Engaging the Word: Readings for 1/17/16 (The 2nd Sunday after the Epiphany)

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By Barbara Klugh

Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 36:5-10; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; John 2:1-11. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text. In this week’s readings, Isaiah predicts the restoration and vindication of Israel, Paul discusses spiritual gifts, and Jesus changes water into wine.

Crown at Louvre Museum. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Crown at Louvre Museum. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Isaiah 62:1-5: The Book of Isaiah is commonly divided into two or three parts. Chapters 1-39 were written before the exile; Chapters 40-66 were written during and after the exile in Babylon. Some scholars consider chapters 55 to 66 as “Third Isaiah” as it was written after the return to Israel. Our reading is from this section.

In this week’s reading, the prophet speaks of Zion’s glory and restoration. He promises the vindication of Jerusalem which had seemed to be forsaken by God. He presents a glorious vision of salvation, restoration, and glory obvious to all the nations, “You shall be a crown of beauty… and a royal diadem….”

In the Bible, God sometimes gave people new names to indicate a break with the past and the start of a new future, and so it is in this passage: “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.” The reading describes God’s faithfulness to his people in terms of a husband’s faithfulness to his bride: “as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.”

Psalm 36:5-10: Our portion of the psalm describes the character of God—loving, faithful, and good; the source of light and life, and of all the good we enjoy.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit, Christ Church, Dublin. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit, Christ Church, Dublin. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

1 Corinthians 12:1-11: Paul founded the church in Corinth, and stayed there for 18 months. The ancient Greek city of Corinth was a thriving trade and commercial center. It was permeated with Roman cultural values relating to power and status, and was known for luxury, materialism, pleasure, and immorality.

In this week’s reading Paul discusses spiritual gifts. Paul says, “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.” What matters in our spirituality is not whether we have received this or that spiritual gift—or whether we’re physically attractive or have a high IQ, but whether we confess that Jesus is Lord. In this way we are all equal.

Even though the members of the church are different, we function as members of one body. The Spirit dwells in each of us, but we are not sufficient unto ourselves we need the other members of the body to function as a living, dynamic whole Body of Christ.

Paul insists that the church consists of a unity of diversity: gifts are given to individuals so that all contribute to the whole. The Spirit dwells in each of us, but together we can accomplish far more than what we can do on our own. Paul reminds us that each of us can and should be a sign of God’s power and glory.

Marriage at Cana by Giotto (1266-1337). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Marriage at Cana by Giotto (1266-1337). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

John 2:1-11: In an event unique to the Gospel of John, Jesus turns water into wine at a wedding feast in Cana.  In John’s Gospel, the miracles performed by Jesus are called “signs.” A sign is usually not important in itself. What’s important is what the sign is pointing to. The miracle at Cana is the first of seven signs recorded in John in which Jesus shows his power and glory in his public ministry. The “signs” are previews of Jesus’ “hour” on the cross and the banquet in God’s kingdom.

Jesus told the servants to fill six stone jars set aside for the Jewish purification rites—a ritual cleansing in order to go before the Lord during the wedding feast. The waiters and the chief steward were astonished with the miracle, but the disciples saw this as a sign that “revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.”

There’s a lot to think about in this story. One way to think about it is that Jesus took the old ritual water and turned it into new wine. Jesus took good things from the past and transformed them into better things for the future.  Just like Jesus takes our old lives and gives us new lives that we may live in the freedom of his love.

Don’t you think it’s good that Jesus liked to celebrate? Jesus spent much of his time teaching and preaching, healing the sick and feeding the poor, and in prayer, but here we see him sharing a joyous occasion in community. It reminds me that it’s good for us to set aside the demands of our busy schedules and to join in life’s celebrations.

When Jesus turned water into wine, he did not produce wine that was just good enough, but the best wine! I winced when I read this because I remembered my conversation with Ann Hackett the other day. I said that if we wanted to tighten our church budget, we could buy less expensive coffee for coffee hour. Convicted! I was wrong. We have the best church coffee as a “sign” of our ministry of hospitality and in imitation of the lavishness of God’s generosity. If Jesus made the best wine, we should continue to serve the best church coffee in the state of Michigan. That’s one of the many ways Grace happens here.

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