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Epiphany 2 | Ordinary Time 2, Cycle C (2016)

God makes it happen! Sermons emphasizing this theme will focus on Providence, Justification by Grace, and Sanctification. Attention should also be given to the role of the Holy Spirit in facilitating God’s work.

Psalm 36:5-10
This is a Psalm of David on human wickedness and divine goodness. The lesson focuses on extolling the Lord’s goodness. Of course as we have previously noted it is unlikely that David is the author of the Psalms attributed to him (Brevard Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture, p. 512). In fact some scholars conclude that references to David in the Psalms may be a way of using him to represent the inner life of all his subjects, and so of all the faithful (Ibid., p. 521). In that sense the Psalm calls us all to praise Yahweh for his goodness despite human wickedness.

The lesson begins with praising God by claiming that Yahweh’s steadfast love/mercy [chesed] extends to the heavens (vv. 5, 7). His righteousness [tsedaqah] is said to be like a mighty mountain saving humans and animals alike (v. 6). The psalmist proceeds to speak of how all people may take refuge in the shadow of God’s wings [kanaph, receiving protection], feast on the abundance of his love (the fatness of his house [bayith]), for the fountain of life is with him (vv. 7b-9). The image of God’s wings suggests the metaphor of God as an eagle, protecting the young (cf. Deuteronomy 32:6-11).

John Wesley claimed that God’s mercy was the most excellent of all his excellent attributes (Commentary on the Bible, p. 281). Although in its original Hebraic context the reference to God’s righteousness could connote legal, judgmental actions on the Lord’s part or a legalism, most Old Testament scholars note that this attribute of God is not in any way punitive, but more about relationship. Indeed, it has to do with God’s loyalty to his covenant in saving us and even at times later in the Old Testament era the righteousness of God construed as something bestowed on the faithful (Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology, Vol. 1, pp. 373, 376ff) in a manner not unlike what Paul says happens to Christians in Christ (Romans 3:21-26). The Psalm refers to Yahweh as the fountain of life [chaiyim] (v. 9) and that his love brings mercy and righteousness to the upright of heart [leb] (v. 10).

Application: In articulating the themes of Providence and Justification by Grace in the text it is possible to link them to the theme of their being God’s work that he makes them happen.

Isaiah 62:1-5
This text is part of a prophetic book which is an editorial compilation of two or three distinct literary strands. Our lesson is probably part of the book’s final and newest section, not written by the historical prophet Isaiah of the eighth century BC, but after the Babylonian Exiles had returned to Judah in 539 BC, quite disappointed with how the return home was going. This lesson is a prophecy for redemption and restoration (vindication), pertaining to the glory of God’s people, a most appropriate word given its composition after the return of the exiles to

Judah. For the sake of Zion (the oldest and highest part of ancient Jerusalem and for the city as a whole), the prophetic author claims he cannot keep quiet and rest in reminding God of his promises until the people of the city are vindicated and saved [yeshuah, in safety] (v. 1). It is prophesied that the nations will see Judah’s righteousness [tsedeq] and glory [kabod, honor]; it is also prophesied that they will be given a new name (implying a new status, since names in the ancient world entailed a description of who one was) (v. 2). See the Psalm of the Day for clarification of the meaning of righteousness in the Old Testament. The point here is that Judah’s relationship with God will be restored.

It is promised that the people would become crowns of beauty in Yahweh’s hand, no more termed forsaken and desolate, but called Hephzibah (my delight is her) and Beulah (married), for Yahweh delights in the people and their land is married [to him] (vv. 3-4). (The encircling walls of a city set on a hill may be behind this image of Jerusalem as a crown.) As a young man marries a young woman, the writer proclaims that so shall the people of Judah marry their builder [in Hebrew the text reads “your sons,” ben, here] (God) and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so God will rejoice over his people (v. 5).

Application: This text affords an excellent opportunity to proclaim how God’s never-changing love claims us and changes us, much like married love changes the lovers (Justification by Grace as Intimate Union).

1 Corinthians 12:1-11
The lesson is taken from one of Paul’s authentic letters, written from Ephesus prior to his Epistle to the Romans, to a church he had established (Acts 18:1-11). Relations had become strained with the church. The letter aims to address doctrinal and ethical problems disturbing the Corinthian church. This is a lesson devoted to teachings on the varieties of spiritual gifts.

Noting that before Christ the Corinthians had been led astray to idols that could not speak, Paul observes that no one speaking by the Spirit curses Jesus. Only by the Holy Spirit [pneumati hagiov] can we proclaim that Jesus is Lord [kurios] (v. 1-3). (This phrase was likely an early creedal confession by Christians [Romans 10:9; 2 Corinthians 4:5].) The same Spirit is said to give the variety of gifts [charisma, which entails being “graced”], the same Lord gives varieties of service, and the same God activates varieties of activities (vv. 4-6). To each is given a manifestation of the Spirit for the common good (v. 7). Various gifts are listed — wisdom, gift of healing, prophecy, tongues [glossa] (vv. 8-10). All are activated by the Spirit who allots to each one as he desires/purposes [bouletai] (v. 11). The real test of gifts seems not to be spiritual ecstasy, but whether they are of God and contribute to the common good.

Application: This lesson invites helping parishioners appreciate the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives, why they need to Spirit to work in order to believe, to live with confidence, and to do good. As such Sanctification, Church, Justification by Grace, and Predestination are relevant doctrines.

John 2:1-11
We have previously noted that this book is the last of the four gospels to be written, probably not composed until the last two decades of the first century. It is very different in style in comparison to the other three (so-called Synoptic) gospels. In fact it is probably based on these earlier gospels. The book has been identified with John the Son of Zebedee, the disciple whom Jesus loved, and this claim was made as long ago as late in the first century by the famed theologian of the early Church Irenaeus (Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1, p. 144). It is likely that it was written by a disciple of John. Hints of that possibility are offered by the first post-biblical church historian Eusebius of Caesarea who claimed that the book was written on the basis of the external facts made plain in the gospel and so John is a “spiritual gospel” (presumably one not based on eyewitness accounts of the author) (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 1, p. 261). Its main agenda was probably to encourage Jewish Christians in conflict with the synagogue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God (20:31). Recently some scholars have suggested an alternative account of the origins of John’s gospel. Appealing to the writings of a late-first/early-second century Bishop Papias, who may have implied that John’s gospel was the result of eyewitness origins, such scholars have argued that the book is in fact an authentic historical testimony to Jesus (Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, especially pp. 423ff; cf. Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1, pp. 154-155). This lesson is an account of Jesus’ miracle at the wedding at Cana, unique to John’s gospel.

A wedding held in Cana in Galilee is reported “on the third day” (presumably the third day from the day Philip had been called [1:43]) (v. 1a). Mary, Jesus, and the disciples had been invited (vv. 1b-2). When the wine gave out, Mary informs Jesus (implying he do something about it) (v. 3). Jesus protests to his mother about disclosing himself (v. 4). Calling her “woman” [gune] was a term of solemn and respectful address. She orders the servants to do as he says (v. 5). He orders in line with a rite of purification (perhaps in line with Leviticus 15:11) that six stone water jars be filled and some of the contents in these jars be given to the head waiter [diakonis, or master of ceremonies, literally “servant] (vv. 6-8). The head waiter called the bridegroom after tasting the water made wine and praised the quality of it (vv. 9-10). The author reports this to have been the first of Jesus’ signs [semeion], revealing his glory [doxa]. The disciples reportedly believed him (v. 11).

Application: This text invites sermons that proclaim the miracles we desire are incomprehensible, only visible through the Word of God and the Holy Spirit, that only through God can we recognize them or receive good things. When we have this insight we will begin to see God in everything. Providence, Christology, the Holy Spirit, and Sanctification are the prevailing themes.

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Authors of
Lectionary Scripture Notes
Norman A. Beck is the Poehlmann Professor of Theology and Classical Languages and the Chairman of the Department of Theology, Philosophy, and Classical Languages at Texas Lutheran University
Dr. Norman A. Beck
Mark Ellingsen is professor at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia
Dr. Mark Ellingsen