Second Sunday after the Epiphany
All glory be to God! More particularly, the emphasis of this Epiphany season is: All glory be to Christ! Truly there is abundant reason to give glory unto the Lord. Think of the magnetism of his person – he drew all men unto him. He is the master teacher as men reacted, “Never man spake like this man.” The majesty of his very person attracted attention and called for commendation. And then add to all this the marvel and wonder of his works. He is verily the Lord of compassion, the mighty helper, the understanding and merciful Redeemer. Jesus is worthy of the praise and plaudits of men.
But what does all of this mean to us? We like to be praised, too. We are human. We like to be well spoken of. Like a child we raise our head and straighten our shoulders when we are well spoken of by a friend, an associate, a co-worker. There is not a single one of us who does not like a pat on the back, a word of praise. However, we often fail to get it even when we rightly deserve it. Just think how often we are slow to praise, reluctant to give due credit to our fellowman. Many are the kind and noble deeds and the helping and understanding words that go unrecognized. But where men may fail, God does not. The readings for this Sunday of the Epiphany season and especially our text in the epistle lesson tell us that through God and his grace we have: A Glory to be Shared.
The God of all grace who has given us his only begotten Son has
Called Us to be Saints
The apostle Paul addresses the members of the congregation at Corinth, and this applies to us also who are members of a Christian congregation, “those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” What a name to be called! Who are these Corinthians, yes, who are we, that we can be called saints? The congregation at Corinth was not made up of such special people. In fact, they were quite ordinary. When we read on in this letter we find that these Christians were split up in factions, the various groups acclaiming Paul, or Apollos, or Peter, setting themselves up as better than the other. There was bickering and squabbling going on among them. These differences became so strong at times that they were ready to fight about their difference and even took matters to court, suing one another and bringing charges against their neighbors. Their moral standards were lax and Paul found it necessary to admonish and correct them. Lust and price and envy and jealousy reared their ugly heads in their midst. We ask ourselves if Paul was projected into the twentieth century American scene. The problems he had to deal with among these Christians and the situations that had developed in their congregation are still a part of the way of life for many in our own day and time. People then and now, are sinful and express and show the effect of sin in their lives.
And still Paul can say, “You are called to be saints.” Yes, he can say, and not just be doing some wishful thinking, because Christ shares the glory of his holiness with us. It is because we are what we are, sinners all, that the Father sent his only begotten Son into the world that he might take upon himself our very nature and bear the burden and the penalty of our sin. Jesus lived his sinless life and no one could find fault in him. In his suffering and death Christ paid the penalty for sin that we ought to have paid so that we might be set free from our guilt and be counted worthy to stand in the presence of our holy and just Father in heaven. Christ shares with us the glory of his righteousness. Now all who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, accepting him in true faith as their Savior, can be called saints. The Christ who came to this earth as God’s beloved Son shares this sonship with us by faith so that we, too, can be called the sons and daughters of God.
Proclaimers of the Good News
Paul reminds these Corinthians that as they received this high calling in Christ Jesus they must also share in a glorious responsibility. “In every way you were enriched in him with all speech and all knowledge – even as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you.” The apostle had preached and taught among them Christ and him crucified. This is the Gospel they had heard and believed and in which they stood. The whole mission and work of Christ had been to share this message of life and salvation. The proclamation of this great good news was continued through the preaching of the apostles and is to be made known still today through those who have come to know and accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.
What a message to share! We, too, have come to know and believe in Christ as our Savior. In him we have forgiveness, life and salvation. As God has given us the treasurers of his grace, he calls upon us to share this good news with others. The spread of God’s kingdom comes through the witness of God’s people through their proclamation of his Gospel. This is our privilege. This is our glorious opportunity to share the glory that is ours in Christ.
Equipped to Serve
The fulfillment of this calling to be witnesses for Christ is not always easy. But Paul reminds us that God supplies our need and has equipped us to serve: “In every way you were enriched in Christ,” and “You are not lacking in any spiritual gift.” When God calls us into his fellowship and makes us co-workers with him, he also equips us for that calling. When Christ was sent into the world on his mission of preaching and teaching, John the Baptist tells us in the Gospel lesson that Jesus was baptized with the Holy Ghost. The heavenly Father supplied Jesus with those gifts necessary for him to perform his task.
And God still pours our his Holy Spirit on us today. God is not stingy in providing us with the gifts needed to do his work. In every way he enriches us so that “we are not lacking in any spiritual gift.” We are partakers with Christ in those gifts needed to fulfill our calling. This does not mean that each of us had every gift. The Lord supplies everyone with what he needs according to God’s loving will. All of us together as the people of God are supplied with that fullness of gifts which enables us to do the work of the Lord. We share in the blessings of those gifts which glorify God so that we can continue the mission of Christ among all people and make known in life and in word the glory of God’s love. Truly, we share in a wonderful and privileged calling in proclaiming the good news of the Gospel.
Assured of Success
This life in Christ is assured of a glorious end even though there are times when the glory is dimmed and the clouds gather around. This was true even with the glory manifested by Christ in his life. We recall the times when he was rejected, when he was cast out. And remember the spurning and rejection directed at this Jesus in the last hours of his life. This was also true of the life of the Apostle Paul. In the eleventh chapter of his second letter to this same congregation at Corinth, Paul gives a summary of his trials and tribulations. So do not be surprised when the glory of being a Christian is dimmed in our lives and we wonder if there is any glory at all. We have the blessed assurance that these dark moments shall not prevail, for “our Lord Jesus Christ will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful.”
When sin keeps popping up in our lives, when the powers of darkness seem to attack again and again, then we share in the glory of Christ’s victory over evil and the devil, for the Lord sustains us guiltless in the day of the Lord. His forgiveness does not fail us. Our God is a faithful God who keeps his promises. He will pardon, cleanse, relieve. When we become weary in the battle for God and his kingdom, when fears and doubts grip us and would fill us with discouragement and despair, then the all-powerful Lord will sustain us. His guiding providence will be at work in our lives to direct all things to our good. His power is equal to, yes, greater than any need and problem we may be confronted with in our lives.
In Christ we have the faith that overcomes the world. Christ set his face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem, to capture and trial and death, assured of the victory of God’s will and God’s plan for the world’s redemption. We share in this same glory of victory in our calling as God’s own and workers in his kingdom. We lift up our heads even in the darkest hour and see the sun of God’s love and power. We see the light of victory in the conquering Christ even in the grimmest situations. We can radiate the glory of the victory over all that is ours in Christ.
Mindful of our calling as saints of God, recalling our commission as workers together with our Lord in his church, we need to ask ourselves: How do we measure up to the place the Lord has given us? What kind of a reflection of the glory of Christ is seem in our lives? The Lord Jesus came forth from the Father to show forth his glory. And God was seen in Christ. Now Jesus gives us the high and holy privilege of sharing his glory with others. We are his witnesses. The glory of Christ shines also in the world today through us. He shares with us the calling of being little Christs. Share it, show it forth, let that glory shine in your life.
Edgar C. Rakow
Zion Lutheran Church