Second Sunday after Epiphany
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Christian life is, or ought to be, an abundant life ever-rich in the centripetal blessings of God to God’s people and the centrifugal blessings of God’s people to God’s world. This pattern reaches back to the earliest chapters of Genesis as Abram is blessed to be the father of a nation which will in turn be a blessing unto the world. The pattern is then displayed throughout the rest of the Scriptures, as God’s people are blessed to be a blessing. The emphasis changes from time to time, as God’s people struggle to find their way: at times, blessing is poured out upon them, while at others, God’s people serve as a blessing, or are encouraged to fulfill their mission in blessing the nations around them.
In this week’s lectionary readings, we find that both sides of blessing are emphasized: Isaiah 62:1-5 paints a beautiful picture of an Israel restored to her rightful place, God’s delight dwelling within her, and her vindication spilling forth to the nations around her. Psalm 36:5-10 represents the unbridled gratitude of one living a life divinely blessed—an exuberant acclamation of God’s steadfast love, faithfulness, righteousness, and blessing which reach out and bring all people into its fold.
Paul speaks to his Corinthian church on matters of spiritual gifts, correcting a misguided hierarchy of giftedness by insisting that all are blessed by the one Spirit for the common good (1 Cor 12:7). Finally, our gospel text perhaps serves as a beautiful object lesson of God’s blessings upon God’s people: though it is normal to serve a lesser vintage later, God-in-Christ allows his blessings to spill forth in all their richness and beauty even at a later hour (John 2:10).
These two sides of God’s blessing, the centripetal and the centrifugal, have not always been held in concert throughout the Christian tradition. Indeed, the Christian church has a spotty record in holding these two forms of divine blessing together (yet so, too, did Israel of old; if nothing else, at least we are consistent). The contemporary church is no different: how often we focus our attentions solely inward, to the detriment (and at times ultimate demise) of our attention for outward giving, service, and blessing. As individual Christians, we have no shortage of idols and distractions, vying for our attention and redirecting us away from our calling to bless those around us. Must it be this way?
If the Scriptures are any sort of authority, we can and must affirm that this pattern need not continue. Throughout the story of God, God’s people, and the redemption of Creation we see the binary of blessing upheld and displayed. As humans grafted into the story, family, and saving power of God, we not only have access to God’s blessings for ourselves, we are conduits of God’s blessing for others. This is a most enviable position, and one that this week’s readings urge us to reflect upon. We were made to bless and be a blessing, to shine forth God’s salvation for the world to see. Our gospel of God’s reign is to be God’s greatest vintage, the finest wine shared with the people we are blessed to share Creation with.
Blessed sisters and brothers, go out and be a blessing.