The Second Sunday after the Epiphany – January 15, 2017
Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 41:1-11; I Corinthians 1:1-9; John 1:29-42
Jesus’ question is a powerful entry point for today’s readings, “What are you looking for?” Jesus query is followed by an equally significant invitation, “come and see.” The spiritual journey involves an adventure of self and God discovery, of opening to the deeper dimensions of life, many of which were unknown to us until embraced the question, “What are you looking for?” as the catalyst for our journeys.
Isaiah discovers that intimacy leads to adventure. Presented with a vision of God’s intimate care, the prophet experiences a sense of his own finitude and fallibility. From his conception, God has been moving in his cells as well as his soul. He is wonderfully made, a reflection of divine wisdom and creativity. God’s witness is to be found in every moment of his life.
While this passage is often cited by the anti-abortion community as an example of “biblical science,” the prophet’s words are poetic and mystical, not scientific in nature, although they do lead us to the affirmation of life – both pre- and post-natal. There is no doubt that God is at work in the processes of conception and fetal growth. There is life in the womb and this should not be discounted by politician or potential parent. Isaiah’s mystical experience calls us to a whole life ethic, embracing life in every season from conception to death. A culture of life supports every expectant mother and continues in support of the well-being of every newborn child. A culture of life is not either-or, favoring either fetus or mother, but challenges us to affirm life even when we need to make difficult pre-natal life and death decisions.
Isaiah protests his finitude and God responds by giving him a larger vision. He is not to be content with small achievements, but is to aspire to spiritual greatness. This young Isaiah – this nation of Israel – unimportant and fallible has a vocation of being a light to the nations. Later, Jesus was to say to his followers, “you are the light of the world; let you light shine.” God’s vision for us is always larger than our vision for ourselves.
The Psalmist moves from protection to praise. From a dark place, he has been rescued. From now on, his life is a gift. His praise will motivate him toward open-heartedness and justice. The One who saved him is now the object of his devotion, and this devotion is lived out in a life of compassionate and just action. The graces we have received inspire gracefulness toward others.Following the passage from Isaiah, Paul experiences his own life as God’s inspiration. He has been called – and so have the Christians in Corinth – to a life of service for the Graceful and Living God. Though the church in Corinth is small in number, God has given it every good gift. We have what we need not only to survive but to flourish and give glory to God by our lives.
In John’s gospel, the question and the search it inspires lead to witness. Having found what they are looking for, Jesus’ new followers go out into the world, sharing good news of a new age. In the encounter, they discover gifts beyond belief and adventure beyond their imagination in companionship with God’s Beloved Child.
The inauguration of the 45th President of the United States is on the horizon. For many this is a time of apprehension and not celebration. They see destruction and not aspiration in his message and policies. They know that earth hangs in the balance and that even if fears of global climate change are exaggerated to some degree, nevertheless, we are on the edge of a precipice as a planet and as a nation. Our values bring life and death to the planet, and at some point our foolish ways may lead to a point of no return in terms of planter health. Some will be hopeless and hateful, as others – in contrast – celebrate a return to American values, rugged individualism, and the defeat of diversity. The message to both sides is to think bigger than your political leaders. Don’t let the 45th President define your morality or vision. Don’t let business or politics stunt your vision of divine possibility and your role in ushering forth a new earth, despite the machinations of political leaders. God calls Isaiah to be the change he is seeking in the world. Paul challenges the Christians of Corinth to imagine their giftedness and then live it out. Jesus probes our values and invites us on a holy adventure. We are here for “just such a time as this,” promising yet perilous, as God’s companions in healing the world.
Bruce G. Epperly is Pastor and Teacher at South Congregational Church, Centerville, MA. He is the author of forty books including The Gospel According to Winnie the Pooh, A Center in the Cyclone: Twenty-first Century Clergy Self-care, Tending to the Holy: The Practice of the Presence of God in Ministry, and Process Theology: Embracing Adventure with God. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org