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Weekly Bible Notes 

Second in Ordinary (Second of Epiphany) Year A, Colour = Green


Introduction

 

Opening Verse of Scripture Isaiah Chapter 53:4-6

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Collect Prayer for the Day — Before we read we pray

Living God, in Christ you make all things new. Transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace, and in the renewal of our lives make known your heavenly glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  Methodist Collect for 2nd in Ordinary

Almighty God, by whose grace alone we are accepted and called to your service, strengthen us by your Spirit, and make us worthy of our calling;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.  Methodist Collect for 2nd in Ordinary

 

Eternal Father, who at the baptism of Jesus revealed him to be your Son, anointing him with the Holy Spirit: grant to us, who are born again by water and the Spirit, that we may be faithful to our calling as your adopted children; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. Common Worship

Heavenly father at the Jordan you revealed Jesus as your Son: may we recognise him as our Lord and know ourselves to be your beloved children; through Jesus Christ our Saviour  Common Worship Shorter Collect

God our Redeemer, through Jesus Christ you have assured your children of eternal life and in Baptism you have made us one in him. Deliver us from the death of sin and raise us to new life in Christ; for he is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. Methodist Worship

Eternal father, at the Baptism of Jesus, you revealed him to be your Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit. Keep all who are born of water and the Spirit faithful to their calling as your people; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.   Methodist Worship

 

 



First Bible Reading   Isaiah Chapter 49:1-7

Listen to me, you islands; hear this, you distant nations: Before I was born the LORD called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name.
He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver. He said to me, "You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendour." But I said, "I have laboured to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing. Yet what is due me is in the Lord's hand, and my reward is with my God." And now the LORD says-- he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself, for I am honoured in the eyes of the LORD and my God has been my strength--he says: "It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth." This is what the LORD says-- the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel-- to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation, to the servant of rulers: "Kings will see you and rise up, princes will see and bow down, because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you."  (Reader : This is the word of the Lord. All: Thanks be to God)
 

Second Reading  1 Corinthians Chapter 1:1-9

Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ--their Lord and ours: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way--in all your speaking and in all your knowledge-- because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful. (Reader: This is the word of the Lord - All: Thanks be to God
 

Gospel Reading  John 1:29-42

Please stand for the Gospel Reading  (When the Gospel is announced: - All: Glory to Christ our Saviour)
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.' I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel." Then John gave this testimony: "I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him.
I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God." The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, "Look, the Lamb of God!" When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, "What do you want?" They said, "Rabbi" (which means Teacher), "where are you staying?" "Come," he replied, "and you will see." So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour. Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, "We have found the Messiah" (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas" (which, when translated, is Peter).  (Reader: This is the Gospel of Christ -All: Praise to Christ our Lord)


 

Post Communion Prayer

God of glory, you nourish us with your Word, who is the Bread of life: fill us with your Holy Spirit that through us the light of your glory may shine in all the world. We ask this is in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Commentary

 

The passage from John's Gospel today reminds us of the words of John the Baptist who described Jesus as

'the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

This is a most important description of Jesus, but what exactly does it mean when we speak of Jesus in words which liken him to an animal. And how does Jesus take away the sin of the world?

As you know Liverpool (European City of Culture) as well as being the home of great football, is also home to many wonderful cultural places -art galleries, museums etc. Only a couple of miles from my parents home on the Wirral is the Lady Lever Art Gallery. There you will find the picture shown above called 'The Scapegoat' by William Holmann Hunt. On the frame of the painting is written the title 'Scapegoat' and the following scripture

'Surely he hath borne our Griefs, and carried our Sorrows/Yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of GOD, and afflicted.' (Isaiah 53: 4)
'And the Goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a Land not inhabited.' (Leviticus 16:22)

The passage from Leviticus 16:20 is as follows

And when he hath made an end of reconciling the holy place, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat:
And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness:
And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness.

 

The painting by William Holmann Hunt was made during his first stay in the Holy Land. He had the idea for the picture while studying the Talmud (the collection of ancient Rabbinic writings that forms the basis of religious authority in Orthodox Judaism. Hunt learned that on the Festival of the Day of Atonement, a goat was ejected from the temple with a scarlet piece of woollen cloth on its head. It was goaded and driven, either to death or into the wilderness, carrying with it the sins of the congregation. It was believed that if these sins were forgiven the scarlet cloth would turn white.

This background of sin and Old Testament sacrifice is helpful for us in understanding what John the Baptist meant about Jesus when he referred to Jesus as a lamb who took away sin. Hunt recognised the Old Testament scapegoat as a prefigurement of Jesus Christ whose suffering and death similarly cancelled the sins of the people. 

In the Book of Leviticus the goat bears the iniquities into a land that was not inhabited. So Hunt set his goat in a landscape of hideous desolation - it is the shore of the Dead Sea at Osdoom with the mountains of Edom in the distance. In his diary Hunt described this setting as 'a scene of beautifully arranged horrible wilderness' and he saw the Dead Sea as a 'horrible figure of sin', believing as did many at this time that it was the original site of the city of Sodom.

It is difficult for us today to understand the practice of animal sacrifice, how people could imagine that the anger of God at sin would be appeased by the killing of a defenceless animal. I would expect that most of us would make an immediate call to the RSPCA if we witnessed a poor animal being killed or driven off into the wilderness and certain death. But at the time people wanted to know that God did not hold their sins against them. People needed to know that God forgave them and loved them and at the heart of this lay the killing of innocent animals.

This Old Covenant (agreement) was made clear in the rules of the Old Testament. However with Jesus came a New Covenant, a new understanding, which we can read in the New Testament. In the New Testament with Jesus there is the dawning of a fantastic new understanding of sin and forgiveness, which people in the Old Testament stories could only dream about. God shows up in person in Jesus and brings to an end the need to kill any more animals. No more lambs to kill, goats to drive off into the wilderness, Jesus comes and shows us that he is prepared to die himself to bring the old ways of Judaism to an end.

Quite rightly we must understand that Jesus was a Jew, his followers were Jews and those of us who follow Jesus today are Jews as well. We stand in history in that line of belief which comes from Abraham and Moses, Isaiah and the Prophets. But we are not old Jews, stuck in the Old Testament, we are new Jews, new covenant  Jews  - Jews who see Jesus as the way to know forgiveness of sin. And rather than call ourselves 'New Jews'  we call ourselves Christians after Jesus, because we believe him to be the Christ, the one promised by God to save people from their sins.

Of course when Jesus died he died the once and for all, there was no need for an ongoing sacrificial system based around the Temple killing animals, all that became redundant and so did the priests who were needed to administer that operation. Jesus stopped those priests shedding the blood of animals and he became the last priest and best priest that there has ever been. What better priest could we have than one who does not kill a poor defenceless sheep but willingly gives of his own life. If ever we needed confirmation that God loves us and forgives us, then this is it, that God dies to make it abundantly clear.

I read recently of a most horrific murder and I stopped reading about it because I thought it was so depraved that surely just to read it would be corrupting in itself. Today we look around us and we see and read about the most dreadful things and we might feel at times as if we are in a wilderness place of desolation and sin. For those without faith it is a frightening place because they are faced with the depravity of humankind and there is no indication that humanity is getting any better. However for us we have hope. We believe that the scarlet red sins of this world, can be transformed by God and forgiven, so that the sins of our community too can be turned from blood red to the whiteness of snow.

I don't know when the last time was that you saw snow, but if you can remember, snow is beautifully white. It is so white that even sheep who look white on a green field, look depressingly grey when looked at in a snowy field. I am not sure how often Isaiah saw snow, perhaps before global warming there was more of it about. But, Isaiah was making the point that God's forgiveness transforms our present muckiness into something wonderfully new and fresh. This is what the forgiveness of God is like - and don't we all need it.

Isaiah Chapter 1:18

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
 

Charles Royden
 

Meditation

A TOP producer has quit the BBC in disgust after it showed foul-mouthed Jerry Springer The Opera. Antony Pitts, 35, said he could not work for an organisation which broadcast such blasphemy. The musical, which featured Jesus in a nappy admitting he’s “a bit gay”, sparked demonstrations and 47,000 complaints.Mr Pitts, who worked for Radio 3, walked out hours after last Saturday’s BBC2 broadcast. He said: “The blasphemy was far, far worse than the most detailed news reports led me to believe.” BBC director general Mark Thompson met Mr Pitts on Monday but could not persuade him to stay. The opera contained 8,000 swear words.
 

Hymns

  1. Crown him with many crowns 

  2. Your mercy flows upon us like a river  (On Partnership News)

  3. It is a thing most wonderful  (Tune Heronsgate)

  4. I will sing the wondrous story  (Tune Hyfrydol)

 

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

representation of prayer as seed growing

 

"Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian.
If it is well cultivated and nourished it will produce fruit, but if it is neglected, it will wither and die."

 

Increase your grace in us, O Lord, that we may fear your Name beyond which nothing is more holy; that we may love you, beyond whom nothing is more loveable; that we may glorify you beyond whom nothing is more worthy of praise, and that we may long for you beyond whom nothing is more desirable; and grant that thus fearing, loving, glorifying and longing we may see you, face to face; through Christ our Lord. Amen Desiderius Erasmus, 1466-1536

Give thanks for the joy of human love and friendship
Take from me, O Lord, all desire for worldly praise and all uncontrolled anger and remorse. Give to me a humble and lowly heart, and a mind tender with kindness and compassion. Grant to me also, good Lord, fullness of faith, firmness of hope and fervency of love, that my one desire may be conformity to your gracious will; through Christ our Lord. Amen Thomas More, 1478-1535

For world peace - God our Father, as the rainbow spans the heavens when the sky is dark, so our strife and enmities stand under the judgement and promise of your over-arching love and righteousness. We praise you for signs of hope and for the fact that enemies can become friends. As your Holy Spirit draws the scattered flock of Christ together so may the nations find a unity that eliminates war. Help all who look to Christ to identify the common enemies of humanity - poverty, hunger, disease and injustice - and work to create the structures of peace, for his sake. Amen
Kenneth Greet, Methodist Peace Fellowship
 


Additional Resources

Commentary

God with us

On this Sunday each year, the Sunday after Epiphany, we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of Jesus. Jesus comes to the River Jordan to be baptised. 

There is often debate among theological scholars about whether things in the Bible actually happened exactly as they are reported. Nevertheless even the most skeptical of scholars believe that the episode today in which Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist must have taken place. It is hard to imagine the early church making up the story of Jesus’ baptism; it was too much of an embarrassment to them. 
 

John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance, confession, and forgiveness of sins. From some of the first earliest documents written by Christians we know they believed in the sinlessness of Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15). These two facts seem to contradict each other. If Jesus was sinless there would have been no need for him to submit to a baptism of repentance and forgiveness of sins. John recognised this point himself and tried to persuade Jesus not to bother. There is a significant contrast between Jesus’ willingness to be baptised when he did not need to be and the Pharisees’ and Sadducees’ refusal to repent when they needed to.
 

This strikes right at the heart of what the whole ministry of Jesus is about. On the 4th. Sunday of Advent we heard about the dream Joseph had. In it he was told the true identity of the child Mary was carrying. The child would be called, "Emmanuel, God with us." Now we begin to find out exactly what that means. God is with us and he goes the whole way. God is not like an absent military General who gives orders from a bomb proof bunker. He marches alongside the troops and shares the same dangers and trials. God does not address sinners from a safe distance, he gets his hands dirty and joins our sinful and world. In Jesus God was not sending another messenger, this time he is coming alongside us himself!
 

Perhaps one of the most remarkable things about the baptism is that Jesus shows the attitude of God towards us sinners. If God was human he would stand at the side of the river and criticise the miserable lot who turned up. Jesus shows just how different God is from us. Instead of condemning the sinners, Jesus jumps into the water with them. Right at the beginning of his ministry Jesus is showing what his attitude is going to be. It is not one of self righteousness and criticism, but rather of forgiveness and acceptance. Jesus is not ‘God above us’ or ‘God better than us’ Jesus is instead Emmanuel ‘God with us.’ Jesus stands alongside us in human life, he is flesh like our flesh and with baptism in the cleansing waters, he associates himself totally with humankind.
 

And so Jesus came on that day and entered the water. In Matthew's account of the baptism, Jesus enters the water and the heavens open, then the Spirit of God descends like a dove and a voice from heaven speaks words over Jesus "This is my Son, the beloved, with whom I am well pleased." 
The appearance of the symbolic dove has occasioned much speculation. Since Tertullian it has often been connected with Noah’s dove: the former dove announced deliverance from the flood, the latter dove deliverance from sins (cf. 1 Pet 3:20–1).
 

The words from heaven are very similar to the ones we hear in the passage from the prophet Isaiah, "Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him." The words are given not just for Jesus, but for all who were there. It was a message from God to them. As the presence of Jesus puts the stamp of approval on what John is doing, so now the presence of the Spirit shows the approval of God on what Jesus is doing. Moreover, soon the Spirit will descend not just on Jesus, but on all who follow into baptismal waters.
 

We might see this humble submission as a foreshadowing of the “baptism” of his bloody death upon the cross. Jesus’ baptism is his submission entirely to his Father’s will. Out of love he consented to this baptism of death for the remission of our sins. Now it is for us to enter into that same acceptance of the will of God for us. In Romans Chapter 6:4 The Apostle Paul tells us ‘We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. Jesus is still Emmanuel, God with us. He gives us his Spirit so that we are not left alone throughout our lives. Now we must follow his example, as we ask the Holy Spirit to forge this same attitude of humility and obedience in our hearts. Perhaps as we do a part of heaven will heaven will open for us as well. Charles Royden
 

 

Additional Material about Hunt

Hunt spent about 10 days on the edge of the sea painting in the landscape and making sketches and notes. He took a white goat with him but he left blank that part of the picture that the animal occupies and did not paint the beast until he returned to his Jerusalem studio. Whilst at Osdoom, Hunt's life was at risk from hostile tribesmen. The insistence of his guides that they get away from this dangerous spot led to his leaving earlier than he wished. He took back samples of mud and salt to help him finish the foreground. In Jerusalem Hunt also bought or borrowed sheep and goat skulls and a full camel skeleton.

‘William Holman Hunt , to Thomas Miller of Preston 31st March 1856

I beg to write to inform you that I have brought back with me a picture which altho' not a figure subject I feel it necessary to submit to you before sending in day when I have to show it to several friends who will then visit my studio.

The subject is the "Scapegoat" as suggested by the description of the ceremony on the day of Atonement in Leviticus XVI and the particular passage, "And the goat shall bear upon him all the iniquities unto a land not inhabited." When in Jerusalem it recommended itself to me as one which — with the opportunity I had of choosing an appropriate scene from Nature as a background, demanded illustration as the most evident type in the old Law of our afflicted Saviour and accordingly I made a journey along the plain of the Dead Sea to select a fitting spot which I decided upon at Asdoom and where I returned with all proper materials and located myself until I had painted the Mountains of Edom and the lake and salt encrusted marsh below.

I found an interesting account of the manner in which the ceremony was performed in the Talmud which supplied me with some additional hints...

I have supposed the goat to have been wandering three days, driven from all resting places within sight of man to this desolate region — which is the probable site of Sodom — and there while the sun is sinking and the full moon is rising behind the reddened Eastern Mountains the weary animal has turned towards some calm land locked water, from the shore on to the treacherous surface of salt from which he is now with little hope attempting to extricate himself, but this point I have left unexpressed seeing that the Bible is silent on the ultimate fate of the sin burthened animal...
The picture is 55 inches in length and 34 inches in height and the price I have to ask for it exclusive of copyright is 450 Guineas.’

Prayer

A Prayer for the victims of
The Asian Tsunami Disaster


A single figure stands;
Above—the sky-azure blue;
Beyond –the sea like glass;
Sand, beneath the feet-golden;
Behind -
Disaster
Devastation
Dereliction
Desolation
Despair
Death

The earth was without form and void
And darkness was on the face of the deep,
And the Spirit of God moved on the surface of the waters

And so we pray:-
Come spirit of God move on this broken land.
Bring order to chaos.
Give purpose to shattered lives.
Bring the desolate people back to Life.

The Spirit of God is moving—thanks be to the God of Hope,
For across the world hearts have been stirred to help.

You are not alone on your lonely beach
We want to stand with you
We will pray for you.

We pray for the Relief Work -

We thank God for the hundreds of people working on the clean-up operation.
We pray for courage for them, and protection from disease.

We thank God for generous donations from all over the world.

We pray that it will all reach all the people who need it and than none of it will be stolen from them.
That it will be used wisely and for the greatest good, as you direct them.

We pray for the governments and agencies involved. We pray that God’s Wisdom will underpin their plans and that they will be able to work together amicably.

We pray for health workers, medical teams, field hospitals and all who work to relieve and heal suffering.
We thank God that Jesus showed us how much you love the sick and want to heal them. May the supplies get through quickly to all areas of need.

We pray for the children left orphaned
We pray for the parent left childless
We pray for the old ones left with no descendants
We pray for all who see no hope
We pray for those who mourn

Lord in ourselves we are worthless - but joined to you in prayer there is value beyond price.
Take our prayers weak though they may be, and use them through your power, Oh Great God who created this unpredictable universe and can still bring order out of chaos.

Prayers taken from Christchurch, The Grove, Ilkley