It's hard to believe that any preacher would choose to
preach on this week's epistle reading. There are words here rarely spoken in
our sanctuaries, and using this text might get a preacher sent to
denominational reform school.
The Old Testament and gospel readings for Epiphany
function as point and counterpoint. Isaiah offers a word of great comfort to
those who have been so long in darkness. Impoverished as the hearers have been,
honor and fortune are on their way. It's a message of rejoicing: the light that
has dawned will make all who see it radiant.
Some years ago, when I was in my first pastoral appointment, I met an 11-year-old named Victor at youth court. A friend had asked me to serve as translator for Victor's father, who spoke only Spanish, because Victor was about to be tried for shooting a child in the leg with a BB gun. Violence and trouble were part of life in Victor's neighborhood.
“No religion” is now the single largest group in England and Wales, according to British Social Attitudes data. Consisting of nearly half of the population, this group is twice the size of those who identify as Anglicans and four times the size of the Catholic population. A similar pattern prevails across Europe. The decline of Catholics in Britain would be more severe were it not for Christian immigrants from Africa and Asia. The data show that the church is poor at making converts and at keeping cradle believers. The Anglican and Catholic churches lose at least ten members for every convert (Guardian, May 27).