Brian Hiortdahl, West Hills, CA

Warm-up Question

Who inspires you and how?

Saying It Forward

The Lucas family lost their son and gained a cause.  When 18 year old Jonah died, his grieving family decided to start a program inspired by his caring relationships with people experiencing homelessness.  They now collect coats and other clothing items for distribution to those in need, and have attracted the attention and support of others in the community.  KUTV in Salt Lake City, Utah featured this story under the heading “Pay It Forward.”

Discussion Questions

  • When have you seen a simple act of goodness expand, maybe even go viral into something bigger?
  • What lessons can others learn from the Lucas family?
  • Where is there unmet need in your community?  How can you respond?  Who will you invite to join you?

Second Sunday After Epiphany

Isaiah 49:1-7

1 Corinthians 1:1-9

John 1:29-42

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

John makes a stunning claim about Jesus, calling him “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the whole world.”  That’s a lot of sin.  The Greek word for “world” is also familiar in English:  the word is “cosmos.”  It can mean either the universe or the ordered system, the structure of the way things are.  Either way, removing what is wrong in the cosmos is an enormous project.

How will God’s lamb do this?  The gospel’s next move is surprising.  Jesus slowly begins to attract a few followers with (maybe despite) awkward conversations.  It feels like trying to conquer homelessness by walking into a clothing store.  But perhaps Jonah and his family (in the news item noted above) weren’t trying to house everyone, but to love them…and that is the direction the lamb of God takes.  Theologians say that sin means separation—from God, from others, from self.  Jesus comes to bridge and remove that separation from the cosmos.

The story ripples forward like kindness.  John tells everyone about the Messiah, then his disciple Andrew tells his brother Simon, and the news will continue in the following verses to reach Philip and Nathanael.  A network is slowly being built based on relationships.  Separation will be overcome by connection.  The disciples’ question, “Where are your staying? will echo again in chapter 15, because the word “staying” also means  “abiding, remaining”…the same word Jesus uses to describe their enduring relationship (John 15:4).  Jesus’ answer,”Come and see,” is the same phrase Philip will say to wary Nathanael (John 1:46).  Even Jesus’ first question,”What are your looking for?, will be echoed at the second beginning of the gospel in the garden of resurrection (John 20:15).  As with best friends, the same words and phrases on different lips reveal connection, togetherness.  Separation is replaced with relationship.

This is at the heart of Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream, in which the children of slaves and slave owners “sit down together at the table of brotherhood” and “little black boys and little black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and little white girls as sisters and brothers.” (I Have a Dream, 1963).  Disciples of Jesus work for the removal of socially reinforced separation—cosmic sin—which is the cause of justice.  It takes many different forms, but it always involves careful listening, caring speech, and honoring the dignity of all people.  Sometimes this happens slowly, even awkwardly, one face, one conversation, one jacket at a time.

Discussion Questions

  • What are you looking for in life?
  • How do you introduce Jesus to others?
  • Where do you see sin at work in the world?  What is one small, concrete thing you can do to counter it?

Activity Suggestions

  • Select, read, and discuss any three speeches by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  What does he say about the way things are (the cosmos)?  What light does he shed on sin, love, justice, and relationships?
  • Write a letter of appreciation to someone to whom you are close.  Include as many words, phrases, “inside jokes” and meaningful references in your relationship as you can.
  • Organize a drive at your church to collect coats, clothes, toiletries or other necessities for people experiencing homelessness in your community, or make a donation to Jackets for Jonah.

Closing Prayer

Lamb of God, connect and keep us all in your love.  Remove our sin, renew our hearts, and open our hands to help and bless our neighbors in need. Amen