Thoughts on Sunday’s Lessons for Jan. 19, 2020
First Reading: Isaiah 49:1-7
On Sunday we follow up on last week’s account of the baptism of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel, this time hearing the intriguingly different version in the Gospel according to John.
We build toward it in our first three readings, each offering us a different perspective on the idea of waiting with faith and hope for God. The first reading echoes last week’s Isaiah passage, presenting the second of the prophet’s four descriptions of the servant, the suffering savior who would lead the people back to Jerusalem from their exile in Babylon. Once despised, the servant will rise up, bringing God’s saving power not to Israel and Judah alone but to all the nations, to the ends of the Earth.
Psalm: Psalm 40:1-12
In verses reminiscent of Isaiah’s people waiting in exile for their suffering servant savior to come, we hear the Psalmist waiting patiently and with deep trust and faith for God to act. Though they were once left desolate in mire and clay, alone in a pit, the Psalmist sings, God will place them on a new, secure footing and given them a new song of praise. Although surrounded by too many evils to count and blinded by iniquities until his heart fails, the Psalmist remains firm in hope that God’s faithful, steadfast love will eventually bring mercy, deliverance and safety.
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:1-9
During the remaining Sundays after Epiphany we will read from Paul’s first letter to the people of Corinth – a major Greek trading and seafaring city. In these opening verses, Paul’s friendly greetings give us insight into the letter that follows. The congregation in Corinth probably wasn’t large, but it was splitting into bickering factions, each with its own ideas about Christian practice. Faith in Christ has already given them gifts that have made them strong, Paul reminds the people of the church. He urges them to hold on to those gifts and be steadfast as they wait for Christ’s coming, an event that many in those days thought would happen soon.
Gospel: John 1:29-42
Listen closely as we hear John’s perspective on Jesus’ baptism, a very different scene than we heard from Matthew last week. This time, John the Baptist sees Jesus coming, immediately declares him “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” and tells the crowd that Jesus came before him and ranks ahead of him. Then it is John the Baptist, not Jesus or the crowd, who tells of seeing the Spirit coming down like a dove and remaining on Jesus, revealing him as the one who would baptize not with water but with the Spirit: The Son of God. Did John actually baptize Jesus in the midst of all this? The Gospel doesn’t say. But Jesus’ first disciples, seeing this encounter, recognize Jesus as Messiah and start to follow him.
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St. Matthew’s Episcopal is following Track One in 2019.