Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 15, 2023

January 15, 2023


January 15, 2023

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time





Called to Testify

It was dark when I first saw the Martin Luther King Jr memorial in Washington. The reverent silence, the night stillness, the dramatic up-lighting, it was breath-taking.

The whole visit, really – my first visit to Washington since high school – the whole visit was inspiring and unexpectedly emotional. It was just after the midterm elections last November, Veterans Day weekend.

I found myself responding to what I saw with a lot of quiet reflection on our nation’s history, on expressions of such beauty and idealism…and on our failures, and our striving still for justice and peace.

That first night at the MLK memorial I made my way carefully to the sculpture, passing through huge sandstone blocks the artist titled the ‘mountain of despair;’ and I approached the 30-ft high ‘stone of hope’ where the figure emerges: resolute and thoughtful; a text rolled up in his left hand; his eyes (amazing eyes carved from stone!) looking out toward some distant horizon.

I stood still for a long time (discovered that my arms were crossed like his) and, looking up at his eyes, following his gaze, I wondered about what he saw in life: visibly saw (in the marches, at the lunch counters, from the pulpits and podiums); and I wondered about the deep well of courage to name what he saw, his perseverance in preaching, in sharing his dream with all who were so hungry for a word of hope.

“Out of the mountain of despair, A stone of hope.” Carved on the side of the sculpture, these are words from Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the 1963 March on Washington. From the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, this prophet lifted up our nation’s core values of freedom, justice and equality once again. He gave testimony: he named what he saw, and confessed what he believed about it.

Anna Carter Florence says that is what testimony is: to name what we see, and to articulate the meaning we make of it.

We hear testimony in our scriptures, and we see it in our day, through the prophets in our midst. All of the scripture readings for this Sunday focus our attention on the call to testify.

The prophet Isaiah, “formed as God’s servant from the womb” is to deliver the vision of God’s promise of life and liberation. And not just for the people of Israel but a promise for all!

Others testify too. God puts a “new song” into the mouth of the psalmist to announce justice.

And John the Baptist… whose prophetic role is also “from the womb,” leaping in his mother’s womb at the visitation of Mary in the Christmas story…

Today, the prophet John the Baptist sees Jesus coming toward him. He names what he sees. And he tells the crowd what he believes. “Behold, the Lamb of God.” This is the one.

Today, as the time we call Ordinary offers us a pause between Christmas and the coming season of Lent, now, as this new year is unfolding, today we are reminded of our call to give testimony.

·      What do you see from where you stand?

·      What meaning do you make of what you see?

·      By what method do you share it?

At family tables or meeting tables, at bedsides or on laptops… testimony needs to be lifted up everywhere there is a hunger for it. It is not the time for shrinking, for protests of inadequacy, unprepared, overwhelmed, too young, too old, not the right gender or race or orientation. No, testimony is our call.

Testimony from the margins, denied the authority of office or ordination, when all that we have is our witness… you know how powerful that sometimes simple, authentic witness can be.

During my Washington visit, I went to the African-American Museum, and paused at an exhibit about the declaration of the end of slavery and freedom to all enslaved peoples in the Confederacy. The exhibit narrates this scene: On New Year’s Day 1863, African Americans in Beaufort South Carolina, gathered to hear Col. Thomas Wentworth Higginson read the Emancipation Proclamation. He remembered the moment when “two women’s voices immediately blended, ‘My country ‘tis of thee, Sweet land of Liberty’…the quavering voices sang on, verse after verse; others around them joined; …I never saw anything so electric; it made all other words cheap…the life of the whole day was in those unknown people’s song.”

Our testimony can bear great power, can live for generations in song, in word and deed, in raising up what we value, in passing on our shared memory to the next generation.

Our stories of God’s promise must be shared, wherever and whenever there is hunger for justice, for life and liberation.

·      What do you see from where you stand?

·      What meaning do you make of what you see?

That is testimony and we too, daughters and sisters and mothers of our church, our family, our nation, we too are called to proclaim it!

First Reading

Is 49:3, 5-6


Ps 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10

Second Reading

1 Cor 1:1-3


Jn 1:29-34
Read texts at

Lisa Frey

Lisa Frey

Following a thirty-year career in parish ministry, Lisa Frey currently serves hospice patients and their families as a spiritual care coordinator with Hospice of the Western Reserve in the Cleveland, Ohio area. She earned her Master of Arts in Theology at St. Mary’s Seminary in Cleveland and Doctor of Ministry in Homiletics at the Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis. Her doctoral thesis was titled, “Silence in Support of Speaking: How Reflective Practices Can Lead to Transformative Preaching.” A native of Northeast Ohio, Lisa enjoys the Lake Erie shoreline in all seasons.



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