Last revised: August 7, 2012
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FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY — YEAR C
RCL: Isaiah 6:1-8 (9-13); 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Luke 5:1-11
RoCa: Isaiah 6:1-8; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Luke 5:1-11
Isaiah 6:1-8 (9-13)
1. A very significant passage for me is Isaiah 6:9-10 (among the optional verses for this lection which I would obviously advocate using). It figures prominently in both the introductory essay on my homepage and in my essay “Girardian Anthropology in a Nutshell.” I have argued that Mark makes this passage a centerpiece of his Gospel, arranging his material around the themes of deafness and blindness. Jesus quotes these two verses from Isaiah in Mark 4:12 (and par.). His two major sermons, then, use keywords that warn against these maladies: “Listen!” in Mark 4, and “Watch!” in Mark 13. Jesus’ healing of deaf and blind people also shape his narrative. It is commonly recognized, for example, that the section in which Jesus is trying to get his disciples to see what following him means, i.e., following him to the cross, is sandwiched between two healings of blind men (Mark 8:22-26 and 10:46-52). These blind men can now see, but the disciples can’t. They have ears unhearing and eyes unseeing. For more, see comments on the gospel for Proper 25B.
2. Raymund Schwager, Jesus in the Drama of Salvation, p. 63. His citing of Isa. 6 kicks off a brilliant section that ponders the use of such an idea in the gospels, such as in Mark 4. It is no surprise, then, that this is one of my favorite sections in this book, and so I share with you these pages on the “Doubling of Sin and Hell.”
3. James G. Williams, The Bible, Violence & the Sacred, p. 143. Williams has this to say about the call of the prophets, Isaiah in particular:
When we turn to the great prophets whose names are preserved in the books ascribed to them, we find the victimization mechanism overcome as they draw upon its structure and transform it. In his relation to the God of Israel, the prophet who stands out of the community structures of violence does so in order to stand for both the community and its victims. I have already referred to Amos, who was probably the first of these prophets chronologically (c. 750 B.C.E.). He says that “the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel'” (Amos 7:15). In justifying his prophetic calling he uses the analogies of a lion attacking its prey, a bird snared by a trap, and a trumpet of war causing fear in a city. He likewise is “attacked,” “snared,” “afraid.” “The lion has roared; who will not fear? The Lord God has spoken; who can but prophesy?” (Amos 3:8). As one who is singled out, who is a kind of “victim” for the sake of his calling, he announces divine judgment on Israel, on those who “sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes” (Amos 2:6).In Isaiah 6, which is commonly recognized as his call vision, Isaiah is set against his people with a message of destruction. Only a tenth of the people will remain, and even it will be burnt the way a stump is burnt after a great tree is felled. The process of selecting the prophet takes the form of sacrificial initiation and commission by God. The sacrificial initiation involves a burning coal from the altar that is touched to Isaiah’s lips by one of the seraphim that he sees. The seraph says, “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven” (Isa 6:7, RSV). I commented on “forgive,” Hebrew kipper, in chapter 2. There I concurred with Gese’s conclusion that the verb and its noun, kofer, has to do with the price of exchange, with what is given in exchange for one’s life. In the temple setting of Isaiah’s vision, animal sacrifice is in the background of the sacrificial ransom, but it is relegated to a distant point, for the giving over of the prophet’s life is symbolized in the purifying effect of the burning coal. Then the prophet hears the divine voice speaking in council, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” (6:8). Although the total experience is overwhelming, Isaiah, in contrast to Amos, puts himself forth as a volunteer. “Here am I! Send me” (6:8). Depicted here, then, is a group in the heavenly sphere, similar to the assembly of the gods in Enuma Elish; however, in this case the gods or angels are clearly subordinate to YHWH, and it is presumably a smaller group functioning as his advisers. The prophet, in responding positively, is not coerced but willingly gives himself to the task, on which he is sent. “Sending” (Hebrew shalach), simple word though it is, is quite interesting in uncovering the sacrificial mechanism. The intensive verbal stem in Hebrew sometimes means “to expel,” as in the scapegoat sent into the wilderness (Lev 16:10). It is employed likewise of the act of the rapists in judges 19:25: “And as the dawn began to break, they let her go.” That could be translated “then dismissed her” or “they cast her out.” However, the prophet, though he faces the possibility of being “cast out” of his society as a messenger of judgment, is sent from the divine community with a mission to Israel. This mission required that Isaiah proclaim judgment upon oppressors who “turn aside the needy from justice, and . . . rob the poor of my people of their right” (Isa 10:2). (pp. 143-144)
4. Robert Hamerton-Kelly, sermon from August 10, 2003 (Woodside Village Church), 6th in a series of eleven sermons on the prophets.
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
1. James Alison, The Joy of Being Wrong, p. 71, nt. 10 on p. 78. The Resurrection is the foundation for all of Alison’s theologizing. Pages 70-83, encompassing two sections entitled “The Resurrection” and “The Intelligence of the Victim,” lay important groundwork for Alison’s entire approach. They provide helpful background for St. Paul’s great chapter on the Resurrection.
2. Raymund Schwager, Jesus in the Drama of Salvation, pp. 102, 103, 138, 144, 152, 154.
3. Robert Hamerton-Kelly, sermon from February 7, 2010 (Society of St. John at St. Mark’s Chapel, Palo Alto).
1. Gil Bailie, the lecture series on “The Gospel of Luke,” tape #3. He nearly skips over this passage, only making the following observation: In this story is a representation of the two churches of the 1st century: Jewish and Gentile. On the lake of Gennesaret (Galilee), Jesus sees two boats, one belonging to Peter [the other unspecified]. Getting in Peter’s boat, Jesus has them cast their nets. They catch so many fish that “they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them.” This might be a reference to the Gentile churches of Paul.
Bailie has a lot more to say about the surrounding context of healing and forgiveness. See my notes / transcription on Luke 5.
3. Robert Hamerton-Kelly, sermon from February 4, 2007 (Society of St. John at St. Mark’s Chapel, Palo Alto).
Reflections and Questions
1. Might one say that this is only the first time that Jesus called his disciples? And that it didn’t stick this first time, since they all abandoned him at his arrest, and so Jesus had to call them a second time after the Resurrection? I have a sermon that begins with this idea of a second call, bringing the other two lessons in: the First Lesson to provide language to talk about what blocks us from hearing the call, and the Second Lesson to talk about what is different after the Resurrection. Link to the sermon “A Bad Hire?“