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Year C, Ordinary Time 3, 2016 – This is the Word of the Lord

January 20, 2016 / Molly Douthett / Epiphany, Ordinary Time

Thanks be to God.

The third week of Ordinary time Year C (also known as Epiphany 3) brings us three passages about the word of God. Nehemiah 8 and Psalm 19 explicitly mention the word and its beauty and power while Luke’s passage is the story of Jesus preaching at his hometown synagogue in Nazareth. The Corinthians passage is a continuation of last week’s selection where Paul is stressing the reality and proper use of Spiritual gifts. We have chosen to pass over the Psalm this week in the interest of time but encourage you to take a look at the wealth of body and nature images running through it.

With the remaining passages, we continue to see how encountering God’s Word is never ordinary. Today’s passage in Nehemiah is the story of the people requesting that the word be read for them. Nehemiah turns to the priest and scribe Ezra to do so. The Psalm sings with joy about the wonder and beauty of the Law of God. Like last week, the Epistle and Gospel lessons are quite familiar – Paul’s letter to the Corinthians about using the gifts from the Spirit and Jesus comes home to Nazareth to lead worship. We have some interesting ideas for this week.  Let’s go see what we can do!

Smart of the Week

Before getting to the texts, we focus on Logical-Mathematical Intelligence, or Math Smart, for our recurring Smart of the Week feature, which is a way to understand more of how the multi-intelligence theory works in the lives of our congregations. Math Smart folks are naturally good with numbers in general and math in particular, but also logical constructions, arguments, and processes. Equations, charts, graphs, Boolean logic, categorizing, and ordering are all comfortable places for the math smart person to hang out.

Learn more about all the Smarts on our page about Dr. Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligence.

 

This week’s texts

Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10 – When was the last time your congregation gathered together and asked you to read Scripture to them? I suppose the request is implicit in their attendance at worship on any given Sunday, but in this passage from Nehemiah, the gathered people make this request explicit. Nehemiah turns to Ezra who then stands on a wooden platform above the people, opens the book, and reads for at least six hours – and no one leaves! In fact, when Ezra finally finishes, the people are grieved at what they’ve heard because they recognize how far their lives are from the lives presented in Scripture. Rather than abuse them with this knowledge and demand other behavior from them, Ezra consoles them and tells them to rejoice, for they have heard God’s word and now know what to do. In these ten verses, we see the preaching and worship experience changing hearts and lives. Hopefully, as you find ways to incorporate multiple intelligence into your preaching, may your congregation be as eager to receive God’s word!!

 

1 Corinthians 12:12-31a – Paul continues his argument for Christian unity by igniting the Corinthian’s imaginations with an analogy. He’s using word and body smart to encourage them (and us) to consider how to live as one in Jesus. The Spirit gave the Corinthians gifts but they have been used in a way that divides the body. Rather than lecture them about where they are going so wrong, Paul engages their creativity and encourages them to think about themselves as joined with Jesus.   William Loader writes that after Paul makes this illustration, he does not equate this body with the Church but with Christ. “So also is Christ”, Paul writes. There is a subtle difference in emphasis between this passage about the body and in later letters where Paul gives Jesus the role of the body’s head. I suspect this “promotion” may have been a way to temper disagreements about decisions in later days, but for this letter, Paul is making a direct link between disciples’ gifts and functions with Jesus himself. When we use our gifts, do we comprehend that we are Jesus’ body in the world?       

 

Luke 4:14-21 – In Luke 3, Jesus is baptized and the Holy Spirit descends on him and sends him off to the wilderness. Still full of the Spirit, he withstands temptations to alter his ministry in the first thirteen verses of chapter 4. Then, still full of the Spirit, he returns to his hometown and preaches and teaches. He is given Isaiah to read and chooses verses depicting the liberating and restoring work of God. For listeners at the time, those words must have been bittersweet; they speak to a God who has not forgotten the people and who promises to shine on them in a way that will illuminate the lives of the nations. For those who are anticipating the Messianic age, these words are the theme song of the campaign. For some, these words may have lost their immediate luster since Rome sat so heavily on the country. But Jesus selects them and proclaims them fulfilled in their hearing. In the link below, D. Mark Davis discusses the use of the perfect verb tense and how that ripple effect continues into our own hearing of the word. As Jesus was sent, we are sent – to proclaim release, restoration of sight, and as Davis writes, “sending away in liberty those who have been shattered.”

 

Links

Luke

Combined.Reading.Nehemiah.8.Luke.4

D. Mark Davis Left Behind and Loving It – discussion of the perfect verb form

David Lose …in the Meantime discussion of the power of God’s spirit

Music for Luke:

“O Love, How Deep, How Broad How High,” attr. Thomas a Kempis, to Puer Nobis Nascitur

“Christ for the World We Sing,” Samuel Wolcott, to Italian Hymn

“The Kingdom of God Is Justice and Joy,” Bryn Rees, to Hanover

1 Corinthians 

QWOP – a computer game that illustrates the difficulty of co-ordinating body movement

“… I have no need of you” – news story of a young boy who amputated his own hand

Song: “Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes” with hand motions

Song: “Dem Bones”

Pacific Rim – a movie that shows the necessity of working in union to meet a goal

Half sheets with different body parts to wave: 1Cor12Wave

Script for pantomime of 1Cor12.12-31 and storyboard images: 1Cor12.12ff.storyboard

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