Reading Ramblings – January 17, 2016

Reading Ramblings

Date: Second Sunday after the Epiphany, January 17, 2016

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

Context: And as quickly as that we leave the season of Christmas and it’s twin, Epiphany, and find ourselves in the first Sunday of Ordinary Time. This means that there isn’t anything specifically being observed in the liturgical calendar. Parament colors revert to green from their Advent blue or purple and their Christmas/Epiphany white. They will remain green for another two Sundays before we enter the season of Lent and preparation for Easter. Also during Ordinary Time, the Epistle reading reverts back to a lectio continua format, where we work on continuous sections of a single New Testament book, in this case 1 Corinthians. This reading will not necessarily align with the Gospel and Old Testament lessons.

Isaiah 62:1-5 – This passage continues a section of Isaiah filled with promise and joy. Jerusalem’s fortunes may be bleak at the moment but one day they will be wonderful. Because of the contrast it is necessary to continually proclaim the coming joy. Jerusalem may seem anything but righteous at the moment but she will be made righteous one day, and it will be evident to everyone. The city that will suffer the Lord’s righteous and holy wrath, will be shown to see his most prized possession. He is not abandoning her, but purifying her that she might be his forever. The adjectives of destruction that will soon apply to her will not apply to her forever, but once again she will be raised to the place of highest honor.

Psalm 128 – This brief, beautiful psalm depicts the idealized life. We call it idealized because of course it is not something we encounter very often or very consistently. Proper harmony between humanity and God, between man and woman and between man and woman and child. Not only this but there is harmony once again between humanity and creation, so that one’s labor is rewarding. It is a picture of Eden that we were never given in Genesis, and a promise of our future. It is a narrowing down of the scope and meaning of the future blessing declared through Isaiah. God’s people will be restored fully and completely, not temporarily but forever. Peace shall rule where only war has been known. As with Isaiah, we must continually proclaim this future reality in spite of the current conditions. God has promised us this, and He is faithful to his promises!

1 Corinthians 12:1-11 – St. Paul writes to a community in conflict, a conflict that extends even into the matter of proper worship. He has just finished a crucial teaching on the Lord’s Supper in Chapter 11 (which you should definitely read if you are curious about why the ancient Church and some traditional denominations today do not simply throw open the Lord’s Table to whomever happens to be present!). Now he moves on to another topic, that of spiritual gifts and their appropriate use in Christian community and particularly worship.

Paul assumes the presence of the Holy Spirit, and therefore the equipping of God’s people with various gifts useful and necessary to the Christian community. It is not a matter of whether such gifts are present, but how we treat them. Paul’s purpose here is not necessarily to be exhaustive but to speak through example. The Holy Spirit will provide gifts, and provide them in both abundance and diversity. The Corinthians (and we!) are not to fear these various manifestations because if someone is able to give praise to Jesus, then they are acting in accordance with the Holy Spirit of God and not another, demonic power. Paul will go on to elaborate that the varied nature of the gifts is a blessing of God, and should be received as such rather than trying to insist upon (or expect of ourselves) certain gifts rather than others. The gifts are to work together not for our own personal satisfaction, but rather for “the common good” (v.7). We should receive them as such, honor them as such, and utilize them as such, both in ourselves and in those around us in Christian community.

John 2:1-11 – Jesus’ first miracle according to John, is the turning of water into wine at the wedding of Cana. There are many different ways we could approach this passage. For instance we could use it as a justification of alcoholic beverages, though I don’t think that’s the point at all. Rather, we see Jesus affirming what is one day to be – a celebration of life and joy, of community and relationship restored. We do not anticipate a dour and overly sterilized or formalized or ritualized life together in eternity! Consistently throughout Scripture we are directed to think of eternal life joyfully, the victory feast of God.

How fitting that Jesus’ first public miracle should be at a wedding, at an affirmation of life, of the future, of love, all under the auspices of God! This is why He has come – that we might have the promise of life and joy and proper relationship with God and one another. He has come to enable such celebrating to have full, real, true meaning. God once again walks among his creation and among man and wife, as God did in the Garden of Eden.

God comes to give us his best. The best that comes after the cheap stuff has been exhausted. It echoes the themes of Isaiah perfectly – we endure the less than good and the horrible now, but what is coming is best of all and in almost every way unexpected and unanticipated. God fulfills his promise in Isaiah symbolically at this wedding.

Note that the number three occurs here – the third day after their return to Galilee. Three days in the tomb. Jonah in the whale for three days. Note also the irony of using jars used for rites of purification as storage containers for wine! And clearly this is, not grape juice, as indicated by the master of the feast. And note the outcome – this is more than pure symbolism. This miracle generates faith in his disciples that He is more than just a wise rabbi, but everything that John proclaimed about him, the Lamb of God, the chosen one of God, the Son of God.

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