3rd Sunday after Epiphany – Year C (1/27/13)

18 Jan

Nehemiah 8: 1-3, 5-6, 8-10

1 Corinthians 12: 12-31a

Luke 4:14-21

Psalm 19

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you,

Oh Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Opening Questions

  • Should a “good” Christian be biblically literate?  If so, to what degree and how is it measured?
  • What do your actions say about your faith?

Appointed Passages[1]

Nehemia 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10

1all the people 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. 2Accordingly, 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. 3He 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. 5And 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. 6Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen’, lifting up their hands. Then they bowed their heads and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground. 8So they read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.

9And 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. 10Then 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.’

  • What role does biblical literacy (i.e., the “words of the law” in v. 9) play in shaping our faith; and why would it make people weep?
  • What is “the joy of the Lord” (v. 10) and how does it provide strength?

1 Corinthians 12:12-31a

12For 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. 13For 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.

14Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15If the foot were to 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. 16And if the ear were to 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. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 21The 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.’ 22On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and those members of the body that we think less honourable we clothe with greater honour, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior member, 25that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.

27Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28And 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. 29Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

{Note: J. Ted Blakely, in A Lector’s Guide and Commentary, explains the context of this passage from First Corinthians. He writes, “Paul is speaking to Christians who consider certain spiritual gifts to be greater than others, with the result that those who exercise the so-called greater gifts are afforded greater honor, prestige and privilege than those who exercise the so-called lesser gifts.”  Thus, Paul needed to remind us that all gifts are equally valuable.}

  • What defines your relationship to others when you are “suffering together” (v. 26) when they experience misfortune or “all rejoicing” a benefit received?
  • How do we develop relationships with others to strengthen our sense of spiritual connection?  (i.e., being “one body in Christ” (v. 13)?

Luke 4:14-21

14Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

16When 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, 17and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

18‘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,
19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’

20And 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. 21Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’

  • In what way does the passage from Isaiah (v. 18 and 19) apply to each of us as members of the body of Christ?
  • Jesus both proclaimed and lived his responsibilities to this passage.  What, as Christians, are our responsibilities to do the same?

Comment

There are a couple of thoughts that emerge to me from today’s passages.  First is the reminder that scriptures are a vital element in not just maintaining, but also growing our faith.  The second is that we find meaning by exercising our gifts with and through others.  Solitude is necessary but not sufficient to the growth of our faith.  We have to share some of ourselves with others to truly become members of the spiritual body of Christ.

Life is a process of discovery of how living it defines who we are (i.e., our character).  The scriptures seed our minds with situations that stimulate questions of self discovery and examples of spiritual responses.  By seeking periodic solitude, we can reflect on what life has handed us; how we did respond versus how we perhaps should respond.  It is a time of digesting mentally the intellectual food of experience and growing our relationship muscles to add to the strength of our connection to God through others.  The process can produce a seasoned sense of values that help guide our future daily life decisions.  We become armed with clearer self awareness and strength of spirit – we have grown in character, mental strength, spiritual resilience, and ultimately our faith.

But that faith is only realized when we live it through interactions with others.  We must exercise our gifts in bringing good news to the poor, proclaiming release to the captives, recovering sight to the blind, and helping free the oppressed.  In a strange way, we receive more of the Holy Spirit by giving it away to others.

I pray we embrace the hope of the Holy Spirit by exercising our gifts with others in the active service of God.

Quotes for Today:

In general, American social life constitutes an evasion of talking to people.  Most Americans don’t, in any vital sense, get together; they only do things together.

Louis Kronenberger, Company Matters

…a dog we know is better company than a person whose language we do not understand.

Montaigne, “Of liars”, Essays

You cannot change anything in your life with intention alone, which can become a watered-down, occasional hope that you’ll get to tomorrow. Intention without action is useless.

Caroline Myss


[1] New Revised Standard Version of biblical passages

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