Revised Common Lectionary: Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 36:5-10; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; John 2:1-11
Narrative Lectionary: Jesus Cleanses the Temple, John 2:13-25 (Psalm 127:1-2)
In this season after Epiphany, we look to signs of Christ revealed to the world.
The Hebrew Scripture lesson is again from Isaiah, in the time after the exile. The prophet promises the people of Israel that the nations will witness God at work through them. What they have been through will not be for nothing. They are the crown jewel of God’s creation. Like many prophets, Isaiah uses names as metaphors for the people, who will no longer be known as Desolate but as My Delight is in Her. In the metaphor of marriage from this particular time period and history, the forgotten young woman is now the delight of the new bride. It is a romance story of all romance stories—God loves the people madly and chooses them, though they were rejected by the world.
Psalm 36:5-10 speaks of God’s steadfast love. The psalmist writes of God’s faithfulness and righteousness like the strong mountains God has created. God provides out of the abundance of creation to the people, and God is the people’s refuge and salvation. “In your light we see light,” is a metaphor for understanding that when we embrace the fullness of God’s presence in our lives, we know God’s presence everywhere. When we look through the lens of God, we see God everywhere. When we take notice of God being revealed in us, we take notice of God revealed everywhere.
The Epistle reading begins a series in 1 Corinthians on spiritual gifts, starting with 12:1-11. Paul was concerned about divisions within the church at Corinth, and also some of their prior beliefs when they were followers of the Greek gods. Paul wants them to know that there are a variety of spiritual gifts, but they all come from the same Holy Spirit. If they claim to have gifts, but curse Jesus, then they do not have the Holy Spirit among them—the Holy Spirit is present with all good gifts and works. There is one God, though the manifestation of the Spirit may be different in each person, for we are all individuals, yet part of the same body of Christ.
The Gospel lesson was the Narrative Lectionary lesson last week, the Wedding at Cana in John 2:1-11. The passage begins with “on the third day.” The first day, back in 1:35-42, was John the Baptizer’s testimony—John’s revealing of who Jesus is to his own disciples. Andrew told his brother Simon, and they both followed Jesus. The second day, John 1:43-51, was Jesus’ journey to Galilee, where Philip from Bethsaida chose to follow Jesus and persuaded Nathanael to meet Jesus, and he also followed him. So the first day was the revelation by John to his own disciples, the second day a revelation by the disciples to new potential followers along the way. The third day, while still in Galilee, they went to Cana and attended a wedding with Jesus’ mother. The wine ran out—an embarrassing problem for the hosting family. Mary told Jesus that they were out of wine. Jesus was stubborn—he told his mother that his hour had not yet come, but she ignored him and insisted to the servants that they do whatever Jesus said. Mary reveals who Jesus is by his action of changing the water into wine, because he would not disobey her. Although no one, besides the disciples, Mary, and the servants, knew what happened, Jesus was revealed through a sign to his disciples, and they believed in him.
The Narrative Lectionary focuses on the next part of John’s Gospel account, 2:13-25, when Jesus overturns the tables in the temple. In John’s account this happens very early on in Jesus’ ministry, whereas in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, it happens the day after Jesus entered Jerusalem during the last week of his life. In this account Jesus makes an early trip to Jerusalem for the Passover, and finds people selling animals for the sacrifices and the money changers at their tables. Jesus makes a whip of chords and drives all of them out of the temple, overturning the tables and dumping out all the money. He yells at those selling the doves that this was his Father’s house, and they were turning it into a market. The people in the temple asked why he was doing this, and what sign could he show them as to why. Jesus responds with, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” In Mark’s account, at his trial his accusers use those words against him (though he did not speak these words himself in Mark’s Gospel), but in John’s account he speaks them here. Jesus was alluding already to his death and resurrection, his own body. By the time John’s account was written the temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed by the Romans, and perhaps this was speaking to a different kind of worship for the followers of Jesus after the temple’s destruction.
Psalm 127:1-2 contain the words of God’s blessing to the family and home. Unless God “builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” The foundation of family and home must be in God, or it is for nothing.
Relationships, family, marriage—all of these need a strong foundation. A strong foundation includes trust, respect, but also boundaries. Some of the marriage metaphors found in our scriptures are abusive, even in their historical contexts. Even in the way we speak of Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins, spiritual abuse has often been shoveled onto the marginalized and vulnerable. Churches and leaders have taken advantage of those seeking belonging. Jesus saw abuses in the temple and in his view, the whole thing needed to be turned over. Paul reminds us that in a world where we prioritize wealth and power there is a different way to live. Through the Holy Spirit, there are a variety of gifts: to appreciate everyone for what they bring from God to all of us. There are no gifts greater than others. We are reminded that in Christ we all belong to one another, we all serve one another. There is no fairy tale prince that rescues and redeems us—Christ laid down his life for us so that we would lay down our lives for one another. We are the ones who save each other, for Christ saved us. We are the ones who tear down the systems of oppression and injustice for each other, because Christ conquered those systems of sin in his death and resurrection.
Call to Worship (from Psalm 36:5, 9-10)
God’s steadfast love extends to the heavens,
God’s faithfulness to the clouds.
With God is the fountain of life,
In God’s light, we see light.
May God’s steadfast love be with us,
May we draw closer to God.
In this time of worship,
May we seek the presence of Christ in one another.
Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Almighty God, our Rock and our Salvation, we confess that our own foundation has been shaky. We have schemed in relationships, used friends and others for social gain. We confess that at times we tolerate the actions of others when they should be called out. Forgive us for the times we have transgressed boundaries and taken advantage of others. Show us how to be gentle with ourselves when we have been hurt and wronged by others. Teach us how to create good boundaries and sure foundations with one another of trust, respect, compassion, and mutual love. In Your love and grace may we grow in relationship with one another. Amen.
“There are a variety of gifts, but the same Spirit.” The Holy Spirit has gifted each of us. We are all unique, but we are all needed. You are very much a part of the body of Christ; without you, we are not whole. Each of us is worthy of God’s love and worthy of being loved by others. Learn to forgive and to seek forgiveness. Learn to help heal and restore and seek healing and restoration for yourselves. Share in this Good News, this body of Christ, and help restore and repair our world together. Come, you are invited. Amen.
God of Many Names, we rejoice that You know us. You know our truename in our hearts: Beloved. Child. Holy and Wild Ones. Beautiful Creation. Dancer. Lover. Rejoicing One. You know our inmost parts, as the psalmist sings, and knit us together long ago. We rejoice that we can know You through the life of Jesus our Savior, Brother, and Friend; through the Holy Spirit, Breath and Wind and Refiner’s Fire, Sophia and Wisdom; and through Your work as Creator, Maker, Weaver of the Stars and Sky, Almighty One. So many names for You, O God, and yet You know each of us. Remind us to delight in You and to rejoice with one another, celebrating that we are made in Your image of love and light and laughter. Amen.