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Wrestling with the Word, episode 56: Second Sunday after Epiphany, Year C (January 17, 2010) January 12, 2010

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Second Sunday after the Epiphany

The Bible consists of 66 books, 39 in the Hebrew Bible and 27 in the New Testament. Yet we consider these many books, written over a period of about fourteen centuries, to be THE BOOK, thus its name, the Bible (from the Greek word byblos). Many pieces make up the whole. The Gospel lessons for the season called Epiphany “reveal” for us the identity and role of Jesus. They provide manifestations of Jesus through what he said and did. Yet, to catch the drift of the pronouncements in these lessons, we need the images, insights, words, and stories from many other books from the Bible. Many pieces fill out the picture to tell the story about Jesus’ identity. In doing so, they also tell the story about each of us providing the pieces that make up the community called the church.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 56: Second Sunday after Epiphany, Year C.


Psalm 36:5-10
Psalm 36 provides a profound reflection on the Lord’s universal reach. Its two parts betray the whole as a wisdom psalm. The first part of the psalm (vv.1-4) denounces the wicked in terms that recall proverbial wisdom teachings, and the final two verses 11-12 return to that theme. The second part (vv. 5-10) continues the universal context of wisdom and acclaims God’s role as the life and light of the world.

“For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light” (Ps. 36:9).

(Ps. 27:1, also a wisdom psalm, opens with the confession “the Lord is my light and my salvation.”) At the heart of the Lord’s gift of life are the acts and attributes of YHWH that abound in the Hebrew Bible: steadfast love (vss. 5, 7, 10), faithfulness (v. 5), righteousness (v. 6), and salvation (v. 10)—all terms of relationship between YHWH and the world. The faithful actions of the Lord enable the worshiper to withstand without fear the onslaught of evildoers and to offer a plea for the continuation of divine fidelity (v. 10).


Isaiah 62:1-5
To the people of Israel disappointed and disillusioned at their return from exile, the prophet promises his persistence in complaining to the Lord until God reverses their fortunes.

The Edict of Cyrus, issued in 538 B.C., promised the exiled people of Israel in Babylon that they could rebuild their city of Jerusalem. To do so, they would, of course, have to return home. The evidence indicates that not many were willing to return after generations had made their home in Babylon. According to the prophet called Second Isaiah (Isaiah 40—55), the return home would coincide with the promised Day of the Lord when God’s kingdom would be established. Their homecoming provided no evidence that they were living in kingdom time. The prophet whose sermons appear in chapters 56—66 announced that God sent him as a messenger to announce that the fulfillment of God’s promises was still but surely to come. His sermons describe the conditions of the time: violence, destruction and devastation (60:17-18); afflicted, brokenhearted, imprisoned, mourning (61:1-2); ruined cities and devastations (61:4); shame and dishonor (61:7). God has commissioned him (anointed) to announce that God will surely accomplish the opposite of all these conditions.

Key Words
V. 1. lō’ ’echešeh = “I shall not keep silent”: At 61:1 the prophet announced that the Lord has “anointed” him to turn the dreadful situations into their opposites. Now he promises to give God no rest until the people realize their hopes.

V. 1. ‘ad yētsē’ kannōgāh tsidqāh wîšû‘ātāh kelappîd yib‘ār = “until her righteousness (or vindication) goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch”: Previously the author had said that “justice” and “righteousness” are “far from us” (59:9) and that “righteousness stands far off” (59:14).

V. 2. “The nations shall see your vindication (tsidqēk), and all the kings your glory”: The fulfillment of the Lord’s promises will have universal impact, just as Ezekiel (37:14) and Second Isaiah (52:7-10) promised.

V. 4. lō’-yē’āmēr lāk ‘ōd ‘azûbâ ûle’artsēk lō’-yē’āmēr ‘ōd šemāmâ kî lāk yiqqārē’ chephtsî-bāh = “No longer will you be called ‘Forsaken,’ and your land will no longer be called ‘Desolate,’ but you shall be called ‘My delight is in her’”: Strikingly there was a woman called Azubah; she was the mother of King Jehoshaphat (1 Kings 22:42). There was also a woman named Hephzibah; she was King Manasseh’s mother (2 Kings 21:1). The change of name in the prophecy indicates the change of fortune for the people and the land.

V. 5. ûmesôs chātān ‘al-kallâ yāsîs ‘alayik ’elōhāyik = “and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so your God will rejoice over you”: The image of marriage appears often in the Hebrew Bible as an metaphor for the covenant relationship between YHWH and Israel (Hosea, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel). The wedding party imagery appeared just prior to our pericope at 61:10. The image is appropriate for a land that will be named “Married” (be‘ûlâ) in the previous verse.


1 Corinthians 12:1-11
All members of the church derive their faith from the same source, from God, and all are called to use the gifts from the Spirit, the services from the Lord, and the workings from God for the upbuilding of the community.

The correspondence between the apostle Paul and the congregation at Corinth is complex. Precisely how many letters Paul wrote, whether we possess all that he wrote, the sequence of the letters, and what did the Corinthians write to him about are some of the debated questions. Clearly, however, the issues here are ones about which the Corinthians requested some instruction. Also clear is the necessity of Paul’s emphasis on “unity” because the Christian community in Corinth was divided into factions. Paul’s plea very early in the letter is “that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose” (1 Cor. 1:10). The reason for those words is that there were divisions among them (1:11-17).

Key Words
V. 1.  peri de ton pneumatikon = “Now concerning spiritual gifts”:  The introduction of a new subject with the words peri de is identical to the 7:1:  “Now concerning the matters about which you wrote.” After dealing there with the question concerning marital and sexual matters, Paul moves from “now concerning the unmarried” (7:25ff.) to “now concerning the food offered to idols” (8:1). The introduction to the discussion about how women ought to dress when they pray in public (11:2ff) is different, but now, leaving some of the practical issues which must have been raised in their letter to Paul, the apostle returns to the theological issues “concerning spiritual gifts.” He had already given his thanks to God for the divine grace that enriched them “in speech and knowledge of every kind … so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of or lord Jesus Christ” (1:4-5, 7).

V. 2.  pros ta eidola ta aphona = “to dumb idols”:  The word aphonos means “silent,” “incapable of speech,” and so the description of idols who are incapable of speaking fits the indictment against idols in Second Isaiah (see Isa. 43:9; 44:7).

V. 3.  Kyrios Iesous = “Jesus is Lord”:  This confession, according to Romans 10:9, is necessary for salvation, but it can be uttered only by one who has been inspired by the Holy Spirit. It is not a mere ecstatic utterance but rather has a specific content about a specific person. Recall Paul’s assertion that assigning the titles “Son of God” and “Lord” to Jesus are the result of his resurrection (Romans 1:4, 10:9).

VV. 4-5.  Note the designation of titles and functions
Varieties of Gifts (charismata): same Spirit
Varieties of Service (diakonia):  same Lord
Varieties of Working (energemata):  same God

V. 7. pros ton sympheron = “for the common good”: Paul uses this word several times to point to behavior or action that is helpful or beneficial (see 1 Cor. 6:12; 10:23; 2 Cor. 8:10; 12:1). The first two passages cited distinguish action that is “beneficial” to others from what is personally “legal.”

Vss. 7-10. ekastō de didotai hē phanerōsis tou pneumatos = “To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit”: The gifts of the same Spirit are diverse, each contributing to the mutual upbuilding of the one family of faith: uttering wisdom, uttering knowledge, faith, healing, miracle-working, prophecy, distinguishing among spirits, speaking in tongues, and interpreting tongues.

V. 11.  kathos bouletai = “as he wills”:  The Spirit’s free choice is what determines the gifts, and so there is nothing that the so-called Spirit-filled person can claim for him/herself.


John 2:1-11
The first sign Jesus performed, like all his other signs, indicated who he was and accomplished faith in his disciples who witnessed the miracle.

The first 12 chapters of John’s Gospel are appropriately called the Book of Signs. They report one miracle after another in which the identity of Jesus is revealed, and through that revelation, people come to believe who he is and thus are saved. The conclusion of the Gospel at 20:30-31 summarizes this purpose.

Key Words
V. 1.  kai tē hēmera tē tritē = “and on the third day”:  On the one hand, the author appears to be providing day-to-day journaling of Jesus movements and action. Prior to this verse, the author uses the expression “the next day” (tē epaurion) at 1:29, 35, 43. The phrase in our verse, however, seems to be a resurrection formula, particularly because the second sign at Cana begins with a similar introduction:  meta de tas duo hēmeras = “after the two days” (4:43). That “after two days” and “on the third day” mean the same can be demonstrated by the synonymous parallelism at Hos. 6:2.

V. 2.  eklēthē … eis ton gamon = “invited to the marriage”:  While the marriage ceremony itself is not even hinted at, the emphasis in the story is on the reception. The party calls to mind the frequent allusions in the OT to such banquets:  the eschatological banquet (see Isa. 25:6-8; note the abundance of wine at Amos 9:13-14; the banquet which Wisdom serves wherein is the food of life (see Prov. 9:1-5; Isa. 55:1-3; Sirach 15:3; 24:19-21). In the Synoptic Gospels Jesus used the image of weddings and feats (Matt. 8:11; 22:1-14; Luke 22:16-18) as appropriate for the dawning of the eschaton. The imagery relates to the joy of the bridegroom for the bride at Isaiah 62:5.

V. 4.  gunai = “Woman”:  While the term seems abrupt, it was a polite way of addressing a woman (Matt. 15:28; Luke 13:12; John 4:21; 8:10; 20:13), even if atypical for a mother. Jesus, however, uses the same address for his mother at 19:26 in what is an expression of compassion from the cross. Further, the address might be a way of affirming that his origin is from God (1:1ff.).

V. 4.  oupō hēkei hē hōra mou = “my hour has not yet come”:  Jesus repeats the same expression at 7:6, 8, 30; 8:20 as a way of indicating that the hour for his passion, death, and resurrection was still in the future. In several instances, however, Jesus announced the positive side that the hour had begun for these things to take place:  see 4:21, 23; 5:25, 28; 12:23; 13:1.  Perhaps it is the motif of resurrection indicated by “on the third day” and by the eschatological banquet that causes Jesus to proceed with the miracle even prior to the passion.

V. 6. “six stones jars … for the Jewish rites of purification … each holding twenty or thirty gallons”: The abundance of wine (120-180 gallons) calls to mind the eschatological banquet at Isaiah 25:6-8 and the sign of the Kingdom of God beginning “on the Day of the Lord” at Amos 9:13-14.

V. 9. …ho architriklinos … ouk ēdei pothen estin = “the steward of the feast … did not know where it came from”: The expression is similar to the one Jesus expressed to Nicodemus about the wind/spirit at 3:8: “but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.” The unknowing about Jesus origin also occurs at 7:27 and 9:29-30. At 4:11 the woman at the well asks Jesus about the living water he spoke of: “Where will you get that living water?” (pothen oun echeis to hydōr to zōn:). The disciples asked Jesus about the required food to feed the five thousand: “Where (pothen) will we buy bread…” (6:5). At 8:14 Jesus knows where he has come from, but “you do not know where I come from (ouk oidate pothen erchomai) or where I am going.” Pontius Pilate asks Jesus directly, “Where do you come from”? (19:9, pothen ei su). Indeed, the whole world “did not know him” (1:10).

V. 11.  ephanerōsen tēn doxan autou = “he manifested his glory”:  At 12:23 Jesus’ glory is manifested when the hour had come, the time when the Gentiles came to follow him. At that time, he spoke of the necessity of the grain of seed to die before it can live again.