Posts Tagged 'abundance'

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.

For Sunday, Sept. 18, 2011: Proper 20, Year A

The Reading            Exodus 16:2-15

Our reading of the book of Exodus continues. The Israelites are grumbling against Moses and Aaron and against God, this time because there’s nothing to eat. It sounds whiny to us, but they had some ground: they were former slaves from a land of harvesting and storing up, and they’re on the loose in something like the Mojave Desert with no cars, no picnic coolers, and no cafes at Anza-Borrego. Learning to depend on God can’t have been any easier for them than it is for us.

 

The Epistle            Philippians 1:21-30

The experience of the Israelites in the desert is a far cry from that of Paul. He writes his letter to the church at Philippi from jail, where he may very well be awaiting execution—and he’s ready to go either way: ready to keep living, so he can keep helping others in the faith, ready to die to go be with God. Furthermore, he tells them—us—that not only is believing in Christ a privilege, but so is suffering for Christ. Are we ready for this?

 

Further thoughts

The Israelites in our first reading have come out of a land in which it was very clear who mattered and who didn’t. The ones that mattered had it easy, while the ones at the bottom of the social scale had to work hard. At the same time, as slaves they would get enough to eat because their labor was of value. The culture of Egypt was also good at amassing and storing up—not unlike our culture. That fact had even saved Israel in the time of Joseph. But to souls enslaved to rank and hierarchy or to the mindset that enough is never enough, the earlier means of salvation can serve later as the means of destruction.

Paul tells us to think very differently. As a Pharisee by birth, he has known abundance and privilege in the world’s terms, and he knows what abundance and privilege are really worth. He therefore exhorts the Philippians not to let themselves be divided or misled by what the world thinks. Living is good, in order to serve God and God’s people. Dying is good, to go home with Jesus. Living in one spirit and one mind—not divided by hierarchy, and standing firm in the faith—is right and worthy, and suffering for the sake of the faith is a privilege. In short, Paul tells us, what looks to the world like destruction is evidence of our salvation.

Each of these readings turns things upside down. So does today’s Gospel. As long as we show up ready to work for God, we’ll get what we need. Sometimes it will look like just barely enough, if we insist on comparing what we get to what everyone else has. But if we do that, we’re missing the point, and we’re missing the real abundance of spirit that Jesus has prepared for us and prepared us for.


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