Advent starts the Christian Year by focusing us all on beginning with the ultimate end in mind. Likewise, every worship series you pursue needs to keep its end, its purpose, out in front of the people at all times, as well as lead the people through a process that moves them all closer to that end.
The purpose of the Season after Epiphany is to prepare the congregation for its work of preparing people to live out the way of Jesus during the season of Lent that follows.
The two tracks of readings (Epistle and OT/Gospel) help the church accomplish that in two different ways. In both tracks, the season is “bookended” by Baptism of the Lord and Transfiguration Sunday, days that call us to remember and recapitulate the beginning and the glorious end of the discipleship journey we’ve undertaken and are actively inviting others to join in during these weeks.
Between these two bookends, the Epistle track in the lectionary helps the church identify and address internal issues that may be hindering it from doing that Lenten formational work well. The OT/Gospel track guides the church to extend Christ’s invitation to “Come and see” with us what he is all about and what discipleship to him looks like.
We’ve chosen to focus this year’s resourcing on the OT/Gospel Track, in a worship series we’ve called “The Great Invitation.”
Baptism of the Lord — We witness the baptism of Jesus, reaffirm the baptismal covenant, and enter anew into the mystery of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit from “opened heavens” for the work of evangelism that lies ahead of us during the coming weeks.
In the story of the calling of the first disciples from John’s gospel, we are inspired and challenged to come and see how Jesus lives ourselves and to continue to invite those we know to come with us.
At the end of the story of the calling of the first disciples in Matthew’s gospel, we follow Jesus with his disciples into the places of greatest need and opportunity and offering teaching, good news, and healing love.
We’ve seen Jesus in action. Now we settle in for the first of four weeks to hear him teach his first disciples with a large crowd in the background. Today he sets us straight about who and what God’s kingdom is blessing in the world.
In light of who and what God is blessing and how different that is from what the world and sometimes even the church seems to bless, how do we then live? As salty, light-shining people whose righteousness abounds!
Jesus continues to offer concrete examples of what life in God’s kingdom does, and doesn’t, look like.
Blessings are a gift of God in God’s kingdom. Rewards are the result of living more fully into the ways of God’s kingdom, or as we might say, “growing in holiness of heart and life.” Jesus reminds us of ways we can stay on or stray from the trail God’s kingdom blazes for us in this life.
Today we exult in the vision of God’s exaltation of Jesus and in anticipation of our own transfiguration now and in the age to come. That hope, that vision, drives us not to stay where we are on the mountaintop, but to get into the valley of sin and suffering and be a healing and formative presence for all who seek God’s salvation with us in the weeks of Lent that lie ahead.