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Sunday after the Epiphany


Gods call

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Sunday after the Epiphany

Last Sunday, we read the 1st Servant Song of Isaiah, and today, the Church proposes to us the 2nd Servant Sing of Isaiah
The prophet Isaiah had been sent to the Israelites during the Babylonian exile to support them, encourage them, give a meaning to their suffering and give them hope for the future In todays reading, the Servant claims to have been selected and called by God even before birth. Israel had been called to serve God and to show in its history Gods glory In spite of the call and of Gods assurances, the Servants efforts had been in vain. So he is downcast and depressed. He wonders if God might have abandoned him. Not at all, in fact God is about to give the Servant an even bigger mission: he will become the light of the Nations and bring Gods salvation to the end of the earth. And every king and ruler will take notice of what God has accomplished through his servant. The most likely interpretation of this passage from Isaiah is that the people of Israel had been selected from the very beginning to be Gods own people and for a mission to reveal God to the entire world. They had not lived up to their call. The Israelites had sinned and had been defeated. Many had died. They were now few in numbers and suffering in exile, their mission appeared to have ended in failure, but God would free them and allow them to return home, and this unexpected reversal of fortune would make all the other nations take notice of the power of God over historical events, and make them fear the God of the Jews. Christians, on the other hand, tend to see in this passage a prophecy about Jesus and his mission: Jesus too was a servant of God, selected even before his birth for a mission: he revealed the true nature of God to all: to the people of Israel, and, through his disciples, to all the nations of the world. Jesus too appeared to have failed in his mission: he was captured, tortured, despised and executed. But his death did not mark the end. God raised him and sent the Holy Spirit to inspire and guide his disciples, who continued Jesus mission and brought the Gospel to the ends of the world. Gods love for humans is not limited in time and space, and everything in the history of Israel, in the life of Jesus and in the life of the church expresses Gods ongoing activity to call all the people of the world to himself

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Sunday after the Epiphany

The theme of God calling people for a mission continues in the Gospel of John:
The other Gospels hint at the fact that both John the Baptist and Jesus had followers, each believing that their guy was the one. The Gospel of John tackles this problem right from the start: in todays passage, the Baptist clearly states that his job is merely to prepare the way for Jesus and that his own disciples should follow Jesus Note that here too the Gospel borrows images from Isaiahs servant songs: in them the servant is called the Lamb of God to be sacrificed to atone for the sins of others. Here John the Baptist calls Jesus the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and ushers in an age of righteousness. Then the Baptist states that Jesus, as a divine being, pre-existed the Baptist, and that while his own baptism is merely a symbol of repentance, Jesus' baptism brings the Holy Spirit to those who receive it. And finally he testifies that he himself saw the Spirit descend on Jesus. So in the first paragraph, the Baptist states that Jesus is the Messiah, and in the second paragraph we learn that Jesus' first 2 disciples had been disciples of John the Baptist, and had been directed to Jesus by John. Note that we get this information only from the Gospel of John, the other 3 Gospels only hint at it. Here we read that Andrew and another un-named (but presumed to be John the Evangelist), were standing with John when Jesus walked by and John pointed him out and called him the lamb of God. The episode is very low key: they ask Jesus where he is staying, then they go with him, and stay with him that evening. The next day Andrew comes back with his brother Simon. Jesus spots him and renames him. To change somebodys name was akin to change his nature: you will be called Cephas in Greek (Petrus in Latin, from which we get Peter) which means rock In a simple an unassuming statement the Gospel of John presents us with the beginning of the Church. The 12 will follow Jesus, be trained, and, in spite of their character flaws, they will become the foundations of the church: on this rock I will build my church.

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Sunday after the Epiphany

So, the Servant in Isaiah, the prophets, Jesus, the apostles had been called by God. Who else is called by God? The clergy? OK. anyone else? Paul tells us that everyone here, regardless of who we are and what we do, have been called by God.
Paul always follows a set formula in his letters: he starts with a greeting, followed by a prayer of thanksgiving to God for the good things that are going on in the church he is writing to, then he gets to the body of the letter: the real reason for his writings, at the conclusion he has a farewell and the letters always end with a final prayer. This is the beginning of 1st Corinthians, and here we have the greeting and the thanksgiving sections The passage from Paul's letter to the Corinthians describes who is called. Who has a vocation? Everyone in the church of Corinth is called to be a saint. Everyone has been sanctified in Jesus Christ . Corinth was the jewel of Pauls churches: it was his most active and charismatic church, with lots of strong personalities who were inspired by the Spirit, but didnt necessarily see eye to eye with Paul. Paul had moved on from Corinth to start new churches in other cities, but was still exerting his authority in Corinth and raising funds there, and some church members started questioning Pauls authority and his use of the money he was raising from the Corinthians. In spite of that, Paul calls them all saints. The Biblical terms holy or saint mean set aside for God, and all the church members in Corinth were baptized, and so set aside for God, saints, saved. Paul was not being complimentary with the church members. The body of the letter shows that he had a rather heavy hand. But the truly believed that all of his people had received Gods call and thus addressed them as saints, warts and all. All those who believe in Jesus and are baptized receive Gods gifts of grace and peace.

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All of us here at St. James have been called to be saints at baptism. Most of us were baptized as children, and our parents receive Gods call for us and decided to have us baptized. Parents make all the important decision s for their children.
In our Baptism we were and continue to be called to follow Jesus and do what he did: love God and love our neighbors. We renewed our commitment at Confirmation, and we renew it again by following Jesus every day of our lives. As we do that, we too receive Gods gifts of grace and peace that Paul wished on the Corinthians. The main call we have all received is from our Baptism. We are called to follow Jesus, that is to say to learn from him, and live by his values (love of God and love of neighbor) in every circumstance of our lives.