Reading from the Revised Common Lectionary Ė

Third Sunday after the Epiphany

Reading from the Old Testament, Isaiah 9:1Ė4
Reading from the Gospels, Matthew 4:12-23
Reading from the Epistles, 1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Reading from the Psalms, Psalm 27:1, 4-9

A Track 2 OT Reading from the Revised Common Lectionary

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Old Testament Reading:† Isaiah 9:1-4 (1/17/11)

Zebulun and Napthtali were two of the tribes of Israel.† Naphtali was the natural son of Jacob and Bilhah, who was the servant of Rachel, Jacobís junior wife.† Because Rachel had had no children, she arranged for what we would now call a surrogate mother, Bilhah, to bear her (Rachelís) husbandís child, whom she adopted (Genesis 30:1-8).† Zebulun was the son of Jacob and his senior wife Leah (Genesis 30:20). †God changed Jacobís name to Israel, and the twelve sons of Jacob gave rise to the
twelve tribes of Israel.†

When we fast forward a few hundred years from the time of Jacob, God rescues the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt and takes them to the land he had promised to Abraham.† The tribes of Zubulun and Naphtali settled in the northern part of the promised land, in Galilee.† When we fast forward another thousand years or so, Galilee has mostly gone back to the Gentiles:† the land is in the dark again.† But where does the Messiah grow up?† In Galilee.† The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.

Reading from the Gospels,† Matthew 4:12-23 (1/18/11)

Now, having learned just last week that the Track 1 OT and NT lectionary readings arenít related, we are surprised to see that the Gospel reading for this week quotes extensively from the OT lectionary reading!† So itís no wonder that the lectionary readings can be puzzling, because sometimes even when we donít expect a close relationship between two or more of the four lectionary readings, there is one.

The stories telling how Jesus recruited his disciples seem at first blush to be quite different in Matthew and John.† In Matthew, it looks like Jesus is walking along one day and sees Peter, Andrew, James, and John for the first time ever, and they just drop everything and go with him.† But if you look carefully, todayís incident comes after John the Baptist had been put in prison.† John 1:35-51 shows that Jesus had already talked to Andrew, Peter, Philip, Nathaniel, and at least one other disciple while Andrew and the other disciple were disciples of John the Baptist, before he was put in prison. †So these disciples, at least, had met Jesus previously, heard from John the Baptist that he was the Lamb of God, and decided among themselves that Jesus was the Messiah.† Itís no wonder that when he called them, they dropped their nets and followed him.

The unnamed disciple was probably John or James, neither of whose names ever appears in Johnís own gospel.†

Reading from the Epistles:† 1 Corinthians 1:10-18 (1/19/11)

Last week our Old Testament reading was from Isaiah, and our New Testament reading was from 1 Corinthians.† This week, same deal, because we are in ordinary time, and right this minute we are hearing the voices of Isaiah and Paul.†

Paul spent a year and a half in Corinth establishing a church among the Gentiles of that city.† After he left them to work in other cities, he kept in touch.† They wrote him letters asking questions; he wrote back with answers.† They sent people to visit him; he asked them about how things were going.† Oops!† They told him how things were going, and he was not happy!

Reading from the Psalms:† Psalm 27:1, 4-9 (UMH 758) (1/20/11)

Iíve been having an email discussion with
Dr. David Jeffrey of Baylor University on the pros and cons of grandeur vs. clarity in Biblical translations. †He leans toward grandeur, and I lean toward clarity.

Now, most or all of the psalms are either poems or the lyrics to songs. †Itís tough to translate poems from one language to another, because the poetic conventions are rarely the same.† In English, for example, usually the meter is the same throughout and the words at the end of specified lines rhyme.† In Hebrew, the number of syllables, or maybe itís beats (I forget) is the same in each line, and words tend to be alliterative.† Instead of a rhyme scheme, Hebrew poetry has couplets in which the second line either parallels, contrasts with, or supplements the first line.† By the time you get the Hebrew words into equivalent English words, there is no typically no well-defined meter, rhyme, or alliteration.† The couplets are often lost in the shuffle.

Iíve told you before that I prefer psalms in the King James Version, and the main reason is that the psalms have a more poetic feel in the KJV than any other English translation Iím familiar with. ††A number of modern translations are clear, but thatís about all they've got going for them, in my own opinion.† So for psalms, I think Dr. Jeffrey is absolutely right.

A Track 2 OT Reading from the RCL
Hosea 5:15 Ė 6:6; Matt. 9:9-13, 18-26

We saw last week that the Track 2 lectionary reading from the Old Testament is related to the Gospel reading.† Today, we see again that the New Testament reading quotes from the Old Testament reading.†

In fact, in Greek, Jesus quotes Hosea from the Greek Old Testament exactly when he says, ďI desire mercy, not sacrifice.Ē (Many translations have two slightly different saysing in these two verses; maybe they are working only from the Hebrew OT.)† This is why I tell you to get a modern translation with cross-references and study notes, so that you can go back and see for yourself what Jesus was talking about Ė just as the Pharisees should have done.† Jesus is not saying that God doesnít want us to make sacrifices to him, but rather that mercy to our fellowman in the absence of sacrifices is more pleasing to God than sacrifices in the absence of mercy.

More on Reading from the Lectionary
Epiphany and the Baptism of Jesus
Readings for the Second Sunday after Epiphany
Readings for the Third Sunday after Epiphany
Readings for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

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