothing is hidden from its burning heat.
7 The law of the Lord is perfect and revives the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure
and gives wisdom to the innocent.
8 The statutes of the Lord are just and rejoice the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is clear and gives light to the eyes.
9 The fear of the Lord is clean and endures for ever; the judgments of the Lord are true
and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
more than much fine gold, sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.
11 By them also is your servant enlightened, and in keeping them there is great reward.
12 Who can tell how often he offends? cleanse me from my secret faults.
13 Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;let them not get dominion over me; then shall I be whole and sound,
and innocent of a great offense.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.
The Epistle - 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a
Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free--and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But strive for the greater gifts.
The Gospel - Luke 4:14-21
Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
NOTES + THOUGHTS:
*Liturgy means “the work of the people.” We enter into this work when we enact the scriptures together by reading and discussing them and allowing our lives to be formed by Christ and each other. Like a potluck, we each bring something to the discussion, and there is always enough.
Which passage jumped out at you the most? Why?
What thoughts / questions do you have?
What connections do you see between the readings + life?
What action or change do they invite?
Why was it included in the Bible?
Is there any disconnect between the narrators perspective and our perspective as modern readers?
The Old Testament:
“For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law…” Nehemiah 8
Not everyone who reads or hears the Bible - truly *hears* it. It is possible to miss it all, even when seemingly surrounded by it. But when we truly hear and see, we are awakened in new ways - converted, born again, made alive. This is the what Paul experienced in Acts on the road to Damascus and what countless more have experienced since. It is the great hope of our age, namely, that even those who cannot hear because they have fingers of pre-existing opinions jammed tightly in their ears, can one day wake up and hear and be cut to the heart.
Describe a time when you finally “hear the words” and they cut through and changed your perspective profoundly. Why did those words connect that time?
“…the firmament shows his handiwork…” Psalm 19
The firmament was a layer that many ancients believed divided the waters above from the earth so when you looked up at the sky, you were seeing a giant expanse of water. We know better today - but while the science has been updated, so many still find inspiration when we look into the night sky and ponder the infinite expanse beyond our reach.
"As it is, there are many members, yet one body… Now you are the body of Christ…”
Paul uses the phrase ‘The Body’ similar to the way Jesus uses ‘Kingdom of God / Heaven.’ It’s a metaphor for what it looks like when things are interconnected harmoniously “on earth as it is in heaven.”
And notice, there is only ONE body of Christ and every Christian is part of it. In one way, we might be part of a particular church (CollectiveMKE), in another way, our connection to the ONE BODY is far more important. We don’t get to decide who is part of this one BODY. One of the three points in our faith statement talks about this:
We are a Christ-centered community. Seeking to follow the Spirit of God, we wrestle from within the Christian tradition, handed down through those who have gone before, the fathers and mothers, prophets and poets of our faith, and the Scriptures and the Apostle's Creed.
Jesus holds everything together - our world, our lives, our church. There are many different, valid ways of understanding the Christian tradition, but there is only one body of Christ (John 10:15-16, Eph 4:4, Romans 12:4-5, 1 Cor 12:12-31), and all who follow Christ are part of it.
We believe that together is better. We embrace the discomforts caused by our differences; they are the necessary pain of making room for everyone. The container within which God’s love is made visible and clear is a community marked by radical hospitality, love, and grace.
We are one in our common life in Jesus, even if there is much diversity in our understanding. We value the unique perspectives others bring, and we join them at the Table / Eucharist/communion to celebrate that Jesus is what holds us all together (Colossians 1:17).
We hope to live lives together that demonstrate and declare the love of God in powerful ways to each other and those in need in the world around us. We must embody love that has room for all of the beautiful things in the world and that celebrates life and love wherever it is found.
Discuss: Where does the Body metaphor connect with you - where does it feel hard?
Which aspects of the faith statement resonate?
Which are a struggle?
How does the “One Body” challenge our concept of what our “church” is?
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor….”
Jesus is proclaiming the GOSPEL when he quotes Isaiah in Luke 4. Even though we might miss it if were come to the passage certain that the Gospel is a particular formula about how to acquire afterlife, there is no doubt that Jesus message is a “gospel presentation” Simply read it - the phrase ‘good news’ and ‘gospel’ are interchangeable translations of the Greek word: EUANGELION.
But if that is the Gospel, why does it sound so different than the “gospel” that we have placed in tracks, preached from pulpits and alter-called people to respond to for years?
And if we are the Body of Christ, then is it not also true that "The Spirit of the Lord is upon us, because he has anointed us to bring good news to the poor. He has sent us to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”
After Jesus uttered these words, all eyes were fixed upon him - could he back up this audacious claim. In the same way, the eyes of the world look at Christianity with considerable doubt, wondering whether we have anything left to add to the conversation about what really matters in life or solutions to the pressing issues of today’s world - is our religion outdated and tired, or does it still have life and wisdom to share. The jury is still out, but if this generation of Christians can proclaim the Lord’s favor by helping the poor, hurt and marginalized - then there remains much to be hopeful about.
Why did Jesus’ sermon almost get him killed?
Why do many American Christians struggle to believe this “Gospel?” What might change if they did?
This is the table of Christ. Here we remember God’s love and acceptance for humans. Here we remember our connection with all humankind.
All are invited to come and eat - You who have much faith + you who have little. You who have been here often + you who are new. You who have tried to follow + you who have failed. Come, because Christ invites us to meet him here together.
Benediction: The Spirit of Christ Upon Us
"Spirit of Christ, be upon your body
anointed us to bring good news to the poor.
Use our lives us to set free those who are captive to fear,
to circumstance, and to oppression,
Restore sight to those blinded by malady
and to those blinded by fear and ideology.
Grant us wisdom and strength fight for the oppressed
until they are all free and flourishing and
the whole world experiences justice and favor. Amen.