A Reading from the Book of Isaiah (62:1-5)
For 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. The 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. You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You 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. For 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.
5 Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, *
and your faithfulness to the clouds.
6 Your righteousness is like the strong mountains,
your justice like the great deep; *
you save both man and beast, O Lord.
7 How priceless is your love, O God! *
your people take refuge under the shadow of your wings.
8 They feast upon the abundance of your house; *
you give them drink from the river of your delights.
9 For with you is the well of life, *
and in your light we see light.
10 Continue your loving-kindness to those who know you, *
and your favor to those who are true of heart.
A Reading from the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians (12:1-11)
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. Therefore 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. Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to 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. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.
The Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to John (2:1-11)
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. When 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 and 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.” Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
by the Rev. Michael Kreutzer
If we were to go upstairs, to the second floor of the Community Building, and ask our young children in Janet and Kendall’s Sunday School class “What was the name of Jesus’ mother?” probably all of them would be able to answer, “Mary” — at least they would now, just a few weeks after Christmas. I’m not sure what they might come up with later in the year.
They might have learned that answer at home, or here at church, or in a Christmas song. One place that they didn’t learn it was in the gospel according to John, because John never mentions her name. In the two scenes in which she appears – here at the beginning of the gospel and at its end, standing at the foot of the cross — she is simply “the mother of Jesus.” That anonymous designation should alert us to the fact that, with John’s extensive use of drama and symbolism, she is not just an individual. She is a symbol of something more.
In short, she seems to be a stand-in for all those who were “naturally” part of Jesus’ new family: namely, those from a Jewish background who later accepted Jesus as the Messiah and became part of the early church. But here, at the beginning, she does not yet seem to be a disciple because she does not understand about Jesus’ “hour”: about the work that God has given him to do in gathering all people together in his death, resurrection, and gift of the Spirit.
It is only at the cross that John will describe her place, and the place of those whom she represents, within the new community of believers. For it is there that Jesus gives her to someone who was different from her, to “the disciple that Jesus loved” to be his mother; and it is there that Jesus gives that disciple to her to be her son. Then, John notes, “From that hour, he took her into his own.” Here was a reversal of John’s declaration in his prologue that “He came to his own, but his own did not accept him.” Here now was a new “his own”: a new community, a new family, different from one another, but linked together as one by their life in him.
The unity of the church, the bond between members of the church, is a central concern for John. He views it in the light of the biblical concept of covenant. A covenant is much more than just a contract. It involves a deep, personal commitment that joins people together in a solemn bond. It endures despite differences among people, transcending those differences with a union that joins them together at the deepest level. This, for John, must be exemplified and modeled for the world in the church.
The bible, both Old Testament and New, uses the image of a marriage to illustrate that bond: the bond that unites the people of Israel and later the members of the church both with God and with one another. Today’s first reading, for example, describes God as the bridegroom and Israel as the bride. And the church throughout its history has viewed the setting of today’s gospel, the wedding feast at Cana, as symbolic of the importance of that sign.
While a marriage is usually the union of two people who share basically the same values, it is rarely the union of two people who are the same in many other respects. The old adage has it that opposites attract. Ideally, those differences between the two complement each other. But sometimes they result in definite “differences of opinions,” to put it mildly.
The covenant of marriage binds together two people despite their differences. As such, it serves as a model, a sign, of what God intends and wishes for all the people of the world. And as such, it serves as a model, a sign, of what the church is supposed to be.
The church is comprised of people who share a fundamental belief in the God who has given us new life in Jesus Christ and who has shown us the way to live in that life. But the church is not intended by God to be a homogeneous group of people who happen to agree on just about everything. It is not intended to be like certain religious cults or militant movements or political factions who insist that everybody within their group has to believe and think and act in only one particular way. Instead, the church is intended by God to be a community that is willing to struggle in order to find a way to live together in unity and in love and in mutual respect despite the differences among its members. It is only when the church accepts and embraces that mission that it fulfills its calling to show the world what the infinitely diverse kingdom of God is like.
While that acceptance of diversity is, in theory, integral to us both as a church and as a nation, there are many who in reality push it aside. They refuse to be part of a church with those with whom they disagree. They refuse to work together with and compromise with those whose political views differ from their own. They insist that their way of seeing things is the only way, and they see their intransigence as a sign of a firm faith and of a sure grasp of the truth. In reality, it is just the opposite. It is a desperate and futile attempt to calm their own insecurities and uncertainties and to try to control the world around them and claim a hold on the truth that is God’s alone.
Viktor Frankl once observed about such people: “The more weakly one stands on the ground of his belief the more he clings with both hands to the dogma that separates it from other beliefs . . . The more firmly one stands on the ground of his faith the more he has both hands free to reach out to those of his fellow men who cannot share his belief. The first attitude entails fanaticism; the second, tolerance. Tolerance does not mean that one accepts the belief of another; but it does mean that one respects him as a human being, with the right and freedom of choosing his own way of believing and living.”
As married couples and as a church, we have the vitally important responsibility of showing the world how to live, not just with tolerance of those with whom we sometimes disagree, but with genuine acceptance and respect for them. Living in that way, with both of our hands open to reach out to those who differ from us, is a true act of humility. And it is an acknowledgement of what St. Paul described in our second reading: the wondrous gift of diversity that our one God has given us in our one Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.