Biblical Words 
The joy of Epiphany season is that of extravagant weddings!
The reading from the Prophets continues the
After God’s judgment, the devastated city was
known as Azubah, “Forsaken”; and its surrounding suburbs as Shemamah,
The new names that will be given to
The prophecy declares that the names will be
appropriate, because Yahweh now delights in wife
See below for a Special Note on
The Psalm reading is the “good” part of a psalm that is a mixture of indictment of the wicked and praise of God’s hesed, “steadfast love,” or “loyalty.”
Our reading opens with a set of God’s qualities paired up with parts of the universe:
God’s “steadfast love” with the “heavens”;
All of these terms have connotations of
prosperity, of well-being from nature.
Thus, the single conclusion that flows from these connotations: “you save humans and animals alike, O Lord”
The rest of the reading elaborates the blessings that flow from this steadfast love of God. Because of it, “all people” can find safety “in the shadow of your wings” (verse 7). People can “feast” and “drink” from the cosmic depths of God’s house (verse 8), “for with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light” (verse 9).
The last thought (of our reading, not of the psalm) is a prayer that such blessings from God may continue.
I Corinthians 12:1-11.
The divine gifts of grace, hesed, praised in the psalm, become, in the Epistle reading, the charismatic gifts that sustain the community of faith.
The gifts referred to here are the powers bestowed by the Spirit of God; they consist of the list given in verses 8 through 10: wisdom speech, knowledge speech, faith (enacted more than spoken), healing gifts, power to work miracles, ability to prophesy, discerners of spirits (who provide some check on the prophecies), the gift of tongues, and the gift of interpreting the tongues.
The strong emphasis throughout the
passage is on the harmony of all these gifts for
the good of the community, guaranteed by the fact that it is one and the same
Spirit of God that works through all these gifts. “To each is given the manifestation of the
Spirit for the common good” (verse 7,
The test for determining the authentic work of the Spirit is given at the beginning of the passage: “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” (verse 3). There is an affirmation in this passage of the diversity of gifts and ministries, but an insistence upon a confessional unity that consists at least of kurios iēsus, “Jesus is Lord.”
To match the new bride-hood of
There is a delightful exchange
between Jesus and his mother, when she tells him – why does she do this? – that
they are out of wine. Her statement is
obviously not just a piece of information; it carries some appeal in it,
namely, won’t you do something about it?
So understanding the statement, Jesus replies somewhat grumpily, “Woman,
what concern is that to you and to me?
My hour has not yet come” (verse 4,
His mother seems to think the hour has come, and ignores his complaint. She goes to the maitre d’ of the banquet and says, “Do whatever he tells you.” This is an adroit way of handling the issue of Jesus’ authority: just take it for granted and act on that basis.
The next highlight, after the details of the water jars are seen to, is the steward’s response to tasting this newly provided wine: All smart hosts serve the best wine first, because as people get more and more tipsy the quality is less important. Here, however, this Jesus has kept the best wine to the last. After shortages and deficiencies, the best is yet to come! And the Gospel tells us that this was the first of the signs that Jesus did. (In John, as usually counted, he will do seven signs.)
The Gospel According to John is unique in beginning Jesus’ ministry with a feast. It is certainly intended to pick up all the images and models of marriages and feasts from the Judean scriptures, which are also carried on in many of the Synoptic parables. The message is that Jesus’ coming is good news, is joyful news fit to be feasted and toasted in a grand manner.
Even at celebrations in high
society there is good news, as well as among the needy of
Special Note on
cities of the ancient Near East were complex sacred entities upon which the
fates of their regions were concentrated by the actions of their gods. The
is personified as the wife of the high god and mother of its population. The fate of its realm is acted out as events
in the lives of the deities. The
The Older Language about the Unfaithful City
(In the following texts, the 2nd person verbs and pronouns are feminine singular in Hebrew, addressed to a woman.)
How the faithful city
Jeremiah used this conventional language to speak of God’s judgment on the city in the last decades of the monarchy.
O Jerusalem, wash your heart clean of wickedness
The city as the unfaithful spouse is elaborated at great length by the
prophet Ezekiel, applied only to
And after the punishment, the desolate city confesses her own guilt and deserved punishment.
The Lord is in the right,
The Language of the City Restored
Right from the earlier versions of this city language, the tradition projected a return from punishment to restoration. (“You” and “your” are feminine singulars.)
I will turn my hand against you;
And the most spectacular versions of the city beloved again and restored in wealth and population are given in the later chapters of Isaiah, the exilic and post-exilic proclaimers of a new gospel.
The famous opening
words of the Second Isaiah’s message, “Comfort, O comfort my people, … speak
And the fullest expectation of the glory of
Here there is repeated (from the ancient liturgies of the old city
tradition) a vision of Zion as the World’s primary Holy Place, as the main place in the world of the nations at
which the glory, wisdom, and righteous judgment of the only True God can be
The peoples of the nations will recognize that something of
incomparable value is now radiating from
The newly-restored population of
Strangers shall stand and feed your [masc. plural] flocks,
Historically the great sanctuary city was tied closely to the great king. The
sanctuary of Yahweh was in the City of
In the post-Exilic time, however, the little
not entirely absent. The “anointed” one
In Persian times, the great Sanctuary city gradually went its own way.
The Persians allowed
Nehemiah to refortify
The sanctuary city would thus become great without the entanglements of independent political power – without a king! This is clearly the accommodation assumed in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, and in another way behind the stories and visions of the book of Daniel. The vision of a great deliverer king did not disappear; it only went underground, to reappear from time to time in messianic movements.
The great vision of Lady Zion restored in wealth and population had
grown into the charter for a world-famous sanctuary city. This sanctuary achieved its last earthly
glory in the restored temple that Herod the Great built beginning
In much later times, the vision of the restored
The creation of the modern state of