Year B – Epiphany 6 – Psalm 30

“30:1 I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up, and did not let my foes rejoice over me. 30:2 O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. 30:3 O LORD, you brought up my soul from Sheol, restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit. 30:4 Sing praises to the LORD, O you his faithful ones, and give thanks to his holy name.  30:5 For his anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.  30:6 As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved.” 30:7 By your favor, O LORD, you had established me as a strong mountain; you hid your face; I was dismayed. 30:8 To you, O LORD, I cried, and to the LORD I made supplication: 30:9 “What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the Pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness? 30:10 Hear, O LORD, and be gracious to me! O LORD, be my helper!” 30:11 You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, 30:12 so that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever.”

Summary – The psalmist gives praise and thanks for his deliverance from his foes. The psalmist cries out to God for his rescue even from death and he gives and sings praises to God for the same. God is Holy and rescues His faithful ones and the psalmist understanding this acknowledges that weeping as a result of ones sin is a painful reality for the truly repentant but joy come’s to God’s people who cry out to Him in repentance as they are eternally loved and forgiven. While the psalmist experienced a time of suffering God heard His cries and delivered him turning his mourning into dancing! The psalmist reflects and with great joy in his very soul he praises God alone and declares to give God thanks forever!!

Insight – The psalmist speaks of his deliverance as being drawn up as if from a well or pit referring to deliverance from the depths of death (30:3). Throughout Scripture and seen especially in the healing and miracles performed by Jesus God is seen as the great temporal and eternal healer. In referring to “Sheol” the dwelling-place of the dead, “you brought up my soul from Sheol,” the psalmist reveals that the sickness had brought him to the brink of death (Psa. 28:1). He then invites the community of Saints, those who have experienced the covenantal loving-kindness of God to join him in praising the Lord. Interesting note: because of God’s character, anger is a necessary response to sin, but His anger redemptively gives way to the expression of His steadfast eternal love. In other words He does sometimes correct us but when convicted we weep in response because 1. It’s an appropriate response to God’s corrective love and 2. In our heart-felt tears of sorrow for our sins we demonstrate true repentance. Thus, joy is the response to experiencing God’s forgiving love. An important note to consider: When prosperity (wealth) had been the psalmist’s lot his confidence in himself was unshakable (Deut. 8:11ff.). However, with the withdrawal of God’s approval the psalmist’s whole world came crashing down. Our appeal for mercy then must also be based on putting off all self-praise. All of our gifts and abilities, all of our talent and the riches we can earn and store with the work of our hands was and is all from God. He made us, He gifted us, He provided for us and the praise then should be from the deepest part of our soul in response and with praise and thanksgiving for God’s deliverance and provision.

Childs Catechism – When we do well and receive many blessings who shall we thank? We shall thank God because he loves us and gives us everything we need.

Discussion – Why does God get angry? What shall we do when we receive God’s loving correction? How does God correct us? Why is it important for us to hear God’s Word daily?

Prayer – Dear Lord God and Heavenly Father, may we always hear Your loving voice through Your written Word. And as we remember things we should never have done, please O God forgive us and be gentle when You correct us that we perish not but rather that we may all be healed by You, that we may serve only You to Your Glory and in Your Power and to Your praise, serving You alone for ever and ever in Jesus name, Amen.

Contributed by Tom Miller, MA


Year B – Epiphany 5 – Gloria in Excelsis

Glory be to God on high
And on earth peace, goodwill towards men,

We praise thee, we bless thee, we worship thee,
we glorify thee, we give thanks to thee for thy great glory.

O Lord God, heavenly King,
God the Father Almighty.

O Lord, the only-begotten Son, Jesu Christ;
O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father,
that takest away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
Thou that takest away the sins of the world,
receive our prayer.
Thou that sittest at the right hand of God the Father,
have mercy upon us.

For thou only art holy;
thou only art the Lord;
thou only, O Christ,
with the Holy Ghost,
art most high
in the glory of God the Father.

Summary – This is a very ancient hymn, perhaps one of the oldest known to the Church.  This week, it will be sung during communion which is a special treat and is especially fitting given its great content and sweet, mystic melody.  It opens with the words that God, through His angel, spoke to shepherds, the lowliest, commonest people within walking distance of Christ’s birthplace.  This is what we are called to remember during the season of Epiphany.  This is what God did when He sent His Son to us.  Before that moment, the great patriarch Jacob had been the only one to see the angels ascending and descending, but outside Bethlehem that night, humble shepherds were treated to this vision as well.  It is easy to imagine while singing the notes of this ancient hymn which radiate up and down, toward and from Heaven – the praise of glory ascending up to God and the benediction of peace and goodwill descending to all the people on earth.

Insight – Imagine picking up a beautiful antique book in a rummage sale and opening the front cover to find the autographs of Christopher Columbus, George Washington, C.S. Lewis, and Michael Jordan.  That would be an incredibly special book because of all the hands that had held it before yours and left their mark.  The Gloria hymn is like that.  It dates back to the first centuries of the Church’s life.  The paper trail begins around the 300’s when a French Bishop named Hilary translated it from Greek into Latin for the Western Church.  Before that, it had been used in the morning prayer service of the Eastern churches [and still is today].  Hilary was known as the “Hammer of the Arians” because of his preaching that Christ was fully God.  Like his more-famous contemporary, Athanasius, he was a defender of this great truth and suffered sharp times of persecution because of it.  It quickly became a favorite of Christians everywhere.  The version we sing was translated from the Latin by a man named Nicholas Decius, who was a Reformer along side Martin Luther in Germany in the 1500s.

It is strongly trinitarian with particular focus on Christ, Who ‘only is the Lord’ and along with the Holy Ghost is the one, only holy, God of glory.  The great thing about this song is that it doesn’t merely lay this theology out in dry textbook fashion.  It draws us into praise to the Father and prayer to the Son, acknowledging the work He does for us now, in Heaven, every day, as our Prayer advocate, sitting right there next to the Father.  Now that is certainly an uplifting thought.  In some of his writing St Augustine referred to the work of Bishop Hilary by using the phrase “sanctus hilarius”.  And that is exactly how we should sing this song and approach the Lord’s table, with holy joyfulness.

Child Catechism – Who takes away the sins of the world?  Jesus, the Lamb of God.

Discussion – In this hymn, we praise the Father and pray directly to the Son.  When we pray, which persons of the Trinity should we address?  What examples and guidance do we have in Scripture?

Year B – Epiphany 5 – 1 Corinthians 9:16-23

“If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel!  For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission.  What then is my reward?  Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel.  For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them.  To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews.  To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law.  To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law.  To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak.  I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some.  I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.”

Summary – This passage acts as part of Paul’s apostolic “testimony.”  He explains his ministerial strategies in ways that exemplify his self-sacrifice and dedication to the Gospel.  Following the theme of 1 Corinthians as a whole, Paul explains that he can’t brag just because he preaches the Gospel:  he is called to do so.  His reward is that he yielded his rights to make the Gospel easier for people to accept.  We learn that he enslaved himself to the societal statuses of all sorts of people to bring the Gospel into their context.  This strategy was not to give Paul a reason to brag, but for the sake of the gospel, so that he could share in its blessings.:

“This then was his recompense for labour, and this his ground of glorying–that he did with readiness of mind forgo his right in respect of applying himself to the discharge of his office willingly and with fervent zeal.” –John Calvin

Insight – What would happen if an airline pilot asked the control tower, “Hey, what is the highest amount of injuries I am allowed to have during this flight?”  Or if your dad hands you the keys to the car after you get your drivers’ license and you ask him, “How many of the wheels do I need to bring back?”  The pilot would be grounded, and you wouldn’t be driving to the movie theater!  In other words, there is a certain level of responsibility the pilot and the new driver have which they must meet: the pilot is expected to get all his passengers to their destination safely and the driver is expected to return his father’s car unblemished.  These two people had an attitude which wanted to know how much they had to do just to get by.  But that is not an attitude that tends to get rewarded too often!  In this passage of 1 Corinthians, Paul explains how if he only preached the Gospel, there is no extra reward there because that is what he is supposed to do.  But if he forgets his own selfish desires and preaches the Gospel with all his heart and soul, there is a reward in store.  Now, there is nothing wrong with doing “what you are supposed to:” that is what you are supposed to do!  But if our attitude in that is to “just get by” so we can spend more time doing something we want to do, we miss the point.  On the other hand, if our attitude is one of humility and love for others, we’ve got it.  If the pilot happily does his job to the fullest, smiling and thanking each passenger as they leave, or if the young driver takes good care of the car and gives it an extra wash on the way home, that gets noticed!

Child Catechism – What kind of obedience pleases God?  When I obey Him willingly because I love Him.

Discussion – Is doing only what you are supposed to do pleasing to God?  How so or how not?  What would make a mom more appreciative:  1) A child who does the dishes when she told him to, grumbling all the way, or, 2) a child who cheerfully does the dishes without being asked?  Why?

Prayer – Dear Lord, we desire to serve you to the best of our abilities.  We want your name to be praised through us.  Please help us to obey you willingly and joyfully.  Please help us, by your Holy Spirit, to put away our own selfish desire for personal glory and look only to yours.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

(Contributed by Jon Herr)

Year B – Epiphany 5 – Isaiah 40:21-31

21 Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning?
   Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? 22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in; 23 who brings princes to naught, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing. 24 Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows upon them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble. 25 To whom then will you compare me, or who is my equal? says the Holy One. 
26 Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these? He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name; because he is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing. 27 Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel,‘My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God’? 28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth, He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. 29 He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. 30 Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; 
31 but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

Summary – In the previous chapter in the book of Isaiah, the prophet prophesied that Babylon would take the people of Judah captive. This chapter is to serve as a reminder and a comfort to those people that no matter what happens, God is the Lord, and the ruler of the earth. This passage begins by stating that God sits above the circle of the earth, meaning He rules and governs the whole earth. Earthly princes, who seem so powerful to us are withered up if God blows His breath on them. Isaiah calls us to look at the heavens and remember that the stars came into existence because God spoke. After reminding us of this Isaiah asks why do men believe that God has forsaken us, or has not given us justice. Isaiah tells us that the God who created the earth never grows tired or stops watching over His people. If His people look to Him and trust in Him, then He will give them strength throughout all of their days.

Insight – This passage should be a comforting passage to all of God’s people. It teaches us that God has created the earth and continues to govern is as an all wise all powerful King. This is what we mean when we speak of the sovereignty of God. God governs the earth that not a sparrow falls from the sky to the ground apart from God (Matt 10:29). There may be times when life seems hard, and we think God does not see the trouble we are going through. But this passage teaches us that although we do not always understand God’s ways, we can be assured that He does not grow tired of watching over us and caring for us. We should look to Him by faith, and the Lord will renew us and give us strength.

Child’s Catechism – What will God do to those who wait for Him? He will renew their strength.

Discussion – Have you ever felt abandoned by God? If yes, What was your reaction? If no, what can you do if you ever feel this way?

Prayer – Our Sovereign God and Father. We know that in your eyes men are like grasshoppers. But yet, you love us and you watch over us. We ask that you give us the faith to patiently wait for you, so that our strength will be renewed, and we run and not be weary, and walk and not faint. Amen.

contributed by Jared McNabb

Year B – Epiphany 5 – Psalm 147:1-11, 20c

“1 Praise the LORD! How good it is to sing praises to our God; for he is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting. 2 The LORD builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel. 3 He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds. 4 He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. 5 Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure. 6 The LORD lifts up the downtrodden; he casts the wicked to the ground. 7 Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre. 8 He covers the heavens with clouds,   prepares rain for the earth, makes grass grow on the hills. 9 He gives to the animals their food, and to the young ravens when they cry. 10 His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the speed of a runner;  11 but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.   .  .  .  .  20c Praise the LORD!”

Summary – The psalmist proclaims the Praise of our Lord and God because He is gracious, He is our salvation and He provides all of our needs and the needs of all creatures in His care. He gives all things abundantly to all His children. He looks for us and finds us, He heals us. He builds His Holy City; His Kingdom and for His glory to our joy and rejoicing. God created the universe His marvelous dwelling place like a great planetarium which He displays for all to see as He reveals his sovereignty, power and control over all creation; the original from which copies are made as is our worship at the foot of the throne just a glorious sample of the truly magnificent experience of worship yet to take place in Heavenly Places, His Kingdom Come! God does not delight in our wondrous works but rather, He rejoices in His children who put their trust in Him, who love Him and take delight in His wondrously magnificent works rejoicing and singing to the praise of His glory humbly in thanksgiving in honor and with respect for a God who shall surely be feared.

Insight – God has done it all, it’s amazing – all has been and will be provided and all we need do is: as we are called and gifted we are to be good stewards of that which we have received and do the sacrificial works of service taking care of that which is appointed to man; to see to the needs of our church family and beyond as called to show grace, love and mercy to those who hurt, to mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice and give Praise because He is God and Jesus the Christ is risen!

Child Catechism – What does God do for us? He saves us, restores us and provides all of our needs.

Discussion – What are some of the things God provides for us? Why does He do so many wonderful things for us?

Prayer – Dear Lord and Heavenly Father, we see Your signature in the heavens and Your stars that shine Your Holy light and we see all Your amazing works daily and yet often we take them for granted. Help us O God to remember daily all you have done for us and remind us daily of our obligation to care for one another joyfully as we await Your Magnificent return. Let us praise You daily and for all eternity Almighty Father and God and we worship You alone, we love You because you so loved us first and we thank You and praise You in Jesus name alone, Amen.

Contributed by Tom Miller, MA

Year B – Epiphany 5 – Mark 1:29-39

As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once.He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them. That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons.And the whole city was gathered around the door.And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.And Simon and his companions hunted for him.When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.”He answered, “Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Summary—Simon, Andrew, James, and John, all followed Jesus out of the synagogue. Since they had been with Him only one day, it had been their first opportunity to see Him in action. And boy had they: He had just cast out a demon…in synagogue! What they had yet to experience, though, was Christ’s preaching the gospel of His kingdom (exorcisms have a way of interrupting that). Two of the new recruits—Simon and Andrew—lived nearby, so the group set out for their place. What Jesus found upon arriving was that Simon’s mother-in-law was terribly ill; He healed her. Well, maybe the neighbors heard about it, or maybe those who’d been in synagogue that morning were telling exorcism stories, or maybe both—in any case, the whole city gathered outside the door that evening to have Jesus heal them. And Jesus did just that, all evening. But early next morning, when the crowd regathered, Jesus was already gone: He had gone outside the city to pray. The disciples tried everywhere to find Him, and when they finally did, Simon scolded, “Rabbi, everybody’s looking for You!” To which Jesus said (and catch this, because it’s the point of the passage), “Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” See, the previous morning, in synagogue, Jesus had begun to do what He came to do: preach the gospel of His kingdom. But He had been sidetracked by an exorcism, and then again by a healing, and then again by a bunch more exorcisms and healings. The trend was escalating. And it wasn’t a bad trend—just a peripheral one: He had come to seek and to save the lost. Now, don’t get Jesus wrong: He loved to heal! He is Compassion incarnate. But that’s precisely why He had to prioritize evangelism: “A warm body and full belly can go to hell,” as somebody has said; or, in Jesus’ own words, elsewhere, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but forfeits his soul?”

Insight—Some of us may disdain the role of tangible compassion as though evangelism excludes it (and if that’s you, well, you have only to look to Jesus’ example for correction); but, I bet that most of us have the opposite problem: we tend to help elderly ladies across the street, or take cookies to neighbors, in order to feel better about not evangelizing. Helping elderly ladies across the street is good—you should do it; taking cookies to neighbors is good—you should do it. But it’s very possible to do those things without evangelizing, and that’s not so good. Those acts of kindness may lead to evangelism—in fact, they’re especially good opportunities for evangelism—but, by themselves, they aren’t evangelism. Do them, yes, and also speak the good news about Jesus.

Child Catechism—What did Jesus come to do? Jesus came to “proclaim the message.”

Discussion—Do you ever feel that you should talk with somebody about the gospel, but find yourself reaching out in ways that leave him or her clueless about reconciliation with God? For how many weeks have you been building that relationship without mentioning Jesus?  What are some ways that you can bring up the gospel, next time?

Prayer—O God, all the world is of no profit to the man who forfeits his soul, yet by our actions we deny this, helping people in this life whom we do not prepare for the next. Grant that we may boldly proclaim Your gospel, to the end that all people might worthily worship You through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Contributed by Scott Cline

Year B – Epiphany 4 – Mark 1:21-28

“21They went to Capernaum; and when the Sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 25But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.”

Summary – Jesus goes to Capernaum and according to tradition, on the Sabbath, He goes into the synagogue and begins to teach.  The people were amazed by His teaching because He taught as One superior in knowledge and with authority yet to be experienced by those awaiting Messiah. At that time there was a man with an unclean spirit. The spirit calls out to Jesus in a sense as if saying, “what are you doing here, I know who you really are and I do not want to hear from you!” The very thing that man with the unclean spirit needed was deliverance by the hand of Jesus but the evil spirit speaks out and challenges Him. Jesus in the authority of the Most High God rebukes the spirit who with no power over the Christ angrily causes the man to violently shake and as ordered by Jesus the spirit comes out of the man.  Everyone there was amazed and wondering if this was a new teaching.  Jesus became famous, and the news spread throughout the region.

Insight – Jesus’ message was revolutionary and it still is but He did not upset the religious system of that time at that time. Jesus taught in an organized manner and did so within the established religious order even though right practice had been distorted by the religious leadership of that time. Jesus’ sermon is remembered not altogether for what he said, but for how he said it. Rather than offer a personal opinion on a subject, the religious teachers of that day relied on a whole series of quotations from great men of the past to support their teaching. Jesus relied on the authority of God according to the written Word alone and the people responded quickly to his fresh style. He then both supported and demonstrated His/God’s authority by casting out the unclean spirit.

Child’s Catechism – How did Jesus teach? He taught as one having authority.

Discussion – Where can we find truth to rely on as an authority in all areas of life? In what ways do you show that you trust God’s authority in your life?

Prayer – O God O Lord, we thank you Jesus for being faithful to your calling and standing against all evil in every age. Give us this day the faith we need to trust Scripture for every area of our lives as You did in obedience even unto death. Help us, O Lord, lead and empower us to spread the truth of Your Word faithfully in our everyday walk and lives. In Jesus Name we pray, Amen.

Contributed by Tom Miller, MA

Year B – Epiphany 4 – Deut 18.15-20

Deuteronomy 18:15-20  The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet.  This is what you requested of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: “If I hear the voice of the LORD my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.”  Then the LORD replied to me: “They are right in what they have said.  I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command.  Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable.  But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak–that prophet shall die.”

Summary:  Deuteronomy is to Moses what Ecclesiastes is to Solomon.  This book contains the words of Moses at the end of his life.  He often looks back on the mighty works God performed for Israel and the lessons they learned from them.  But he also looks forward in hope for the future when he will not be there, but when God will continue to faithfully care for His covenant people.  This is one of those passages.  God promises to raise up another prophet when Moses is gone.  He will be like Moses, a brother to them, and will continue to speak God’s Word in a way they can hear and understand.  God would judge those who refused to hear and obey his words.  They were to judge those who counterfeited them.
Insight: When he was asked about Tim Tebow’s prayerful quaterbacking, Dave Silverman, the president of American Atheists, said, “The universe has a trillion stars. Ninety-five percent of it is dark matter.  It’s hubris [foolish pride] to think the Creator of all that wants the Broncos to win a football game.”  To an unbeliever, the universe is a vast expanse of cold silence – mostly dark matter.  But this is a lie.  To paraphrase Francis Schaeffer, “God is there and He has NOT been silent!”  God has gone to great lengths to speak to His People.  His Word has always been a priority.  It is the food by which He faithfully feeds those who fear Him; He doesn’t forget His covenant.  In the context, Joshua was that prophet to Israel … a lesser Moses.  But this passage points beyond the first Joshua to another Who would come as the Greater Moses.  He would not only bring the Word as one having authority, He would be the Word made flesh.  During Epiphany, we celebrate God Who ‘told the gospel word to the nations who’d not heard.’  In Christ, we who begged for the crumbs from the table have been brought to the feast of the Word as sons.
Children’s Catechism:  How did God promise to speak His word to Israel after Moses died? By sending another prophet.
Discussion:  In what ways does God speak to His people today?  Are there prophets that tell the future today?
Prayer:  Kind Father, You have exalted above all things Your holy name and Word.  Thank you for giving that Word as a gift to feed us by His death.  Cause our hearts to burn in love of Your Word and to be enlarged to return our gifts to You and to the nations, for Your glory, in the name of Your Son, our Lord, the Word made flesh. Amen.

Year B – Epiphany 4 – Arise and Shine in Splendor

Has the electricity ever gone out at your house at night?  What did you do?  You probably have some candles and flashlights in a closet for these times.  But what happens until you find them?  Someone will grope around, trying not to trip over the dog or any furniture, and when he finds the light and turns it on, everyone gathers around it so they can see.  And isn’t it interesting how you can see the light from one little candle the whole way across your house?

When we sing “Arise and Shine in Splendor” this Sunday, think about light.  The first verse tells us that light has come into the world.  The light is clearly Jesus, the Light of the World!  The second verse tells us that the Light came for a special people, the Church.  Without that light, the earth is dark, hopeless, and gloomy.  The third verse tells us that though the Light came at first to one specific people and one specific place (Israel), it will go out to the very ends of the earth and people will be drawn to it.  Verse four tells us that not only people, but whole nations and Kings will come to the Light!  Finally, the last verse tells us that the Light awakens the world to the Church, and the Church to the world.

During this season of Epiphany, Light is the main subject.  We celebrate Jesus coming to the world to save His people.  We know that the news of His salvation will go the whole way around the world and people, nations, and kings will accept Jesus.  As a result of Jesus’ coming, people turn to Him and their hearts are filled with gladness which overflows in grateful service for the Light here in the world.

When you sing this song, sing loudly since you know that the Light has come to you and be thankful!

Year B – Epiphany – 4 – Psalm 111

1 Praise the Lord!  I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation. 2 Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them. 3 Full of honor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever. 4 He has gained renown by his wonderful deeds; the Lord is gracious and merciful. 5 He provides food for those who fear him; he is ever mindful of his covenant. 6 He has shown his people the power of his works, in giving them the heritage of the nations. 7 The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy. 8 They are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness. 9 He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name. 10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever.

Summary – From A to Z, our Psalmist has no difficulty finding reasons why we should praise the Creator.  Each poetic line begins with and then runs through the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet; this is known as an acrostic.  Our Lord deserves whole hearted praise and thanks simply because he is who he is:  the Creator of the universe.  His great works certainly include the making and sustaining of this amazing universe; but this particular Psalm seems to be focusing on his redemptive works as an example of God’s upstanding and mighty character.

Insight – Whether as a community or together as a family, each of us should strive for a personal and genuine worship of God.  Connecting our hearts with praise seems only natural.  But, I find it interesting that this Psalm connects worship with wisdom as well.  Biblical wisdom is not so much about how knowledgeable you are, but closer to how well you make decisions.  One key skill when making decisions is what the Army calls situational awareness, that is understanding where you are.  Each one of us are a part of God’s covenant people.  Each one of us are connected to the stories found in church history and the Bible.  And each of us have our own stories to tell.  This Psalmist says that as we reflect on all these stories, and share the great things God has done with one another, we will better understand the Lord and how he operates.  And together with his Spirit, we will find a new found respect for our Lord God.  And it this respect, this fear of God, that will not only improve our decision making in life, but will improve our worship as well.

Child Catechism – What is the beginning of wisdom?   The Fear of the Lord.

Discussion – How does wisdom help us make better choices in life? How could the fear of the Lord give us wisdom for better choices?

Prayer –  Father,

we are so thankful for who you are and what you do

we hold fast to your promises

give us wisdom to make good choices

and to glorify and honor your awesome name in all that we do

we praise you in Spirit and True

with our whole hearts and minds may we study your ways

in the power of your Spirit and in the name of your Son Jesus.  Amen.

Contributed by Malcolm West