This second Sunday after the Feast of the Epiphany also is considered “ordinary time”, just like after the Feast of the Pentecost, primarily because we are back to counting time. However, the stories after the Epiphany have in common a focus on dramatic manifestations of God’s power. On this particular Sunday, the commonality among the lessons is this dramatic manifestation of God’s power regardless of what state of affairs in which we find ourselves. The dramatic manifestations find a home firmly in our very human situations.

This Sunday’s Gospel is familiar to almost everyone, even though it appears only in the Gospel of John, and even though we only hear it read in church every three years. I think the familiarity is there because it is in the social fabric of our wider culture… who hasn’t heard of turning water into wine?

Our human situation, although it has much room for gratitude and joy, sometimes joy and gratitude is right in front of us and sometimes we really must tune our senses to look for it, but our human situation instead often lends itself to prayer when life feels difficult. We pray, we pray to God, we may even fall to our knees when we are honest with God. This reading from Isaiah today gives us a model for honest prayer when life feels difficult– when God seems distant, if not downright indifferent. For many people, this is what the pandemic has felt like, for some definitely more than others. The pandemic, now turning to endemic, is hard, and it doesn’t seem to get any easier, and it seems to just keep going. I know from casual conversations that this is a common place for us to find ourselves—praying when things are hard. BUT if we pray only during the happy times of life, then it is as if we withhold parts of our life from a conversation with God, it is as if we think rough places don’t in fact belong in the conversation with God, as if we need to put a sunny face on life for God, as if we could withhold something from the sovereignty of God.

However, when you share your life with God, – the good and the bad and the in-between – the results can be really good. Although psalm 36 begins with a wisdom poem and closes with a lament, the middle portion, the part we read/ sang, has a long hymnic portrayal of God’s grace and mercy. This grace and mercy are boundless and beyond comparison. The psalm depicts that to be in God’s loving presence is like being hungry and enjoying a sumptuous banquet. This depiction of being in God’s presence is not restricted to things being good or bad, but the caveat seems to be being honest with God, being authentic. I mean, there is no sense in covering up bad. In this particular situation, it does not feel that God is indifferent.

Now, on first read, the Epistle, Paul’s letter to the people in Corinth, may just seem like a litany of gifts that are helpful in the church. Although we each are all called to different gifts and our faith may feel personal, but our gifts are not a private affair. The point of us all having different gifts, bestowed by the Spirit is to build up the church. Gifts are for the common good, a term we don’t talk about much anymore. Our gifts for the common good, are activated by God for a purpose, and these particular dramatic manifestations – in this case, not turning water to wine, but the gifts we all bring to God and these gifts still find a home firmly in our very human situations. These powerful things that God does through us are both part of us and beyond us at the same time.

Although the Gospel of John never mentions Mary by name and instead refers to her as “the mother of Jesus”, it is not unsurprising, and also highlights Jesus’ humanity, that in Gospel of John Jesus’ ministry both begins and ends in the presence of his mother.

Beneath the fabric of the great manifestations that God works through and among us, through our difficult times, through our resonance with God, and through our gifts working together with different strengths, the Gospel reading also reminds us that we are in fact created for joy,

Of course, I understand that alcohol can be an individual and societal problem, and addiction is real, but the simplicity of frivolity of a wedding, and the joy of helping a parent when requested. Jesus was part of this too. Jesus was human. When his first miracle, or in the Gospel of John “sign” that he is the Messiah, involves changing water into wine when requested by his mother— for a wedding, part of the social fabric of daily life – well, it doesn’t get more human than this. We are made for joy, we are made for happiness, as long as we aren’t hurting anyone else in the process, and God rejoices in this in our flourishing, God rejoices in our joy. The joy that comes when we share our gifts with one another in ordinary, ongoing ways. The joy that comes in meeting God at the special occasions we share. All that is asked of us is to bring our lives to God, in honesty and candor. The ordinary and extraordinary. The height and the depth. The everyday and the once in a lifetime. Nothing is so special that God’s blessing cannot increase it. And nothing is so ordinary that God cannot bless it. In all things, let us open our hands to God, just as we are, and in all things give thanks for God’s gifts, dramatic manifestations that they are.
Sarah Colvin
Isaiah 62:1-5
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
John 2:1-11