For Sunday February 5, 2017
Note: Technically Epiphany 1 should have been celebrated on January 8. Since the Sunday closest to Epiphany (Jan 8) is also “Baptism of the Lord” Sunday, many will celebrate “Baptism Sunday” one week late, others may have chosen to celebrate it on the 8th. I am including Epiphany 4 and 5 this week, and will keep up the “double cycle” until Lent. If you celebrated Epiphany on January 8, you will need to choose one reading cycle to omit during the season after Epiphany.
Year A, Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany
Call to Worship (Responsive)
L: Happy are those who fear the LORD
P: Who greatly delight in the LORD’s commandments.
L: For the righteous will never be moved;
P: They will be remembered forever.
L: They are not afraid of evil tidings;
P: Their hearts are firm, secure in the LORD.
L: They have given to the poor;
P: Their righteousness endures forever.
A: Praise the LORD!
We come as your faithful people, O God. We come hoping to be salt and light to the world. Yet we come knowing our lights need to be brightened and our flavor restored. Move among us, O God, and renew our spirits. Help us to know your presence and experience your renewal. Hear our prayers and fill our hearts, for we offer ourselves in the name of Jesus the Christ.
“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?” Isaiah 58:6-7, NRSV
A couple of blocks from the Guadalupe Culture Arts Center, in the middle of the San Antonio, Texas Housing Authority’s Alazan-Apache Courts’ boundaries, lies a ministry of the Christian Church. Since 1913, when Dr. Samuel Guy Inman, the Christian Women’s Board of missions, Central Christian Church, and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) founded Inman Christian Center, you have been working to make a difference. How does Inman Christian Center make a difference you ask? Inman Christian Center offers a food pantry, an affordable housing ministry for low income elderly, clothing supplies and social services, Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment, child care, counseling, a vital volunteer/mission trip ministry and more. Perhaps more simply, Inman Christian Center works every day on your behalf to loose the bonds of injustice, to let the oppressed go free, to share bread, shelter the homeless poor, to clothe the naked and to help us be aware of our kin in the greater human family. Inman Christian Center is living out Isaiah’s fast, which God chooses in partnership with all of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). When we bring our tithes and offerings, we bring some of the resources which make ministries like Inman Christian Center possible.
God of grace and mercy, we come as a people aware of the great need in our society, and as a people sometimes overwhelmed. Take these gifts, and make of them a great and mighty work. Take these offerings, and turn them into a fast pleasing to your sight. Bless these gifts to ministries of help and hope, that your realm will be known. Amen.
Here we are again, at the Lord’s Table. If we are willing to be honest with ourselves, sometimes we come without examining the marvel and wonder we meet here. Because it is familiar and safe, we just come. And yet, week after week, God faithfully meets us here. God challenges us with our shortcomings, AND God offers us grace: Grace given freely by God, through the gift of Jesus Christ. So here we are again, at the Lord’s Table: what a marvelous and wonderful place to be!
Year A, Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
Call to Worship (Responsive)
Adapted from Psalm 15
L: O LORD, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain?
P: The ones whose walk is blameless;
L: The ones who do what is righteous;
P: The ones who speak the truth from their hearts.
L: The ones whose tongues utter no slander;
P: The ones who do no wrong to a neighbor.
L: Whoever does these things will never be shaken;
P: Thanks be to God! Amen!
We are gathered O God in the Holy Name of your Son, Jesus the Christ. We have come out of our love for you and desire to please you. As we come together, Almighty and Wonderful God, we ask your blessing. We bring before you our offerings: our love for justice, our desire for kindness and our willingness to walk humbly with you. Guide our Spirits and fill our hearts with a desire for you and your will. We offer ourselves in worship of Jesus Christ.
First Corinthians 1: 26 reads: “Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.” We toss around the language of “call” frequently in the church. Most often, we are talking about Ministers and their response to God’s call on their lives. Other times we talk about ways God calls us to serve the mission of the church. Nominating committees are famous for using “call” to find one more Elder. Others are called to sing in the choir or praise band, serve as committee chairs, or even be moderator of the church. But there is one thing we are all called to do: support the mission of THIS church. The easiest way to do that is to faithfully bring your tithes and offerings. They may not be a king’s ransom, representing your noble birth, they may not have the power and might of the Bill Gates Foundation, but they are yours, and bringing them is wise. Together we do far more than we would ever do apart. As Disciples, a relatively small group in the North American Religious scene, we have outreach ministries on which the sun never sets, we founded and support colleges and universities with world renown, and we house, clothe and feed thousands of people every day. Though none of us are Rockefellers or even Wal-Mart Waltons, together, we do great things. Let us now bring the tithes and offerings which alone might seem weak or even foolish, and bring them together for the glory of God.
O Noble God of might and wisdom. We bring forth these gifts today in confidence that you will be able to do great things with them. Take these tithes and offerings, bless and multiply them that the world may come to know your greatness, and we the givers may rest assured that we have followed our call to serve your mission. Amen.
Around the Lord’s Table, I find myself drawn to the fourth Beatitude: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled”. Bread and Cup seem to blend so well with Hunger and Thirst. But if that is true, where does righteousness fit in? Is it righteous to simply accept the gift of Bread and Cup? Is it righteous to embrace the teachings and the Commandments of Christ symbolized in the Bread and Cup? Is righteousness found in the forgiveness of sin we seek as we come to the table? I think yes, yes, and yes again. The beauty of this Table, friends, is that we seek the righteousness of God, in all those ways and more, and this table reminds us not so much that WE are righteous, but that God is. We come hungering and thirsting for God’s righteousness, and God gives us Bread and Cup: reminders of Christ, and Christ’s righteousness.
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Scripture Quotations from the New Revised Standard Version. Online Scripture links a service of the Jean and Alexander Heard Divinity Library, of Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN. Check out all of the awesome resources there at http://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu