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Year C, Ordinary Time 2, 2016 – Of Weddings and Wine and Whatnot

January 13, 2016 / D2 / Epiphany, Ordinary Time

Who still has their Christmas tree up?

Just us? Okay. We fully celebrated the twelve days of Christmas this year and now that the season is (mostly) all back in boxes in storage, it is time to turn our faces towards the rest of the year. We are about a month out from the beginning of Lent, if you can believe it. But in the meanwhile, we are going to spend a few weeks in Ordinary Time. I’ve often wondered why this interval between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday is considered ordinary – maybe calling it Time To Catch Our Breath Before Jumping In Again is too wordy? This period has been called Tempus per annum or “time during the year” – a very apt description!

At any rate, we have a few weeks to spend some time exploring how encountering God’s Word is never ordinary. Today’s passage in Isaiah is a passionate word to an ancient people that God has not forgotten them and will transform them with his love in a way that everyone will see. The Psalm echoes this passion and revels in God’s abundance given out of this love. The Epistle and Gospel lessons are quite familiar – Paul’s letter to the Corinthians about gifts from the Spirit and Jesus turns water into wine at a wedding. As always, there is a wealth of imagery to examine.  Let’s go!

This week’s texts

Isaiah 62:1-5 – In this passage, Isaiah tells people returning from exile that they are coming home to a new name that “the mouth of the Lord will give.” Names in the Old Testament are instructive; remember, Naomi came home to Bethlehem and told people who once knew her to call her by a new name she gave herself – Mara or bitter. In the New Testament, Jesus renamed Simon and was the catalyst for Saul becoming Paul. In Isaiah, the people coming back after seventy years away are coming home to a name God has ready for them – My Delight is in Her. Wow. I don’t imagine anyone thought of themselves in this way, considering their exile was a result of faithlessness and disobedience. Yet, God is so stubbornly in love with humanity that God received a chastened people and pledged himself to them as a bridegroom. Hearing God’s delight, how does this influence your perception of your own people?

 

Psalm 36:5-10 – God’s absolute devotion shines through in the Psalm. Everywhere one looks, one can see God’s majesty and steadfast love. The word “steadfast” caught our attention because it is such an old fashioned word and is not used much anymore except in speaking about God. This is not necessarily a bad thing; Scripture is clear that God’s love for creation is immovable, but is God? This psalm suggests that while God’s passion for creation is without change, God’s providence is dynamic and moves and flows and meets the needs of creation all the time. I find this wonderfully reassuring – God will move and adapt and shift and filter and coalesce and bond and restore our reality in order to be with us. Rather than regarding life as fixed and static, how does this supple reality of God’s presence flow through you and into your ministry?

 

1 Corinthians 12:1-11 – I imagine many of you have put your Christmas gifts in their new homes by now – you’ve worn the new clothes, played with the new toys, and used the other gifts as is appropriate. Paul writes to the Corinthians to tell them that they’ve been given gifts too, and how they are to be used. He begins this instruction by contrasting the Spirit of God with pagan idols who cannot speak. I’d never really paid attention to this phrase before, but it hit me that the difference is significant. Idols are made, the Spirit lives. An idol has no capacity to bring about anything in its adherent other than self involved and self directed adoration. Any gift presented to or by the idol is limited and finite. Gifts given by the Spirit are continually generated in the recipient and what is more, they continue to generate as they are used. Unlike a sweater that will eventually wear out, the Spirit’s gifts are life long and will grow and strengthen over a lifetime. What gifts have you been given and how is the Spirit moving you to use them this week?

 

John 2:1-11 – What else can be said about this passage that hasn’t been said over the millennia? I felt a bit defeated by John’s story of Jesus at the Cana wedding until David and I spent some time fiddling with the math in it. As it turns out, we gain a fresh understanding of just how much wine Jesus provided when we – well, do the math! Something that is missing from a modern reading of the story is the beacon-like symbolism of wine in abundance. Consider these passages from the prophets – Amos 9:13-14; Joel 3:18; Jeremiah 31:12 and 33:6; Isaiah 25:6-10 – where the Messiah appears and sweet wine runs down the mountains! For first century Jews steeped in the story of their ancestors, Jesus’ very considerate offering to an embarrassed host is so much more. It is a cymbal clashing, horns blaring, Michael Bay exploding testament to just who this guy from Galilee IS. “Pay attention”, John says. “I’ve got something to tell you about this man.” John’s Gospel is written so that those who hear it may come to accept it and trust the One to whom it points. Who knew simple arithmetic could be so inspirational? 😉

 

Los Links

The Advocacy Project, mentioned in our discussion of the Isaiah passage.

Mathematical attractors in general, and strange attractors in particular.

Here are a brief description and a long description of the life and work of Dr. James E. Loder, whose definition for love is quoted in this episode.

A 30-gallon wine cask looks like this.

A 30-gallon trash can looks like this.

Jesus the Bridegroom: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Dr. Brant Pitre.

 

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