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Episcopal Church in Minnesota
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Lectionary Reflection

Year B, Epiphany 5
Revised Common Lectionary
General Reflection



Reflection this Sunday's Readings
by John G Gibbs, PhD

Among the insights of texts for Epiphany 5 & 6 in Year B for 2009 these stand out for me in today's situation: Prophetic action works within suffering creation against death, disease, and demonic power. The apostolic tradition "frees" the Church to do "all for the sake of the gospel," thereby bringing boundary-breaking "blessings" to "all people." "A deserted place" can be made, as Jesus made it, a home for prayer. Runners in the race of life focus, aim, exercise "self-control in all things," but the "imperishable prize" comes as unearned gift.

We need a Church that is prophetic in practical, effective action. Filled with vision of "the Creator of the ends of the earth," a prophetic Church empowers people to act against death, disease, demonic power, and any other threat to the Creation. We long for a creation restored and a Church renewed. Prophetic eco-justice aims for both. A prophetic Church does not construct her mission from balancing acts between her party-spirits. Her liberating mission comes from the God who acts against the groaning and bondage to decay that pervade creation and community alike (Rom. 8:22-23).

We need a Church in the apostolic tradition that brings boundary-breaking blessings for all people. Following Jesus' initiatives ("you have heard, but I say to you"), the apostolic tradition "jazzed up" scripture as it improvised creatively for its own time. The great themes of God's grace nourish variations beyond precedent. That symphony has not been completed. The mystery of God remains ahead of us no less than the cloud by day and the fire by night remained ahead of the great Exodus pilgrimage.

The Bible of a prophetic and apostolic Church is not a code-book of "dos and don'ts," nor a singular statute that is frozen in time by a misplaced "strict constructionism." Our Bible functions instead "for the sake of the gospel." Like a living constitution, it is a framework for further interpretation and discernment. [W. Stacy Johnson contrasts statute and constitution in The Mystery of God (WJK, 1997), p. 190.] The Bible as written Word points beyond itself to the living Word in whom alone our faith is placed. It does that by displaying the trajectory of God's acts in cosmos and community. It is for us to discern where and how that trajectory impacts our own time. It is for us to discern how we can "let the same mind" be in us that was in Christ Jesus (Phil. 2:5).

A prophetic and apostolic Church leaves behind "a pattern of misusing the Bible to justify oppression," as Jack Rogers suggests in the title of Chapter 2 in his book Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality (WJK, 2006). We have seen that oppression in use of the word "dominion" to justify ecological irresponsibility while ignoring humanity's calling to "image" the Creator. Oppressive also is use of "prooftexts" to justify slavery, patriarchalism, anti-intellectualism (including attacks on science, stem-cell research, evolution), homophobia, and the addition of heterosexual orientation to prerequisites for ordination. In such oppressions, in such misuses of scripture, there is blessing for no one.

We need a Church whose prayer, like that of Jesus, is portable. Far beyond synagogue or church, genuine prayer (whether spoken or silent) is at home in wilderness and deserted places, at home on mountains and plains. Since "the earth is the Lord's, and all that is in it" (Ps. 24:1), we feel enough at home on it to pray there. Far from hoping to escape it, we delight in it, and make ourselves at home on it. We need a Church at home on earth - enough so to seek restoration of the Creation and repair of earth (tikkun olam), and enough so to be "keeper" (safeguard) of all our brothers and sisters. The Church's intercession embraces this earth and all that are on it.

We need a Church that focuses beyond some races now being run. Our Church has not yet arrived; her goalpost remains elusively far away. We are "on the Way" that leaves behind childish "grasping" and leads toward adult service. We do not control life. We receive it. The race we are called to run extends beyond the horizon of our sight. Its complexities confound our brightest minds and best spirits. Accordingly, we need a Church whose focus and aim "in all things" is on the Lord of history, the One who rules by serving, and who creates humanity to share this dominion of service and repair.


Printable version

To Reflections on other Readings for Year B, Epiphany 5:

Reflections available at the active links
Standard (Episcopal)
Revised Common
Old Testament (Hebrew Scripture) Reading:
2 Kings 4: (8-17) 18-21
(22-31) 32-37
Isaiah 40: 21-31
Psalm 142
New Testament Lesson
1 Corinthians 9:16-23
1 Corinthians 9:16-23
General Reflection
(This page)


John Gibbs, PhD, is a retired theologian, who resided in Park Rapids, MN, when he originally wrote this reflection in 2009. John and we welcome your comments. Please address your comments or additional reflections to John Gibbs or any MEESC member, or mail them to:

c/o C. Morello
4451 Lakeside Drive
Eveleth, MN 55743-4400 USA

The MEESC assumes that all correspondence received is for publication on this web site. If your comments are not for publication, please so note on your correspondence. The MEESC reserves the right to decide which items are included on the website.


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