4th Sunday after Epiphany – Yr C (2/3/13)

31 Jan

Jeremiah 1:4-10

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Luke 4:21-30


Psalm 71: 1-6

Be to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress, to save me,

for you are my rock and my fortress.


Opening Questions

  1. When does love lead you to be confrontational?
  2. If the power of speaking openly (about what you believe) has the capacity to change you (and others), what are the conditions that might limit when and how we use it?

Appointed Passages[1]

Jeremiah 1:4-10

4 Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, 5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” 6 Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” 7 But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, “I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you, 8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.” 9 Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the LORD said to me, “Now I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.

  • Describe circumstances under which the term prophet might be appropriately applied to you.
  • If you have you experienced an instance in which you may have spoken for God, how did you know?

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

1If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

{In an earlier years sermon, Frank Logue reminds us that “A quick look at the Greek text of this passage shows that Paul writes using the word agape. Agape is one of the three Greek words for love used in the New Testament. There is eros or “erotic love,” and phileo or “brotherly love.” Finally there is agape, a “self-giving love,” routinely shown to be the love God has for us. It is this agape that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. It is this self-giving agape love of God that never fails.”}

  • Why would love as described in this passage “rejoice in the truth” (v.6)?
  • Is love a precondition for faith and/or hope?
  • Is love something that we simply have (or not), or are there stages of love that increase as we get better at it?

Luke 4:21-30

21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 23 He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, Doctor, cure yourself!” And you will say, “Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Caper’naum.” 24 And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. 25 But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Eli’jah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; 26 yet Eli’jah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zar’ephath in Si’don. 27 There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Eli’sha, and none of them was cleansed except Na’aman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. 30 But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

  • Why is it difficult for a prophet to be accepted in their hometown?
  • If familiarity dulls our sense of openness to new ideas, how do we counteract it?
  • It appears that Jesus was at least in this instance somewhat confrontational.  When is confrontation a good thing, and what situations call for us to use it?


Today’s passages represent an ironic combination of love and confrontation.  These are two concepts which we rarely think of as related, but perhaps we should.  There is an aspect of love, as Paul describes it, that seems not only to rejoice in the truth, but is almost a coexisting element of it.  Love cannot survive delusions, but achieves its most robust power in the clarity of truth.

By truly embracing God’s unconditional love for us, we find encouragement to confront the truth of who we are – and more importantly, who we are not.  That process can lead to stronger self awareness and strength of character – if we are astute enough to pursue it.  We can then be more open to seeing others with similar clarity and less risk to the possible erosion of our self image.

Jesus’ reference to the early prophets addressing the needs of widows and lepers who were “outsiders” to Israel suggests it is good sometimes to move outside of our comfort zone.  Love for others would seem to have a stronger foundation when it is based on the clarity of a deeper understanding and more empathy, particularly when it comes to their human weaknesses and shortcomings.  Sometimes, familiarity and comfort of a protecting community blocks our ability to get there.

Our relationships with others are enhanced when built on a foundation of honesty and truth.  We more easily live the truth of who we are in those relationships.  More importantly, we will help others feel the refreshing warmth of unconditional love – and embrace the truth of who they are – even when it requires a bit of confrontation.


Quotes for Today:

I hear and I forget.  I see and I remember.  I do and I understand.

Chinese proverb


God offers to every mind its choice between truth and repose.  Take which you please; but you cannot have both.



The average man does not want to be free. He simply wants to be safe.

H.L. Mencken

[1] New Revised Standard Version


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