Weekly Liturgy bulletins
Notes on the Service for January 19, 2020
Isa. 49:1–7 • Ps. 40:1–12 • 1 Cor. 1:1–9 • John 1:29–42
The ordinary season after the Epiphany began last Monday when the color of hangings and vestments reverted to green. A principal theme of the Epiphany, Christ the Light of the World, continues, as expressed in today’s collect. Adapted from the Church of South India (at the earth’s end), this collect prays that Christ’s glory may be known to the earth’s ends, thereby also expressing a corollary theme, that it is through God’s people that the Light is spread. To illustrate the call to spread the light, readings today are about callings: to be servants, to be psalmists, saints, witnesses, apostles.
Like last Sunday’s first reading, today’s is another of the servant songs of Isaiah about one whom God called to restore lost Israelites and to shine on Gentiles. This song twice asserts that the calling of the servant occurred before he was born, as did the calling of Jeremiah to be a prophet. Considering either Isaiah or Jeremiah a predestinationist in the Calvinist sense would be mistaken, but these prophets do have a sense of unique callings from their starts. Christians see Jesus as the one who fulfilled the role of the servant who was from the womb a light to the Gentiles. So for Christian readers, “Kings shall see and arise” can echo the magi’s visit to Christ, commemorated on January 6.
Recalling troubles from which the Lord has delivered him, the author of Psalm 40 vows to give God thanks before the congregation. Using a Greek version, Hebrews applies vss 8-9 to Christ, “offerings thou hast not desired, but a body hast thou prepared for me...I have come to do thy will, O God.”
Like the suffering servant, the psalmist, and John the Baptist, Paul “proclaimed righteousness in the congregation.” In a manner unlike the callings of Andrew, John, and Peter, Paul had been “called to be an apostle.” Paul began letters in the conventional way of his era by stating whom the letter was from, by greeting those to whom it was addressed, and by praying and giving thanks for them “called to be saints.” Note how Paul uses the word “called” four times in this one paragraph.
The meeting of John the Baptist and Jesus told last Sunday by Matthew is retold today in John’s variant where the Baptist does not actually baptize Jesus, but he does identify him as God’s Son and God’s Lamb (as in the sacrificial Paschal lamb). Two of the Baptist’s disciples, Andrew and John the Beloved (the latter not explicitly named), accept Jesus’ invitation to see where he is staying. Then Andrew, on his first mission, tells Peter they have found the Messiah. Andrew anticipates Peter’s own confession of Jesus as that Messiah, a confession which the calendar marked on January 18. (The Confession of Peter began the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.)
—Rev. Stephen Weissmann | St. Louis, Missouri
Reprinted with permission.
January 19, 2020 — Second Sunday after Epiphany