Jan. 16, 2022

Prayer of the Day

Lord God, source of every blessing, you showed forth your glory and led many to faith by the works of your Son, who brought gladness and salvation to his people. Transform us by the Spirit of his love, that we may find our life together in him, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.Amen.

Isaiah 62:1-5

1For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
  and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest,
 until her vindication shines out like the dawn,
  and her salvation like a burning torch.
2The nations shall see your vindication,
  and all the kings your glory;
 and you shall be called by a new name
  that the mouth of the Lord will give.
3You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
  and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
4You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
  and your land shall no more be termed Desolate;
 but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,
  and your land Married;
 for the Lord delights in you,
  and your land shall be married.
5For as a young man marries a young woman,
  so shall your builder marry you,
 and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
  so shall your God rejoice over you.

Psalm 36:5-10

5Your love, O Lord, reaches | to the heavens,
  and your faithfulness | to the clouds.
6Your righteousness is like the strong mountains, your justice like | the great deep;
  you save humankind and ani- | mals, O Lord. R
7How priceless is your | love, O God!
  All people take refuge under the shadow | of your wings.
8They feast upon the abundance | of your house;
  you give them drink from the river of | your delights.
9For with you is the | well of life,
  and in your light | we see light.
10Continue your lovingkindness to | those who know you,
  and your favor to those who are | true of heart.

1 Corinthians 12:1-11

1Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. 3Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Let Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.
  4Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

Wedding at Cana, Father Georges Sager, Keur Moussa Abbey, Keur Moussa, Senegal

John 2:1-11

1On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” 5His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. 9When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

The Marriage in Cana, Anders Ericsson, Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, Sweden

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

Christmas decorations have come down. Maybe people are always sad about how that changes the mood of a house, but I seem to have heard about the sadness more this year. Of course, we cannot have a festival like Christmas every day of every month of the year. Or we could but then we would have to call them something else. The joy around Christmas can in fact be part of our daily lives. That is clear in our text today. I love that Jesus’ first sign is not a healing, not an exorcism. There’s a problem with wedding festivities–an event already full of joy and celebration. What’s more, Jesus uses what was quite commonplace in first century Palestine-wine.

One scholar reminds us that the image of wine at a feast echoes “Wisdom’s Feast in the Old Testament. Jewish prophetic literature uses the marriage metaphor for God’s covenant with Israel, and the abundance of wine figures as an image of restoration in the culmination of all things. The abundance of wine and saving the good wine for last draws upon this imagery of hope for the end of time that is paired with hopes for a messiah.”

When the prophet Isaiah speaks of God’s promise to bring justice to all in the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel, he issues the invitation to enjoy wine without price. The invitation is accompanied by a declaration from God. God says that the word that goes out from Gods’ mouth will not return empty but will accomplish God’s purposes. 

In today’s text, wine continues to provide an epiphany. “Epiphany,” from the Greek word epiphaneia, means to manifest, show forth, or make clear. Epiphanies have a consistent role in the Judean-Christian tradition. God has revealed God’s self in a wide array of ways throughout the centuries. God wants us to know God because God loves us and wants to be in relationship with us. To recognize and know God through Jesus Christ is central to today’s gospel text.

God’s people have consistently needed to see God manifested in order to believe. So it is with today’s story. The wine has run out at a wedding banquet. The celebration could turn dry just like the wine did. What better way to show our own state of affairs than the image of wine running out? Watching the news and scrolling headlines for a week is enough to make one’s faith waver. Then there are all the ways our individual daily lives tire us. We cannot see God in ourselves or the people we interact with or even the natural world. Weariness blurs our senses and God does not seem to be present any how or anywhere. And yet God does keep showing up, made manifest.

God’s glory has manifested itself in many media and miracles from the natural world. In today’s story, God is revealed through wine—gallons of it. Jesus told the servants to fill six stone jars to the brim with water. The servants then took some of the wine to the chief steward who, after tasting it, called the bridegroom and said “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” The miracle revealed God’s glory.

The chief steward does not recognize Jesus as the source of the good wine. Or did he? We do not know what he thought. In the end, it is the servants who get a glimpse of Jesus’ glory. This first sign of Jesus’ glory is revealed to just a few. And it is not who we would expect. We might expect the groom or the bride to play a key role here, noticing how Jesus has saved their family from present and future shame. We might expect important guests to have inside information about where this good and abundant wine came from. But instead, it is the servants who get a peek at Jesus’ glory.

For those of us who have the canon of scripture, who might be familiar with the rest of the story, this is actually in God’s character. Again and again, God reveals Godself to the ordinary and the lowly and the marginalized–shepherds in the field, tax collectors, pharisees who come to him at night, a thief on the cross. God comes through the common and unexpected. 

That is partially what the Apostle Paul addresses in his letter to the Corinthians, our marvelous second lesson this morning. It is helpful to remember that Paul’s letter to Corinth is primarily about the common needs of the Christian community. Here is one criticism Paul lodges against the Corinthian congregation: their inability to live out the essential claim of a community founded in the Gospel of Jesus. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus unite every congregation of followers. Unity is for the sake of God’s mission in the world and for the building up of that particular community.

For Paul, spirituality involves the ongoing reality and work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Jesus’ followers. The problem in Corinth is that some spiritual elitists have really messed this up. They have regarded their gifts of the Spirit as making them superior to other members of the Community. Paul presents the proper and improper use of spiritual gifts. He emphasizes unified divine action. This empowers diverse human activity for the common good—the benefit of everyone. 

For me, the pairing of the Wedding of Cana text and the Corinthian passage on Spiritual Gifts is a brilliant one. God’s abundance of delicious wine, the vision of the festive wedding banquet, becomes accessible to all communities. God has also given us an abundance of spiritual gifts, enough to build life-giving communities wherever we are. 

Paul tells us that “there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.” He emphasizes both gifts and their origin, which is the Spirit. While there are many gifts, there is the same Spirit. The Spirit does not give only one kind of gift to all. The world needs diverse gifts and related works: “The utterance of wisdom,” “The utterance of knowledge,” “Faith,” “gifts of healing,” “the working of miracles,” “prophecy,” “the discernment of spirits.” But all these varieties of gifts come from the same Spirit, however diverse and different they may be. 

Paul would contend that the Spirit does not promote excessive individualism or elitism because those do not benefit the common good. In other words, they do not build up the whole community—whether that community be Trinity Lutheran, Nampa, or the United States. Gifts are not meant to be used for self-promotion or selfish reasons. Spiritual gifts must be used for strengthening the community by taking care of the weak and the despised in society. 

One pastor wrote, “Spiritual gifts are not for us, and therefore it is essential that we discern them and use them. Spiritual gifts are given by the Holy Spirit, they are a way that the Holy Spirit flows through us into the world that God loves. By exercising our gifts, we put ourselves at the disposal of the Great Almighty to be used as God wishes. Nothing could be more humble. And God will use you. In fact, this is how God has designed us, with the capacity to know and love God and with unique gifts that God uses to bless the world and build up the church.” 

What this means is that all of us have to recognize other kinds of gifts in ourselves and one other. Then we are called to cooperate with one another for the common good. Martin Luther King Jr Weekend always makes me think of the great cloud of witnesses who all worked for the common good in their own way, people like Gandhi, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Salvadoran Jesuit Bishop Oscar Romero, Catholic Worker founder Dorothy Day, and yes Martin Luther King Jr. himself.

As we remember the contributions of these individuals, we do well to remember that none of them existed in vacuum. Each of the people I named had other people in their lives who supported, balanced, and strengthened them. I take great comfort in this, in knowing that my gifts are paired with your gifts for this big kingdom work we are called into as followers of Jesus Christ. 

It is simply too overwhelming on my own and yet the call is too important to dismiss. That the God of abundance, who turned water into wine and fed the multitude of 5,0000, has given us an abundance of gifts, can give us great hope. It also might give us courage and even a little tenacity, that in the face of so much brokenness, we can put one foot in front of the other, arm in arm, and actually bring some healing and wholeness to the world.

Today we give thanks for God in flesh made manifest, manifested by a star to magi in the east, manifest in the Jordan River at his baptism, turning water into wine at Cana in Galilee, giving us the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us, helping us discern our own spiritual gifts for life today, using ordinary things like bread and wine still to nourish and sustain us.

Prayers of Intercession

The prayers are prepared locally for each occasion. The following examples may be adapted or used as appropriate.

The Spirit of the Lord is poured out upon us in abundance; so we are bold to pray for the church, the world, and all that God has made.

A brief silence.By your Spirit, activate within your church gifts of faith, healing, and prophecy. Unite those who profess your name across congregations, denominations, and geographic boundaries. Open our hearts to recognize and celebrate surprising miracles. God of grace,hear our prayer.

Your creation reflects your generosity. Bless farmers, migrant farmworkers, orchard-keepers, ranchers, and all who tend the abundance of the land. Protect food and water sources from destruction, that all can eat and drink and be satisfied. God of grace,hear our prayer.

By your Spirit, grant wisdom, knowledge, and discernment to those who hold leadership positions at any level. Direct policymakers toward compassionate decisions that build up safe and just communities. Lead all authorities in seeking and serving the common good. God of grace,hear our prayer.

As Jesus provided generously in a moment of need, provide generous gifts of healing for those in need this day (especially). Provide abundantly for all who are hungry or thirsty, all seeking shelter, and all who seek peace. God of grace,hear our prayer.

You see us for who we are and you delight in us. Embrace those struggling with self-worth, wrestling with self-identity, or facing significant life transition. Remind us that nothing can separate us from your love. God of grace,hear our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.You bless us through the spiritual gifts of the saints who have gone before us. We give thanks for the life of Martin Luther King Jr. and all who have modeled the way of courageous faith (especially). God of grace,hear our prayer.

Since we have such great hope in your promises, O God, we lift these and all of our prayers to you in confidence and faith; through Jesus Christ our Savior.Amen.

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