Genesis 9:8-17

Genesis 9:8-17
 
Persons who participated in the once familiar Bethel Series Bible Studies will remember the second and third teaching illustrations with their titles: "Divine Intentions" and "Disharmony." The writer of Genesis tells us that when the living and loving God created, God looked at all that was made and saw that it was very good. Genesis chapter three portrays a very different picture. Because of human rebellion against the Creator, there is chaos, conflict and death. The contrast is unmistakable. However, there is also an implied promise that there would be a restoration.
 
Following the chaos and destruction of the flood, God's promise becomes more specific. God promises to Noah that his family and his descendants will never face such a deluge again.
 
Still later, the promise of God will become even more specific when Abraham is told that his descendants will be a blessing to all the earth. Christmas and Epiphany have affirmed again that God always keeps promises that are made and made known.
 
Living and Loving God, by your Holy Spirit, open up our minds and hearts to hear your promises so clearly that we grow in grace and in faith all life long. Amen.
 
 
Genesis 9:8-17 (NRSV)
 
8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him,
9 "As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you,
10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark.
11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth."
12 God said, "This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations:
13 I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.
14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds,
15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.
16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth."
17 God said to Noah, "This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth."

“Songs of Thankfulness and Praise,”

"Songs of Thankfulness and Praise," ELW 310

Songs of thankfulness and praise,
Jesus, Lord, to thee we raise;
manifested by the star
to the sages from afar,
branch of royal David's stem
in thy birth at Bethlehem:
anthems be to thee addressed,
God in flesh made manifest.

Manifest at Jordan's stream,
prophet, priest, and king supreme;
and at Cana wedding guest
in thy Godhead manifest;
manifest in pow'r divine,
changing water into wine;
anthems be to thee addressed,
God in flesh made manifest.

Manifest in making whole
weakened body, fainting soul;
manifest in valiant fight,
quelling all the devil's might;
manifest in gracious will,
ever bringing good from ill:
anthems be to thee addressed,
God in flesh made manifest.

Grant us grace to see thee, Lord,
present in thy holy word;
grace to imitate thee now
and be pure, as pure art thou;
that we might become like thee
at thy great epiphany,
and may praise thee, ever blest,
God in flesh made manifest.

Over the years the readings chosen for the Season of Epiphany have changed somewhat so that the verses of this hymn do not always match the events of the gospel story captured in the readings throughout Epiphany. Still when taken together, the verses of this hymn do lift up and invite contemplation of how the work and words of Jesus show him to be the presence of God--and thus provide a fitting summary of the intent of this season.

Stanza 1 teaches us that people saw Jesus' glory in the star and the visit by the Magi. Stanza 2 shows us that the baptism in the Jordan and the miracle at the wedding in Cana manifest Jesus' transforming presence. Stanza 3 recognizes the rescuing power and purpose of Jesus in healing, confronting and transforming evil. Stanza 4 is a prayer asking that those singing and sharing the hymn might be led to imitate Jesus in our lives.

Living God, help us to see Jesus in such clarity that we truly want to imitate and praise our Lord and Savior, now and forever. Amen.

Songs of Thankfulness and Praise,”

Songs of Thankfulness and Praise," ELW 310

Songs of thankfulness and praise,
Jesus, Lord, to thee we raise;
manifested by the star
to the sages from afar,
branch of royal David's stem
in thy birth at Bethlehem:
anthems be to thee addressed,
God in flesh made manifest.

Manifest at Jordan's stream,
prophet, priest, and king supreme;
and at Cana wedding guest
in thy Godhead manifest;
manifest in pow'r divine,
changing water into wine;
anthems be to thee addressed,
God in flesh made manifest.

Manifest in making whole
weakened body, fainting soul;
manifest in valiant fight,
quelling all the devil's might;
manifest in gracious will,
ever bringing good from ill:
anthems be to thee addressed,
God in flesh made manifest.

Grant us grace to see thee, Lord,
present in thy holy word;
grace to imitate thee now
and be pure, as pure art thou;
that we might become like thee
at thy great epiphany,
and may praise thee, ever blest,
God in flesh made manifest.

When Christopher Wordsworth--nephew of the great romantic-poet, William Wordsworth--wrote this hymn, he stated that it was intended for use on the 6th Sunday after Epiphany. His comment was certainly fitting, for the stanzas identify manifestations (Epiphanies) that are reported in the Gospel accounts of the work and words of Jesus that are read during the successive Sundays of the Season of Epiphany. One year, in order to emphasize this, I had my congregation sing this hymn every Sunday during the entire Season of Epiphany. After about the third or fourth Sunday, one member of the congregation voiced the opinion that the words and the music of this hymn were not worth singing that much. Yet, that person did relent and give it more thought when I pointed out that this is one of 127 hymns published by a highly intelligent orator, educator, lecturer and priest, and further that the music had been arranged by none other than Johann Sebastian Bach.

Living and Loving God, open our eyes to see you in all that Jesus did; open our minds to hear what Jesus says; and make of us persons who radiate in our lives your redeeming presence, power and purpose. Amen.

Jim

Mark 9:2-9

Mark 9:2-9
Yesterday's reflection noted that many persons neither saw nor heard the truth about Jesus because he did not fit their expectations. They were convinced that when God's promised Savior appeared, his presence would be obvious because his astounding glory would be clearly seen.
 
Even though Jesus again and again told his closest followers that he would suffer and be executed, they continued to look for that glory. Now on the mountain of transfiguration, Peter seems to want to create some kind of memorial to remember the glory of that mountaintop experience.
 
Jesus tried and the Holy Spirit tries to make it clear that it is in the death of Jesus that true life becomes real for all who not only hear, but listen and who not only see, but perceive.
 
Living and Loving God, by your Holy Spirit open up our hearts, minds and eyes to look for Jesus, not in the brilliant light of high mountains, but rather beneath the Cross. Amen.
 
Mark 9:2-9 (NRSV)
 
2 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them,
3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.
4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus.
5 Then Peter said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."
6 He did not know what to say, for they were terrified.
7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, "This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!"
8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.
9 As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

Mark 9:2-9

Mark 9:2-9
 
Mark begins his story of Jesus with these words: "The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." As we continue reading Mark's "sermon" we hear a voice from heaven announcing Jesus as the beloved Son of God and that he is to be heard and heeded. We see Jesus casting out demons, giving sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf. We hear his proclamation in word and deed that the presence and power of the kingdom of the living God is real and now.
 
Yet, there are many who do not see or perceive, who do not hear or listen. Even now as they stand with Jesus, Moses and Elijah in the mind-boggling event of the Transfiguration, the closest followers of Jesus still don't seem to get it. What they see and hear doesn't fit their expectations.
 
It is only when Jesus has died and been raised from death that the Holy Spirit frees us from all that prevents our seeing and hearing. Then we are truly able to begin to know, believe in and fully live with Jesus as our Savior and Lord.
 
Living and Loving God, whom we meet and know most truly in Jesus, free us from all that clouds our hearts and minds. Use the coming Season of Lent to help us stand "beneath the cross of Jesus" and know that Jesus is the only true home within the wilderness of this world. Amen.
 
 
Mark 9:2-9 (NRSV)
 
2 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them,
3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.
4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus.
5 Then Peter said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."
6 He did not know what to say, for they were terrified.
7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, "This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!"
8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.
9 As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

2 Corinthians 4:3-6

2 Corinthians 4:3-6
 
During the Season of Epiphany, there is much reflection on light--the light of the star that led the Magi to worship and present their gifts to the new born Jesus, the spiritual "light" that came to those who sought out Jesus, the light of seeing and hearing, the light of healing and wholeness and the light of forgiveness that makes life whole.
 
The Apostle Paul notes how the darkness of this world keeps us from seeing the light of the good news of Jesus as Savior and Lord. Darkness seems to pervade all of our lives. Political actions, economic swings, health crises and the cost of essential health care--all of these can get in the way of sharing the love and expressing the joy of life with God through faith in Jesus.
 
The upcoming season of Lent will again remind us that it is not in the easy circumstances that we know joy, love and peace. These come, as we know, through believing in and living with our Savior and Lord who suffered and died, who was raised from death and is with us always.
 
Living and Loving God, open our lives--eyes, ears and minds--to see the light that does shine in the darkness. Remove from us all that keeps us from seeing light in the face of Jesus. Amen.
 
 
2 Corinthians 4:3-6 (NRSV)
 
3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.
4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
5 For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus' sake.
6 For it is the God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Psalm 50:1-6

Psalm 50:1-6
 
Psalm 50 invites listeners to imagine a living and loving God who speaks "from the rising of the sun." That conviction certainly fits well with the entire Epiphany season that ends on Sunday. On the First Sunday of Epiphany we heard of the Baptism of Jesus, "the heavens being ripped open" and a voice speaking from heaven. In Psalm 50 we hear that God speaks and the heavens declare God's righteousness. On succeeding Sundays we heard of Jesus inviting those who met him to follow him, to respond to the power and purpose of the living God present in Jesus. Psalm 50 also tells about "gathering God's faithful ones" and how God is the mighty one who calls, gathers and keeps the covenant made with the people of God.
 
The Season of Epiphany traditionally concludes with the story of the Transfiguration of our Lord, in which Jesus' garments become dazzling white. Psalm 50 also speaks of a "perfection of beauty" and "God shining forth." Now at the end of the Epiphany Season we stand on the cusp of the Season of Lent during which attention is focused on the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus, the Christ. Psalm 50 in a similar way speaks of a "covenant made with God by sacrifice."
 
Living and Loving God, help us to see and know your presence, power and purpose in Jesus, the Christ, and lead us to confess our faith in all we are and do. Amen.
 
 
Psalm 50:1-6 (NRSV)
 
1 The mighty one, God the Lord, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.
2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth.
3 Our God comes and does not keep silence, before him is a devouring fire, and a mighty tempest all around him.
4 He calls to the heavens above and to the earth, that he may judge his people:
5 "Gather to me my faithful ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!"
6 The heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge. (Selah)

2 Kings 2:1-12

2 Kings 2:1-12
The reading from 2 Kings assigned for the coming final Sunday of the Season of Epiphany--also called The Transfiguration of our Lord--tells the story of Elisha succeeding Elijah as a prophet among the prophets and the people of Israel. Some fascinating themes run through the narrative: images of light in the darkness, fire as showing the presence of the living and loving God, reflection on the ministry of the prophet Elijah and the importance of history and communities of faith.
 
As you read this narrative, you might think about: the importance of the communities of the prophets for the people Israel; the commitment of Elisha to stay with Elijah; the parting of the waters of the Jordan with Elijah and Elisha crossing on dry ground; the travel itinerary that closely follows, in reverse order, the routes and cities on and through which the descendants of Abraham were led by Joshua on the way to the Land of the Promise. Let the Holy Spirit bring new insights to you as you read this scripture passage today.
 
Living and loving God, show us how our faith and life are rooted in your past purposes and promises. Assure us that you go with us into all that is to come. Amen.
 
2 Kings 2:1-12 (NRSV)
 
1 Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal.
2 Elijah said to Elisha, "Stay here; for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel." But Elisha said, "As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you." So they went down to Bethel.
3 The company of prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, "Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?" And he said, "Yes, I know; keep silent."
4 Elijah said to him, "Elisha, stay here; for the Lord has sent me to Jericho." But he said, "As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you." So they came to Jericho.
5 The company of prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha, and said to him, "Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?" And he answered, "Yes, I know; be silent."
6 Then Elijah said to him, "Stay here; for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan." But he said, "As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you." So the two of them went on.
7 Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan.
8 Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground.
9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, "Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you." Elisha said, "Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit."
10 He responded, "You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not."
11 As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven.
12 Elisha kept watching and crying out, "Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!" But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

“Softly and Tenderly, Jesus is Calling,”

"Softly and Tenderly, Jesus is Calling," ELW 608

Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
calling for you and for me.
See, on the portals he's waiting and watching,
watching for you and for me.

Refrain
"Come home, (Come home,)
come home! (come home!)
You who are weary, come home."
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
calling, "O sinner, come home!"

Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading,
pleading for you and for me?
Why should we linger and heed not his mercies,
mercies for you and for me?  Refrain

Oh, for the wonderful love he has promised,
promised for you and for me!
Though we have sinned, he has mercy and pardon,
pardon for you and for me.  Refrain

There is much to do in the life of faith, and the work is never done. We hear this week in and week out in scripture, in the news, in our private lives. And sometimes we are wearied by it all. At times it feels as though the weight of the world rests on our shoulders. Working for justice and peace and spreading the gospel are important and imperative. However, there is also necessity in our faith to "come home" to Jesus and answer his beckoning call to rest.
The truth of the matter is that we cannot effectively do our active ministry if we are not rejuvenated and refreshed by time with God ourselves. Jesus calls for us to take that rest in him. In Matthew he states "Come to me you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens" (11:28). So, come home sinners, be refreshed and then get back out there!

Breath of life, breathe your peace-giving Spirit upon us all. Call us home into your strengthening Word and loving arms, so we may be revived in our ministry of spreading your gospel in word and deed. Amen.

“Chief of Sinners Though I Be,”

"Chief of Sinners Though I Be," ELW 609

Chief of sinners though I be,
Jesus shed his blood for me,
died that I might live on high,
lives that I might never die.
As the branch is to the vine,
I am his, and he is mine.

Oh, the height of Jesus' love!
Higher than the heav'ns above,
deeper than the depths of sea,
lasting as eternity.
Love that found me--wondrous thought--
found me when I sought him not.

Only Jesus can impart
balm to heal the wounded heart,
peace that flows from sin forgiv'n,
joy that lifts the soul to heav'n,
faith and hope to walk with God
in the way that Enoch trod.

Chief of sinners though I be,
Christ is all in all to me;
all my wants to him are known,
all my sorrows are his own.
He sustains the hidden life
safe with him from earthly strife.

O my Savior, help afford
by your Spirit and your word!
When my wayward heart would stray,
keep me in the narrow way;
grace in time of need supply
while I live and when I die.

We humans are so often a bunch of screw-ups. We daily fall short of how we are supposed to live and who we are supposed to be. We are divisive, selfish and greedy. And yet, we have a God that knows no limits for the forgiveness of our unworthiness and sinfulness. This hymn is a wonderful reminder of this truth.
Chief of sinners though we be, Jesus lived and died for us. In the Holy Spirit, God comes to us again and again removing our guilt and shame, and cleansing our souls anew. This is not an invitation or permission to continue in our sinfulness, but a reminder of the capacity for love our God has for us. When we remember this, how can we not but try to forgive and love with the same depth and earnestness? Chief of sinners though we be, may we also be chiefs of extending God's offer of repentance and forgiveness to others.

Forgiving Father, remind us once again of the boundless forgiveness you have granted. Teach us how to forgive and how to accept forgiveness that we may walk ever closer with you. Amen.