Our Old Testament passage comes from Isaiah, a book many consider to be worthy of the title, ‘fifth Gospel’ because of what it contributes to the Jesus story; so let’s begin with that as we seek to see not just what it says but what was going on when it was said – an important task.
Isaiah bring us words for a broken, defeated and deported people – everything has gone wrong for them and in exile, doubt and dismay are the only possessions many have carried with them. They are helpless, broken and hopeless but Isaiah’s words bring a glimmer of light into their darkness with the promise of return, restoration and the ministry of a servant. This is a message for those ‘far away’ from their homes for the physical exile and for all who are far from God: God, in the ministry of His servant (who is of course Jesus) will be their salvation.
It is fitting that as the visit of the Magi is fresh in our memory we read the words:
“Kings will stand … Princes will bow low.”
The world has seen and affirmed these words in this our Epiphany season. Jesus is the reconciliation and the salvation for the Jews and for the Gentiles – this truly is Good News (which is what ‘Gospel’ means). Words of hope for a dispossessed people – words of life for us as we read them today – Jesus is the hope of the Jews and a light for the Gentiles. That has to be worth a Hallelujah.
Moving on to Paul’s opening words to the people of Corinth draws a line for them, and us, to move forward from:
'To you who have been called by God to be his own holy people; a people who, calling on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, have been made holy. “He their Lord and ours.” '
We are not just ‘called’ but 'equipped' as God gives us the ‘spiritual gift’ we need to sustain us and to build the kingdom of God and in doing so, “Has invited US into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
We are not only heirs of the promise of God made real in the cross and resurrection but we are not just family but part of the family firm – we are co-workers with Jesus. How cool is this?
But we must never lose sight of the fact that we live with Jesus outside of the work hours as well as within!
Not only that but God’s Grace is upon us and is ours – the gift of life, forgiveness and love – we who were ‘far off’ have been drawn near and are reconciled to God and made family with one another and with Him and as one we minister His love to all and worship Him, the eternal God, as a royal priesthood, as co heirs with the Christ, as a light to the world.
Can it get any more exciting than this? Let’s take a look at the Gospel reading and see …
Jesus has been baptised and now John is reflecting upon the event and describes Jesus as the, “Lamb of God.”
We encounter the words, “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world …” most Sundays (or not depending upon your liturgy) as the words we use in our services and they roll off the tongue, but do they reside in our heads or our hearts I wonder?
Do we understand what we are saying and what theology we are making ours as we use them?
I think we need to return to the Old Testament and Genesis where we find in Egypt a captive people. Moses has fought with Pharaoh and this culminates in the the death of a lamb whose blood holds back the work of the angel of death and wins for the people of God their salvation. This is the Passover (for the angel of death ‘passed over’- that is ‘stayed His hand’) and Jesus is for us the Passover (or ‘paschal’) lamb.
Just as the shedding of the blood of the paschal lamb set God's people free from captivity in Egypt, so too does the blood of Jesus, who has become for us our paschal lamb by the shedding of His blood upon the cross, set us free from captivity to sin. This ‘once shed’ blood acts as a permanent marker over us, setting us free, giving us life, making us one with God in each and every aspect of our being.
Jesus is our ‘sin offering’. Jesus is our sustenance – our daily bread. Jesus is our realised hope – having taken death and defeated it by the power of love and that one, atoning, act of obedience.
Truly He is the ‘lamb of God’ in whom we find forgiveness, love and enabling by the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit. We are called, we are forgiven, we are made whole in Him.
Blessed be His holy name.
As we stop to reflect and pray let us think of Peter - given the name ‘Cephas’ - and ask God what name he has given us and what this means for us and those around us as we consider our calling.
Eternal Lord, our beginning and our end:
bring us with the whole creation to your glory,
hidden through past ages and made known in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Post Communion Prayer
God of glory,
you nourish us with your Word who is the bread of life:
fill us with your Holy Spirit that through us the light of your glory may shine in all the world.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Listen to me, all you in distant lands!
Pay attention, you who are far away!
The Lord called me before my birth; from within the womb he called me by name.
He made my words of judgment as sharp as a sword.
He has hidden me in the shadow of his hand. I am like a sharp arrow in his quiver.
He said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, and you will bring me glory.”
“But my work seems so useless!
I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose.
Yet I leave it all in the Lord’s hand; I will trust God for my reward.”
And now the Lord speaks—
the one who formed me in my mother’s womb to be his servant,
who commissioned me to bring Israel back to him.
The Lord has honoured me, and my God has given me strength.
He says, “You will do more than restore the people of Israel to me.
I will make you a light to the Gentiles,
and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”
The Lord, the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel,
says to the one who is despised and rejected by the nations,
to the one who is the servant of rulers:
“Kings will stand at attention when you pass by.
Princes will also bow low because of the Lord, the faithful one,
the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”
1 Corinthians 1:1-9
This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and from our brother Sosthenes.
I am writing to God’s church in Corinth, to you who have been called by God to be his own holy people. He made you holy by means of Christ Jesus, just as he did for all people everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.
May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.
I always thank my God for you and for the gracious gifts he has given you, now that you belong to Christ Jesus. Through him, God has enriched your church in every way—with all of your eloquent words and all of your knowledge. This confirms that what I told you about Christ is true. Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’ I did not recognise him as the Messiah, but I have been baptising with water so that he might be revealed to Israel.”
Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptise with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptise with the Holy Spirit.’ I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen One of God.”
The following day John was again standing with two of his disciples.As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and declared, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!” When John’s two disciples heard this, they followed Jesus.
Jesus looked around and saw them following. “What do you want?”he asked them.
They replied, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”
“Come and see,” he said. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon when they went with him to the place where he was staying, and they remained with him the rest of the day.
Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of these men who heard what John said and then followed Jesus. Andrew went to find his brother, Simon, and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means “Christ”).
Then Andrew brought Simon to meet Jesus. Looking intently at Simon, Jesus said, “Your name is Simon, son of John—but you will be called Cephas” (which means “Peter”).