Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Epiphany 2 January 16 Bessemer City

Epiphany 2 January 16, 2011 St. Andrew’s, Bessemer City

          Easter comes late this year, so we will have a full nine Sundays after Epiphany.  All the readings for the next two months teach about hearing and responding to Jesus’ call on our lives.

            Today the gospel is St. John’s account of Jesus’ call to the disciples. Next Sunday we will read from St.  Matthew - 4:12-23 another account of the call of the first  disciples, then  5:1-12   the Beatitudes,  then 5:13-20 – “ye are the salt of the earth, the light of the world;  5:21-37  Jesus’ explanation and expansion of the commandments, “You have heard it said . . . but I say to you . . .” then  5:38-48 “be ye perfect as your heavenly father is perfect’ and finally  6:24-34  “no one can serve two masters” – all gospel readings about hearing and responding to Jesus’ call on our lives.

For the next two months the epistle readings from the early chapters of First Corinthians are St. Paul writing as the Holy Spirit guides him to the church at Corinth about hearing and responding to Jesus’ call.  The Old Testament readings begin and end with Isaiah, and they also are about God’s call and our response.

          Today Isaiah begins, “The LORD called me before I was born, while I was in my mother's womb he named me. . . . to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him,”  In his Wednesday e-mail Bishop Taylor wrote, “. . . if we are to engage the world in the name of Jesus Christ, we have to know this world in all its wonder and its sinfulness.” We have only to read the newspaper or listen to the news to see that our culture is as far from God as the people of Jacob and Israel were in the time of Isaiah. [To receive the bishop’s e-mail reflections Wednesdays send a e-mail request to reception@diocesewnc.org.]

          Bishop Taylor also wrote, “We have to get our feet on the solid ground of 2011 and not wish away our time pinning for some Golden Age that never really was.  This is the only world we have, and now is the only moment available for us to be disciples.” My study of history leads me to agree with Bishop Taylor; there was no Golden Age. Jesus has called the church in every age and calls us now to love and serve him.

          Today’s psalm begins, “I waited patiently upon the LORD; he stooped to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the desolate pit, out of the mire and clay; he set my feet upon a high cliff and made my footing sure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. In David’s time, in Isaiah’s time, in the time of Jesus, and John the Baptist, and Andrew, and Simon Peter, and now our world is far from God. And God calls us now to love and serve him. He calls us to see the need of the world, to see how Jesus is at work to meet that need, and then to work with our Lord in his work using the gifts and abilities he gives us.  

          Jesus and John the Baptist, and Andrew, and Simon Peter, lived under an oppressive military dictatorship in a society politically divided and economically depressed. Most people were poor farmers getting poorer with each inadequate harvest. The only thing most people could agree was that new leadership was needed. Some wanted a military leader to free the country from Rome; many wanted a spiritual leader to bring the situation under God’s control.

          Andrew actively sought an anointed spiritual leader. He joined John the Baptist’s renewal movement, and when John called Jesus “Lamb of God” he went with Jesus. The next day Andrew found his brother Simon and brought him to Jesus. Andrew saw the world’s need for a savior, recognized that Jesus as the promised messiah, and acted as Jesus called him, bringing his brother to join in Jesus’ ministry.

          In 1852 a young Irish clergyman’s wife teaching a Sunday school class saw that her children learned best by singing. To help them with the gospel readings today and next week she wrote  Jesus calls us hymn 550. Verse 2 says “As of old, St. Andrew heard it by the Galilean lake, turned from home and toil and kindred, leaving all for his dear sake.” She also wrote five other hymns in our hymnal: for Advent Once in royal David’s city 102, Lent There is a green hill far away 167, Easter He is risen; he is risen 180, and All things bright and beautiful 405, and For thy blest saints a noble throng 276. She translated St. Patrick’s great processional I bind unto myself today the strong name of the Trinity 370.  Her husband became Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of all Ireland, and she led a very busy life, but Cecil Frances Alexander saw the need and acted as Jesus called her, to teach the gospel in song.

          In 1936 Felix duPont had diversified his family gunpowder company into a leading chemical company and made a lot of money doing so. He was an active Episcopalian and saw a need for a church school to educate the sons of the poorly paid professions – clergy, teachers, military and foreign service officers and (in an age before health insurance) doctors. I graduated from St. Andrew’s school in Middletown, Delaware, 54 years ago this May. Our school hymn is Cecil Francis Alexander’s Jesus calls us. Felix duPont saw the need and acted as Jesus called him to educate in Christian faith.

          In 1883 a young man in Chicago and his Sunday school class began to reach out to single men living in rooming houses and hotels near his church. Their invitations to these men to faith and fellowship led to the formation of the Brotherhood of St. Andrew, a fellowship of men and boys in the Episcopal Church committed to preparing men for lay and ordained ministry through disciplines of prayer, study, and service with the object of spreading Christ’s Kingdom  among men. The Brotherhood continues that ministry today. James Houghteling and his fellows saw men’s need for faith and fellowship, and they have acted as Jesus called them in this country and all over the world.

          May God grant us wisdom and gace to to see the need of the world, to see how Jesus is at work to meet that need, and to work with our Lord in that work using the gifts and abilities he gives us.  

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