Knysna Methodist Church – Lectionary notes – 30.1.2022
Jeremiah’s ministry as a prophet lasted for forty years. In spite of a great deal of discouragement and opposition he was both faithful and courageous. He lived in the village of Anathoth, some five kilometres outside Jerusalem where his family would have been able to travel to Jerusalem to carry out their duties as priests. He lived in the days when Josiah was king. This was a time of reform to purify Israel from its practice of idol worship and encourage people to return to God. However, although both the king and the prophet had the same goal in mind, they were not very successful. Jeremiah was called personally by God. He seems to have been familiar with the words of previous prophets, such as Isaiah, Amos, and others, probably due to his upbringing in a godly home. God told Jeremiah that He had known him long before their moment of encounter to show the prophet that God had plans for him.
Whilst his immediate message was to Judah in the last years before exile, it is still relevant for us today. God’s message through Jeremiah was universal. Jeremiah is full of excuses! He is too young – but God says that is irrelevant. God can use young people as much as He can use anyone and there are many examples of Him doing so, both in Scripture and in the present day. God encouraged and persuaded Jeremiah, and the young man followed his calling, in spite of being given an unpopular message about God’s judgment to deliver. God’s presence over-ruled both these objections. Jeremiah was still reluctant and God stretched out His hand and touched Jeremiah’s mouth. The prophet did not have an easy life, but it was a life (and a calling) he could not refuse.
Psalm 71: 1-6
The composer of this psalm is unidentified however he appears to be a man of mature years. There are many allusions to other psalms, indicating a maturity of faith too (see Psalms 31:1-3; 22:9-11 etc). The psalmist asserts his trust in God that God will clear his name and protect him from any shame. He requested God to deliver him from harm and to be his place of safety. He prayed with every confidence that God would answer his prayer.
There seemed to be someone who was manipulating the psalmist and so the prayer was for deliverance from this man’s grip. The psalmist says he will always praise God as he again professes his hope and trust in Him for He had supported him from his birth.
1 Corinthians 12:31b; 13:1-13
Having spoken at length about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, Paul now turns his attention to the one thing that surpasses them all – love. None of the gifts mean anything without love, but the goal of the gifts is love.There were four different words that described love in the Greek language. Eros is sexual love, storge is the love within a family, philia describes deep friendship, and agape is a self-giving love that expects no return. Paul uses the word agape in this chapter. Such a love can be offered to those who are unlovable, even when it is rejected. It does not describe God’s love, which is greater even than this, for it is said that people love evil with an agape love (John 3:19). Agape love is, however a sacrificial kind of love. It does not describe emotion so much as an intentional setting aside of one’s own needs for the needs of someone else.
Paul goes on to say no matter what we do; no matter how admirable our actions or words may seem, if love is not involved, our sacrifices are worthless. Love is an action, not an ideal. It puts up with all sorts of annoying, harmful and hurtful behaviour towards us, with no desire for revenge. It is revealed in simple acts of kindness. Paul writes a list. Love is not:
• Envious- it is not resentful at someone else’s success or jealous of other’s possessions
• Boastful – it is happy to work or give without being acknowledged or noticed
• Arrogant or proud – but rather is humble and unassuming
• Rude – it is kind and has good manners
• Self-seeking – it puts the welfare, comfort and happiness of others first
• Annoyed – it puts up with those who are irritating
• Looking for the worst in people – it sets aside the hurts it has suffered, whether real or imagined
• Taking pleasure in injustice – it wants the best for others.
Paul then goes on to define what love is – and in each case he qualifies it with the words ‘all things’:
• It bears evil and hurt, wrapping them in love, refusing to make the situation worse by passing on harmful
gossip or actions, but rather moving beyond such behaviour
• It always believes the best in others unless there are facts that prove otherwise
• It has confidence in the future, hoping for the best, placing its hope in God
• It goes on and on, bearing, believing and hoping
Love is the actual work of God. The gifts are the containers that hold love and pass it on. At some time the gifts we have received will cease – possibly when we die – but love will continue to exist even beyond that time. It is the measure of Christian maturity. Paul says those who are spiritually mature realise that the gifts are not everything and, whilst they are important, they are not the most important aspect of Christian life. At some stage the importance of the gifts of the Spirit will fade with the actual presence of Jesus, when all who follow Him shall see Him face to face. In Paul’s day, Corinth was renowned for producing the best mirrors in existence, but even then, they were just made of polished metal and the image they reflected was distorted. This is how, Paul says, we see Jesus now but one day we will see Him clearly.
In heaven, when this meeting occurs, Christ-followers will have the strength and the ability to know God as perfectly as it is possible to know Him. There will be no barriers of any sort between His people and God Himself. The people of God should seek faith, hope and love as the focus of the Christian lives. These are God’s priorities and they should be those of every Christ-follower. In the end, in heaven, faith and hope will have fulfilled their purpose. The only one of these three which will continue is love. God is love and as such, love will never end.
As Jesus began to speak He answered two questions His listeners would have had. Who is Isaiah speaking about? When was He talking about? Jesus said Isaiah was talking of Him, Jesus, and he was writing about that very day when Jesus was talking to them. The fact that His listeners were amazed at His gracious words implies that Jesus continued to speak. When He had finished they were astonished that someone like Joseph’s son, one of their neighbours, could be such a skilled preacher.
Jesus knew they would want Him to prove Himself to them by performing miracles as He had done elsewhere. But Jesus knew they would have trouble accepting that one of their own was special in any way – He seemed so normal and familiar to them.
Jesus told them that their rejection of Him said more about them than it did about Him, and that God’s power was often evident in unexpected places. The examples Jesus used were Old Testament healings of Gentiles. Naaman, for example, had to obey certain instructions in faith and humility – and he was healed.
But this made Jesus’ neighbours angry. They didn’t want to hear there was anything wrong with them, their request for a miracle was denied and God did not only love them, but the Gentiles too. Jesus made no attempt to please His listeners or gauge their approval as a measure of success. Their attempt to push Him off a cliff was the first step to stoning Him to death. But Jesus slipped away without being noticed by any of them.
Points to Ponder
• How old (or young) were you when you were first aware of doing something specific for God?
• When has a young person said or done something for God that made you wonder at their faith and obedience?
Briefly share the event.
• How do you respond to someone who has hurt you, whether physically or emotionally? Do you want to retaliate
or are you content to let God sort the matter out for you? Why do you react that way?
• When you consider the meaning of the word agape – self-sacrificial love – how does it compare with the way
you love – your family, your colleagues, your friends, strangers, the unlovable, etc?
• What is your Christian life focused on? In what areas of your life would you like God to help you to love
• How does the expertise of local people compare, in your view, with the expertise of international scholars,
scientists, authorities? Do you consider foreign to be better than local or not? How did you respond to the
discovery of the Omicron variant of Covid by South African scientists? Why do you answer in this way?
• What difference, if any, would agape love make to your answers to these questions?
• How can the group help you with any struggles you have spoken about in this session?
Enduring word commentaries on Jeremiah 1; Psalm 71:1-6; 1 Corinthians 13; and Luke 4