Roman Catholic: Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7 Acts 10:34-38 Luke 3:15-16, 21-22
Revised Common: Isaiah 43:1-7 Acts 8:14-17 Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
Episcopal: Isaiah 42:1-9 Acts 10:34-48 Luke 3:15-16, 21-22
Focus Text: Isaiah 43:1-7
This is the first Sunday of Epiphany. It is the Sunday when we commemorate the Baptism of the Lord. Slowly the light that Jesus brings to the world becomes clearer and brighter. The texts for the week tell this story.
In the reading from Luke 3, John speaks about the one who is coming that will change everything, we see the Holy Spirit come down, we hear that Jesus is the beloved Son of God, that God is pleased with Him.
It is often accepted that the texts in Isaiah 42 refer to Christ, to the value God places in Him, the way in which He is ‘different’, the way in which He brings new life.
In Acts 10 Peter reminds us: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.” (34, 35). We hear about this different God, this God that accepts people without favoritism.
Isaiah 43 joyfully and even triumphantly sings about God’s love for His people, who are “precious and honoured” (4) in the sight of God.
Reading this with eyes that have read it many times before and listening with ears who have heard it often, we again might not find this so unusual. We accept as a matter of course that we are precious before God.
But when we read the last few verses of Isaiah 42 we see a very different picture.
Isa 42:24-25 “Who handed Jacob over to become loot, and Israel to the plunderers? Was it not the LORD, against whom we have sinned? For they would not follow his ways; they did not obey his law. So he poured out on them his burning anger, the violence of war. It enveloped them in flames, yet they did not understand; it consumed them, but they did not take it to heart.”
Here there is no sign of “precious and loved”! Here is no sign of loving relationship!
Yet the very next verse says:
Isa 43:1 But now, this is what the LORD says– he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, …”
What happened between the “burning anger” and “do not fear”? What happened that the one who has been “handed over to become loot” becomes “precious and loved”?
The reason for the restored relationship suddenly becomes clear when we read the rest of verse 1 “for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine” – God’s people have been redeemed!
Jesus, the beloved Son, restores the relationship between God and His people. Jesus allows us to see that we are precious in the eyes of God.
In our day we see many signs of disordered relationships between God and His people, we see many people who do not realise that they are precious before God. The stigma and judgment that those of us living with HIV face in their daily lives mean that it is particularly difficult for them to see that they are “precious and honoured” (4) in the sight of God.
This is the role of the church in the HIV epidemic! The way we act towards people living with HIV and other marginalized people can show them that they are loved and honoured, that they are indeed “precious and honoured” (4) in our eyes, because they are precious in the sight of God.
To think about: How does your faith community show people with HIV their value in the sight of God?