Revised Common Lectionary: Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 40:1-11; 1 Corinthians 1:1-9; John 1:29-42

Our Hebrew Scriptures this season after the Epiphany focus on the Servant passages in Isaiah, passages that Christians have often read through the lens of Jesus, but looking in the context and history of the time of Isaiah, we see that the people Israel have been personified in the person of the servant (verse 3 is clear on this). This servant song shows that God has chosen Israel, despite the ones that broke the covenant, and that they will become a light to other nations because of the ones who remain faithful. Israel is a witness to the whole world of God’s love and salvation.

Psalm 40:1-11 sings of God’s faithfulness to those who remain faithful, even for those who have suffered. God is the one who lifts us up, gives us a new song to sing, and we ought to share the Good News of God’s love and faithfulness with all. The psalmist reminds us not to hide it away, but to share it with all in thanksgiving for what God has done for us.

The beginning of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (the first one that we have, there was most likely an earlier letter that was lost) begins with prayer and thanksgiving, as many of Paul’s letters do. Paul greets the church and gives thanks to God for them, and speaks of how they have been blessed with spiritual gifts. God is faithful and their witness to Christ is strong; however, as we continue to read this letter, we will find where Paul critiques them about how they have used their gifts. Nonetheless, Paul’s prayer reminds them that God is faithful and will strengthen them “to the end,” and that they are part of the fellowship of Christ Jesus.

John 1:29-42 contains John’s version of the call of the first disciples. In this version, the first disciples of Jesus had followed John first. It tells us that two of John’s disciples began to follow Jesus, but only names one of them: Andrew, who later goes and gets his brother Simon and they follow Jesus. In John’s Gospel, they are disciples of John the Baptist, and John’s Gospel does not mention they are fisherman. But John’s Gospel also does not name the other disciple of John who turned to follow Jesus. John’s Gospel tells us that John the Baptist declared that Jesus was the Son of God by recalling how he baptized him, and his disciples turned and followed Jesus—and they were literally following Jesus in verse 38—Jesus asks them, “What are you looking for?” They ask Jesus where he is staying, and he simply replies, “Come and see.” We don’t know what else Jesus may have said to them, or where he was staying, but whatever he showed them or said, they began to be Jesus’ disciples, and Andrew went and brought back Simon. This passage is filled with mystery: who was that other disciple of John’s? Where was Jesus staying? What did they see, and what did Jesus say to them? We don’t know, but we know it was enough that they left John to follow Jesus. And John the Baptist’s words to them—his declaration of Jesus as God’s Son—was enough for them to turn to follow Jesus.

Faithfulness to God involves trust. The people of Israel trusted in God despite what had happened to them, despite their leaders failing them and the people ending up in exile. Their trust remained in God even when it was hard. The psalmist sings of faithfulness in God because they trust God will lift them up out of the pit. And the early disciples of Jesus trusted John’s witness enough that they turned from following John to following Jesus with his declaration of Jesus as God’s Son, and the Lamb of God. Being faithful doesn’t mean we don’t fall short at times and make mistakes; it means we trust that God is still with us despite our own shortcomings. God remains faithful, and God will lift us up.

Call to Worship:
When fear is holding you back,
     Come and see, and follow Christ.
When despair has brought you down,
     Lift up your head, and follow Christ.
When all seems lost and the world is too harsh,
     Take his hand, and follow Christ.
In this time of worship
     Let us follow Jesus, and know that Jesus is with us.
Christ has come before us, Christ is with us, and Christ will come again. Amen.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Faithful God, we have broken promises, forgotten commitments, and failed relationships. We have set out with good intentions but have not followed through. Forgive us for falling short and turning away from You. Help us to seek forgiveness from each other for our own shortcomings. Renew in us a spirit of faithfulness and help us to trust in You for our own forgiveness, so that we may learn to forgive others. In the name of Jesus, who remains faithful even when we do not, we pray. Amen.

Blessing/Assurance of Pardon (from 2 Timothy 2:11-12a, 13)
“If we have died with Christ, we will also live with Christ. If we endure, we will also reign with Christ. If we are faithless, Christ remains faithful—for Christ cannot deny himself.” Christ remains faithful to us always. We are forgiven. We are loved. We are made worthy in Christ. Go and share the Good News. Amen.

Almighty God, we come to You to lift us up. Lift us up away from the ways of the world that drag us down. Lift us up from broken relationships. Lift us up from broken promises. Lift us up from the hurt of this world, so that we may walk in Your light. We know that You are faithful, always. We know that You are the one who made us in Your image. We know that You are with us, even when we cannot experience Your presence. Help us to walk by faith through the valley of the shadow, and into Your light, so that we can become Your light to the world. Amen.

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