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Revised Common Lectionary: Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 36:5-10; John 2:1-11; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Last year’s Martin Luther King, Jr. resources can be found here: http://rev-o-lution.org/2012/01/08/worship-resources-for-january-15-2011-martin-luther-king-jr-sunday/
As we read in Isaiah 62, the justice of God shall not be silenced. 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. Dr. King stands in the legacy of our prophets, incapable of holding back the voice of justice from God.
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. Vindication gives way to restoration, for 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.
Psalm 36:5-10 sings of God’s restoration to all who seek God. 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.
John 2:1-11 is the first miracle of Jesus in John’s gospel: the water into wine at the wedding in Cana. Jesus’ mother shares the news that the couple has run out of wine. Jesus, who refers to his mother as Woman (but not in a derogatory way, more like saying “Ma’am”), responds, “What concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” 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. 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. It’s a complex story, but it 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.
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 (see chapter 5 in which a man is having a relationship with his step-mother), 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.
As we celebrate Dr. King’s legacy, 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.
Call to Worship
Our God is the creator of heaven and earth
God created every blade of grass and towering tree
Our God is the architect and builder of all things
God formed the mountains and formed us all
Our God is the molder and shaper of things to come
God has plans for us, a future with hope
Come, let us worship the Author of Life
Let us celebrate our Creator and rejoice at being God’s creation! Amen.
Prayer of Brokenness/Prayer of Confession
God of Justice and Mercy, we confess that we have silenced our prophets. We have covered our ears by those who speak out for justice because it makes us uncomfortable. We ignore calls to end oppression and violence because it is inconvenient for us. We avoid the looks of the poor because they embarrass us. Forgive us, Lord, for not learning from the mistakes of our ancestors, who ignored and killed their prophets. Forgive us when we follow their steps instead of following Your ways. In the name of Christ, who forgives us, we pray. Amen.
Blessing/Assurance of Pardon
God’s faithfulness endures forever. God forgives, renews, and restores. God’s mercies are new every morning. We are called to seek the restoration and healing of others in our own forgiveness. Go with this good news, that God loves you deeply, and calls you into new life. Amen.
God of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, God of Deborah and Anna, God of all our prophets: on this day, we honor the legacy of Dr. King, who prophetically witnessed to Your radical inclusive love. Help us to carry forth Your call to justice beyond this Sunday and into our daily lives. Help us to have the courage of Dr. King to stand with the oppressed, to lift up the poor, to live into God’s ways of peace demonstrated by Jesus the Christ. Give us the strength to build a better future for all of our children. May we be challenged by this call, by the example of Dr. King, to live into Christ’s ways of love, justice, and peace. Amen.