January 6th: “Shine for All to See”

The glory of the LORD amplifies our light, reconciling people to God’s future.

This Week’s Passage: Isaiah 60:1-6

I. Establish the text

C. Other texts for Epiphany, Year C

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

I do this early, before researching the passage influences my questions.

1 — In the context of John’s Gospel which identifies Christ as the light of the world, we see this passage as shining because Christ has come into the world. How did Israel interpret this light?

2 — What are darkness covers people today? Loss of hope. Future beyond the daily grind.

3 — Whose light do nations and kings come? Does this refer to the light of God? Or to God’s light shining among us and reflected by us?

4 — We might deny recognition by those around us, but if we pay attention, we will see that the world does appreciate the light of God shining from the Church and that people do come here for reconciliation.

5 — But they do not bring this to us, but to the light of God, shining in our midst. The Magi did not bring gifts to a baby, but to the promise that shone through the baby.

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • This is the beginning of a long prophecy that continues and expands upon this theme.

II. Literary Study.

A. What is the history of the text? Who wrote it? When? In what social context? What Historical/Religious/Sociological factors influenced its writing?

Often attributed to Third Isaiah, student(s) of the prophet who wrote to those who had returned to their now shattered homelands.

III. Question the text.

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

  • Center of gravity: The glory of the LORD amplifies the light of his people.
  • Emotional Center: Family will be restored as people seek this light.
  • Image: Lighted arrow guiding people to look and return.

F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?

  • This is a picture of restoration and what might be.

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

Walter Bruggemann, “Off By Nine Miles” (http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=2103 ) “Matthew is not the first one to imagine three rich wise guys from the East coming to Jerusalem. His story line and plot come from Isaiah 60, a poem recited to Jews in Jerusalem about 580 B.C.E. These Jews had been in exile in Iraq for a couple of generations and had come back to the bombed-out city of Jerusalem. They were in despair. Who wants to live in a city where the towers are torn down and the economy has failed, and nobody knows what to do about it? … The poet anticipates that Jerusalem will become a beehive of productivity and prosperity, a new center of international trade.”

Bill Long, “Blinded by the … Darkness” (http://www.drbilllong.com/LectionaryIV/Is60.html) recounts how the darkness of current events (attempted assassination of Benazir Bhutto) can blind us from the light. He concludes: “We always look at this passage as a promise of light and the glory of the things coming from light, but the only verb used in a future tense in the first 1 1/2 verses relates to darkness. The light has already come. Thus arise. But, darkness will come.”

John Shearman, Kir Shalom (http://www.rockies.net/~spirit/sermons/c-epip-js.php) This passage from the unknown prophet of the Babylonian exile, styled as “the Second Isaiah,” is almost certainly the source for Matthew’s story of the visit of the Magi bearing gifts for Israel’s new born king. Many modern depictions of that event and the carol, “We Three Kings of Orient Are,” also take their basic elements from this passage. As it stands, however, it presents a clear description of Yahweh’s activity within human history interpreted metaphorically as giving light where darkness has previously prevailed. This, of course, recalls the first act of creation in Genesis 1: the creation of light where there had been only chaos and darkness. It also reiterates the theme of the first poem in the collection of Second Isaiah (40:5): “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed..”
The phrase “the glory of the Lord” in vs.1 (Heb. *kabhodh*) appears extensively in Isaiah and elsewhere in the OT. It is a central word for divine self-revelation or epiphany. The Christian festival and the liturgical season of Epiphany have this fundamental meaning. It refers not only to the revelation of Christ to Gentiles, but the self-revelation of God in Christ to the whole world.

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?

Restoration to prosperity from living under the light of the LORD.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

Hope in the face of darkness.

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