Saturday, January 14, 2023

Epiphany 2A

label scar on vacated Macy's store
label scar on vacated Macy's store

Isaiah 49:1, 5-7

1Listen to me, O coastlands, pay attention, you peoples from far away! The Lord called me before I was born, while I was in my mother's womb he named me.

5And now the Lord says, who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him, for I am honored in the sight of the Lord, and my God has become my strength— 6he says, "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."

7Thus says the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations, the slave of rulers, "Kings shall see and stand up, princes, and they shall prostrate themselves, because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you."

The Epiphany Season Continues…

…with its theme of God as redeemer for all the world, Jesus as light of the world.

• Last week: Baptism of Jesus in Matthew 3:13-17

• This week: Baptism of Jesus in John 1:29-42

• All 4 gospels include John baptizing Jesus!

Jesus' baptism or mikvah was not the same as our trinitarian baptism into Jesus Christ's death and resurrection, but more of a signal of newness for the nation. At Jesus' baptism we experience a trinitarian theophany with Father, Son, Holy Spirit all in attendance at the event. We hear God the Father naming, claiming, calling, and inspiring Jesus. At our baptism, God names, claims, calls, and literally inspires us with the Holy Spirit.

Isaiah is an excellent choice during Epiphany because all of the long book of Isaiah brings us broad, inclusive universalism. Israel's God YHWH is God of all, God for all nations, people, creation. God seeks and desires wholeness, integrity, shalom, interconnectedness, a free future not bound by the past—for all.

Servant Songs

Today our first reading is one of Second Isaiah's four Servant Songs found at:
• Isaiah 42:1-9

• Isaiah 49:1-6

• Isaiah 50:4-9

• Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12

All of 2nd Isaiah brings us a servant attitude. The church hears these texts during the Holy Week of Jesus' passion that leads to his death. The church long has identified the Servant as Jesus Christ, but the Servant could be God's whole people Israel, Israel of the Babylonian – or any other – diaspora. The servant could be the person who recorded the words of Second Isaiah. How about us as the Suffering Servant?

Today's reading helps us reflect on:

• God's baptismal claim on us as individuals and as a community
• the presence of the HS
• God's baptismal call to be Jesus' presence everywhere

In last week's blog for Baptism of Jesus I wrote:
Jesus conception and birth are the start of the new creation? Yes! But Jesus' baptism opens an ongoing visible, public, manifestation or showing-forth of God's new action in recreating the world. … Did this echo the first creation as it emerged from surging disarray into boundaries, purpose, and intent? Did it replicate Israel showing up wet on the other side after crossing the Jordan into the promised land of covenanted community, agricultural bounty, and grace?

How about us? Our baptism initiates our public ministry. Jesus' ministry shows and clarifies God's love and purpose for creation. Jesus invites us to follow him into the waters, into the world…

After a retail or other tenant vacates a commercial building, they tear off that company's sign or banner and you almost always can see a scar where the sign had been. In baptism God marks us with the sign of the cross forever—it's an indelible "label scar." Can people see it or feel it? Does our baptism demonstrate and reveal God's merciful love and eternal purpose for the world? Think about it!

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