Sunday, January 19, 2020
Second Sunday after Epiphany / Lectionary 2, Year A
Prayer of the Day
Holy God, our strength and our redeemer, by your Spirit hold us forever, that through your grace we may worship you and faithfully serve you, follow you and joyfully find you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
Readings and Psalm
Isaiah 49:1-7 The servant brings light to the nations
1 Corinthians 1:1-9 Paul’s greeting to the church at Corinth
John 1:29-42 Revelation of Christ as the Lamb of God
Title: Leading Us to the Lamb
Upon our arrival in Curacao a few years back, we got to chatting with a couple of young ladies while waiting to go through immigration and passport control. They were very proud to be staying at one of the fancier downtown hotels. We encountered them again while we were getting our rental car. Typical of most airports, there was a line of desks run by the different car rental companies. The two travelers were less confident this time as they moved from desk to desk, from company to company. Asking each one of them the same question: Do you have cars with GPS. Each time getting the same answer, NO. Each “no” increasing their anxiety. Since we were “line friends” they brought us into their crisis. They explained that it was absolutely necessary that they get a car with GPS because they can’t read maps, they have no sense of direction, they need that little voice telling them where to go, where to turn, how far to proceed. I was guessing that the island might be considered so remote that it was ignored by Siri, not worth Alexa’s time, or the attention of any of the other digital masters that we are surrendering our lives and our minds over to. As one who avoids GPS and one who loves maps, (I mean like I can sit and look at an atlas for hours) it was inconceivable to me that someone has absolutely no ability to read a map. Okay, some are better than others, but to be paralyzed if left to only a map.
Sure, some are better with written directions. Maybe you’re are at your navigating best when the directions are spoken to you. (I have a hard time in that situation.) Each has their way of being directed, being shown the way. Hopefully you have your way, so as not to be stranded as were our friends at the airport.
As we get started journeying into this season of Epiphany, that began with the magi getting their directions from heaven through a star, this morning we are hearing from and commemorating some excellent guides whose maps and directions continue to point us on our most essential journey – our journey to and with Christ.
Isaiah knew from the beginning that he was not just a trailblazer, but a trail guide. In this morning’s first reading, Isaiah was been called to be a servant to guide a servant – that latter servant being the Chosen people of God, the children of Abraham, the descendants of those freed Hebrew slaves. Isaiah acknowledges that he has been given the necessary instruments and protection for living out his calling as a prophet. And as he journeys deeper into his mission and ministry, he sees that its scope is expanding. God says to the prophet:
“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
Isaiah’s ministry was not just about pointing the people Israel back to God, but now the entire world was to be included in this work of salvation that was and is a gift from God. Isaiah is pointing anyone who is frozen by tribal thinking and who is paralyzed by exclusionism, into ways of globalism and inclusivity. He is redirecting wall builders to be bridge builders. He reminds all that it is God who does the choosing, so it is God who will give the directions.
While many people compare our modern-day prophet – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to the ancient prophet Amos – that fiery prophet who called his contemporaries out for their social, economic, and political injustice – and certainly King had a similar message. I think that, in his mission and ministry to offer our nation much needed directions, he was more like Isaiah. Similar to his ancient counterpart, King shined light on injustice and misdirection, and he also spoke of promise, and restoration, and re-recreation that is ours through the grace and mercy of God. Whereas Isaiah directed his people to see blooming plants and gushing springs where there was desert, King guided us to share his dream and see peace and friendship where there was violence and hatred, to embrace equality that would bless all and reject racism and white supremacy that favored the few.
Like Isaiah who offered hope-filled directions to exiles longing to return home, King offered a hope-filled vision of what restoring exiled justice and freedom might look like in our country. Hear again the directions he offered:
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
Similar to Isaiah’s global message, King did not just bring directions and guidance for African-Americans who were faced with injustice of every kind. He not only sought to lead his people to a new life. His message was for all people. His holy guidance was for the releasing of the oppressed and the oppressor. For freeing both the captive and the captor. For the bringing together of the marginalized and the powerful. For discrimination and racism imprison both the discriminated and the discriminator. King pointed us to a Christ-centered justice that our country aspires to, strives for, searches for, but too often has fallen way short. Oh, how we need the guiding voice of a Dr. King right now.
Last week we saw John baptize Jesus. This week, following that heaven-rending experience in the river, having been directed by the Holy Spirit to see in Jesus the fulfillment of God’s promises, we hear John pointing his disciples, and us, to the one he now knows to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. And, like us, those disciples want to know more than just who he is. “What are you looking for?” Jesus asks them. And they answer, Rabbi. Teacher. They are seeking someone who will direct their seeking, hungering souls. And Jesus does not disappoint. For those disciples join the movement of directing others to Jesus. Andrew goes and finds his brother Simon. And offers him directions to Jesus – the one who is the way, the truth, and the life.
As a season, Epiphany is yet another expression and experience of sailing the boat while we are building it. We are journeying to Jesus, (thanks be to God for all those who are pointing the way – saints of old who make up the cloud of witness, prophets and preachers like Dr. King, those in our personal past, favorite authors and teachers.) And while we are journeying ourselves, we are called to direct others to the one we ourselves are seeking.
As we prepare to meet as a congregation for our annual meeting next week, let us also put into the discernment mix what it means as a diverse community of faith to be seeking Jesus and to direct others to find in him what we are discovering. And let us continue to rejoice that in word and sacraments, in fellowship and collaboration, the Holy Spirit is leading us, guiding us, directing us to the one who is the lamb of God, who fulfills all righteousness by giving of himself to bring us to our place – the loving arms of God.
The Rev. Mark Erson, Pastor