Engaging the Word: Readings for 1/18/15 (Second Sunday after Epiphany)

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By Barbara Klugh

1 Samuel 3:1-20; Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17; 1 Corinthians 6:12-20; John 1:43-51. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text. In this week’s readings, we have the call of Samuel and the call of Jesus’ disciples. Paul explains why what we do with our physical bodies matters if we are to grow into spiritual maturity.

Samuel learning from Eli, by John Singleton Copley (1738 - 1815). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Samuel learning from Eli, by John Singleton Copley (1738 – 1815). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

1 Samuel 3:1-20: Originally a single book, the two books of Samuel give the history of Israel’s transition from a tribal confederacy to a centralized monarchy. It didn’t come easily.

The books of Samuel are full of interlocking stories of political upheaval, scandal, plot twists, murder, and redemption. Although probably written around the time of the exile (c.600-500 BC), the books describe events clustered around the year 1000 BC, midway between the call of Abraham and the birth of Jesus. This year we will read from the books of Samuel more than a dozen times in our Sunday scriptures. We will learn over and over again how our faithful God uses flawed human beings (not that there is any other kind) to work out his purpose to bring salvation to the world.

In this week’s reading we learn of the call of Samuel. This came at a time when “the word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.” His mother Hannah had been barren, and vowed that if she had a son, she would dedicate him to God’s service. Her prayer was answered, and when Samuel was weaned, Hannah brought him to the Tabernacle and gave him to the minister to the Lord under the priest Eli. Eli had two sons of his own, but they were sinful scoundrels, unfit to serve as Eli’s heirs. One night, while he is sleeping, the Lord calls to Samuel. At first Samuel thinks Eli is calling him. When this happens three times, Eli perceives that God is calling Samuel, and tells him to listen. The Lord tells Samuel that he will soon punish Eli’s house forever because Eli did not restrain his wicked sons. After being prompted by Eli, Samuel reluctantly repeats everything the Lord has said to him. Eli responded stoically by saying, “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.”

Samuel was devoted to the Lord, and was later recognized as a trustworthy prophet because “the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.”

St. Paul, by Andrea Vanni (1390). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Paul. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Psalm139: We read from Psalm 139 every year of the lectionary cycle. Attributed to David, our portion of the psalm this week praises God for his complete knowledge of the psalmist and for being omnipresent in a direct and personal way. He marvels that God is ever-present and knows him completely—his thoughts, his ways, and his body, even before he was born. According to Wikipedia, verse 14 (“My body was not hidden from you, while I was being made in secret and woven in the depths of the earth.”) has been used by both the pro-life and LGBT movements each as a blessing and a source of support behind their actions.

1 Corinthians 6:12-20: We will read selections from 1 Corinthians through the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany. Paul had helped to found the church in Corinth during his second missionary journey. Later, he heard about trouble and division in the church at Corinth and wrote this letter c. 57 AD to address the painful situations within the fledging church.

In this week’s reading, Paul talks about the role of our physical bodies in spiritual formation. Apparently some in Corinth believed that what one did with his or her physical body had no importance. Paul argued that freedom is not a license to whatever we please. Paul contended that what we do with our bodies matters; that we shouldn’t be slaves to our impulses, whether in regard to food or to sex. Just because a food is legal, it doesn’t mean it’s good for you. The body is meant for the Lord, and will be raised as God raised Christ. As a member of Christ’s body, we are united to him and belong to him. So we do not want to become “one flesh” with the body of a prostitute. Since we have the Holy Spirit living within us, that means our bodies are temples of the Spirit. We must not pursue immoral sex because it destroys God’s sacred temple. We need to remember, “For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.”

Philip and Nathaniel (1910). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Philip and Nathaniel (1910). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

John 1:43-51:The gospels in the lectionary for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany always have an episode about the beginning of Jesus’ ministry from John’s gospel. Our reading for this year, Year B, is the story of the call of Philip and Nathanael.

When Jesus went to Galilee, he found Philip and called him to become his disciple. Philip’s encounter with Jesus convinced him that Jesus is the Messiah, so he shared the Good News with his friend Nathanael (probably known as Bartholomew in the other gospels). When Nathanael learned that Jesus came from Nazareth, he was doubtful. He said, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip didn’t argue with him; he just said, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael, he said, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” That got Nathanael’s attention. He asked how Jesus knew him, and Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree [a symbol of peace to the Jews] before Philip called you.” Jesus’ ability to see into Nathanael’s heart convinced him that Jesus is “the Son of God!…the King of Israel!” Jesus goes on to say, alluding to the story of Jacob’s ladder, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” So Jesus understood himself to be the ladder—the link that connects heaven and earth.

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