Revised Common Lectionary: Isaiah 43:1-7; Psalm 29; Acts 8:14-17; Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
Narrative Lectionary: Wedding at Cana, John 2:1-11 (Psalm 104:14-16)
We begin this season after Epiphany with the Baptism of Christ, and the theme through the scriptures is God’s voice.
The Hebrew Scripture passage recalls the people of Israel returning after the exile, and God speaks through the prophet Isaiah to the people in 43:1-7. God knows the people, for they are God’s own, the ones God has redeemed. Neither water nor fire will overtake or consume the people, for God will make sure they will return. These faithful are precious in God’s sight, and God would give everyone else up for them. God will gather all those in exile and bring them back to where they belong, for God has called them by name.
Psalm 29 is a song of how God’s voice commands over the heavens and the earth. The psalmist calls upon the heavenly beings to worship God, for God’s voice is over all creation, in command over the wilderness and wild waters and the wind. God’s reign is over the forces of nature and causes the neighbors of Israel to flee. The psalmist prays a blessing for God’s strength and peace to be upon the people.
In Acts 8:14-17, Peter and John traveled to Samaria where they met some followers of Jesus who were baptized in his name, but had not received the Holy Spirit. They were possibly disciples of John the Baptist. Peter and John laid their hands on these followers, and they received the Holy Spirit.
Luke shares an account of Jesus’ baptism in 3:15-17, 21-22. While the people who gathered at the Jordan questioned whether John might be the Messiah, John told them that one was coming after him who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. John described the Messiah as the one with the winnowing fork in hand on the threshing floor, separating the wheat that grew together with the chaff. The chaff was thrown into the fire of purification, an unquenchable fire, and the wheat gathered into the granary. Baptism is a preparation for the work of the Messiah, a repentance from our sin and accepting of our belonging to God through the Holy Spirit. When it’s Jesus’ turn, however, John doesn’t make any special announcement about Jesus when he comes forward to be baptized. Perhaps he didn’t know. Even though Luke’s account has John and Jesus being cousins, they may not have known each other before this. It’s after Jesus was baptized and praying that the Holy Spirit descends like a dove, and a voice from heaven declared this was the Son of God, and God was well pleased.
The Narrative Lectionary turns to the Wedding at Cana (which will be the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel passage next week) 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.
Psalm 104:14-16 is a portion of a song blessing God as Creator and Provider. In these verses, the psalmist praises God for cattle and plants that bring forth food, for the grass that feeds the cattle. The psalmist also praises God for the fruits of the land: wine that gladdens the human heart, oil that makes the face shine, and bread that strengthens us. Paired with the Wedding in Cana, we are reminded that God delights in our joy and celebrations, especially when we invite God and are reminded of God’s presence in our celebrating.
This season after Epiphany continues to be a season of revelations. The magi revealed Christ to the world; Jesus’ baptism reveals who he is yet again, as the Son of God, the one on whom the Holy Spirit descends. Jesus is revealed in the wedding at Cana as God who celebrates with us. Jesus’ very human mother Mary reminds her Godly son to be human, too, and to be concerned when we are concerned and to celebrate when we celebrate. Jesus is revealed as both human and divine in his own baptism. God’s voice is the one with the power over all creation, but it is Jesus’ mother’s voice who reminds him of who he is, and his own voice is given authority by her saying, “Do whatever he tells you to.”
Call to Worship (from Isaiah 43:2-3a)
When you pass through the waters,
God will be with you;
And through the rivers,
They shall not overwhelm you;
When you walk through fire
The flame shall not consume you.
For the LORD is our God,
the Holy One, our Savior.
Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Holy One, we confess that we live at times as if You are far away. We live at times as if You are above us, distant in a cloud. We have forgotten the humanness of Your life, that You were born as vulnerable and messy as us. You were baptized as we were baptized, in water from this earth You created. You called forth followers who were Your friends. You celebrated at weddings and had family members tell you what to do. Remind us to invite You into the mess of our lives, O God, for You have lived it and experienced it. You know what it is like to be rejected by family, to be feared, to be forgotten, and to be loved and accepted and cared for. Remind us that You are very near to us, not only in Spirit, but in experience. You know us. You know our hearts. You know our lives. May we rejoice and celebrate that You are dear to us, and we are dear to You. Amen.
Jesus said, “Whoever does the will of God is my mother and my sister and my brother, my siblings, my family.” Whenever we turn back to Jesus’ way and live into God’s will, we know that we belong to God’s family, that we belong to Jesus and Jesus belongs to us. Love one another, forgive one another, help one another in healing and encouragement. Live into this good news, knowing that God knows the number of hairs on your head, and loves you madly. Amen.
Wellspring of Life, we need water and air to live. By our breath we know Your Spirit; by the waters we know death and life. We are birthed into this world in the water of the womb, and born into You by the breath of the Spirit. In our baptism, we remember that we are both fully born of You and of this earth. As Jesus came to us, may we understand our unity in You. May we grow in understanding of our connection to the earth and all of creation. May we do our part to clean our water and air, to remember these gifts from You, gifts through the earth, that are part of us. In the name of Christ, who was born of Mary and brings us into new life now on Your beautiful earth, we pray. Amen.