3rd Sunday after the Epiphany [by Rev Dr Rachel Mash]

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Isa 9:1-4
2nd Reading
1 Cor 1:10-18
Matt 4:12-23
by Rev Dr Rachel Mash, Environmental Coordinator, Anglican Church of Southern Africa


Isaiah 9 :1-4

The people of Israel were in a desperate state. Israel had lost the beloved lands of Zebulun and Naphtali and the other northern territories . At the same time the south was threatened by the mighty Assyrians and the very existence of the Israelites as a people was under threat. At the same time their king, Ahaz was a weak , willing to compromise and do what ever it took to stay in power. Most of Isaiah’s prophetic calling was to challenge the policies of Ahaz. The future looked dark, both sin and physical disaster seemed to be abounding.

Their fate resonates with the world situation, we are losing the battle against climate change and environmental degradation – the fires in the Amazon and Australia, melting ice in Alaska. The future looks bleak, and yet we keep on voting in politicians who are under the influence of the fossil fuel companies and seem to be compromising the fate of the planet for short term political gain.

The preceding chapter – 8- ends with a bleak warning

20 Consult God’s instruction and the testimony of warning. If anyone does not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn. 21 Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land; when they are famished, they will become enraged and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God. 22 Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness”

Have we reached this situation? Where is the hope, from where will the light come?

Darkness symbolises both sin and the consequences of sin. We have failed to be good stewards of God’s creation, we have embraced consumerism and greed, we have not heard the cry of the poor and the cry of the Earth.

Into this bleak picture comes the voice of hope – the metaphor of darkness turns into the metaphor of light.

V1 “there will be no gloom for those who were in distress” . This passage tells of God’s grace and a new historical beginning.

The darkness and dishonour of the former times will give way to the light and glory of the times to come. Hope is coming for those who are in anguish.

The light is beginning to dawn for those who live in darkness. 2020 will be a turn around year, already coal sales across the planet have dropped significantly, the young people are rising. Faith leaders are rising up.

The hungry will rejoice as people rejoice at a harvest and the yoke that burdens the oppressed will be lifted.

As Dr Martin Luther King said
“The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice.”

by Rev Dr Rachel Mash, South Africa