Worship Resources for February 7th, 2021—Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

Revised Common Lectionary: Isaiah 40:21-31; Psalm 147:1-11, 20c; 1 Corinthians 9:16-23; Mark 1:29-39

Narrative Lectionary: Raising the Widow’s Son, Luke 7:1-17 (Psalm 119:105-107)

God spoke through the prophet Isaiah to a people returning to their homeland from exile in Isaiah 40:21-31. The prophet reminded the people that God was the one who created, who set up the foundations of the earth. God sits enthroned on high, and human rulers are nothing. The things humanity builds and plant fade and fall away, but God is eternal. The youth, the ones returning (for their grandparents were the ones who were taken into exile) may tire and wear out, but those who wait for God will renew their strength. They will be strong, like having the wings of eagles, and will not tire out or faint.

The psalmist calls the congregation to praise God in Psalm 147:1-11, 20c. The psalmist sings of how God gathers the outcasts of Israel, how God holds together the brokenhearted and lifts up the downtrodden. God cares for and provides for creation. God doesn’t take joy in worldly victories but rather delights in those who draw close to God, who are in awe of God and find their hope in God.

Paul writes of how he has “become all things to all people,” in order that they might know Christ in 1 Corinthians 9:16-23. This explains why Paul doesn’t always send the same teaching to each church, but rather, he addresses the context of each community and their different cultural values. Paul tried to identify with the poor and oppressed in the communities he visited, so he could share with them the Gospel, the Good News.

Jesus heals Simon’s mother-in-law in Mark 1:29-39. Jesus, James, and John went to the home of Simon and Andrew after they left the synagogue where Jesus preached (the lectionary reading last week). The town began to bring their sick to Jesus, and he healed them, and cast out demons. But by morning, Jesus left the disciples to go to a deserted place to pray. By the time Simon, Andrew, James, and John found him, everyone was looking for him. Jesus told them it was time to move on, to go to the neighboring towns in Galilee to continue his ministry.

The Narrative Lectionary follows Luke’s account of Jesus’ ministry, and in chapter 7, he entered Capernaum and was met by Jewish elders who asked Jesus to come and heal a centurion’s servant (Capernaum happens to also be where the Revised Common Lectionary lesson in Mark 1:29-39 takes place). They told Jesus how this centurion loved the people and built the synagogue for them. Jesus went with the elders, but before he reached the house, the centurion sent friends to tell Jesus not to bother. He believed in authority and understood how it worked, and that all Jesus had to do was say the word and his servant would be healed. Jesus was impressed—he had not met anyone which such faith, even among his own people. When the centurion’s friends returned, the servant had been healed. Jesus left Capernaum and went to Nain, where he found mourners for a man who had died. Among them was the man’s mother, who was a widow. For a woman to lose both her husband and son was to lose her security in those days—titles and inheritance passed down from father to son, and women had to live with their closest male relative. But Jesus had compassion for her, and told her not to cry, then told the dead man to get up—and the man sat up and began to speak. Everyone began to speak about the great prophet among them, and the word spread about Jesus throughout the area.

Psalm 119:105-107 speaks of God’s word as a light unto our path. The psalmist kept faithfully to God’s ways, even though they suffered. They prayed for God to make them live again according to God’s promise.

In both lectionaries, Jesus’ ministry includes healing and authoritative teaching. People come to Jesus and bring their loved ones to him out of hope, and because Jesus has compassion for the people. Jesus often healed by touching people—taking them by the hand, calling them to get up. This act of compassion from Christ is compassion with authority: Jesus sees us as we are and knows us. Jesus sees, touches, guides those who are ill, or even dead, to rise. This compassion of Christ is physical, it is here and now and tangible, and not something that is promised after we die. The authority of God over life and death is ours, now, through Christ Jesus, when we show compassion to one another. That is true healing.

Call to Worship (from Psalm 147:1, 3, 7)
Praise the LORD!
How good it is to sing praises to our God;
For God is gracious,
and a song of praise is fitting.
God heals the brokenhearted,
and binds up their wounds.
Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving;
make melody to our God!

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Merciful God, we confess that we have hardened our hearts. We stare ahead instead of taking notice and acknowledging the person asking for help on the side of the road. We turn away when we hear a voice of someone calling out in their agony because we are afraid. We make empty promises to do better for others, for the environment, for organizations that help those in need when we have more money, more time, more resources. However, we often fail to follow through. Forgive us. Soften our hearts so to break open to compassion for those in need. Soften our heads so that we can discover Your abundance and how to use our resources now. You have shown us kindness and compassion time and again; help us to live into Your ways of mercy and justice for others. Amen.

God’s steadfast love endures forever. There is no limit to God’s great mercy. God showers you with kindness and compassion. Revel in it. Feel it wash over you. Soak it in. And knowing the abundance of God’s love that is within you, share it with others. Go and share the love of God, the compassion of God, and the peace of God with the world. Amen.

Architect of the Universe, who made the particles that formed the atoms and molecules that became bodies of gas and light and rock—the one who made the very earth we live upon—we give You thanks and praise. Your works are beyond what we can comprehend, and You are still at work, creating new stars and galaxies, things we will never see or know. Yet You have made Yourself known to us, and You have broken open our lives to understanding Your love at work in us. Our words fail us, for we are in awe of You, the Beginning and the End, the Creator of All Things, and the One who makes everything new. We praise You, and lift our prayers to You, El Shaddai, Almighty One. Amen.

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