The Second Sunday after Epiphany, 17 January 2010



Isaiah 62:1-5
Psalm 36:5-10
I Corinthians 12:1-11
Saint John 2:1-11




BACKGROUND

For a brief period of time, five Sundays or so, we are back in what is called “Ordinary Time.”  Although we are in the festival half of the Church Year, we are in the midst of a brief pause between the Christmas Cycle and the Easter Cycle.  It is actually a beneficial period of reflection on the ministry of Jesus.  The Christmas festival is so layered over with cultural, religious, and personal stuff, that it serves us well to step back, look at the person of Jesus, and ask ourselves, “Why am I following this man?”  The Gospels during this period will help us with this task, as they reveal different aspects, not only of his teaching, but also of the reactions that people have to his ministry. 

Isaiah 62:1-5

 

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.

The choice of this reading is directed by some casual comments at the end of Isaiah’s piece that link it thematically to the Gospel’s account of the Wedding at Cana.  Theologically, it makes no direct contribution to the Gospel’s message.  It does carry, however, some weight on its own.  This last of the Isaiahs (Chapters 56ff.) shares themes of deliverance and restoration with the others, and in this reading we see multiple images reflective of that theme.  Destroyed Jerusalem is “vindicated”, “glorified”, “saved”, and named something better than “desolate”, and “forsaken”.  The new name is “My-Delight-Is-in-Her”, and “Married”.  This is where the Isaiah reading approaches the theology of the Gospel, in commenting on the intimate relationship that God has with the people. 

Breaking Open Isaiah:

  1. Have you ever felt deserted by God?
  2. Have you ever felt restored in your relationship with God?
  3. In what ways are your relationships with friends, husbands, wives, and partners similar to your relationship with God?  Dissimilar?

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.

In Psalm 36, the author compares wickedness to the righteousness that is God.  The reading for today only includes those verses that talk about the nature of God, and not about the nature of the wicked.  The psalm has sense of dimensionality about it, “reaches to the heavens,” “like the great deep,” “both man and beast”.  It stretches the mind of the reader to see the full spectrum of God’s love and justice, unlike the love and justice of those who do evil, for whom there are limits to both love and justice.  The use of images is quite striking: God as a mountain, the sea, a bird, a household, light, all such images capture our imagination.

Breaking open Psalm 36
  1. What does it mean when the psalm says, “you save both man and beast, O Lord?”
  2. What do you understand by the words “faithfulness” and “righteousness”?
  3. What does it mean to “know God”?  Do you know God?
  4. Who or what are the “true of heart”?




I 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.

This passage immediately precedes the reading from I Corinthians that is a favorite at weddings, “love is patient…”.  Here we get at the unsentimental point that Paul really wants the people in Corinth to hear.  Last Sunday we heard how the fathers in Jerusalem journeyed north to bring the laying on of hands, and the anointing with the Holy Spirit to the people who had only been baptized in the “name of Jesus.”  Here Paul fleshes out what that anointing is.  What is interesting is that the gifts both unify and differentiate.  “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.”  All of these gifts, and he enumerates them, are given for the common good. 

Breaking open I Corinthians:
  1. What are the gifts of the Spirit that Paul enumerates in the reading?
  2. With which of these do you identify?
  3. How do these gifts of the Spirit work in the context of our congregation?




Saint 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.

Now we get at the meat of the day.  This is a beginning to what is called the “Book of Signs”.  This hypothetical “book” is the remnant, some have supposed, of a book of miracles that preceded the final writing and editing of the Gospel of John.  These “signs” are unique to John, and are not shared with the Synoptic (with one eye) Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  They are also unique in that these signs call for faith from those who observe or perceive them.  These signs precede faith, and are not the result of faith.  They call to faith. Finally, we see the remains of a number system of this book, “Jesus did this, the first of his signs…”.

Breaking open the Gospel:
  1. Who is present at this occasion?
  2. What is Jesus attitude toward Mary’s concern about the lack of wine?
  3. What does his answer, “My hour has not yet come.” mean?
  4. Who is called to faith in this reading?

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.

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