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Epiphany 8 | Ordinary Time 8, Cycle A

If we do the will of God, we will never be forsaken. We are assured of this in each of these texts.

Isaiah 49:8-16a
There are times when we as individuals or as a community may think that God has forsaken us, just as many Israelites felt that the Lord God had forsaken them when they lost their nation, their freedom, and their courage. The illustrations with which this beautiful prophetic tradition in Isaiah 49 attempted to reassure the ancient Israelites are as fresh and vivid today as they were then. We too realize that a mother who is nursing her child cannot forget that child. The pressure of the milk in her breasts reminds her of her responsibility and of her relationship to her child. The prophetic tradition here claims that even if a nursing mother were to forget her child, the Lord will not forget the People of the Lord. They are inscribed in the palm of the Lord’s hand. The people are assured that the Lord is thinking constantly about the walls of Jerusalem. Those who cruelly destroyed the city of Jerusalem will be used as ornaments by the new Jerusalem, worn as jewelry, as decorations for the new city, much as a bride may wear “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.”

What additional illustrations can we use along with this impressive collection as we proclaim the gospel with these texts in order to assure the people to whom we speak that the Lord has not forsaken them? Perhaps we could say, “Can a political candidate forget to appeal to the voters?” or perhaps, “Can a factory worker forget the whistle that marks the end of the eight-hour shift?”

Psalm 131
It is obvious that this brief psalm was selected to be used along with Isaiah 49:8-16a because, by trusting fully in the Lord, the fears and anxieties of the psalmist have been calmed and quieted in the way that a child as fed and quieted at its mother’s breast.

1 Corinthians 4:1-5
The parenesis (guidelines for living) provided in this text is that the Corinthians should neither commend nor condemn Paul, Apollos, Cephas, or any other servant of Christ. It is God and Jesus Christ as Lord who shall commend Paul and, if necessary, condemn him. Paul appeals to the authority of God, the authority to which we also appeal. We work for Christ, and ultimately for God — just as Paul worked — as stewards of the mysteries of God. That is sufficient for us, as it was for Paul.

Matthew 6:24-34
“Seek first to do God’s will!” There is an element of gospel in verse 33 of this text where it is written that we should first seek the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness, and then all things such as food, drink, and clothing will be ours also. Just as the heavens, the earth, and the mountains are urged to sing for joy in Isaiah 49:13, here in Matthew 6:24-34 it is implied that the birds of the air do God’s will merely by flying through the air, and the wildflowers of the field do God’s will merely by pointing their beauty to the sky. If birds and flowers can do God’s will, should we not much more do God’s will, since we, unlike the birds and the flowers, are said to have been created in the image of God? Therefore, we are told parenthetically that we should first seek to do God’s will, and no longer be anxious about tomorrow.

What is the will of God that we should do? The indications of the entire biblical account and of our religious traditions are that it is God’s will that this creation be “very good” in itself and be very good for all people. From this perspective, there are countless ways in which we can seek to do God’s will and, incidentally, receive food, drink, and clothing as well. We can, for example, work in the sanitation department of our city or town so that people do not have to smell rotting garbage or sewage. We can change our baby’s diaper and dispose of it properly so that our baby will be clean. Worrying will not make us any taller or make us live any longer. Our lives here will last for only a limited period of time; beyond that, as well as now, we are in the hands of a gracious God.

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Authors of
Lectionary Scripture Notes
Norman A. Beck is the Poehlmann Professor of Theology and Classical Languages and the Chairman of the Department of Theology, Philosophy, and Classical Languages at Texas Lutheran University
Dr. Norman A. Beck
Mark Ellingsen is professor at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia
Dr. Mark Ellingsen