Third after Epiphany, Year C

 

Musical Reflection
Isaiah 45:23 by Mountain Goats

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Invocation

God of freedom,
you break the seals
and let the Spirit flow:
make us impatient to greet
the time fulfilled,
the poor lifted up,

the oppressed set free,
and your love made manifest

in Jesus Christ, the Anointed Servant.
Amen.

First Reading
Advice to a Prophet
by Richard Wilbur

When you come, as you soon must, to the streets of our city,
Mad-eyed from stating the obvious,
Not proclaiming our fall but begging us

In God’s name to have self-pity,

Spare us all word of the weapons, their force and range,
The long numbers that rocket the mind;
Our slow, unreckoning hearts will be left behind,

Unable to fear what is too strange.

Nor shall you scare us with talk of the death of the race.
How should we dream of this place without us?—
The sun mere fire, the leaves untroubled about us,

A stone look on the stone’s face?

Speak of the world’s own change. Though we cannot conceive
Of an undreamt thing, we know to our cost
How the dreamt cloud crumbles, the vines are blackened by frost,

How the view alters. We could believe,

If you told us so, that the white-tailed deer will slip
Into perfect shade, grown perfectly shy,
The lark avoid the reaches of our eye,

The jack-pine lose its knuckled grip

On the cold ledge, and every torrent burn
As Xanthus once, its gliding trout
Stunned in a twinkling. What should we be without

The dolphin’s arc, the dove’s return,

These things in which we have seen ourselves and spoken?
Ask us, prophet, how we shall call
Our natures forth when that live tongue is all

Dispelled, that glass obscured or broken

In which we have said the rose of our love and the clean
Horse of our courage, in which beheld
The singing locust of the soul unshelled,

And all we mean or wish to mean.

Ask us, ask us whether with the worldless rose
Our hearts shall fail us; come demanding
Whether there shall be lofty or long standing
When the bronze annals of the oak-tree close.

 

Second Reading
What’s Written on the Body
by Peter Pereira

He will not light long enough
for the interpreter to gather
the tatters of his speech.
But the longer we listen
the calmer he becomes.
He shows me the place where his daughter
has rubbed with a coin, violaceous streaks
raising a skeletal pattern on his chest.
He thinks he’s been hit by the wind.
He’s worried it will become pneumonia.
In Cambodia, he’d be given
a special tea, a prescriptive sacrifice,
the right chants to say. But I
know nothing of Chi, of Karma,
and ask him to lift the back of his shirt,
so I may listen to his breathing.
Holding the stethoscope’s bell I’m stunned
by the whirl of icons and script
tattooed across his back, their teal green color
the outline of a map which looks
like Cambodia, perhaps his village, a lake,
then a scroll of letters in a watery signature.
I ask the interpreter what it means.
It’s a spell, asking his ancestors
to protect him from evil spirits—
she is tracing the lines with her fingers—
and those who meet him for kindness.
The old man waves his arms and a staccato
of diphthongs and nasals fills the room.
He believes these words will lead his spirit
back to Cambodia after he dies.
I see, I say, and rest my hand on his shoulder.
He takes full deep breaths and I listen,
touching down with the stethoscope
from his back to his front. He watches me
with anticipation—as if awaiting a verdict.
His lungs are clear. You’ll be fine,
I tell him. It’s not your time to die.
His shoulders relax and he folds his hands
above his head as if in blessing.

Ar-kon, he says. All better now.

 

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Gospel Reading
Luke 4:14-21

Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news about him spread throughout the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been raised. On the Sabbath he went to the synagogue as he normally did and stood up to read. The synagogue assistant gave him the scroll from the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me.
The Lord has sent me to preach good news to the poor,
    to proclaim release to the prisoners
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
    to liberate the oppressed,
    and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.

He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the synagogue assistant, and sat down. Every eye in the synagogue was fixed on him. He began to explain to them, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled just as you heard it.”

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Prayer
by Edwin Hatch, adapted

Breathe on us, Breath of God,
Fill us with life anew,
That we may love what thou dost love,
And do what thou dost do.

Breathe on us, Breath of God,
Until our hearts are pure;
Until with thee we will one will,
To do and to endure.

Breathe on us, Breath of God,
Till we are wholly thine;
Until this earthly part of us
Glows with thy fire divine.

Breathe on us, Breath of God,
So shall we never die,
But live with thee the perfect life
Of thine eternity.

Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

O Silent Sound,
whose shimmering music pulsates
at the heart of each and all,
Clear a space in us where thy melody
may be perceived in its purity.
Let the rhythm of thy counsel reverberate through our lives,
so that we move to the beat of justice, love, and peace.
Then, our whole being at one with thy song,
grant that the earth may be filled
with the beauty of thy voice.
Endow us with the wisdom to produce and share
what each being needs to grow and flourish,
And give us courage to embrace our shadow with emptiness,
as we embrace others in their darkness.
But let us not be captive to uncertainty,
nor cling to fruitless pursuits.
For from thee springs forth
the rhythm, the melody, and the harmony,
which restores all to balance, again and again. Ameyn.


Blessing

Blessing and laughter and loving be ours,
the love of a great God
who names us
and holds us
while the earth turns and flowers grow
this day
this night
this moment
and forever.

May the blessing of God – the Giver, the Gift, and the Giving,
be with us and remain with us always. Amen.

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Sources:

Artwork by Faig Ahmed

Invocation from Prayers for an Inclusive Church by Steven Shakespeare

Musical Reflection Isaiah 45:23 by Mountain Goats

Poem Advice to a Prophet by Richard Wilbur

Poem What’s Written on the Body by Peter Pereira

Musical Reflection Writer in the Dark by Lorde

Prayer by Edwin Hatch

Aramaic Lord’s Prayer by Mark Hathaway

Musical Reflection Read Your Book by Sóley

Blessing from The Pattern of our Days

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