3rd Sunday after Epiphany

January 22, 2023

Lectionary Texts

Isaiah 9.1-4 celebrates the light of God’s liberating grace, which overwhelms the darkness of war, injustice and oppression.

Psalm 27 says, If God is my light, then I have nothing to fear. I seek to live close to God (“in the house of the Lord”), to pay attention to God’s presence (“to seek God’s face”) and to live according to God’s leading (“Teach me your way”).

In 1 Corinthians 1. 10-18 Paul responds to news of divisions in the church in Corinth with a plea for unity. Our unity does not come from anyone’s leadership, but from our life in Christ.

In Matthew 4.12-23 Jesus proclaims God’s power and presence in the world (“The realm of heaven has come near”). He calls disciples to follow him in proclaiming the good news and healing people. Jesus then goes about living out the good news he proclaims.

Preaching Thoughts

The great theme of the Epiphany season is the church’s calling to bear the light of Christ into the world. It is not our beliefs about that light, but the light itself in us, that unites us.

In the Isaiah reading the Epiphany theme of light shines forth. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” Justice, liberation and the end of warfare is like dawn after a dark night. The Psalm reflects that light: “God is my light and my salvation.”

Matthew locates Jesus in Galilee, quoting the Isaiah passage, thereby placing Jesus in the prophetic tradition, and the work of justice and liberation. By establishing the prophetic context Matthew suggests that Jesus’ healings aren’t just individual favors: Jesus is healing the cosmos. The call to follow is a call to more than personal devotion: it’s a call to participate in that work.

It doesn’t really matter whether or not Simon, Andrew, James and John knew Jesus before he called them. What matters is that they left everything. What might we have to leave behind to really faithfully follow Jesus? What nets still entangle us, what loyalties keep us rooted to the spot?

What exactly does Jesus mean by “fishing for people?” Keep the question open. (Don’t get stuck on the literal image of “catching” people like helpless, unsuspecting fish.) It doesn’t necessarily mean capturing converts, which is a little manipulative, demeaning and oppressive. It can mean gathering people into the net of God’s grace. It can mean seeking the treasure that is other people. It can be about deepening relationships with others instead of seeking our own profit. It can mean being “bait” that attracts people to God.

Call to Worship

1. [ Isaiah 9.2-4]
Leader: The people who walked in darkness
        have seen a great light;
All: those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
        on them light has shined.

You have multiplied the nation,
        you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest,
        as people exult when dividing plunder.

For the yoke of their burden,
        and the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor,
        you have broken as on the day of Midian.
All the weapons of war and the wounds of war
        are done away with, burned as fuel for the fire.

Leader: Creator God, you are light in our darkness;
you are the morning rising in our night.
All: Your dawning touches our heart.
We turn to you.
We awaken.
Christ, light of the world, you call to us.
Your voice stirs in our hearts.
Our hopes catch fire.
We want to follow you.
Holy Spirit, you are the rising sun in us that brings us to new life.
Alleluia! May we shine with your light.
Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

Leader: Those who walked in darkness have seen a great light,
All: for you have sent us Christ, who has broken oppression,
and overcome the forces of war.
You are our light and our salvation. Whom shall we fear?
May we dwell in your heart all our days,
and behold your beauty.
Teach us your ways, O God, and lead us in a path of love and wisdom.
Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

Leader: Creator God, we praise you!
All: Risen Christ, we greet you!
We give thanks that your Realm of grace is at hand.
Have mercy on us, and receive our prayers.
You alone rule all Creation, and we look to you for our salvation.
Grant your peace in this world, and bless those who seek you.
Christ gathers us in the net of his love, and makes us fishers of people.
Alleluia! Grant that we may follow Christ
and be transformed by the power of your Spirit. Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

God of truth, you speak your Word, and we barely hear it beneath the rumble and clatter of our world. Tune the ears of our heart to your voice. Clear our minds to listen. Let us hear Jesus calling us, and answer, and follow, by the powerful grace of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Loving God, Jesus called the disciples and they followed. In scripture and reflection, in prayer, in song and in silence, help us to hear your voice, to lay aside all that entangles us, and to follow you. May we follow now in our worship and all our days, by the grace of your Spirit. Amen.

Gracious God, you cast your net into the deep waters of our hearts. Draw us up, gather us into the net of your making, so that we will come to you and follow. Even now, silver fish deep in our hearts are rising toward the light. Help us to hear your voice. Help us to answer. Help us to follow you. Amen.

God of love, Christ proclaimed that the realm of heaven has drawn near, and called us to repent. We give thanks for the realm of your grace, and turn from our self-centered lives in order to hear your good news. Bless us, that as the scriptures are read and your good news proclaimed, we may hear what you are saying to us today. Amen.

God of love, our eyes are on the nets of our work.
Open them to receive your call.
Our hands are on the worn, familiar wood of the boats of our lives.
Open them to reach for you.
We are casting our nets into the riches of this world.
May we cast the nets of our hearts into the deep sea of your grace.
May all of our work, and all of our lives,
become one with your work of the healing of the world,
in the name and Spirit of Christ.

Prayer of Confession

Pastor: The grace of God be with you.
All: And also with you.
Trusting in God’s tender mercy, let us confess our sin to God with one another.
Gentle God,
into the darkness of our hearts,
shine your light,
that we may see,
and that all that is not of life and blessing may be made new.
As the dawn transforms the night,
forgive our sin,
and make us new in the power of your grace. Amen.
(Silent prayer… the word of grace )

Listening Prayer

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

Loving Christ, unexpected,
you come into our lives
and ask us to follow.
We leave our nets,
let go of all that entangles,
surrender all our other loyalties,
and we come with you.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

         We believe in God, creator of all, who has fashioned each in God’s image, with God’s gifts, God’s love, God’s glory.
         We are called to follow Jesus, God’s love made flesh, who fed and healed, who taught and forgave, who called forth a community of freedom and justice. For his challenge to systems of injustice he was crucified; but he was raised from the dead, and still goes before us in life.
         We live by the power and the grace of the Holy Spirit, God’s loving presence leading, guiding, empowering us. We are called and gifted by the Spirit to join Jesus in lives of compassion, forgiveness, beauty, joy and justice. We commit ourselves to trust in God, to follow Jesus, and to listen to the Holy Spirit in all our lives, and to help one another to do so, as the Body of Christ. These things we profess with our words and our lives, with the help of the Spirit, in the name of Christ. Amen.

       We give our hearts to you, God, Creator of all things, ruler of all things to come, our light and our life.
       We follow Jesus Christ, your Word made flesh, who taught and healed, who loved and blessed, who called disciples and proclaimed the Realm of your grace. He was crucified and buried, but you raised him to new life. He lives among us, and calls us still to follow as his apprentices in the ministry of the healing of the world.
      We live by the Holy Spirit, as the Body of Christ, your Church. We trust in the power of forgiveness, the reality of resurrection, the presence of eternal life, and the communion of all people as one. We commit ourselves to follow Jesus in prayer, in faith, in love and in service, by the grace of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

We believe in God, maker of all things. We follow Christ, who healed and taught and proclaimed the good news of your love. He was crucified, yet you raised him from death and he lives with us now, teaching us love. We believe in the power of love to change lives, to lead people to you, and to hold us together in a net of grace. We believe that we are called to serve Christ as fishers of people, empowered by the Holy Spirit. We believe in the power of forgiveness, the communion of saints, the reality of resurrection and the infinite promise of life. Amen.


                     No fear

          The Lord is my light and my salvation;
                    whom shall I fear?
          The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
                    of whom shall I be afraid?
     — Psalm 27.1

Inside you, God,
there is nothing to fear.
No power can overwhelm,
no enemy threaten.

Be light in me,
pure and powerful light
that cannot be injured,
that simply shines
without fear.

May I be light,
strong and unafraid,
trusting and true.

Eucharistic Prayer

[After the introduction the body of the prayer may be read responsively or by the presider(s) only.]

Leader:God is with you.
All: And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
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.

We thank you, God, for this beautiful and amazing world.
Shoals of blessing shimmer just beyond what we see.
When our lives seem bleak or pointless,
you bring to the surface such abundant grace we are astonished.
Our minds can scarcely comprehend it. Our nets are near breaking.
So we fall to our knees, humbled and in awe.
But you lift us up and call us to lives of praise and service.
Therefore with gratitude and wonder 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 version]

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ,
who climbs into the boat of our lives and teaches us,
who directs us into deeper waters,
who multiplies blessing.
He calls us to join him in ministry to the world,
and promises to be with us always.

     (The Blessing and Covenant)

As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.
Therefore, remembering these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves 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.
        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 Spirit on us,
that we may be for the world the Body of Christ,

fishers of people, who behold the bounty of your grace,
and who cast the net of your love far and wide in this world
for the sake of all your Beloved.

      [Spoken or sung]

Prayer of Dedication / Sending

Gracious God, we give you our lives, symbolized in our gifts. Receive them with love, bless them with grace and use them according to your will. Jesus goes before us and beckons us to follow. By your Spirit help us follow: help us live lives of love and courage, for the sake of the healing of the world, in the name of Christ. Amen.

Gracious God, we give you these gifts as symbols of our lives. Receive them with love, bless them with grace, and use them according to your will. Send us into the world as your disciples to join in your work of teaching and healing, and proclaiming the good news of your grace, for the sake of the transformation of the world, in the name and the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

Gracious God, we give you these gifts as symbols of our lives. Receive them with love, bless them with grace, and use them according to your will. By the power of your Spirit at work in us, may we be fishers of people, drawing them in to your heart, gathering them in the great network of love that is your church, blessing them with your grace. Send us in the power of your Spirit, and in the name and company of Christ. Amen

Prayer after Communion

God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. You have caught us up in the net of your grace, and you have called us to follow Christ. Give us faith and courage to follow. Guide us by your Spirit. Fill us with your love. Make us lovers of people, in 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) – [weekly Epiphany “Theme song”]
A dialogue between soloist and congregation. May be used as a “theme song” throughout the Epiphany season, using two or three verses per week. Throughout the season the congregation sings the chorus; each week the soloist’s verses relate to the day’s lectionary readings. Lyrics for this week:

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

The people in darkness have seen a great light. On them your glory has risen.
For you have broken oppression’s power. Your people rejoice!

You are my light, God, so who shall I fear? You shelter me, safe in your mercy.
Jesus, your call illumines my way, and so I will follow.

Calling Me(Original song)

Dear God, Creator eternally, you call everything to be.
How are you calling me, even now?
Who do you call me to be? Where is your image in me, calling me?

Jesus, lord of the fishermen, calling your children,
you call to me once again, even now.
What will you lead me to do? How can I witness to you, calling me, calling me?

Spirit, power of love in me, how do you set me free,
what gifts are you giving me, even now?
I am a vessel for you. Humbly I listen to you, calling me, calling me.

Drawing Me           (Original song)

Holy One, Mystery, how will you keep drawing me
nearer to the heart within the heart?
Nearer still, falling in, closer to the heart within,
draw me God. I fall into your love.
Lover, you are calling, you are drawing,
I am falling into you in love.

Deep in me there’s a voice, there’s a hunger, there’s a choice,
seeking something vital that is you.
By your grace drawing me, may I fall eternally
nearer to my center deep in you.
Lover, you are calling, you are drawing,
I am falling into you in love.

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