5th Sunday after Epiphany

February 5, 2023

Lectionary Texts

Isaiah 58.1-9— God criticizes religiosity that does not lead us to love our neighbor and care for the poor. “You serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress your workers. But real religious observance is to do justice and set people free.” In this your light will shine.

Psalm 112.— The righteous are those who give to the poor and delight in God’s will. They will be fearless in the face of adversity. They will be light in the darkness for those who hope.

1 Corinthians 2.1-5— The power of our ministry is not in our eloquence or wisdom, but the truth of Christ’s love, and the wisdom of God that transcends our own.

Matthew 5.13-20 —Jesus says we are light for the world, and calls us to live with righteousness: not legalistic conformity, but living by the light of God’s desire.

Preaching Thoughts

Isaiah puts a new spin on the epiphany theme of light. We’ve heard that God’s light shines on us: now Isaiah says that our own light is “under a bushel,” to use Jesus’ image—the bushel of our injustice and selfishness. Our light can’t shine when we’re concerned with our own self-centered well-being. When we remove that covering—when we practice justice, mercy, generosity and love—our light is revealed like the dawn of a new day: “Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly.”

Neither Jesus nor the prophets would say your religion is between you and God. To love God is to love your neighbor, to serve them, to work for justice. “Righteousness” doesn’t mean being right., morally or otherwise. It means in right relationships. Faith is communal. As Paul says “We do not live to ourselves.” We are salt and light for the world. Too many folks think the essence of Christianity is “believing in Jesus” but Jesus would scoff at that. He wasn’t into “belief” as doctrine. The essence of Christianity—the saltiness of the salt—is loving your neighbor. For Jesus, to believe isn’t about what you think but how you trust. It’s not about believing “that” something is true, but believing in it: giving your heart to it. Believing in God means trusting God’s grace—which moves us to love our neighbors.

To be “light for the world” might simply mean to shine with God’s glory. Maybe it’s to illumine the path, so that by the light of the way we live others can find their way. To be a lighthouse pointing the way to justice and warning of the shoals of injustice. Maybe it means to live out the truth, in world world darkened by lies, misinformation and conspiracy theories. Maybe it means to live with love that brightens the world of the people around us.

We don’t value salt for its own sake, but for what it can do for our food. Especially in Jesus’ time it preserved food and made it palatable. For its usefulness, salt was worth money. We are “salt for the earth” only if we do what we are called to do. To be salt might mean to bring out the best in others. It might mean to be faithful to the gospel of God’s love for everyone. Maybe it means to be faithful to ourselves, to who God creates us to be—and to become.

Call to Worship

1.
Reader: In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was God, and flowed from God.
All: And the Word is love.
Everything was made through the Word,
and what came into being through the Word is life.
And the life is the light of all people.
We worship in the light of God
Fill us with your light, O Love, that we may shine for the world. Alleluia!

2. [ Psalm 112]
Leader: Praise God! Happy are those who delight in doing God’s will
All: They are like light in the darkness.
They give generously and lend; they do justice.
They are not cowed by news of evil:
their hearts are firm, secure in God.

Their spirits are steady; they will not back away,
while the wicked fill themselves with worry and anger.
Praise God, who sustains the weak and the needy!

3. (1 Cor. 2.9-10)
Leader: No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived,
what the Holy One has prepared for those who love God.
All: But these things you have revealed to us through the Spirit;
for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.
Reveal your light to us, O God, so that we may be your light.
Let your grace shine in us, that we may be light in the darkness
for all those who struggle or wander.

Illumine our way, that we may faithfully follow Christ.
Be our light, that we may be light for others, in the name of Christ. Amen.


4.
Leader: Creator God, Light of heaven, we praise you!
All: Risen Christ, light of the world, we greet you!
Holy Spirit, light of God within us, we shine with your loveliness.
Our lives are your praise. Our Being is your glory.
God, you have created us to shine with your love.
We confess that we have hidden your light;
but you forgive us, restore your radiance in us,
and give us as light to the world. We thank you.

May your light redeem us, and gleam in us with beauty.
Alleluia! Come, Spirit of Light, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
God, speak your word to us, a lamp unto our feet, so we may know your ways.
Shine your light upon us, so we can see your path.
Shine your light within us so we can know your presence.
Shine your light out through us,
so we can help you bring your love into this world. Amen.

2.
Eternal God, your light created the universe.
Your light shines in us.
Speak the light of your Word to us and re-create us,
that we may be light for the world,
in the spirit of Christ, our Light. Amen.

3.
God of life, in this sometimes dark world we seek you, our light, our sun, our dawn. We open the eye of our hearts to the morning sun. Rise upon us, speak your Word to us, and awaken us to your new day, with the voice of Christ, and the warmth of your Spirit. Amen.

4.
Gracious God, Jesus expressed great faith in us, calling us salt for the earth and light for the world. Kindle your light in us through the reading of scripture and the proclamation of your Word, in prayer and in song, in bread and in silence. Light the lamps of our hearts that we may radiate with your love, in the name and the spirit of Christ. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

Pastor: The grace of God be with you.
Congregation: And also with you.
Trusting in God’s tender mercy, let us confess our sin to God with one another.
Holy God, your light exposes our sin, but bathes us in grace.
In the light of your love we see ourselves truly.
We hold in your light all in us that is hurting and hurtful,
release our judgment of ourselves and one another,
and ask your healing and forgiveness.
[Silent prayer … the word of grace]

Readings

1. 1 Corinthians 2.1-12, a paraphrase
      When I came to you, siblings in God, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. All I know for sure is Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and trepidation. My argument didn’t rest on philosophical wisdom, but it arose from the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.
       When those who are spiritually mature speak of wisdom it is not what the world thinks is wisdom, and certainly not the powerful people—they don’t know a thing about life. But we speak of God’s wisdom—confusing and obscured to them—which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Sovereign of glory. But, as it is written,
               “No eye has seen, nor ear heard—
               no, it hasn’t even dawned on us,
               what the Holy One has prepared for those who love God.”
     But God has revealed these things to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit knows everything, even the depths of God.

2. Psalm 112, a paraphrase
Holy One, our hearts sing your praise
with light that will shine forever.
Knowing you, we know deep joy.
The way you show us is the way of delight.
We draw close to you,
and blessing overtakes us.
Your grace is the greatest treasure in our house.
It will remain even when the house is gone.
Because your spirit is in us
we are gracious and merciful, desiring harmony.
We rise like candles in the dark
light for all who are searching.
We are fearlessly generous;
we are resolute in building justice.
We cannot be undone.
This light will shine forever.
Anxious rumors don’t budge us;
you are our solid bedrock.
In you we are steady. Fear can’t shake us.
In the end, we will look on what tried to destroy us,
and we will smile.

We share abundantly. We give to the poor.
It’s your generosity, not ours, shining in us forever.
The selfish and fearful only get more fearful; they rot in it.
But this light will shine forever.

Poetry

The Light Does Not Insist

Even on the darkest winter days
light reaches in,
gently entering my dimmest rooms:
neither hesitant nor brash,
simply offering itself
with no mind to all that is opaque,
all that distorts,
transfiguring the room.
and the air in the room.

I, too,
reach in toward that gentle light,
not anxious or forceful,
that calmly glows
and changes everything.

           —Steve Garnaas-Holmes

Listening Prayer

(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)

God of Love, Light of Life,
may your sun shine on us,
shine on all living things,
shine on the world.
May your light pierce the darkness in us,
and transform it;
your light radiate from within us
out into the world,
giving it beauty and grace and healing.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

1.
Holy One, may the light of your love shine in us:
      that we may loosen the bonds of injustice,.
May the dawn of your justice rise in us:
      that we may undo the thongs of the yoke..
May the candle of your courage burn in us,
      that we may let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke
May the sun of your compassion shine in us,
      that we may share our bread with the hungry.
God of grace, by your spirit at work in us
      our light shall break forth like the dawn,
     and our healing shall spring up quickly.

Eucharistic Prayer

[After the introduction, the body of the prayer may be read responsively with the presiding leader(s) and congregation, or by the leader(s) alone.]

God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your heart.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Holy One, our God.
It is good and beautiful to give God our praise.

In the beginning you said, “Let there be light.”
Through your Word all things were created, and in them was the light of life.
In the light of the rainbow you made covenant with all Creation.
In the pillar of fire you led us and all people out of slavery to freedom.

With the light of your Word you have guided us though law and prophets,
and in the fullness of time you sent Jesus, the light of the world.
Therefore with all who have been set free, all who shine with your light,
we sing your praise.


    [Sanctus, spoken or sung:]
Holy, holy, holy One, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of God.
Hosanna in the highest.

       [or alternate]

Blessed are all who come in your name, and blessed is Jesus, your Christ.
He healed and fed people, he taught and forgave.
He saw your light in all people, and called us to shine with your grace.
He gathered a community of love and mercy, founded in your realm of justice.
For his resistance to oppression he was crucified,
but you raised him from the dead;
and he continues to renew your Covenant to be with us in love forever.


[The Blessing and Covenant…]

Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”
As often as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection until he comes again.
Remembering these, your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving
as a living and holy sacrifice, in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of our faith:

     [Memorial Acclamation, spoken or sung:]
Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
     —or—
Dying, Christ destroyed our death. Rising, Christ restores our life.
Christ will come again in glory.

     [—or alternative]

Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the body and blood of Christ.
Pour out your Holy Spirit on us,
that we may be for the world the Body of Christ,
redeemed by your grace, shining with your light,
for the sake of the wholeness of the world.


            [Spoken or sung]
    Amen.

____________
* The Blessing and Covenant
[I usually don’t print the words. I want people to be looking at the bread, not their bulletins.]

On the night in which he gave himself for us
Jesus took bread, blessed it,. broke it, and gave it to his disciples,saying,
“Take and eat; this is my body.”
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup,
blessed it with thanks and gave it to them, saying,
“Drink of this, all of you. This is my blood,
poured out for you and for many, in a new Covenant,
which is the forgiveness of sin.”
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.


Prayer of Dedication / Sending / after Communion

[Adapt as needed.]
1.
Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) You have filled us with your light. Send us into the world to shine with your love and mercy, to do justice, to embody your Word, in the name and Spirit of Christ. Amen.

2.
Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) You have filled us with your loving presence. May your light shine in us that we may do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with you for the sake of the world, in the name and Spirit of Christ. Amen.

3
Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) You have fed us with your light; you have salted us with your grace. Send us into the world that in all our living we may be light. Send us to do justice for your sake, that we may be light for the world and seasoning for the earth, in the name and the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view, and hear an audio clip, on the Music page)

Light for the World (Original song)
[A dialogue between soloist and congregation. May be used as a “theme song” throughout the Epiphany season. The refrain is the same throughout: the soloist’s verses reflect the day’s readings. Relevant lyrics for this week:]

Congregation:
Love, may we live by your light.
Let us be light for the world.

Soloist:
Those who do justice are happy indeed: they are a light in the darkness.
Those who are generous shall not be moved, remembered forever.

“This is the fast that I choose,” says our God, “to loosen the bonds of injustice.
For then your light shall break forth like the dawn, rising in the darkness.”

You are the light, the light of the world. Give thanks for the light shining in you.
Let your light shine so that others may see, and glorify God.