I write you from Las Vegas where I am attending a conference on congregational vitality. This is my first trip to Vegas and while the venues are amazing and the opportunities endless, I am not gambling my paycheck away. Nor have I run into Elvis (yet). I return Saturday afternoon, and look forward to seeing you Sunday.
Because my mind and time are occupied here, I can give you only a quick peek at Sunday’s texts, and extend an invitation.
Sunday is the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, and the Old Testament and Gospel readings dovetail in revealing further truth about God’s work in the world and Jesus’ true identity.
The Old Testament reading (Isaiah 6.1-8) begins with a bombshell time stamp: “in the year that King Uzziah died.” His death in 742 BCE was as catastrophic for them as the death of President Kennedy in 1963 was for us. Uzziah had overseen a long reign of economic prosperity, technological advancement, and military security. Isaiah was called to prophecy after his death, in a new era of inexperienced leadership and political turmoil. In a dramatic vision, Isaiah views God’s majesty and the power of it throws Isaiah to his knees: “Woe is me! I am lost.” What did Isaiah see, exactly, that illuminated both his own inadequacies and the might of God?
The Gospel reading (Luke 5.1-11) reminds me of the tired put-down to women who seek authority to “stick to your knitting.” (It’s been said to me more than once. And I don’t even knit!) Last week we read that Jesus evaded an assassination attempt on the part of his old neighbors in Nazareth. This week Jesus is walking on the beach, teaching from a boat, giving advice about fishing to professional fishers. Why did Simon and his fishing partners, unable to catch any fish in their nets, heed Jesus’ advice to “put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch?” Jesus knew as much about fishing as I do about knitting. Maybe Jesus was interested in snagging more than sea bass. And did you notice that, like Isaiah, Simon fell to his knees when he realized who it was who critiqued his fishing technique?
The Epistle reading (1 Corinthians 15.1-11) continues the correspondence between the Apostle Paul and the congregation in Corinth. Sunday’s portion of this letter, in which Paul establishes his bona fides as a late-to-the-game-apostle, is a set-up for what comes next week—Paul’s beautiful exposition about the nature of the resurrection.
An Invitation. Please join us Sunday at 9:30 a.m. for our February Vitality Talk—a conversation with a member of Ascension who has known homelessness. His testimonial is part of our deepening relationship with The Night Ministry and our concern for the homeless among us. After worship at 11:30, we invite you to share a sack lunch with “All Ascension Reads”—a second opportunity to discuss the book “Souls in the Hands of a Tender God.”
In addition, we are delighted to welcome the Alloy Horn Quartet to worship, in advance of their performance in our “One Tree Many Branches” concert series a week from now. We also recognize Scout Sunday, inviting all current and former Scouts and Scout leaders to be honored for their commitment to this important ministry for boys and girls.
I need to get back to the conference, so I’ll bid you adieu from Las Vegas. If I win anything at the tables, I’ll certainly tithe it to Ascension. And if I run into Elvis, I’ll tell him you said “Love me tender, love me true.”
See you Sunday.
Pastor JoAnn Post