2nd Sunday after Epiphany

January 16, 2005
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Isaiah 49:1-7
Reading 2: 
Psalm 40:1-11
Reading 3: 
I Corinthians 1:1-9
Reading 4: 
John 1:29-42
By Tari Lennon

If we think of Epiphany as a season for Enlightenment, a time for looking and seeing things in a new (transformed) way, then we might say that the Gospel of John is itself an example of that very creativity. What "John" lacks in historicity is more than compensated for in imagination. "John" offers us an entirely new way of thinking about creation itself. In the opening chapter (in the beginning), John offers a reworking of the Genesis account(s) of creation. John lays out a sequence of days in which events transpire in such a way as to invite people to consider that in, with, and through Jesus everything is being recreated. The entire universe and everything in it must now be viewed in a new way.

Those assertions are not to be understood in terms of a fundamentalist prescription for personal salvation, but rather as an invitation to receive and respond to life in deeper and fuller ways. To see life in that new way would be to discover that there was nothing commonplace or ordinary in life as Jesus saw it and as others saw Jesus. Because of his way of being in life, life took on significance never before considered, and life itself began to reveal mysteries never before seen. John the Baptizer saw deeply into Jesus and in that seeing believed he was beholding the handiwork of God; two of John’s disciples saw in Jesus an importance beyond what their own teacher was showing them; Andrew and his brother, Simon Peter, saw both something original in Jesus and an array of new possibilities growing out of that originality.

It is unfortunate that the church has fastened so tightly onto the titles (e.g. , Lamb of God,  Son of God, Messiah) that were applied to Jesus and then limited interpretation of those titles to its understanding of Scripture. Had the church been willing to allow John’s imagination to work its artistry and to challenge it to bigger and more universal understandings, creeds, doctrines, and dogmas would never have been necessary because the church would have trusted that in, with, and through Jesus life would always be (being) made new--re-created.

The prehension demonstrated by John the Baptizer, Andrew, Simon Peter, and later Nathanael, was integral to the prophetic and wisdom traditions they inherited from their (spiritual) ancestors. To see disclosures of the divine in an itinerant teacher was no more counterintuitive than (II) Isaiah’s proposal to his exiled and humiliated brothers and sisters that they see themselves as the new Israel --a nation through whom God would be glorified. To insist further that God’s glory would be mediated through them to the point of that new nation becoming a light to other nations and a conduit for the world’s salvation is a stunning piece of imagination--we might even say a remarkable expression of novelty.

Since our nation has become more Davidic/Solomonic than wise or humble we might ask ourselves how in the world do we preach these Biblical insights as desirable aims in the face of our overwhelming military power, our presence in Iraq , and our absence from Darfur ? How can it be lost on this "most religious country in the West,"--a country in which 51 per cent of the people are opposed to abortion--that we have a moral obligation to be in the Sudan ? How can abortion be wrong and genocide acceptable? The current movie Hotel Rwanda stands as a testimony not only to one man’s courage but also our country’s moral failure. (I am not unaware that this failure is shared with most of the world. I land heaviest on our country in this particular context because our president as referred to the United States as a light to the nations).    
As we know, Paul’s Corinthian correspondence was directed to a fractious community, sort of the red and blue church of the ancient Mediterranean . And of course, exacerbating the fractiousness was their arrogance. Sound familiar? In preparation for his "take" on all of their issues Paul is both gracious AND confrontational. He tells the folks that they do not lack for gifts and abilities, intellect and discourse, and that’s part of the problem: the gifts are not being used to benefit the community in creativity ways but rather to legitimize discord and advance personal agendas. Then, quite amazingly, before tackling the issues and answering the personal attacks on him, he asserts, "…God is faithful and by God you are called to fellowship…” Like (II) Isaiah and the 40th Psalm, Paul reminds people that regardless of their situation, and notwithstanding historical circumstance, they cannot get rid of God, God will not turn away, and God will continue to be faithful.

Sometimes that assurance has to be enough. In this world, at this time, in the absence of vision, moral courage, and humility, yet surrounded by arrogance, greed, and divisiveness, in this season of Epiphany--en-Light-enment,--focusing on our belief that in God nothing is wasted and everything is used and that even in our blindness God continues to be faithful and to entice us toward the Light is cause for hope.

The Rev. Dr. Tari Lennon is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and holds degrees in theology, ministry and psychology. She retired from parish ministry after 43 years and now convenes Open Gatherings which draws people together from all faiths and nonfaiths to explore topics of spirituality, relationships, and personal ethics.