Reading Ramblings – January 20, 2013


20, 2013

Date: January 20, 2013 –
Second Sunday after the Epiphany, First Sunday in Ordinary Time

Texts: Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm
128; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; John 2:1-11

Contextual Notes:
This is the second Sunday after Epiphany Sunday, and the first Sunday
of Ordinary Time. This means that the Sunday isn’t considered part
of a specially designated season (traditionally observed as festival
or fasting seasons) such as Advent, Christmas, Lent, or Easter.
Sundays in Ordinary time begin early in the calendar year, then are
replaced by Lent & Easter until after Pentecost Sunday in late
Spring and Holy Trinity Sunday – the first Sunday after Pentecost
Sunday. Readings during ordinary time focus less on the life of
Jesus and more on the application of the Christian faith to the life
of the Church and her members.

Isaiah 62:1-5:
The closing chapters of Isaiah deal with the glory and victory of the
Lord on behalf of his people. Those that have suffered from his
chastisement will be restored. There is uncertainty among scholars
whether the speaker in these verses is the prophet Isaiah or the
voice of the Lord himself. Either way, the words impart the surety
and promise of God. What the Lord will do for his chosen city &
people will be noticed by all the earth and all the rulers of the
earth (v.2). The names that are given to Jerusalem here are actual
proper names – Hephzibah was the mother of Manasseh (2 Kings 21:1);
Azubah (which is translated most often as Desolate or Forgotten or
Forsaken) was the mother of Jehosophat (1 Kings 22:42). Beulah is
the Hebrew word for married. Overall the passage emphasizes
the blessings and gifts of God to his people.

Psalm 128: This
is one of the Songs of Ascent that are believed to have been recited
by pilgrims en route to Jerusalem. It is a Psalm of promise, laying
out the promises of God to those who obey him. Note the nature of
the promises – they should bring to mind the opening chapter of
Genesis (1:28). God’s two-fold directive to Adam and Eve is to be
fruitful and multiply, and to subdue the earth. These are the very
blessings that this Psalm describes, leading us to see this Psalm as
ultimately describing a time when the effects of the curse in Genesis
3 no longer hold sway. It is also reasonable to read this as a
promise to God’s people here and now, preceding the return of Christ.
While some might be inclined to argue that these promises are not
always fulfilled to every faithful follower of God’s will (since not
every Christian couple is blessed with children of their own), the
fact remains that such blessings, when they are received, are always
received from God. The Psalm wishes this upon the faithful
hearer/reciter, and it is a prayer certainly appropriate for all
God’s children at all times and places.

1 Corinthians 12:1-11:
This passage is instructive to Christian communities regarding the
nature of spiritual gifts. If we see in the Old Testament reading
and the Psalm a promise of the gifts of God, that theme continues
here. We are not to be ignorant about either the reality of
spiritual gifts nor about how they are intended. Paul begins by
explaining that the ability to acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God is
a gift of the Holy Spirit. Therefore those who exercise power and
make this confession of faith can be trusted in what they do at that
moment. He then begins teaching – while the gifts may differ, the
source and giver of those gifts is the same. Christian community
should not be expecting or insisting upon the uniformity of spiritual
gifts. We are rather to expect that they will look and act
differently, yet all are to be recognized and respected as gifts of
the Holy Spirit.

However, we need to remember that
spiritual gifts are not given for personal enrichment or
glorification, but rather for the common good. Which means they are
to be used, not hidden! They are given because the people of God in
a given place need them! Paul then lists a variety of different
types of spiritual gifts. He does not state that this is an
exhaustive list, so it is best to see these as at least some
forms of spiritual gifts. The important thing is less the type of
gift, and more the proper recognition of the source of the gift –
God the Holy Spirit – and the purpose of the gift – for the
common good.

John 2:1-11:
Understanding the gifts of God takes on an interesting aspect in
this, Jesus’ first miracle. This miracle is very interesting. It is
not a miracle to relieve suffering, to cure sickness or disease, to
raise the dead, to cast our an evil spirit, to feed the hungry, or
any of the other types of miracles we commonly think of with Jesus.
There is no greater need than the fact that the wine has run out.
While there were certainly embarrassing social repercussions for
failing to plan adequately for enough wine, it hardly seems like the
kind of need that would justify divine intervention!

Yet here is Jesus, providing wine for a
feast. Wine for people who probably have already had a fair bit to
drink (v.10). Yet even in this simple miracle, the glory of Jesus is
revealed (v.11). What lesson is to be drawn from all of this?
Particularly in light of readings that prompt us to consider the
gifts of God? Perhaps this – that the gifts of God are from a good
and loving God to his beloved creation. God is concerned not just
with our needs in dire situations, but ultimately with our joy –
joy in the presence and care of our God much as Adam and Eve must
have rejoiced in the nearness of their God prior to eating the
forbidden fruit.

We are often inclined to treat our
petitions to God as sort of worst-case scenario stuff. We are
reluctant to come to him with what we might consider less weighty or
worthwhile prayers. While there is certainly an argument to be made
for discretion and discernment in this, we must never forget that our
God intends our final, ultimate, and complete joy. That does not
mean constant merriment here and now, but this miracle serves to
remind us (perhaps) that our destiny as sons and daughters of God
through faith in Jesus Christ is true and lasting joy that can only
be found in right relationship to the creator God who deemed all
things good at the beginning of creation, and will settle for nothing
less than the full restoration of goodness in Jesus Christ.

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