I Corinthians 12:1-11
Saint John 2:1-11
Background: Ordinary Time
Following the Baptism of Our Lord (the Sunday following the Epiphany of Our Lord – 6 January) the Church enters one of two periods of Ordinary Time or the Tempus per annum, “time through the year”. Thus this period follows the first of the great Cycles – the Christmas Cycle, and the other follows the Easter Cycle (after Pentecost). Since the Easter Cycle depends on the date of Easter, which is determined by the Lunar Calendar, the first period of Ordinary Time may end from the fourth week up until the ninth week following the Christmas Cycle. Thus the Second Sunday after Pentecost begins with Proper 4, the previous propers having been used in either a lengthy or smaller period of Sundays following the Epiphany of Our Lord. The Eastern Church also has periods of Ordinary Time, although not called such. These periods mark the end of Christmastide (which is followed by Pre-Great Lent) and of Eastertide and the Apostles’ Fast.
For Zion's sake I will not keep silent,
and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest,
until her vindication shines out like the dawn,
and her salvation like a burning torch.
The nations shall see your vindication,
and all the kings your glory;
and you shall be called by a new name
that the mouth of the LORD will give.
You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD,
and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
and your land shall no more be termed Desolate;
but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,
and your land Married;
for the LORD delights in you,
and your land shall be married.
For as a young man marries a young woman,
so shall your builder marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
so shall your God rejoice over you.
It is not clear here who is singing this song. Perhaps it is God who kept silence in the face of Israel’s complaint immediately following the first return. Isaiah 42:14 states it clearly,
“For a long time I have kept silent, I have said nothing, holding myself back; now I cry out like a woman in labor, gasping and panting.”
Perhaps it is God’s very word at this time that is the vindication that shines out like the dawn. These references to light and torches may refer to the Feast of Tabernacles. Here the prophet moves beyond the notion of Jerusalem as the seat of the Davidid kings to a vision of Jerusalem as the Seat of God. Even more so is God envisioned as the spouse of the city. Thus the names “Forsaken” and “Desolate” are replaced by “My-Delight-is-in-Her” and “Married.” The scene is of an adulterous spouse being restored to a position of splendor and honor in the household.
Breaking open Isaiah:
1. How are Isaiah’s references to marriage disturbing and challenging?
2. What are your feelings about a God who is so intimately related to you?
3. Why would God keep silence?
Psalm 36:5-10 Dixit injustus
Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, *
and your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the strong mountains,
your justice like the great deep; *
you save both man and beast, O LORD.
How priceless is your love, O God! *
your people take refuge under the shadow of your wings.
They feast upon the abundance of your house; *
you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the well of life, *
and in your light we see light.
Continue your loving-kindness to those who know you, *
and your favor to those who are true of heart.
The psalm is a spot-on commentary to the ideas of the first reading. The initial verses (1-4) comment on the mischievous heart as the personification of Crime makes a speech to the wicked. With verse five we hear God’s response to the unfaithfulness and wickedness introduced by “Crime”. Here the poet asks us to witness God’s faithfulness, justice, and kindness. All those accused by “Crime” are subjected to the “great abyss” of God’s judgment, and yet all are rescued. The joy that follows this great forgiveness is sensual in its import. “They feast”, “you give them drink”, and “how priceless is your love” clue us into the reaction the people have to the Lord who forgives. In a stunning phrase that gives us pause to look back to creation, the psalmist proclaims, “For with you is the fountain of light, (Alter’s translation – BCP: “the well of life”). In your light we shall see light.” In God’s forgiveness and loving-kindness the poet sees a feast of grace.
Breaking open Psalm 36
1. How might God’s justice and judgment be compared to a “great abyss” or a “great deep”?
2. Has God’s forgiveness of you ever surprised you? How?
3. Why does the poet use the themes of feasting here?
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says "Let Jesus be cursed!" and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.
With this reading we begin a lectio continua in the First Letter to the Corinthians and an exploration of spiritual gifts. Paul and his readers do not live in a time bereft of prophets and spiritual leaders. Thus he first equips them with a test of the spirits, so that they might know to whom they ought listen. Then in a classic Pauline list he provides all the gifts that come from the Spirit who allows us to proclaim, “Jesus is Lord.” Though the gifts are diverse they are driven from a single source – the Spirit. They are matched not only to the need of the Church (the community of believers) but also to the individual “as the Spirit chooses.” There is a clue in this list as to the utility of these gifts. Paul announces that these gifts are given for “the common good.” They are to be manifest in the reality of the common life in Christ.
Breaking open I Corinthians:
1. What spiritual gifts do you possess?
2. How do you use them?
3. What spiritual gifts do you need?
St. John 2:1-11
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, "Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward." So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now." Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
Normally in this period of Ordinary Time there are enough Sundays to explore the manifestation of Jesus as the Christ. The readings from the Gospels open up who and what Jesus is. On this Sunday we hear the story of the Wedding Feast at Cana. Here we witness, along with the disciples who have only heard John the Baptist’s claims about Jesus, the reality of the “signs” that John wishes to translate for us. It begins on the “third day”, two days following the call of Philip and Nathanael, and seven days from the beginning of the ministry. It is a symbolic day of creation, a new beginning and a new message for humankind. It begins fittingly in an obscure village in Galilee. Here John introduces us to Jesus mother, whom he calls by name – Mary. When Jesus calls her “Woman” we have a clue as to John’s purpose. If this is the new creation, then Mary is symbolically the new Eve. All is to change. What will come, the “new” wine, the wonderful nature and taste of this new wine, and the feast itself serve as symbols of the messianic banquet, and indeed to the relationship of God and God’s people made manifest in the wedding itself (see comments on the first reading). This will be the first of many signs. We are tempted with this sign to only understand its utility for the moment. John, however, is ready to lead us in a progression of signs, which as a whole give us a vision far beyond the filled cup of a wedding feast. Now it is not John who is indicating who Jesus is, but rather life itself. The disciples observe and then believe.
Breaking open the Gospel:
- Do you hear violence in John’s preaching?
- How is the experience with Jesus different?
- How often do you enter into things with prayer.
After breaking open the Word, you might want to pray the Collect for Sunday.
Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ's glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
All commentary and questions are copyright © 2013 Michael T. Hiller