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Monday, January 25, 2010

+ E P I P H A N Y FOUR Yr C + AD 2010 +

Lexegete™ | Year C | St. Luke

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
January 31, 2010 (Lectionary 4)

Jeremiah 1:4-10
Psalm 71:1-6 (6)
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Luke 4:21-30

Prayer of the Day

Almighty and ever-living God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and love; and that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command, through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Gospel Acclamation

Alleluia. You shall go to all to | whom I send you.
Do not be afraid, for | I am with you. Alleluia. (Jer. 1:7, 8)


1a. CONTEXT: Luke 4:21-30

This reading follows closely upon the preceding one.

It's placement here is dependent upon the temptation

story. As is well known, Luke's order for the temptation

differs from that of Mark and Matthew. In the

temptations are to create bread, to rule the world, and to

leap from the temple. In other words, has tempted to be

relevant, to be powerful and to be spectacular. refuses

all three temptations and thereby redefines the meaning of

being the Son of God. But it has been demonstrated that

also has demonstrate that he can do each of the things

Satan as tempted him to do. He can escape harm, he can

show power, and he can provide food. works this out

using chiasmus. The first element is in this passage.

angers the crowd, they are on the verge of killing him

[Lk. 4:29], but "passing through the midst of them he went

away." [An Incl. Lang. Lectionary, AILL] He escapes

certain death, not with angels "bear(ing) him up," but

nevertheless an escape. He completes the chiasmus by

demonstrating power over Satan in the man with the unclean

spirit and in Capernaum, and finally by the miraculous

catch of fish. Thus to those who appreciate a fine

story, and some irony, demonstrates that is the Messiah,

on his own terms.

This reading obviously makes the theme of rejection

absolutely clear. In order that there appear to be no

confusion of Jesus' part as to where he stands Elijah and

Elisha are mentioned. The expectation for the return of

Elijah at the end of the age makes him a natural in any

Gospel. Here the point is that even the prophet most

venerated by Israel, spurned Israel at a crucial point.

1b. TEXT: Luke 4:21-30


21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

22 And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph's son?”

23 And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.”

24 And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown.

25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land,

26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.

27 And there were many lepers [1] in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”

28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath.

29 And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff.

30 But passing through their midst, he went away.

[1] 4:27 Leprosy was a term for several skin diseases; see Leviticus 13

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by
Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


21ἤρξατο δὲ λέγειν πρὸς αὐτοὺς ὅτι Σήμερον πεπλήρωται ἡ γραφὴ αὕτη ἐν τοῖς ὠσὶν ὑμῶν.

22Καὶ πάντες ἐμαρτύρουν αὐτῷ καὶ ἐθαύμαζον ἐπὶ τοῖς λόγοις τῆς χάριτος τοῖς ἐκπορευομένοις ἐκ τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἔλεγον, Οὐχὶ υἱός ἐστιν Ἰωσὴφ οὗτος;

23καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς, Πάντως ἐρεῖτέ μοι τὴν παραβολὴν ταύτην: Ἰατρέ, θεράπευσον σεαυτόν: ὅσα ἠκούσαμεν γενόμενα εἰς τὴν Καφαρναοὺμ ποίησον καὶ ὧδε ἐν τῇ πατρίδι σου.

24εἶπεν δέ, Ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι οὐδεὶς προφήτης δεκτός ἐστιν ἐν τῇ πατρίδι αὐτοῦ.

25ἐπ∍ ἀληθείας δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, πολλαὶ χῆραι ἦσαν ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις Ἠλίου ἐν τῷ Ἰσραήλ, ὅτε ἐκλείσθη ὁ οὐρανὸς ἐπὶ ἔτη τρία καὶ μῆνας ἕξ, ὡς ἐγένετο λιμὸς μέγας ἐπὶ πᾶσαν τὴν γῆν,

26καὶ πρὸς οὐδεμίαν αὐτῶν ἐπέμφθη Ἠλίας εἰ μὴ εἰς Σάρεπτα τῆς Σιδωνίας πρὸς γυναῖκα χήραν.

27καὶ πολλοὶ λεπροὶ ἦσαν ἐν τῷ Ἰσραὴλ ἐπὶ Ἐλισαίου τοῦ προφήτου, καὶ οὐδεὶς αὐτῶν ἐκαθαρίσθη εἰ μὴ Ναιμὰν ὁ Σύρος.

28καὶ ἐπλήσθησαν πάντες θυμοῦ ἐν τῇ συναγωγῇ ἀκούοντες ταῦτα,

29καὶ ἀναστάντες ἐξέβαλον αὐτὸν ἔξω τῆς πόλεως, καὶ ἤγαγον αὐτὸν ἕως ὀφρύος τοῦ ὄρους ἐφ∍ οὗ ἡ πόλις ᾠκοδόμητο αὐτῶν, ὥστε κατακρημνίσαι αὐτόν:

30αὐτὸς δὲ διελθὼν διὰ μέσου αὐτῶν ἐπορεύετο.

Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition © 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart;

The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition © 1975, United Bible Societies, London

2. ANALYSIS: Luke 4:21-30

The theme of prophet-outsider is continued in . The

use of outsiders in the tales of Elijah and Elisha did not

mean that God had rejected Israel, only that his concerns

were also with those who were not of Israel. The hope was

that Israel would be called back to faithfulness. Thus a

widow [ a type representing dependency upon God] and a

righteous nobleman are the outsider individuals in the Elijah/Elisha

cycle. In 7 heals the slave of the centurion and

remarks "not even in Israel have I found such faith," and

at Acts 10:11 there is the story of Peter and Cornelius.

The point is that God is free to act in new ways. Israel,

and her expectations, cannot bind him. The force however

is not to point to an ultimate rejection of Israel, the

outsiders are used to call Israel to be what she can be.

The hope is that Israel will be reunited with the church.

Remember that one of Luke's problems is the problem of

Jewish rejection of as the Messiah.

The rejection begins in verse 22 where we can feel

the mood change. The crowd moves from staring in wonder

at one of their own to anger at the presumption of one of

their own lecturing them and claiming to be a prophet.

heightens the drama making rejection the only possible


3. STRATEGY: 4:21-30

The force of the passage is that the concept of an

acceptable prophet is an oxymoron. The choice goes back

to Joshua 24, "choose this day whom you will serve." By

walking through the crowd demonstrated that he was not

powerless, his time was not yet. In so doing he also

demonstrates that the crucifixion is not a triumph over

him. It was his time and place.

This passage presents the preacher with the

opportunity to demonstrate that is not simply a

collection of isolated stories, but that had a plan.

Congregations are fascinated by chiasmus. It helps

explain the problems with chronology and geography

enabling the preacher to demonstrate that such details

were servants to the message wished to proclaim.

Closely related to the theme of rejection is the

theme of election. angered his audience by stating

metaphorically that election extended beyond the Jews.

The tradition carries forward a battle within Judaism

begun just after the exile.

The voices of Haggai, Zechariah, Nehemiah and Ezra call

for Israel to purify itself and wall itself off from the

world. Foreign wives are to be set aside, proselytism

stops, and the people look inward. The minority report

calling for Israel to continue to involve itself in the

world was filed away and ignored.

We know the minority report as the books of Ruth and

Jonah. Read back into holy history they demonstrate

that, in Ruth, David is dependent upon Moabites for his

very existence, and in Jonah, that even the historically

despised enemy, Assyria, was God's creation. Jesus'

sense of foreigners begin the elect renews this battle and

challenges those who hear it to look outside themselves.

Someone once said that the only trouble with the

concept of purgatory is that we try and run it from this

side. This holds true for election,too. From this side we do

best if we treat everyone as elect and not draw lines.

We can do this only if we are aware of the tenuous nature

of our own election and aware that our very existence

is summed up in the Rabbinical Parable of God's

morning prayer. As the parable goes, each

morning God prays "May my attributes of mercy outweigh my

attributes of justice."

4. REFERENCES: 4:21-30


Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1983.

Miesner, Donald R. "The Circumferential Speeches of
Luke-Acts: Patterns and Purpose," in SOCIETY OF BIBLICAL
LITERATURE 1978 SEMINAR PAPERS, Vol. II, ed. by Paul Achtemeier. Missoula, Montana: Scholars Press, 1978, pp. 223-238.
[This seldom-cited article is an excellent resource for understanding
the role of chiasmus in this and other texts in Luke-Acts .]

5. HYMN SUGGESTIONS: Epiphany Four, Year C
















Exegete - Peter R. Powell, who has a degree in Chemical Engineering (NCSU ’70), earned his MDiv at Virginia Theol. Seminary and has recently retired as CEO of the Interfaith Housing Alliance of Westport, CT ( ) .

Presentation of Our Lord
February 2, 2010
Malachi 3:1-4
Psalm 84 (1) or Psalm 24:7-10 (7)
Hebrews 2:14-18
Luke 2:22-40

Prayer of the Day
Almighty and ever-living God, your only-begotten Son was presented this day in the temple. May we be presented to you with clean and pure hearts by the same Jesus Christ, our great high priest, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Gospel Acclamation
Alleluia. My eyes have seen | your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence | of all peoples. Alleluia. (Luke 2:30-31)



© 2010 Tischrede Software

Dartmouth,MA 02747-1925


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

+ E P I P H A N Y THREE, Yr C + AD 2010 +

Lexegete™ | Year C | St. Luke


Third Sunday after Epiphany

January 24, 2010 (Lectionary 3)

Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10
Psalm 19 (7)
1 Corinthains 12:12-31a
Luke 4:14-21

Prayer of the Day

Blessed Lord God, you have caused the holy scriptures to be written for the nourishment of your people. Grant that we may hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that, comforted by your promises, we may embrace and forever hold fast to the hope of eternal life, through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Gospel Acclamation

Alleluia. The Spirit of the Lord has anointed me to bring good news | to the poor, and to proclaim release | to the captives. Alleluia. (Luke 4:18)

1a. CONTEXT: Luke 4:14-21

This breaks into two unequal parts. Verses 14 and 15 serve as the introduction to the public ministry of Jesus. They are Luke's equivalent to Mark 1:14. Therefore, the opening verses are not to be regarded as simply a segue for Luke; they serve as a chapter heading for the next major section of the Gospel.

The second part of this reading is a related and programmatic . Its programmatic nature comes from its setting major themes for Luke. The , but not our reading, extends through verse 30. It speaks of Jesus' reception upon his return to Galilee. The shape of these verses is dependent upon what immediately precedes, the temptation in the wilderness. Only in Luke is Jesus full of the Holy Spirit when he enters the wilderness, and in the power of the Spirit when he returns. His resistance to temptation is a spirit-filled resistance which shows that he is not the Messiah which Judaism expected because he has, through the spirit, resisted every attribute of a Messiah. He has refused to be Moses, to be David and to be a Zealot. The spirit-filled Jesus is now prepared for an anointing because Luke has now redefined the word Messiah. This is the last instance in the Gospel in which Jesus is led by the Spirit. After his anointing Jesus functions on his own. The spirit will return in Acts as the prominent force leading the early church. But Jesus is now fully equipped.

This must also be read in conjunction with that which follows. Taken as a whole verses 16-30 prefigure the Palm Sunday story. In both place Jesus is hailed initially, but when he proclaims a Gospel other than that which the audience wishes to hear, he is rejected. In this story his time has not yet come and he is able to escape.

But these readings pave the way for a central Lucan theme, Jesus' rejection. From the beginning the people of are not prepared to accept his radical message of freedom from bondage and Satan rather than freedom from bondage to Rome. Luke is struggling throughout with the question of, why did the Jews reject their Messiah? The answer of course is that they were not looking for a Messiah that looked, sounded and behaved like Jesus. In his Gospel he must also redefine the concept of king for gentiles since Jesus' kingship is no less a radical reinterpretation of the concept for Gentiles than it is for Jews. Of course, Luke is forced to struggle with redefining the concept of Messiah because Jesus was crucified. Had Jesus died in some other fashion, then this process of redefinition would have been unnecessary. Jesus does not claim the title of Messiah for himself, it is hung on him at his death. But having died as the Messiah, Luke sets out to redefine the term to fit the attributes Jesus did claim for himself.

The quote from 61:1,2; 58:6 is Luke's creation. It perhaps serves to underscore the theme of rejection and resistance to change. 58:6 is a call for justice and righteousness, not fasting, as the appropriate response to one's own sin. It was not a popular message for the anonymous author of 58 and does not prove to be popular in Luke's setting.

1b. TEXT: Luke 4:14-21


14και υπεστρεψεν ο ιησους εν τη δυναμει του πνευματος εις την γαλιλαιαν. και φημη εξηλθεν καθ ολης της περιχωρου περι αυτου. 15και αυτος εδιδασκεν εν ταις συναγωγαις αυτων, δοξαζομενος υπο παντων. 16και ηλθεν εις ναζαρα, ου ην τεθραμμενος, και εισηλθεν κατα το ειωθος αυτω εν τη ημερα των σαββατων εις την συναγωγην, και ανεστη αναγνωναι. 17και επεδοθη αυτω βιβλιον του προφητου ησαιου, και αναπτυξας το βιβλιον ευρεν τον τοπον ου ην γεγραμμενον, 18πνευμα κυριου επ εμε, ου εινεκεν εχρισεν με ευαγγελισασθαι πτωχοις, απεσταλκεν με κηρυξαι αιχμαλωτοις αφεσιν και τυφλοις αναβλεψιν, αποστειλαι τεθραυσμενους εν αφεσει, 19κηρυξαι ενιαυτον κυριου δεκτον. 20και πτυξας το βιβλιον αποδους τω υπηρετη εκαθισεν: και παντων οι οφθαλμοι εν τη συναγωγη ησαν ατενιζοντες αυτω. 21ηρξατο δε λεγειν προς αυτους οτι σημερον πεπληρωται η γραφη αυτη εν τοις ωσιν υμων.

Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition
© 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart;

The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition
© 1975, United Bible Societies, London


Jesus Begins His Ministry

14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. 15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.

Jesus Rejected at Nazareth
16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”

20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles

2. ANALYSIS: LUKE 4:14-21

The conclusion of our reading at verse 21 is artificial. A more natural stopping place would be the inclusio formed by "Is not this Joseph's son?" which binds off the introductory comment "where he had been brought up." As is, the reading implies that what Jesus has said will be acceptable . As the next reading illustrates, and as we can anticipate, it will not be.

The reading from is loaded. The audience heard it and knew themselves to be poor, captive and oppressed. They were taxed by Rome, occupied by a foreign power, and forced to obey pagans. Their initial reaction would have been one of support for Jesus' message. But it becomes obvious that the initial message is not the heart of Jesus' message.

Instead, seeing the position of this story as being influenced by a theme similar to that of the temptation story, we must read the references to poor, captive, blind and oppressed as references to being in bondage to Satan, not to Rome.

By this time in Intertestatmental Judaism meant the poor in spirit, not exclusively the impoverished. Therefore the other attributes of the recipients of the euaggelion were also understood metaphorically. The captives and oppressed were in captivity to Satan. The blind were unable to see reality as it really is, that is to see God. This understanding is consistent with Luke's use of aphesis, "to release." Elsewhere, in 1:77, it is translated forgiveness, likewise in the story about the woman who was a sinner, 7:36-50, and also in the resurrection appearance of Luke 24:47.

aphesis as forgiveness and release from Satan, not Rome, is also consistent with Luke's understanding of Jesus' mission as stated in Acts 10:36-38. Thus Luke depicts Jesus as standing before a group anxious to hear words of rebellion against Rome, instead hearing words exhorting them to be free from Satan. They were stunned, then angered.

3. STRATEGY: Luke 4:14-21

The temptation for preachers, confronted with the reality that poor means "poor in spirit " is to preach ONLY about poverty in spirit, but this would not be true to the text. The Gospel has a preferential option for the poor, not because the poor are holier than others, but because the poor know that they can depend upon nothing other than God. This realization of absolute dependency led to the development of poor as meaning "poor in spirit." We are surrounded by examples of the poor in spirit, and those who are both poor in spirit and simply poor. It is no less true today that it was in the first century, that people are more than willing to be freed from the bondage they know about and identify, but do not wish to be free from bondages they find attractive. We each have our Rome we wish to be set free from, but often it is not the major problem. This passage provides the preacher with the opportunity to pave the way to Easter. Here we begin the process of misunderstanding Jesus and in that process participate in crucifying him along with those who in the first century actually did the deed.

The temptation which Jesus resisted was to interfere in the world and to take away our individuality, our ability to make decisions and to be important. The call which this passage presents us with is a call to recognize that we are on the journey to freedom and to finding ourselves. We are on the way to being empowered. It is much easier to not empower the poor, be they poor in spirit or in fact. It is much easier simply to take care of the poor and hope that they will be grateful. But the biblical model is to empower. That is, to set free the chains which bind and to take part in the acceptable year of the Lord.

Each week in Epiphany another aspect of God revealed in Christ makes itself known. This week emphasizes that God is on our side in the struggle against evil. The question is, are we on His?

4. REFERENCES: Luke 4:14-21

Juel, Donald. LUKE-ACTS, THE PROMISE OF HISTORY. Atlanta: Knox Press, 1983.

5. MUSIC SUGGESTIONS: Luke 4:14-21

Some appointed hymns for this day include the following:


Of these, perhaps the most interesting is Willard Jabusch's modern interpretation of an old theme, set to a Hasidic Torah song (Yisrael V'oraita) by Richard Proulx. Since the text deals in some ways with the response to Jesus by his own people, this could be an occasion to make mention of Jewish-Christian relations and to point out that the gospel is not consistent with anti-Semitism. Perhaps it would be possible to have a church-synagogue exchange or at least have an opportunity for members of two congregations to interact or attend one another's services. Such programs, begun modestly in very small and even dwindling congregations have made a profound difference in communities where they are encouraged. Perhaps this would be the time to begin planning other opportunities for Jewish-Christian understanding during the coming Paschal season as well.

Conversion of Paul
January 25, 2010

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity ends
Acts 9:1-22
Psalm 67 (3)
Galatians 1:11-24
Luke 21:10-19

Prayer of the Day
O God, by the preaching of your apostle Paul you have caused the light of the gospel to shine throughout the world. Grant that we may follow his example and be witnesses to the truth of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Gospel Acclamation
Alleluia. This Jesus | God raised up,
and of that all of | us are witnesses. Alleluia. (Acts 2:32)



© 2009 Tischrede Software

Dartmouth, MA 02747-1925


Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Lexegete™ | Year C | St. Luke

Second Sunday after Epiphany | January 17, 2010 (Lectionary 2)

Isaiah 62:1-5

Psalm 36:5-10 (8)

1 Corinthians 12:1-11

John 2:1-11

Prayer of the Day

Lord God, source of every blessing, you showed forth your glory and led many to faith by the works of your Son, who brought gladness and salvation to his people. Transform us by the Spirit of his love, that we may find our life together in him, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Gospel Acclamation
Alleluia. Jesus re- | vealed his glory,
and his disciples be- | lieved in him. Alleluia. (John 2:11)

1a. CONTEXT: John 2:1-11

The fourth evangelist provides two bold assertions about the historic Jesus in the first chapter of his Gospel. The first is that He is the "unique" Son, a distinct title which expresses Jesus' filial sense of His Father's presence and which provides the energizing force of Jesus' whole life. The second and closely related assertion is that out of this unique relationship there comes a consciousness of Jesus' messianic vocation.

The fourth evangelist then goes on to relate the story of the turning of water into wine found in no other Gospel. The evangelist describes it as the first of his signs (semeion) which not only revealed the glory of his unique relationship, it also had the effect of evoking the faith of the disciples. The miracles or signs, as understood in this Gospel, are not merely signals that the Kingdom of God is at hand as they are in the Synoptic Gospels, but also clear indication that he by whom the signs are wrought is the Son of God equal to God himself.
A great number of scholars and readers of this account have raised the question whether the story is the report of an actual occurrence. The sheer quantity of wine produced toward the end of a wedding feast (120-plus gallons by one estimate) make it appear doubtful. No parallel is found in the Synoptic Gospels, but there are non-biblical stories similar in content. The Greek God Dionysius, for example, was not only the discoverer of the vine, but he was also the cause of the miraculous transformation of water into wine.

C.J. Wright of Manchester, England, once suggested that what is essential to hold in mind is the evangelist's main intention. He was endeavoring to express the transformation which the life of Jesus had achieved in His disciples and friends. Thus we can envision a possible process. The author had heard tell of a certain wedding which Jesus once attended, in which he shared, and to which occasion he added joy and completeness. He had also in mind many of the familiar sayings of Jesus such as "keeping the good wine until the end, " "the new wine in old bottles."

The evangelist had also reflected upon the meaning of the old wine of Judaism which had served well. He remembered,too, that Jesus never sought to destroy but to fulfill. Thus from out of this process eventuates the story in its present vivid narrative form. Throughout the process the author's overmastering desire is to express the unseen spiritual and moral reality manifest in Jesus. Yet it may also be that we have a real story. What is essential to comprehend is not that is simply telling us of things that Jesus once did in Palestine, but of things which he continues to do today. Wherever Jesus comes into life there comes a new quality which is ever turning water into wine.

1b. Text: John 2:1-11


2. ANALYSIS: John 2:1-11

1Καὶ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ τρίτῃ γάμος ἐγένετο ἐν Κανὰ τῆς Γαλιλαίας, καὶ ἦν ἡ μήτηρ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ ἐκεῖ:
2ἐκλήθη δὲ καὶ ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸν γάμον.
3καὶ ὑστερήσαντος οἴνου λέγει ἡ μήτηρ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ πρὸς αὐτόν, Οἶνον οὐκ ἔχουσιν.
4[καὶ] λέγει αὐτῇ ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί, γύναι; οὔπω ἥκει ἡ ὥρα μου. 5λέγει ἡ μήτηρ αὐτοῦ τοῖς διακόνοις, Ο τι ἂν λέγῃ ὑμῖν ποιήσατε.
6ἦσαν δὲ ἐκεῖ λίθιναι ὑδρίαι ἓξ κατὰ τὸν καθαρισμὸν τῶν Ἰουδαίων κείμεναι, χωροῦσαι ἀνὰ μετρητὰς δύο ἢ τρεῖς.
7λέγει αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Γεμίσατε τὰς ὑδρίας ὕδατος. καὶ ἐγέμισαν αὐτὰς ἕως ἄνω.
8καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς, Ἀντλήσατε νῦν καὶ φέρετε τῷ ἀρχιτρικλίνῳ: οἱ δὲ ἤνεγκαν.
9ὡς δὲ ἐγεύσατο ὁ ἀρχιτρίκλινος τὸ ὕδωρ οἶνον γεγενημένον, καὶ οὐκ ᾔδει πόθεν ἐστίν, οἱ δὲ διάκονοι ᾔδεισαν οἱ ἠντληκότες τὸ ὕδωρ, φωνεῖ τὸν νυμφίον ὁ ἀρχιτρίκλινος
10καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ, Πᾶς ἄνθρωπος πρῶτον τὸν καλὸν οἶνον τίθησιν, καὶ ὅταν μεθυσθῶσιν τὸν ἐλάσσω: σὺ τετήρηκας τὸν καλὸν οἶνον ἕως ἄρτι.
11Ταύτην ἐποίησεν ἀρχὴν τῶν σημείων ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἐν Κανὰ τῆς Γαλιλαίας καὶ ἐφανέρωσεν τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἐπίστευσαν εἰς αὐτὸν οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ.

Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition
© 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart;

The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition
© 1975, United Bible Societies, London


John 2:1-11 - The Wedding at Cana

2:1 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.
2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples.
3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”
4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”
5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. [*]
7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.
8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it.
9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.”
11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
[*] 2:6 Greek two or three measures (metrētas); a metrētēs was about 10 gallons or 35 liters

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles

2:1 - gamos - A marriage feast was a notable event. It lasted seven days, with new guests arriving each day.

Jn. 2:1 - hei meiter tou Ieisou - The mother of Jesus is never named in this Gospel.

It was Jesus' mother who brought the information that there was no more wine. To a Jewish feast wine is essential. "Without wine," said the Rabbis," there is no joy." The evangelists does not seek to fix blame. He is not interested in why the wine has given out.

Jn. 2:4 - ti emoi kai soi, gynai - There appears to be no coldness or disrespect suggested in these words. "What have I to do with you," is an ordinary conversational phrase. William Barclay suggests that Jesus was only telling his mother to leave things to him, that he had his own way to deal with the situation.

Jn. 2:4 - oupo ekei hei hora mou - The hour of Jesus here refers to his death on the cross and his exaltation. The hour when we may expect to see the divine glory manifested in the creative activity of the Son of God has not yet come, though anticipations of it may be seen. Jesus interpreted his life not in terms of a succession of opportunities, but in terms of God's eternal purpose.

Jn. 2:6 - de ekei lithinai huoriai - There were six stone waterpots. It is conceivable, but by no means provable, that the number six is symbolic. Six being less by one than seven, the Jewish number of completeness and perfection, would indicate that the Jewish dispensation dominated by law is imperfect and must give way.

Jn 2:9f. - architriklino.... "When the steward of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, "Every one serves the good wine first; and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now." (AN INCL. LANGUAGE ) - There is no real evidence that this was a custom. But it does provide an unforgettable way to stress what wants to emphasize, that the new faith based on the eschatological event is better than anything that went before it.

3. STRATEGY: John 2:1-11

The fundamental preaching task is to come to grips with a particular text as text in order that the text as Word can grasp the living of the one to whom it is addressed. Hence, the preacher's strategy must be controlled by the intention of the evangelist. The evangelist saw the miracle of the turning of the water into wine as a sign of the manifestation of God's power and presence and thus as a call to believe in the Son who holds a unique relationship to the Father.

A miracle always points beyond itself, and the effort of the preacher should be to understand but not to try to explain. Paul Tillich warned against ever applying the term miracle or mystery to something that ceases to be a mystery after it has been revealed. The ability of the Christ to respond to human need is always greater than our capacity to describe it.

The fourth evangelist has a very pronounced way of dealing with miracles or "signs." He never avoids them. Quite the opposite, he sketches them in the most bold way he can. The miracles are central and the evangelist gathers around the miracle stories all which is characteristic of the master's teachings. While there is no reason to finally believe that the author does not take them literally, he does not place the emphasis there. uses the miracles as evidence, very refreshing to his own thoughts, of Christ's continuous capacity to work related but far more extraordinary spiritual miracles.

Arthur Gossip reminds us that the point of the Cana story is to illustrate the way in which "our Lord enters people's troubles; how unbelievably he suffices in every difficulty; and above all, how he enriches things for us. What water is to wine, what the embarassing insufficiency was to the relief he wrought for his host, so is any other life compared to the fulness, color, adventure and achievement that he gives.
The preacher is always well advised to reflect upon and share his or her own experience and those reported by friends, which testify to the adequacy of Christ. Helpful, too, is a careful reading of the biographies of Christians who have made a career of trusting, such as George Mueller.

That contemporary saint, Corrie Ten Boom, who learned even in one of Hitler's concentration camps what it means to trust, wrote: "Often I have heard people say, 'How good God is! We prayed that it would not rain for our church picnic, and look at this lovely weather!' Yes, God is good when he sends good weather. But God is also good when he allowed my sister, Betsie, to starve to death before my eyes in a German concentration camp. I remember on one occasion when I was very discouraged there. Everything around us was dark, and there was darkness in my heart. I remember telling Betsie that I thought God had forgotten us. 'No,Corrie,' said Betsie, 'He has not forgotten us. Remember His Word: For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him.' " Corrie concludes, there is an ocean of God's love available--there is plenty for everyone. May God grant never to doubt that victorious love, whatever the circumstances."

Lexegete: John Stadtlander, ThD †


Juel, Donald. LUKE-ACTS: THE PROMISE OF HISTORY. Atlanta: Knox, 1983.

Ten Boom, Corrie. THE HIDING PLACE. Waco,TX: Word, 1973.


Hymns reflecting the situation and message of this text include the following:


Others which might fit with the exegetical STRATEGY above include:


And, for Holy Communion, the following are suggested:


Confession of Peter • January 18, 2010

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Day of Service

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins

Acts 4:8-13

Psalm 18:1-6, 16-19 (2, 3)

1 Corinthians 10:1-5

Matthew 16:13-19

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, you inspired Simon Peter to confess Jesus as the Messiah and Son of the living God. Keep your church firm on the rock of this faith, so that in unity and peace it may proclaim one truth and follow one Lord, your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Gospel Acclamation

Alleluia. You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea | and Samaria,

and to the ends | of the earth. Alleluia. (Acts 1:8)


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Thursday, January 7, 2010

For The Time Being . . . [ W.H.A. ]

Christmas Oratorio – W H Auden

Here are the final two sections of ‘Christmas Oratorio,’
For the Time Being by W H Auden, written 1942-44.
This poem fits Epiphany, when we travel afar from the
Nativity and journey toward the Ordinary Year.


Well, so that is that.

Now we must dismantle the tree,
Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes -
Some have got broken – and carrying them up to the attic.
The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,
And the children got ready for school. There are enough
Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week -
Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,
Stayed up so late, attempted – quite unsuccessfully -
To love all of our relatives, and in general
Grossly overestimated our powers. Once again
As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed
To do more than entertain it as an agreeable
Possibility, once again we have sent Him away,
Begging though to remain His disobedient servant,
The promising child who cannot keep His word for long.
The Christmas Feast is already a fading memory,
And already the mind begins to be vaguely aware
Of an unpleasant whiff of apprehension at the thought
Of Lent and Good Friday which cannot, after all, now
Be very far off. But, for the time being, here we all are,
Back in the moderate Aristotelian city
Of darning and the Eight-Fifteen, where Euclid’s geometry
And Newton’s mechanics would account for our experience,
And the kitchen table exists because I scrub it.
It seems to have shrunk during the holidays. The streets
Are much narrower than we remembered; we had forgotten
The office was as depressing as this. To those who have seen
The Child, however dimly, however incredulously,
The Time Being is, in a sense, the most trying time of all.
For the innocent children who whispered so excitedly
Outside the locked door where they knew the presents to be
Grew up when it opened. Now, recollecting that moment
We can repress the joy, but the guilt remains conscious;
Remembering the stable where for once in our lives
Everything became a You and nothing was an It.
And craving the sensation but ignoring the cause,
We look round for something, no matter what, to inhibit
Our self-reflection, and the obvious thing for that purpose
Would be some great suffering. So, once we have met the Son,
We are tempted ever after to pray to the Father;
“Lead us into temptation and evil for our sake.”
They will come, all right, don’t worry; probably in a form
That we do not expect, and certainly with a force
More dreadful than we can imagine. In the meantime
There are bills to be paid, machines to keep in repair,
Irregular verbs to learn, the Time Being to redeem
From insignificance. The happy morning is over,
The night of agony still to come; the time is noon:
When the Spirit must practice his scales of rejoicing
Without even a hostile audience, and the Soul endure
A silence that is neither for nor against her faith
That God’s Will will be done,
That, in spite of her prayers,
God will cheat no one, not even the world of its triumph.



He is the Way.
Follow Him through the Land of Unlikeness;
You will see rare beasts, and have unique adventures.

He is the Truth.
Seek Him in the Kingdom of Anxiety;
You will come to a great city that has expected your return for years.

He is the Life.
Love Him in the World of the Flesh;
And at your marriage all its occasions shall dance for joy.

(W H Auden – 1907-1973)

Monday, January 4, 2010

+ Baptism of Our Lord + January 10, 2010 +

Lexegete ™ | Year C | Luke

Baptism of Our Lord
January 10, 2010 (Lectionary 1)
Isaiah 43:1-7
Psalm 29 (3)
Acts 8:14-17
Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, you anointed Jesus at his baptism with the Holy Spirit and revealed him as your beloved Son. Keep all who are born of water and the Spirit faithful in your service, that we may rejoice to be called children of God, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Gospel Acclamation

Alleluia. A voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, | the Beloved,
with whom I | am well pleased." Alleluia. (Matt. 3:17)

Color: White

1a. CONTEXT: Luke 3:15-17,21-22

The Gospel text appointed to be read on the First Sunday after the Epiphany confronts the preacher with a significant piece of New Testament material which is critical to a full understanding of the Gospel message. The Sunday is set aside to commemorate the Baptism of Our Lord. [like cycle B] challenges the preacher by combining the account of Jesus receiving baptism at the hand of the Baptist, with verses describing the ministry and message of . It is difficult to see how a single sermon of reasonable length can do justice to both pieces. In truth, most of the sermons developed from B and texts which this commentator has examined have not focussed on the Baptist at all, but have concentrated the entire homiletical responsibility on the meaning of the Baptism. This may be a safe way to go, but a deepened understanding of the material centering on can only strengthen a message which directs attention to the significance of the Baptism.

should never be ignored. His role is essential to the Gospel writer's desire to develop the story of Jesus as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. was indeed a great human being, and Jesus sought to designate him as such. Life to him was much more than an unthinking acceptance of what the days may bring; life was God-given for a God-ordained task. committed and disciplined his short life to this holy end.

The baptism of Jesus provides the actual introductory piece to the synoptic version of the mission and ministry of Jesus. The baptism is in its own way Jesus' own ordination. However, the question is unavoidable: Why did Jesus submit to John's baptism? The question becomes even more pointed when we ponder the fact that John's baptism was clearly a baptism of and Jesus is seen as sinless. Many students of the New Testament, and Martin Luther is quite prominent among them, see the baptism as an evidence of the intention of Jesus to take upon himself the sin which he had not committed, and thus to be effectively the sacrifice for the sins of humankind. Sinlessness is empty and static if it is simply a blemish-free record; it must work its way out in a holy and outgoing love. Matthew's account of the baptism, Matt. 3:13-17, intensifies the question of why submit to the baptism when it reports than protested that the roles should be reversed. Nevertheless Jesus insisted and submitted to the baptism.

The baptism must be viewed as a necessary stage in the development of Jesus' own self-understanding. Jesus knew that he was leaving behind the comparative security of his home. Jesus accepted baptism because he believed God had a great commission to bestow. He also anticipated that the voice of God might come with the divine endorsement through the ministry of his courageous cousin.

1b. TEXT: Luke 3:15-17,21-22


15Προσδοκῶντος δὲ τοῦ λαοῦ καὶ διαλογιζομένων πάντων ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις αὐτῶν περὶ τοῦ Ἰωάννου, μήποτε αὐτὸς εἴη ὁ Χριστός,

16ἀπεκρίνατο λέγων πᾶσιν ὁ Ἰωάννης, Ἐγὼ μὲν ὕδατι βαπτίζω ὑμᾶς: ἔρχεται δὲ ὁ ἰσχυρότερός μου, οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανὸς λῦσαι τὸν ἱμάντα τῶν ὑποδημάτων αὐτοῦ: αὐτὸς ὑμᾶς βαπτίσει ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ καὶ πυρί:

17οὗ τὸ πτύον ἐν τῇ χειρὶ αὐτοῦ διακαθᾶραι τὴν ἅλωνα αὐτοῦ καὶ συναγαγεῖν τὸν σῖτον εἰς τὴν ἀποθήκην αὐτοῦ, τὸ δὲ ἄχυρον κατακαύσει πυρὶ ἀσβέστῳ.

21Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν τῷ βαπτισθῆναι ἅπαντα τὸν λαὸν καὶ Ἰησοῦ βαπτισθέντος καὶ προσευχομένου ἀνεῳχθῆναι τὸν οὐρανὸν

22καὶ καταβῆναι τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον σωματικῷ εἴδει ὡς περιστερὰν ἐπ' αὐτόν, καὶ φωνὴν ἐξ οὐρανοῦ γενέσθαι, Σὺ εἶ ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπητός, ἐν σοὶ εὐδόκησα.

Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition © 1979,
Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart;

The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition © 1975,
United Bible Societies, London

ESV *:

15 As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ,
16 John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened,
22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; [3] with you I am well pleased.” [4]


[3] 3:22 Or my Son, my (or the) Beloved

[4] 3:22 Some manuscripts beloved Son; today I have begotten you

* ESV Bible © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, Good News Publishers.

2. ANALYSIS: Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

. 3:15 - meipote autos eiei ho christos - Verse 15 constitutes an editorial introduction to the question which allows to disclaim the role of the Messiah. was obviously aware of his own limitations. His assignment was to create an atmosphere of messianic expectation, and then to recede. It requires a particular kind of greatness, one scarcely understood by the self-proclaimed great ones of our time, to be content with being less than number one.

. 3:16 - autos humas baptisei en pneumati agio kai pyri - The coming baptism is with the Holy Spirit and fire. This is a difficult passage
to interpret and there is no complete agreement as to what is meant. The most probable explanation is that persisted in predicting a baptism of fire (i.e., judgment) and that the version we have in the synoptics constitutes a reinterpretation of that prediction in light of the experience of the apostles at Pentecost. Recall that the spirit was seen to descend in tongues of flame.

His winnowing fork is in his hand... is not a prophet of doom. The principal reason for the winnower is to separate the chaff from the grain so the wheat may be saved. In similar fashion, the primary purpose of the messiah was to gather to himself the new over which he was to reign.

. 3:22 - Su ei ho uios mou ho agapeitos, en soi eudokeisa - The voice from heaven addressed to Jesus is a composite of two Old Testament quotations. Psalm 2:7 proclaims the occasion of the anointed king. 42:1 is the first in a sequence of prophecies about the servant of the Lord who has been chosen to carry the true faith to all, but who achieve this through suffering, rejection and death. To have heard these words must have meant to Jesus that he was appointed to be both King and Suffering Servant, i.e. Messiah.

3. STRATEGY: LUKE 3:15-17, 21-22

One cannot begin to know what to do with this text until one allows the drama of the occasion to have its way. There is first the stark contrast in the message preached by the two men. John's message is not a gospel. If anything, fascinates because his proclamation is dreadful. It is a forecast of a harsh and unrelenting judgment. There is a difference in style. is severe. It is difficult to imagine little children wanting to approach the Baptist. He appears to lack compassion, yet it would be hard to believe that would do what he did without compassion. He did care about his kinspeople. There is no hint that would rejoice in the punishment of even the wicked.

What and Jesus clearly share is the overwhelming recognition that effectiveness and strength come from the will to serve the purposes of God. Dr. Horace Bushnell, who had such profound impact upon 19th century American Protestantism from his Hartford, Connecticut, pulpit, once preached a sermon with the title, "Every Man's Life a Plan of God." In it he declared, "God has a definite plan for every human person, a goal toward which he is guiding him, visibly or invisibly, a direct action, a specific exact thing which it will be the glory and significance of his life to accomplish." Imagine what might begin to happen if we would not only believe that with our mind, but feel it with all our being!

For Jesus, a total and true alignment with the purposes of God was essential. Apart from that harmony there would have been no ultimate meaning even in his life and ministry.

The baptism was one of those pivotal moments when that alignment was to be checked. Jesus reveals God's love by showing us what it means to fully trust that love. Similarly Jesus demonstrates the strength of God by permitting the plan of God to express itself in his person.

There is a restlessness among contemporary Christians because like our secular brothers and sisters, we have become unclear as to what the purpose of our living might be. We do not take sufficient time to discover what God has in the way of a precise plan for our days. Writing once of Bunyan's VALIANT FOR TRUTH, George Bernard Shaw said: "This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a weighty one...the being a force of nature in stead of a fevered little clod of instincts and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to make you happy."

In this matter of finding real meaning and power in aligning one's self with the plan of God, particular attention should be given the Baptist. Here was an individual who must be judged an astonishing success. He had forfeited much to make his point. But his message was being heard and talked about. The crowds came to hear him preach. He name was on many lips. Then appeared on the scene the carpenter of , and almost immediately the crowd was gone. agreed to it. The words from the fourth Gospel are blunt: "He must increase and I must decrease." Real success in living is never in being number one. It is always in seeking God's plan and carrying it through. God has a special love for second-place finishers. That is why he made so many of them.

James Steward speaks of a little church in the Highlands of Scotland where, as you enter the vestry you see framed upon the wall words written by the much beloved preacher James Denney: "No man can give at once the impression that he himself is clever or that Christ is mighty to save.
If you are a friend to help a friend you will remember that the greatest help is Jesus and you will step back and say 'Don't look at me! Look at him!'" did just that. People seeking so desperately for meaning in a world of impersonal bigness and material prosperity must be encouraged to see to know what it might mean to find God's plan for their living.

4. REFERENCES: Luke 3:13-17, 21-22

For an interesting discussion of the place of the Baptist in the Gospel of Luke, see Carroll Stuhlmueller's commentary, chapter 44 in the
JEROME BIBLICAL COMMENTARY, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1968; sec. 44:45-48.

5. MUSIC SUGGESTIONS: Luke 3:13-17, 21-22

One excellent hymn that develops the theme described by Dr. Stadtlander in the foregoing STRATEGY section would be O MASTER, LET ME WALK WITH THEE (HB 659/660, LBW 492). If the intention is to develop a homily very specifically on the subject of the Baptist, there is no dearth of good hymns pertaining to this subject:

On Jordan's banks the Baptist's cry (ELW 249, HB 76,LBW 36)
To Jordan came the Christ, our Lord (LBW 79)
I Come,the Great Redeemer Cries (HB 116)
When Jesus went to Jordan's stream (HB 139, ELW 305)

If the intention is to speak more generally to the theme of Baptism in the context of the Epiphany, there are numerous suitable hymns to choose:

When Christ's appearing was made known (ELW 249, HB 131/2, LBW 85)
From God the Father, virgin-born (LBW 83)
The sinless one to Jordan came (HB 120)
Christ, when for us You were Baptized (ELW 304, HB 121)
Spirit of God, unleashed on earth (HB 299, LBW 387)
I Bind Unto Myself Today (ELW 450, HB 370, LBW 188)
We Know that Christ is Raised (ELW 449, HB 296, LBW 189)
We are baptized in Christ Jesus (ELW 451)
All Who Believe and Are Baptized (ELW 442, HB 298,LBW 194)
Baptized and Set Free (ELW 453)
Baptized into your Name Most Holy (LBW 192)
Baptized in Water (HB 294)

This is the Spirit's Entry Now (ELW 448, LBW 195)
Like the murmur of the dove's song (ELW 403, HB 513)

Lexegete: John Stadtlander, PhD † was a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and its predecessor, the Lutheran Church in America. He was Pastor of First English, Syracuse NY, and Emanuel, Hartford CT, for many years during a pastoral ministry in which he wrote several significant works on theology.



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Saturday, January 2, 2010

+ E P I P H A N Y Yr C + AD 2010 +

Lexegete ™ | Year C | St. Luke

Epiphany of Our Lord
January 6, 2010
Isaiah 60:1-6
Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14 (11)
Ephesians 3:1-12
Matthew 2:1-12

Prayer of the Day

O God, on this day you revealed your Son to the nations by the leading of a star. Lead us now by faith to know your presence in our lives, and bring us at last to the full vision of your glory, through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Almighty and ever-living God, you revealed the incarnation of your Son by the brilliant shining of a star. Shine the light of your justice always in our hearts and over all lands, and accept our lives as the treasure we offer in your praise and for your service, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Everlasting God, the radiance of all faithful people, you brought the nations to the brightness of your rising. Fill the world with your glory, and show yourself to all the world through him who is the true light and the bright morning star, your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Gospel Acclamation
Alleluia. We have observed his star | at its rising,
and have come to | worship him. Alleluia. (Matt. 2:2)

Color: White


This pericope has little to connect it with the preceding chapter except
the birth of Jesus, but just as with the foregoing, the interest is not
biographical. The story has two main emphases. The first is the struggle
between King Herod and the baby king. This conflict calls to mind the Old
Testament story of Pharaoh and the Infant Moses (cf. Hebrews 3:1-6). As
in the birth of Jesus, Moses' birth was foretold by an Egyptian scholar-
astrologer and a turmoil ensues. Pharaoh calls together all the Egyptian
astrologers. Based upon their information he orders the execution of all
Hebrew male infants, hoping to slay the newborn savior of Israel
(Josephus, ANTIQUITIES, ii 205-6, 215). In like manner, Herod convenes
the chief priests and teachers of the law to learn what he can about this
newborn king, but he relies upon the return of the Magi for complete
information. One wonders why he didn't send soldiers or at least spies,
rather that trust strangers.

Matthew has an interest in establishing Jesus' birth in the royal city of
David, Bethlehem. This is done by means of inserting Micah 5:1-2 in his
story at verse 6. This quotation already was interpreted in a messianic
way by the Jews. The last line of verse 6 suggests Micah 5:3-4, but its
actual wording is found in 2 Samuel 5:2, which is a promise to David.

The "Herod" of verse 1 is undoubtedly Herod the Great, thus Jesus' birth
is dated in 7 B.C. when a brilliant conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter lit up
the sky.

However this date is not easily confirmed, for about 11 B.C. Halley's
comet shot across the skies, and in the years through 2 B.C.l, there was
another rare phenomenon. On the first day of the Egyptian month of Mesori,
the dog star Sirius rose at sunrise and shone incandescently. There is
unusual significance here, for the name Mesori means "birth of a prince"
and to astrologers such a star would herald the nativity of a great king.

To further complicate the matter, the Lucan narrative dates Jesus' birth
6-7 A.D. because of the tax enrollment and the governorship of Quirinius.
But the Matthean author knows nothing of a journey to Bethlehem.

There is some evidence from Herodotus that the Magi were Medes, a
part of the Persian Empire which became a tribe of priests much like the
Levites in Israel. They were knowledgeable in the sciences, interpreting
dreams, and were men of wisdom and holiness; hence the name "wisemen."
Like all learned men of their day, they practiced astrology. Since it was
their profession to watch the heavens, such a brilliant heavenly display
bespoke the birth of a king.

Tacitus tells of the belief widespread throughout the known world at
the time of Jesus' birth that a king was to be born: "There was a firm
persuasion...that at this very time the East was to grow powerful, and
rulers coming from Judaea were to acquire universal empire." (Tacitus,
HISTORIES, 5:13.) We find other such references in Josephus, Suetonius,
as well as Virgil, the Roman poet who wrote of the golden days to come.
In Numbers 24:17, the messiah himself is referred to as a star. The phrase
"king of the Jews" (basileus ton Ioudaion) places the infant Jesus in
opposition to Herod the Great, as does yearning of foreign dignitaries to
"fall down and worship him."

In this story we see one of the central themes of Matthew, the
relationship between Israel and the gentiles illuminated both by the
pagans who worship the child and the Jewish king who refuses to accept
him. Jesus is portrayed as the new Moses, sent by God to save the people
of Israel and at peril from those holding worldly authority, even in the
manger. Unlike Moses, Jesus is worshipped as king of the universe. The
messiah is exalted by those who nothing of God except the beacons they
see in the heavens, while the recognized authorities reject him. Hence
both Israel's rejection and the nature of his kingdom are indicated, and
even the city of the messiah....Bethlehem...will not be a haven for long.

Matthew's author wants to portray the unique status of Jesus as the
savior of all humankind. Additionally, he is concerned with the image of
Jesus as a forerunner of the life of Christian discipleship. At birth Jesus
is Immanuel, the Son of God; forced to wander, at enmity with the world
whose servant-king he is, but guided and protected by God Almighty.

1b. TEXT: MATTHEW 2:1-12

The Visit of the Wise Men
2:1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men [1] from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose [2] and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:
6 “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
re by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
or from you shall come a ruler
ho will shepherd my people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” 9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

-- ESV: English Standard Version
Greek: Online Text Copyright Info
Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition
© 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart;
The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition
© 1975, United Bible Societies, London

1του δε ιησου γεννηθεντος εν βηθλεεμ της ιουδαιας εν ημεραις ηρωδου του βασιλεως, ιδου μαγοι απο ανατολων παρεγενοντο εις ιεροσολυμα 2λεγοντες, που εστιν ο τεχθεις βασιλευς των ιουδαιων; ειδομεν γαρ αυτου τον αστερα εν τη ανατολη και ηλθομεν προσκυνησαι αυτω. 3ακουσας δε ο βασιλευς ηρωδης εταραχθη και πασα ιεροσολυμα μετ αυτου, 4και συναγαγων παντας τους αρχιερεις και γραμματεις του λαου επυνθανετο παρ αυτων που ο χριστος γενναται. 5οι δε ειπαν αυτω, εν βηθλεεμ της ιουδαιας: ουτως γαρ γεγραπται δια του προφητου: 6και συ, βηθλεεμ γη ιουδα, ουδαμως ελαχιστη ει εν τοις ηγεμοσιν ιουδα: εκ σου γαρ εξελευσεται ηγουμενος, οστις ποιμανει τον λαον μου τον ισραηλ. 7τοτε ηρωδης λαθρα καλεσας τους μαγους ηκριβωσεν παρ αυτων τον χρονον του φαινομενου αστερος, 8και πεμψας αυτους εις βηθλεεμ ειπεν, πορευθεντες εξετασατε ακριβως περι του παιδιου: επαν δε ευρητε απαγγειλατε μοι, οπως καγω ελθων προσκυνησω αυτω. 9οι δε ακουσαντες του βασιλεως επορευθησαν, και ιδου ο αστηρ ον ειδον εν τη ανατολη προηγεν αυτους εως ελθων εσταθη επανω ου ην το παιδιον. 10ιδοντες δε τον αστερα εχαρησαν χαραν μεγαλην σφοδρα. 11και ελθοντες εις την οικιαν ειδον το παιδιον μετα μαριας της μητρος αυτου, και πεσοντες προσεκυνησαν αυτω, και ανοιξαντες τους θησαυρους αυτων προσηνεγκαν αυτω δωρα, χρυσον και λιβανον και σμυρναν. 12και χρηματισθεντες κατ οναρ μη ανακαμψαι προς ηρωδην, δι αλλης οδου ανεχωρησαν εις την χωραν αυτων.


MATTHEW 2:1 - Bethlehem was a little town 6 mi. to the south of
Jerusalem. Also it was the place Ruth lived after she married Boaz, and it
is the site of the pillar beside the grave where Jacob buried his beloved
Rachel. Most of all Bethlehem was the city of David. It was here that
Jews expected the birth of God's anointed one. The name Bethlehem means
"The House of Bread" and it was here the one who as the bread of life
entered the world in a stable.

Mt. 2:2 - The verb "to worship" (proskuneisai) refers to prostration in the
presence of the king or God and means worship in the literal sense of the
word. Hence the desire of the Magi to worship him stresses the universal
significance of Jesus from the very beginning.

Mt. 2:3 - Herod's terror at the idea of a messiah was well-founded. Herod
was half Jews and half Idumaean. There was Edomite blood in his veins
and his parents were Jewish converts. He had been a tool of Rome. He was
called "The Great" because he had brought peace and order to Palestine.
And he was a great builder, having built the Temple in Jerusalem. Yet his
nature was bitter, warped and murderous. He killed his wife, his
mother-in-law and three sons when he thought they might rival his power.
Thus he feared any messianic movement that might dispute his right to the

Mt. 2:4 - There was a history of severe tension between the chief priests
and the teachers of the law of the people. It is difficult to believe that
even Herod could have successfully called them together.

Mt. 2:10 - The astrologers' joy at finding the baby is powerfully portrayed
in the Greek. "When they say the star they rejoiced (echareisan) with
exceeding (sphodra), great (megalein) joy (charan). How happy they were,
what gladness they felt" (cf. Luke 2:10).

Mt. 2:11 - The gifts are royal gifts (Ps. 72:10-11, 15; 45:7-9; also Isaiah
60:6; Song of Solomon 3:6) of gold (chrusos) for the king Jesus "the Man
born to be King," frankincense (libanos) for the priest and bridge-builder to
God, and myrrh (smurna) for the embalming of the dead, and Jesus is the
one who is to die.

Mt. 2:12 - Once again a dream plays an important role as the vehicle for
God's message. The magi are warned in a dream not to return to Herod and
they do not. Joseph was told in a dream "...take Mary to be your wife...she
will give birth to a son...he will save his people from their sins."
(Matthew 1:20-21).

Matthew's church is thought to have been located in Syria around AD 70.
An association with Palestinian Judaism and the fundamental
interpretation of the law is clearly delineated. Likewise a familiarity
with the gentile world and the admission of pagans into the church are
accepted facts. The Jewish background of Matthew's gospel is apparent.
The debate on keeping the Law is a central question (5:17-20) and the
Sabbath is being observed (24:20). Plainly the evangelist author of
Matthew was a Jewish Christian of the Syrian church, who had to deal
with Gentile and Jew. Hence the universal theme of Matthew 2:1-12 would
have struck a responsive chord with his community, as would the call to
follow Christ's life as a wanderer, yet obedient to God in the life of

3. STRATEGY: Matthew 2:1-12

The Universal theme of this Matthean pericope is strengthened when
combined with the Lectionary text Ephesians 3:1-12. There Paul speaks
of how "...the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of
one body, and shares together in the promise in Christ Jesus." It is a
powerful message for the universal church which has become a reality

Psalm 60:1-6, which states that "kings will come to the brightness of
your dawn...bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the
Lord," shows in the visit by the Magi the fulfillment of the promise given
in the Old Testament. There is a reluctance today to see the New
Testament as a fulfillment of the Old Testament. Though this can be
overdone, certain great scholars, such as Gerhard Von Rad, affirm the
validity of doing so [see THE MESSAGE OF THE PROPHETS].

Hence it would be possible and authentic to develop a sermon based upon
the similarities between the Moses-Pharaoh story and the Jesus-Herod
story. This could become quite interesting. One would have to be cautious
and clearly delineate the differences. Only one, Jesus, was the Son of
God, the one who died on the cross.

Another theme that might be explored is what it means to be a disciple
of Christ...the wanderer, the king with no throne, the lover of the world
who is the brunt of its enmity and the savior of all the nations...still
unaccepted by even those who know him well. If this is to be our way,
how do we live in such an alien place?

Our text divides its participants into three groups:

(1) Herod, who despised Jesus and sought to kill him rather than
share his power.

(2) The chief priests and teachers of the Law who were indifferent to him.
They were preoccupied with their rituals and legal discourses. They had
little time for him.

(3) The Magi, the outsiders, the aliens who sought him out and when they
found him were overjoyed and worshipped him. How are we to exist
in this world when we face these same three types of people?
What do we do? We have our moments of seeing, but the journey of faith
is sometimes in darkness.

John Killinger wrote a small piece entitled "At the end of the journey is
Christ." In it he pointed out that we often think that the Christian is to
experience Christ as the journey's beginning. But the real surprise in store
for us all is that he is at the journey's end as well. He goes on to develop
the theme of pilgrimage through the darkness, noting that for the wise
men there was no question about whether the journey was worthwhile.

Killinger says this is "good news to those who are in a darkened phase of
their life's journey, isn't it? When you have lost the star, hold on; you will
come out on the other end of the darkness, and there will be light you
cannot no believe. That is what our faith is all about: He has been there
all the time. Through all the darkness and all the struggles, past all the
pitfalls and all the valleys, he is there. And that is what sustains all wise
men, or women, on their journeys" (p. 116).

Paul ends his message with these words, "I ask you, therefore, not to be
discouraged..." This word of encouragment might be the most powerful theme
of all as we celebrate the Epiphany, the festival of the manifestation
of Christ to us, the Gentiles. Immanuel--God is with us.

4. REFERENCES: Matthew 2:1-12

Grand Rapids,MI: Kregel, 1960.

John Knox Press, 1975.

Killinger, John, "At the End of the Journey is Christ," in James Cox,ed.
THE MINISTER'S MANUAL 1986. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1986.

von Rad, Gerhard. THE MESSAGE OF THE PROPHETS. New York: Harper and
Row, 1965.

5. WORSHIP SUGGESTIONS: Matthew 2:1-12

Three hymns that are suggested for Epiphany by the United Methodist
tradition are:

HB 117/8). Two of these are based on the Matthean pericope.

Other recommended hymns for this day are:

O LOVE, HOW DEEP (LBW 88,HB 448/9)

There is a scarcity of children's messages which address this theme, but
one which I have used to develop the universality of Christ for children is
the song "Ordinary Baby" from a song in the cantata HE STARTED THE
WHOLE WORLD SINGING by Bill and Gloria Gaither. When presenting this
message I try to help the children grasp the significance of Christ as an
infant, hungry, helpless, crying and needing love as we all did and do.

Exegete: Rev. Saundra Craig




Dartmouth,MA 02747