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Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Lectionary Scriptures: Isaiah 62:1-5, Psalm 36:5-10, I Corinthians 12:1-11, John 2:1-11

This week’s reading from Isaiah, chapter 62, picks up a central piece of Pastor Rick’s message this last Sunday—and a central truth often lifted up during the season of Epiphany. We are a delight in God’s eyes. “ . . . you shall be called My Delight . . . for the Lord delights in you . . .” (vs. 4)

The Psalm (36) is another Psalm which speaks of God’s love in all the manifestations of nature and humanity. We are held in God’s steadfast love. The phrase, in verse 9, “in your light we see light,” is appropriate for the Epiphany season. It’s kind of description of an “epiphany”—seeing life illumined by the light of God.

The scripture that most catches my attention this week is the Gospel lesson which tells the story of Jesus’ presence at a wedding in Cana. Some would see it as simply another manifestation of Jesus’ humanity. He went to a wedding and partied with the crowd there, even spicing it up with some unexpected new wine at the end.

We may get off track if our primary focus is on the story, or miracle, itself. The passage is probably best seen in the context of the unique approach of this Gospel. In John, what happens in the “miracle” stories is presented as a “sign” of who Jesus is. At the end of this story, in John 2:11, it says, “Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.” Somehow, it was a sort of epiphany for them.

So, what is it a “sign” of? These stories in John often include a tag line in which Jesus says, “I AM . . .”—living water, bread of life, etc.—“I AM” perhaps drawing the readers to one of the Old Testament names for God, YHWH (Yahweh or Jehovah), which means, “I am what I am” or “I will be what I will be.” If this story ended with such a line, it would probably be “I AM the new wine.”

In Luke 5, Jesus, talking about another wedding feast warns against putting new wine into old wineskins because they will burst, the skins being destroyed and the wine being lost. The theme of newness runs through much of scripture. What God offers is a new lease on life, new beginnings. In Isaiah 43:19, God says, “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”

This week when I reread this story of the wedding at Cana, it caused me to think about and ask about the new and the old in my life. What have been the occasions when newness has burst in? How have I reacted? How have I been changed? What happens to the old when the new occurs? How do we integrate the old and the new? In Matthew 13:52, Jesus speaks of the kingdom of heaven (or kingdom of God) as a place where one “brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

Perhaps the story is about radical change. How does such change occur? How do we not lose hope when change is drastically needed? Jesus reminds us to cling to the hope for something new.

This Sunday is also a time for celebration of the life and ministry of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Steeped in the lessons of the prophets and the Gospels, it was in his bones to believe that something new could be born in American life. In any movement for change, some of the old still hangs on. Sometimes we even need some blend of the old and the new. We just need to be careful that we don’t drink so much of the old that we don’t even recognize the new and its possibilities.

Some get hung up on questions of a physical miracle in this story. The miracle it points to, however, is so much bigger. Any time we experience new life in our inner being, in our relationships, in our society and world, it is a true miracle, an epiphany to be celebrated.

A quick footnote about the epistle lesson from I Corinthians, chapter 12. It speaks of the need to recognize and use our different gifts. Verse 7 and following says, “ . . . there are varieties of activities, but is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” In this epistle, God’s Spirit is at work in us stirring up in us gifts that can be used to build up one another and the community around us. Those gifts are epiphanies of sorts, maybe even part of the “new” to which God is calling us.

God wants us to enjoy to its fullest the party that is life, to drink the wine of newness by opening ourselves to the Divine Spirit at work in us. Are we ready and able?

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Kairos-Milwaukie UCC Blog

Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary by Rev. Rick Skidmore and Rev. Jim Ogden.

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