Sunday 5th February 2023 - 5th Sunday after Epiphany
Isaiah 58:1-12; Psalm 112:1-10; 1 Corinthians 2:1-16; Matthew 5:13-20
The reading from Isaiah is one of those classical Biblical passages that connects the worship of God to the whole of life. The nation is depicted as a people immersed in the worship rituals of their religion, yet failing to attract the favour of their God. The reason is clearly depicted as their failure to reflect the justice of God in their everyday living, working and interacting with one another.
The focus of the prophet is particularly on the poor and opressed - the world of work and the way our economic systems operate can be a contributor to this or the means by which poverty and opression is relieved. A congregation might therefore engage in today's readings at two levels. One is to reflect more broadly on how we approach the world of work and income generation and to remember God's call for justice, fairness and opportunity for all. It also provides opportunity to affirm and pray for those who particularly work in fields that seek to address issues of poverty and injustice and to support those who have become its victims.
The narrative of Psalm 112 is one of prosperity or what might be described in our contemporary world as economic growth. The sentiments of the prophet Isaiah are again reflected as the succesful nation is depicted as one that 'distributes freely' and 'gives to the poor'.
The Gospel reading contains echoes of this, not only in a term 'salt of the earth' but also through the reminder of the place of the law and the prophets within the ministry of Jesus. Isaiah reminds us that God's laws are not restricted to worship rituals but call us to embrace principles of justice, generosity and equality in the ordering of society. These are themes that highlight the challenges and opportunities we have in seeking to live out our calling as God's people in the world of work.