Lectionary – Epiphany 2, Year C

I. Theme – Celebration of God’s glory

Wedding at Cana – Giotto (1305-1306)

The lectionary readings are here  or individually: 

Old Testament – Isaiah 62:1-5
Psalm – Psalm 36:5-10
Epistle – 1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Gospel – John 2:1-11     

Today’s readings speak of the revelation of hidden glory breaking through and inviting celebration.

Isaiah announces the coming glory of God’s vindicated people when they return to rebuild their shattered homeland. Isaiah reminds us that God delights in us with the joy of a bride and bridegroom discovering each other. This affirmation encourages us to love the mystery we are, accepting the chips, the cracks and the unfinished nature of our cup. Knowing that the cup of our life is held securely in God’s hands enables us to endure the tension of filling and emptying that goes on throughout a lifetime.

Paul describes the amazing results of spiritual gifts, given to all God’s people “for the common good.” The letter to Corinthians praises another kind of container for the ordinary. While we may look like unpromising vessels or unlikely disciples, the Spirit transforms us just as surely as Jesus changed the water to wine. Furthermore, the Spirit blesses a wide variety of ministries, so that no two goblets will ever be identical.

The Gospel is the story of the wedding feast at Cana, relates the first “sign” of Jesus’ identity and ministry that “revealed his glory.” The passage from John’s gospel speaks of huge stone jars holding 20–30 gallons of water. Jesus makes use of them for his first miracle, teaching that our journey to the sacred comes through the ordinary. It is fitting to remember the sign he performed at Cana as we move away from the high feast days of Christmas and Epiphany and into Ordinary Time.

Within everyday water, we can still glimpse the burgundy of grace. John tells us that the Word becomes flesh—a human being who likes to socialize, relishes a feast and presumably appreciates a fine vintage.

We celebrate and honor the memory and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on this Sunday. We remember that Dr. King did not bow down to the voices that wanted to silence him, nor did he hide with the threat of death.

We remember Dr. King’s dream. We celebrate our diversity, that we need each other to be part of the kingdom, the reign of God. We celebrate the diversity of our gifts, our cultures, our languages, our abilities, our very selves—for God has created us all. And God has chosen to participate in our lives through Jesus the Christ, to see our need to love our neighbor as ourselves, and in that love, to seek justice, God’s justice, which restores and heals. For God is not passive, standing by, but God is active in our world. Through the examples of Jesus, we know that God works in us for justice, for reconciliation, and for peace.  

II. Summary  

Old Testament –   Isaiah 62:1-5

Isaiah 62:1-5 shares God’s call for justice for the people of Jerusalem, who are returning after exile. They shall not only return, but be restored. Rebuilding their devastated homeland (61:4) was a difficult task, and the people grew weary and disillusioned. The prophet intercedes for the disheartened people in assurance that the lord will fulfill the promise of restoration.

God’s justice is a restorative justice. Punishment and retribution are human aspects, and at times we experience the consequences of our actions. We may pay for what we have done. However, this is not what God desires. God desires justice, which is restorative, which is healing, which requires repentance from the offender but also restores both the victim and the offender. Jerusalem was both the offender and the victim, and experiences God’s restoration in whole.

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. 

PsalmPsalm 36-5-10

This psalm reflects the contrast between human ways and God’s ways. Verses 1-4 illustrate the lifestyle of the wicked whose ways are directed to sinful living.

In contrast, verses 5-9 describe God’s ways of steadfast covenant love, righteousness, justice and salvation for both animals and humans, God’s restoration to all who seek God. God provides all people with safe refuge, abundant food and drink and the fullness of life 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, 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.

God is faithful, and those who are faithful will experience God’s abundance. This does not mean God blesses the faithful with riches or earthly prosperity, but in God, the faithful find refuge. We find hope and healing, light and life. God’s steadfast love never ceases, and so, we remain faithful to God’s love. This is the encouragement we need when standing for justice in today’s world.

Epistle – 1 Corinthians 12:1-11

Today’s reading begins a sequence of readings from this letter during the weeks after Epiphany. The beginning of this chapter, “now concerning…,” indicates that Paul is taking up another of the questions posed to him by the Corinthian church (7:1, 25; 8:1; 16:1, 12:1).

1 Corinthians 12:1-11 speaks of the diversity of the gifts of the Spirit. The church in Corinth was dividing over diversity—dividing over whose teachings to follow, dividing over who to include, and ignoring major issues, such as members who were in inappropriate relationships and the poor who were being left out at the Lord’s Supper. Paul reminds them of the diversity of spiritual gifts, and to honor each other’s differences and abilities.

Though spiritual gifts are diverse they are driven from a single source – the Spirit Paul points out the triune operation of God in spiritual gifts: the Holy Spirit as the Giver (12:4), Jesus as the One to whom service is given (12:5) and God the Father as the One at work in the gift (12:6). The gifts are complementary and meant for the common good. No one gift is more valuable than another.They are to be manifest in the reality of the common life in Christ.

Gospel –John 2:1-11

The Gospel reading concerns the wedding at Cana. It is an epiphany story, the first of the “signs” that manifest the power and presence of God in Jesus’ acts. John 2:1-11 is the first miracle of Jesus in John’s gospel: the water into wine at the wedding in Cana. 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.

The setting of a wedding feast also echoes both the marriage bond between God and Israel and the messianic banquet at the end of time. 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.

Mary shares the news that the couple has run out of wine. Jesus responds, “What concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” Jesus’ “hour,” set by divine plan, is the final revelation of his glory in the passion and crucifixion. Jesus reminds Mary that his mission is not to fulfill human desires but God’s will. Though he responds to Mary’s plea, he does so in cooperation with the purposes of his ministry.

But yet, Jesus’ mother then tells the servants, “Do whatever he tells you,” and the servants listen to Jesus, fill the jars with water and serve them and it turns out to be wine, better wine than what was served at the beginning. To run out of wine would have been an embarrassing problem to have, and it is possible the family hosting the wedding was not able to afford enough wine. Whatever the reason, Jesus was not concerned about this at first, and it also appears that Jesus perhaps just wanted to enjoy a wedding! But Jesus’ mother was concerned and he acted to meet her concerns.

Whether he did so to obey his mother, whether he planned to all along—we have no idea. But this was the first of the wonders that Jesus performed that caused others to believe in him, in this case turning water in to wine.

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. This will be the first of many signs.

The essential features of this “sign” are: the failure of the old (2:3); its replacement by a vast supply (2:6) of new (abundance was to be a feature of the last days); and the superiority of the new (2:10). The replacement symbolizes Jesus’ transformation of the old order of ritual purification and of the Torah, which water symbolized, into the new order of purification through the cross, through the blood (1 John 1:7) and through new teaching.

None of the other Gospels contain this story. None of the other Gospels focus on miraculous signs the way John’s Gospel does. This story, however, shows the fullness of Jesus’ humanity and divinity. Jesus was present at this wedding to have a good time, to enjoy this moment, to be fully human—and at the same time, Jesus changes water into wine, altering the perception of him as an observer to an active participant of God’s reign on earth

This is the story of when Jesus, in John’s Gospel, moves to the forefront of proclaiming the coming of God’s kingdom. In the other three Gospels, John the Baptist is arrested and beheaded, and Jesus comes proclaiming the Good News. In John’s Gospel, it is the choice of performing this miracle, of deciding that the hour has come, in which Jesus participates in the kingdom of God, both fully human and fully divine.

III. Articles for this week in WorkingPreacher:

Old Testament – Isaiah 62:1-5

Psalm  –  Psalm 36:5-10

Epistle  – 1 Corinthians 12:1-11

Gospel  – John 2:1-11

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