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Year A, Ordinary 3, 2017 – Kingdom Come On!

January 17, 2017 / Molly Douthett / Epiphany, Ordinary Time

Greetings!!  Do any of you watch Wheel of Fortune? I’ll have it on from time to time, and I always perk up when the Before and After puzzles come up in the game. The solution to the puzzle is a compound phrase that shares a middle word – {A Chip Off the Old [Block} Party], for example. Or, the title of this episode! As I read the passages for this Sunday, I see each of them presenting the kingdom of God approaching with images of hope and light. (Isaiah and Matthew are specific about that.) Then, the letter to the Corinthians and the Gospel passage take that coming kingdom and extend an invitation to be part of it. So, the Kingdom come on! Have fun finding a graphic for this one, David!!   


This week’s texts are: 

Isaiah 9:1-4   [01:59]  – The context of Isaiah helps interpret these four verses. The land of Zebulun and Naphtali have been conquered and the people who remain there are living in the ashes of destruction, much like the people of Aleppo today. Even though the sun rises everyday, devastation is everywhere and gloom settles like the dust of destroyed buildings and fields. To those people long ago, Isaiah speaks words of hope and light and reminds them of God’s mighty acts for them in their past. We have an illustration from Ed McNulty’s comments about the movie Amistad and an idea for a special effect in Eye Smart. In Body Smart, we have a link to an ancient carving that shows the bar of oppression, and we suggest what could be a rather risky special effect. Use your discretion for that one. The book of Isaiah shows up frequently in Handel’s Messiah, and we have a link to a performance of “Aria 11” (not to be confused with Area 51) and a recommendation for an article by Andrew Davies in Music Smart. Finally, in Self Smart, we have some questions to consider about the yokes and bars of our own lives and whether we can truly trust God to deliver us from them.

  • Primary Expressed Intelligence [02:52] –
    • {MWD}  – As we mentioned in the podcast, the Primary Expressed Intelligence seems to switch with every verse of this passage. The first verse has People and Nature. The second verse is Eye. The third verse goes back to People and jumps to Self and the fourth verse has Body all over it. While I think all five are valid, I’m going to finally land on People due to the overwhelming statement of faith contained in these verses. Isaiah proclaims a word of hope to people in a hopeless situation; he states clearly that even though their current situation is full of despair, God has not forgotten them and will redeem them. I think people everywhere can use this assurance – it has global application.  
    • {D2}  Eye/Body – Molly may well be right to go with People, but since this is what I said in the show, I’ll stick with it. I chose Eye Smart because of the elements of being located in space, specifically in Zebulun and Naphtali, and the visual elements of gloom and light. These seem to me to be what sticks with people when they read this passage. A close second is the Body Smart illustration in the text where the prophet brings out in words the physicality of the oppression and devastation the people felt and from which he declares they will be free.
  • Smarts – Eye [04:37], Body [05:43], Music [07:25], Self [08:20]
  • Isaiah 9 worksheet   


1 Corinthians 1:10-18 [10:21] – Paul doesn’t waste much time getting to the reason for writing his letter to the church in Corinth. He’s heard of divisions and factions (in a church?! Never!) and is determined to have a “come to Jesus moment” with them. He does this by bringing them to Jesus – specifically, his cross, where all divisions and factions come to die. In Eye and Nature Smart, we compare Paul’s examination of the Corinthians’ factiousness to a jeweler holding a diamond up to the light to find flaws. In Math Smart, we look at absolute values and give a link to charting them. And in People Smart, we illustrate how destructive unexamined contention can be using potter’s clay.

  • Primary Expressed Intelligence [11:20] –
    • {MWD}  Math – The logic of the cross is one of Paul’s strongest arguments. He presents his best case for it in the letter to the Romans, in my opinion, where he spends chapters on the finer details of God’s intention to enter human life and suffering to redeem and overcome it. Here, maybe because he knows this congregation, he doesn’t go into fine detail but comes out swinging the big bat. Possibly, the Corinthians have heard Paul argue this point in person, so he has no need to be precise. I suspect the news of dissension has upset him, and so he responds much like a parent would with unruly children – sit them down and tell them in no uncertain terms that their behavior is unacceptable and why.
    • {D2}  People – If nothing else, the list of names in this pericope makes me think it’s People Smart: Paul, Apollos, Cephas, Jesus, not to mention Chloe, Crispus, Gaius, and Stephanas. It’s one of the few places where Paul names anyone besides Jesus in the body of his letter, and here are more than half a dozen! Add to it the personal way he talks about each and that his purpose in doing so is to correct a group of quarreling friends, and People Smart, the intelligence of human relationships, rules the roost.
  • Smarts – Eye [12:05], Nature [12:05], Math [14:34], People [17:01]
  • 1 Corinthians 1 worksheet   


Matthew 4:12-23  [18:35] – The promise of light and hope in Isaiah makes a reappearance in this passage. After his cousin John is arrested, Jesus moves to the land of Zebulun and Naphtali, a working class enclave in northeast Israel. He adopts John’s message of repentance and proclaims the kingdom of heaven has come near. Since he himself is bringing it, that much is for certain, but Jesus wants others to experience it, as well. To that end, he went about the area healing people, which we look at in Body Smart. The connection with the body is obvious; what is less obvious is the reason for all the sickness. In his commentary at Working Preacher, Warren Carter goes into some of the reasons for illness and how devastating it could be. In Nature Smart, we encourage you to take a look at the countryside around the Sea of Galilee; either Google images, or Google Earth, or ask around for pictures taken by pilgrims you may know. As an added Eye Smart bonus, project the pictures as you read this lesson and preach your sermon! Finally, People Smart contains a bit of Word Smart in that the word translated “left” – as in “they left their nets” – can also be translated as “divorced.” The disciples divorced themselves from their usual life to follow Jesus. How does using this emotionally loaded word alter our understanding of Jesus’ call to them and to us?

  • Primary Expressed Intelligence [20:17] –
    • {MWD}  Eye – In his commentary, Eric Barreto argues that all of Jesus’ relocations in Matthew’s gospel are intentional – both for telling the story of Jesus as the “new” Moses, and theologically for locating Jesus in the heart of God’s people throughout his life. Eye Smart is a visual intelligence and a spatial intelligence. Seeing the countryside often helps ground a story; it is why movies and photographs are powerful accompanists to narrative. Knowing that Jesus moved around during his lifetime also helps ground us in a shared experience, especially if we also have moved often.
    • {D2}  People – The seemingly snap decision of four fishermen to leave their livelihood and families to follow Jesus always grabs people’s attention. It seems to happen without context, as Matthew gives us few details of the encounters, and that raises many questions. Why would they do it? What was it about Jesus that was so compelling? What would their families think? We know that humans are too complex for this to have happened as simply as this, surely, and the missing dynamics of the relationship are what make this a People Smart passage.
  • Smarts – Body [20:53], Nature [23:11], People (+Word) [24:51]
  • Matthew 4 worksheet   



… in Isaiah  


… in 1 Corinthians


… in Matthew


Image credit: Somebody’s screen cap that I edited in GIMP


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