Second Sunday after the Epiphany 17th January 2010 Vanderbilt Divinity Library Lectionary

Epiphany 2C 17th January 2010 Textweek

Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 36:5-10; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; John 2:1-11


In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

The liturgy of the Church and the lectionary (the regular readings) of the church provide us with a continuing and ongoing story, an unfolding of the gospel that illuminates the unfolding of our lives and of life itself. The community of the church provides us with a context, - a life community in which we can find our part and our place within the whole story of Divine creation. So we have the liturgy, the readings and the community providing us with a pool of reflection for the unfolding of ourselves. So as we explore today’s readings, it’s helpful to look back to the “story so far”.

We began with Advent, a time of looking towards the coming of the light. Then we had the nativity narratives, the story of Birth, the Genesis, the story of Life creation, a story so delightfully paralleled on Christmas Day as we also acknowledged Eddie’s birthday - one story mirroring another story.

Last Sunday we had the baptism of our Lord, another Birth narrative that magnifies the significance of the first birth narrative. Baptism opens us to the realization of our birth, our creation, that is beyond the confines of the physical, of this world; we open ourselves to an appreciation of eternal significance, of a creation story that moves forever in the direction of wholeness and oneness. Again, last Sunday that story was beautifully paralleled for us in the Baptism of Agatha.

Today the story continues, and it also continues to unfold the theme - our understanding of Baptism - we continue to explore: what does it mean, what do we mean.

Isaiah has pointed toward a new Jerusalem, and we also heard Isaiah before the birth narratives of Christmas pointing towards a newness of life, a new world, a new way of living, living in Divine community. And the vindication of the old order, its absolution. its justification, its coming into integrity, will, it says in verse 1,
shine(s) out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch

There’s an amazing echo that we hear and it’s an echo of each and every baptism as the candle is lit and handed to the newly baptised:

God has called you out of darkness into God’s marvellous light
Shine as a light in the world to the glory of God
Isaiah says the vindication of the old order will ‘shine out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch’.

Isaiah continues to echo the baptism:
you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give.[v2]

Our naming is to be found in our baptism, our Christian name, our true being. Whilst our place on earth is recorded in our birth records, our truth is to be found in our baptism. It was the same for Jesus, hence the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord, and the same is illuminated in the story of faith from the very beginning. In Genesis when a new beginning is sought in the person of Abraham, God makes a promise to a man called Abram, a promise that he will become the creator of a multitude of nations [Genesis 17:5], a promise that he will be a creator of life, and in that promise he is given a new name, he is called by a new name, Abraham.

Isaiah, in the same spirit of promise that is evidenced between God and Abraham, affirms the promise, a promise that we each can find through our baptism:
You shall be called My Delight
You shall be a crown of beauty
a royal diadem in the hand of the LORD
It’s a promise that probably seems fairly remote as we look at our day-to-day selves, particularly our early morning selves that we see in the mirror. Imagine:
You shall be called My Delight
You shall be a crown of beauty
a royal diadem in the hand of the LORD
It’s why we take lovers, because we do not believe those words of ourselves, we need to find someone on the planet who will say those nice things to us. The deepest truth is that these are an utterance of the creator of life, about you and me. A truth that comes when we can fully appreciate that which Isaiah saw for all of God’s people:
.... the LORD delights in you
Your God shall rejoice over you.

The liturgy of the Church is an ancient form of enabling us to see ourselves within the Divine story, within a divine context, and the psalmist, one of the earliest writers of liturgy, and in today’s psalm it’s as if the whole of Isaiah’s prophetic teaching is picked up in a delightful summary
with the Divine[you] is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.[v9]
And again we hear an echo of the rite of Baptism, an echo of the Baptismal candle, acknowledging that we will find the light of Life in the Divine light which is so freely given to us and handed to all.

The reading from Corinthians also fits well within the whole context of baptism and the nature of baptism. When we are baptised we are baptised in the threefold Trinitarian name of the Divine - the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Paul has this same Trinitarian formula as he illuminates the source of our gifts, the source of our gifts - and our gifts are about our part in the whole, that’s what our gifts are about, and Paul says:
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.

And just as we are baptized into the community of faith, so too our giftedness is not for us, we are not gifted for our own edification, rather
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good[v7]
It’s a wonderful understanding and a delight to see the scriptures reflected in the life of the church.

If we can glimpse ourselves in these stories and see ourselves as the players in the biblical narratives, so too we might also see ourselves as players and participants in the unfolding of the Divine creation.

John’s Gospel is absolutely rich in symbolic meaning; it’s a later gospel. John’s understanding seeks to deepen the interpretations that are presented by the other gospel writers. However, if we only hear today’s reading as a one-off, outside of that flow of the lectionary and the liturgy of the church, we might well wonder why we now find ourselves at a wedding feast in Cana of Galilee. This is a symbolic story. It begins with: On the third day. And read in the current context it not only echoes the Easter narrative that is still to come, it also echoes the Paschal Candle, the very source of Baptismal light. In our baptism we are buried with Christ and we are brought to new life through the waters of resurrection.

In today’s reading we find the first appearance of Mary. She plays the part of the believer; she plays the part of the prototype Christian and she speaks from a place of faith: "Do whatever he tells you."[v5]. Her final appearance in John’s gospel will be at the foot of the cross, and if we do connect with Mary as proto-Christian, then here at the foot of the cross we must also find ourselves.

But the focal point of the gospel narrative is the six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification[v6] - the very waters of baptism. Just as this is the focal point of the narrative, so too it is the focal point of our baptism. And in transforming the water of religious rites into the wine of festive celebration, Jesus transforms the old order into a new order. Jesus transforms an order supported both religiously and culturally, with the new order that’s brought into focus through the blood of Christ, the wine of abundance.

It is as if in these three readings we have opened up the whole of the Bible, an understanding of the whole of the sacred scriptures. No wonder today’s gospel story is called a miracle. The miracle, however, is not in the act of magical chemistry – the miracle is not the turning of water into wine; the miracle is not about Jesus and his well-timed entrepreneurship in keeping the wedding feast on track. The miracle is the miracle of promise: the promise to you, the promise to me, and the promise to all. It is a promise, it is a vision, it is a possibility; it’s a realizable future that is birthed and baptized in the context of Abundance. That is the miracle that we read of today. The creation of a tomorrow that transforms the fear and scarcity that confines us in the today….

Our birth and our baptism, our very being has a common orientation, an orientation that we share with the whole of creation. We share it in the same way that green plants reach for the sun – they reflect also our orientation. As the body of Christ we are called, and promised into a future in which
All people may take refuge in the shadow of our wings. And... feast on the abundance of our house, and.... drink from the river of our delights: the promise of our birth, the promise of our baptism.

Peter Humphris