Notes For the Message based on Isa 42:1-9, 1 Cor 1:1-9 and John 1:29-42; “A”– Epiphany 2

This Sunday’s readings are: Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 40:1-11; 1 Corinthians 1:1-9; John 1:29-42

You can read these scriptures here:  NIV // NRSV // The Message

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Most pastors have a dream and a hope. It goes something like this: INSPIRED by excellent, spirit-filled worship, and EMPOWERED by sermons, parishioners leave the church building making all kinds of connections between their faith and their everyday lives. These connections help them – the parishioners – to enthusiastically share their faith with their friends, neighbors and invite said friends and neighbors to church. It is a wholesome vision and that’s the way we – pastors – hope it will be (Lose).

Notice I used the word “hope.” I did not say that this is the way it is. Today’s readings deal with the way IT IS as opposed to the way it OUTGHT TO BE. Today’s readings are about hope and encouragement on our daily journey with God.

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Isaiah reminds us that God’s call on our life evolves over a lifetime; God’s call is not static, we are not created to be a "one trick pony." That is true in our individual lives and that is true in our life as a community. God’s call evolves over time as we live through new and different experiences. Throughout our lives, God seeks our input and our creativity, and uses them to God’s good purpose in the world (Epperly). That was true in Isaiah’s time, it is true today.

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In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul reminds the Corinthians that they have gifts and graces to be faithful and productive in their Christian life. Paul encourages the Corinthian Christians to look beyond the smallness of their community, to get beyond their feelings of inferiority, and to concentrate on their ABUNDANT talents and gifts (Epperly). Paul makes the point that it is these talents and gifts that God uses to bring God’s grace and love to the world. That was true for the Corinthian Christians and it is also true for our community today.

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Then we come to the Gospel reading and John the Evangelist documents a few days in the early ministry of our Lord that give us a model of Christian living in a world that is reluctant to connect spiritual beliefs with day-to-day actions. In today’s Gospel we heard John testifying to Jesus, and John’s disciples in turn asking Jesus where he was staying. There is a disconnect in that story. Two men had a chance to ask their Creator any question that they could think of and all they came up with was, "Jesus, what hotel are you staying at? What is your address?"

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I think that the reason they asked such a mundane question was because they were too scared to ask the real question, "Jesus, what is your vision for me? Jesus, what would you have us do to further your kingdom?" I can almost feel Jesus smile in reply as he said, "Come and See" (John 1:39). I understand these two men because I remember a time when I hid behind the platitudes, banalities and trivialities of religion because I was too scared to face the reality of God’s call on my life. I understand why Jesus invited them to "come and see" instead of trying to explain God’s hopes for them. Being a follower of Jesus is not about arguing theology; being a Christian is about loving God’s creation that has been entrusted into our care, and being the best person we can possibly be.

So what’s in it for us? What can we take from today’s readings and apply to our lives, as we live them in January of 2011?

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Just like the Corinthian Christian community we are small, but we are invited to see beyond our smallness and concentrate on the abundant talents and gifts in our community.

 

Just like Isaiah’s congregation, we are reminded that our lives (individual and communal) are not static, and with every new experience we glean a new understanding of God and God’s mission in the world WHERE AND WHEN we live.

 

Just like the first followers of Jesus, we are challenged to "come and see" what we can accomplish when we roll up our sleeves and honor God’s Holy Spirit in our community, not only on Sunday morning but every day of the week. We are invited to BE a living testimony, we are invited to demonstrate how our faith helps us to get through the challenges of our lives, we are challenged to recognize the positive effects our faith has on our lives.

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There is a story of a restaurant owner who needed a cleaning person. He had to hire somebody to push a mop and broom and made sure that everything was clean and tidied up. Before long, a kid was hired and instead of telling him in detail exactly how to do the job, what needed to be mopped and how to mop it, the owner simply told the kid, "I want you to make sure that this is the cleanest kitchen in town." With youthful exuberance, the kid took off and soon the floors were mopped every couple of hours, the glass was shined and even the brass fixtures on the front door were cleaned. The restaurant owner was elated because all he had hoped for was a kid to push a mop at the end of the day and make sure that the bathrooms were stocked with supplies.

 

When we make a decision to follow Jesus, we are NOT  just given a proverbial mop to push or a broom to sweep the floor with; we are not given just a limited set of specific and stifling instructions. When we make a decision to follow Jesus we are inspired and encouraged by the Holy Spirit to become the best of what we can be in every aspect of our lives. That means that there are many ideas and opinions in our community. The leadership of this church along with the pastor (whoever he or she may be at the time) – the leadership of the church is tasked with nurturing that creativity and directing all that energy so that all members of the community feel respected, heard, valued, and loved.

 

By being a church, God invites us to "come and see" his garden, and God invites us to honor him and each other by taking care of that garden. God does not macro-manage us; instead God encourages us to use the talents and gifts he has given us to be the best that we can be in everything that we do. Leaders of our church working through the committees of the church are trusted to listen to God’s direction for our community. By working through us, God wants our church to be the best reflection of Jesus that we can.

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Today is the day when our community honors the officers of this church. Today is the day when our community honors all those who have made the choice to honor and serve God by using their gifts and talents to the well-being of this community. My hope and prayer is that our excitement, empowerment and enthusiasm about our Christian way of life will start with the leadership of this church. That is what makes us an exciting and vibrant church and a community.

 

My prayer for the leadership of this church is that it will guide this community to BE an inspired and empowered Christian community. My prayer for the leadership of this church is that it will strive to keep this community relevant to the needs of our neighbors as our times change. My prayer for this church is that it will BE the light of God on Vinegar Hill, so that our neighbors will want to "come and see" (John 1:39) what God is doing in our lives, and what God can do in theirs.

{Recognition of Servant Leaders of the church}

 

Works Cited

Epperly, Bruce. "January 16, 2011; The Second Sunday After Epiphany." January 2011. Process and Faith. 10 January 2011 <http://www.processandfaith.org/lectionary/YearA/2010-2011/2011-Epiphany-II-A.shtml>.

Lose, David. "3 Important Words (or, Concerning the Fantasy Lives of Preachers)." 10 January 2011. Working Preacher. 10 January 2011 <http://www.workingpreacher.org/dear_wp.aspx>.

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