For Jan. 20. 2013: 2 Epiphany, Year C

The Reading            Isaiah 62:1-5

Last week’s reading from Isaiah, written during the exile in Babylon, foresaw the lengths to which God would go to save Israel. In today’s reading, written after the return from exile, Isaiah proclaims not only the saving of Jerusalem but its vindication. He sings of God’s deep delight in Jerusalem—and in every one of us.

The Response            Psalm 36:5-10

The Epistle            1 Corinthians 12:1-11

In the church that Paul founded at Corinth, spiritual gifts became a matter of contention, as so often they do today. Paul reminds the Corinthians, and us, that every one of us is God’s gifted child, graced with gifts for the good of all. If so we, are also called to encourage each other in the exercise of those gifts.

The Gospel            John 2:1-11

 

Further thoughts

Easter comes unusually early this year, on March 31. In consequence, Epiphany season is unusually short, and therefore more than usually easy to look past as we move from the exuberance of Christmas toward the solemnity of Lent.

In much of the world, Epiphany looks like a lean, mean season. The ground is snowy or bare and local produce is in short supply: my second year in England saw my first attempt to cook Brussels sprouts, because literally no other green thing graced the local market’s vegetable bins. Even in Southern California, the neighbor’s huge walnut tree and our little pomegranates stand leafless and seem dead. And in Southern California as elsewhere, the bills for Christmas coincide with the annual church budget discussion and the onset of tax season.

Today’s readings, however, relentlessly point us toward abundance. Isaiah poetically shows us a God who is not merely fond of Jerusalem but head over heels in love with the City of Peace and with her children. The psalmist shows us a God whose bounty produces feasts and whose grace extends to the “critters”: all dogs, and cats and horses, go to heaven, though one can’t help balking at the concept of eternity with mosquitoes. Paul’s letter to Corinth details God’s openhandedness with gifts of the Spirit and hints rather broadly that any gift to do good is from God and should be honored accordingly. And then there is the gospel, with Jesus’ first public sign the conversion of ritual water into very fine wine—in the quantity of a hundred or so gallons!

At the same time, the brevity of Epiphany reminds us that time itself is short. Seasons end; bills and budgets have deadlines; people die. However we are going to use the gifts large and small that we have been given, and however we mean to encourage all those around us to find and explore and deploy the gifts large and small that they have been given, and whatever else we do to love God back, the time is right now.

Right now, as in this very minute, and every minute we draw breath.

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