In the Lectionary

January 23, Epiphany 3 (Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a; Luke 4:14-21)

The word of God is living and active; it meets us where we are.

A friend of mine, a Lutheran pastor, once attended an event at a private Christian high school. First a student brought out an American flag. Everyone put their hands over their hearts and said the Pledge of Allegiance. My friend followed suit. Next a student brought out the Christian flag, and another pledge was spoken. My friend stood respectfully, hand over his heart, mouthing words he didn’t know. Finally some students entered the room pushing a cart loaded with a giant Bible. As the assembled crowd prepared to say yet another pledge, my friend’s hand slipped to his side, his mouth firmly closed. He couldn’t even pretend to follow along.

“I wasn’t sure what such a pledge would mean,” he said later. He wondered if the pledge was to a specific translation, to a method of interpretation, or, worse yet, to the giant Bible itself—a golden calf in book form. It all was just a little bit much, even for a Lutheran.

The Lutheran tradition, of which we are both a part, is second to none in its reliance on scripture. The “word alone” is the basis for our faith and our assurance of salvation. We take the Bible too seriously to cast it in amber. It isn’t just a book for us; the word is alive. We aren’t alone in this theology—many Christians confess to a similar understanding. The collected readings for this third Sunday after the Epiphany exemplify what it means to believe in the living word.