Above: A Map of the Known World, According to Posidonius, dated 150-130 B.C.E.
“That salvation may reach to the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6c, NRSV)
JANUARY 19, 2014
JANUARY 15, 2017
Isaiah 49:1-7 (New Revised Standard Version):
Listen to me, O coastlands,
pay attention, you peoples from far away!
The LORD called me before I was born,
while I was still in my mother’s womb he named me.
He made my mouth like a sharp sword,
in the shadow of his hand he hid me;
he made me a polished arrow,
in his quiver he hid me away.
And he said to me,
You are my servant,
Israel, in whom I will be glorified.
But I said,
I have labored in vain,
I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity;
yet surely my cause is with the LORD,
and my reward is with my God.
And 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–
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.
Thus 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.
Psalm 40:1-12 (New Revised Standard Version):
I waited patiently for the LORD;
he inclined his ear tome and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the desolate pit,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the LORD.
Happy are those who make
the LORD their trust,
who do no turn to the proud,
to those who go astray after false gods.
You have multipied, O LORD my God,
your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
none can compare with you.
Were I to proclaim and tell of them,
they would be more than can be counted.
Sacrifice and offering you do not desire,
but you have given me an open ear.
Burnt offering and sin offering
you have not required.
Then I said,
Here I am;
in the scroll of the book it is written of me.
I delight to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart.
I have told the glad news of deliverance
int he great congregation;
see, I have not restrained my lips,
as you know, O LORD.
I have not hidden your saving help within my heart,
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
from the great congregation.
Do not, O LORD, withhold
your mercy from me;
let your steadfast love and your faithfulness
keep me safe forever.
For evils have encompassed me without number;
my iniquities have overtaken me,
until I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head,
and my heart fails me.
1 Corinthians 1:1-9 (New Revised Standard Version):
Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,
To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind– just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you– so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
John 1:29-42 (New Revised Standard Version):
John saw Jesus coming toward him and declared,
Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, “After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.
And John testified,
I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.
The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed,
Look, here is the Lamb of God!
The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them,
What are you looking for?
They said to him,
(which translated means Teacher),
where are you staying?
He said to them,
Come and see.
They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him,
We have found the Messiah
(which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said,
You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas
(which is translated Peter).
Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
The reading from Deutero-Isaiah is the Second Servant Song. Here the servant is the Jewish nation, still in exile, yet about to go home, albeit as part of the Persian Empire. The soon-to-return Jews’ mission was to be a spiritual light to the nations. Religious history records that Jewish monotheism (practiced, not merely preached) did not flower fully until after the return from Babylonian Exile, and that this flowering did not occur immediately. But it did happen. Monotheism is a great advance in religious thought. (I make this statement while taking the risk of seeming like a theological chauvinist to some, but so be it.)
Just as God delivered a seemingly insignificant population and bestowed upon them the great responsibility of being a light to the nations, Jesus recognized much potential in an impetuous fisherman we know as St. Peter, or literally “rock.” The Bible is honest about the heroes within its pages, portraying these individuals as flawed human beings. So it is with St. Peter, who misunderstood and misspoke often, and even denied Jesus three times shortly before our Lord’s crucifixion. Yet St. Peter became the leader the Apostles. Through efforts such as those of this transformed fisherman the Christian message, which began with a few people, has become the largest faith system on the planet.
I remember the pianist at a church my father pastored when I was in high school. Angela (not her real name) was deeply insecure, partially due to guilt over an indiscretion of a few years past. I have no doubt that God had forgiven her, but she had not forgiven herself for her own weakness. Angela said to me one Sunday morning that she had nothing to offer. She was wrong, of course; she had much to offer that was beautiful and necessary. She was no more or less flawed than any of us, than St. Peter or any of the exiled Jews awaiting return to a homeland in which they had never lived.
Maybe you, O reader, are not called to be a light to the nations. Perhaps God has called you to be a light merely to your community. But God has given you the great responsibility of being a positive influence and a light. Do not hide it under a bushel.