Monday, January 11, 2010

Lectionary for Jan 17, 2010: Epiphany 2, Year C

Isa 62:1-5; Ps 36:5-10; 1 Cor 12:1-11; Jn 2:1-11

When using the lectionary, there is no such thing as ordinary time – at least in the sense of it being uninteresting. In every text selection, something is always happening. In part, it is my goal to convince you of this through future postings.

We are now entering the second week of so called ‘Ordinary Time’. What does it take to become ‘Ordinary?’ By not being associated with either Christmas or Easter – the two festivals most people manage to show up for. Incidentally, as much as I respect and use traditional liturgical terms, there has to be a more compelling title for ‘Ordinary Time!’ Let’s not give people another excuse to not show up – I’m open to suggestions!

Perhaps the most important thing to note about Ordinary time is that the synoptic gospel of the year is the source of every gospel reading – in our case, that would be Luke. Be that as it may, this is the one festival in Year C’s ordinary time where Luke is not cited for the gospel. Actually, Epiphany 2 pulls from John 1 or 2 every year. Rather than being arbitrary, this gives John a voice in between Sundays devoted respectively to the baptism of Jesus (Epiphany 1) and the beginning of Jesus’ ministry (Epiphany 3).

My normal perspective on preaching the lectionary is to preach on John whenever I get the chance unless I have a particularly good reason to go elsewhere. For example, the 1st Corinthians series beginning on Sunday deserves serious consideration. However, there is something special about the gospel reading for this Sunday in particular. Principally, this is the matter of its antiquity. For five hundred years (maybe much longer!) before the advent of a three year lectionary (in Vatican II), Western lectionary churches almost uniformly read John 2:1-11 on this festival every year. The Epiphany 2 focus on John seems to be a liturgical nod to the prior traditions surrounding the use of this text.

When there were only two readings in churches, it was read with Romans 12:6-16 (which presently only occurs in the Year A Romans series following Pentecost). The Lutheran Service Book and Hymnal has it read with Isaiah 61:1-6 (only used in Advent 3, Year B, and only in part). Lectionary rogues might consider breaking with the RCL 1st Corinthian series if they are not planning on utilizing it to draw on the very, very old tradition of holding John 2 and Romans 12 together. Perhaps Isaiah 61 could be used instead of Isaiah 62.

One parting thought: For at least five centuries (until the 1970s), this reading (together with Romans 12) was delivered on Epiphany 2 year after year, whether under Tridentine Catholocism or Lutheranism, among the Reformed or Anglicans. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to learn what it was about Jesus turning water into wine that these radically different parties found so indispensable?

Appendix: The components of the different OT Texts which most likely resulted in their being used with John 2:1-11 historically.

Isaiah 62:1-5 (RCL): 'As a young man marries a maiden, so will your Builder marry you, and as a bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.' Connected to the wedding in Cana.

Isaiah 61:1-6 (Medieval): 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon proclaim the year of the Lord's favor...' In Luke, this text is associated with the beginning of Jesus' ministry. It could be this was intended to be paired with the wedding in Cana in relationship to the beginning of Jesus' ministry.

1 Kings 4:1-17 (BCP): Elisha making much oil out of little for a widow. Elisha promised an old couple would have a child. Similar to Jesus supernatural provision at the wedding.

No comments: