Date: February 3, 2013 –
Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Texts: Jeremiah 1:4-10 (17-19);
Psalm 71:1-6 (7-11); 1 Corinthians 12:31b – 13:13; Luke 4:31-44
This Sunday isn’t considered part of a specially designated season
(traditionally observed as festival or fasting seasons) such as
Advent, Christmas, Lent, or Easter. Sundays in Ordinary time begin
early in the calendar year, then are replaced by Lent & Easter
until after Pentecost Sunday in late Spring and Holy Trinity Sunday –
the first Sunday after Pentecost Sunday. Readings during Ordinary
Time focus on the general teaching and miracles of Jesus’ ministry,
rather than on the particular events of his birth or suffering,
death, and resurrection.
Jeremiah 1:4-10 (17-19):
This is the commissioning of Jeremiah as a prophet of God. The
first four verses give us some details about Jeremiah and the time of
his calling, placing him in the reign of Josiah, King of Judah, prior
to the exile to Babylon.
What a beautiful and terrifying set of
verses! How often have we longed to know God’s will for our lives,
and how often have we run from that will when we have discerned it!
God’s call on Jeremiah’s vocation and ministry is based in God’s role
as Jeremiah’s creator. Jeremiah is no accident, nor is he the
decision of a man and a woman. Rather, God knew Jeremiah from before
his beginning, and knew how He would use him.
This doesn’t mean that Jeremiah feels
capable to the calling he has received! His words are humble, making
use of poetic language to describe his sense of inadequacy. Jeremiah
is not literally a child who is too young to know how to speak. Yet
this is how he feels compared to the power of God.
God’s response is to reassure him of
his ability, and that ability is based ultimately in the power and
Word of God, not in Jeremiah himself. Because of God’s provisioning,
Jeremiah can and will fulfill the purpose for which God created him.
Our hope is in God! As his children through faith, we are not
promised lives free from challenge and adversity. Rather, we are
promised that our God is always with us. He gives us firm footing on
which to stand, even when the world swirls and shifts around us. To
God we cast our prayers for rescue and deliverance. In Christ, God
the Father answers our prayers for rescue. While we may pray for
rescue from temporal problems and challenges – and this is good and
proper! – our faith in God is anchored in the life, death,
resurrection, ascension, and promised return of the Son of God. We
have already been rescued from our greatest foes – sin,
Satan, and death! Therefore as we pray for rescue from other issues,
we can also give thanks to God for his mercy and love and
forgiveness. We celebrate our rescue in the midst of present trials,
and regardless of the outcome of those present trials!
1 Corinthians 12:31b-13:13:
Paul has spent the last chapter talking about spiritual gifts, so
that the people of God may not be ignorant about them. However, Paul
doesn’t want us to be preoccupied with them, either. In typical
sinful human fashion, we are apt to not only ignore our gifts, we may
misuse them, or more accurately, sinfully assume that some are
greater and more powerful than others, and therefore more deserving
of emulation or adulation.
Paul says, love is the greatest of God’s gifts to his people.
Nothing else that we do matters if we do not do it in love. Love is
what transforms everything that we do, and love ought to be the
empowering and motivating power in all that we do and say. While
these verses are popular at weddings, this is not the context that
Paul speaks them in. This is how we are all to guide ourselves,
every day, with everyone. This would be a hopeless goal if not for
the power of God the Holy Spirit dwelling within us!
Jesus leaves his hometown of Nazareth again
because he isn’t wanted there. He goes to the place that becomes
like a second home to him, the seaside town of Capernaum. A small
village located on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee,
there are ruins there today of the synagogue that Jesus likely
worshiped in, as well as ruins of what is believed to be the house of
St. John’s family.
Here, in the synagogue, Jesus
encounters a demon-possessed man. The demon knows full well who and
what Jesus is – something that the people of Nazareth, who
professed to be closest to him (and therefore entitled to special
honor from him), did not know. Jesus commands the demon to be silent
as to his identity. Jesus’ ministry is just beginning, and the demon
may seek to foil Jesus’ work by disclosing his identity and bringing
Jesus into conflict immediately with the religious leaders. The
demon has no choice to obey and to leave when commanded.
Note the response of the people who see
this – “What is this word?” (v.36). The man and the Word that he
speaks are synonymous. The people focus on whatever words Jesus used
to cast out this demon, but their question is more accurate than they
likely realize. The Word that Jesus speaks is the Word that Jesus
is – the very Word of God in human flesh. Can any power resist the
Word of God? Is it any wonder that demons – and then illnesses and
the natural elements – must obey?
The final verses of this chapter are
interesting. The Capernaums (Capernamites? Capernuminians?) go off
looking for Jesus. They want him to stay with them – the opposite
reaction of the people of Nazareth who wanted to kill him. But the
desire to have him stay is incorrect as well. They misunderstand the
scope of Jesus’ work. He has not just come as a local healer and
teacher, but rather as a Savior for all people. As such, it is not
his purpose to stay with them to be their private resource. He must
go to all creation. He will do this by going primarily to the people
of Israel during his life and ministry, and then by sending his
disciples to all nations after his resurrection. The Word of God is
for the blessing and benefit of all God’s creation who will receive
him as such.