1 Cor 12:1-11
by Elizabeth Bussmann-Morton, Environmental Officer, Diocese in Europe, Church of England
NOTES ON THE READINGS
Isaiah 62:1-5 Written to encourage and reassure the Jews after their return from captivity especially when things don’t seem to be improving! It is a beautiful description of God’s love for his people. The relationship of God to His people is compared to the relationship between a man and a woman in marriage. This marriage has suffered a breakdown but God does not reject his ‘bride’. The broken household will experience a re-union – a re-marriage. V.5 It will once again be as delightful as when ‘the bridegroom rejoices over the bride’ on their honeymoon – ‘so shall your God rejoice over you.’ The passage tells how God has chosen his people, singled them out from all earth’s people to be his beloved bride. His people are no longer desolate, lost and forsaken – they are now to be called ’hephzibah’ or ‘my delight is in Her’. Marriage mirrors God’s relationship with His people. All through the Bible, God shows himself as the ‘husband’ of His people.
The people would have understood, in this, the power of the role of protector and redeemer – and also their ‘role’ as God’s ‘wife’, not just the joy of God as they return to their homeland but also their sense of belonging and their hope of never again being separated from all that was dear to them.
(see also Hosea 1 – 4 on a similar use of this theme)
Psalm 36: 5-10
The psalmist declares how God’s ‘steadfast love’ extends beyond the known boundaries of heaven and earth.
This is a powerful and beautiful statement of God’s amazing great love and our call to be His people.
“for with You is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.” Coming to God requires more than just rational ‘thinking’ – all our senses must be used – seeing, feeling, hearing and being touched by God through our experiences and the story of God’s presence among us. So that we, too can ‘feast on the abundance of His house, and drink from the river of His delights.”
The lectionary reading from Corinthians stops at verse 11 but the idea of ‘drinking’ is carried through here by Paul when he writes: ‘for in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…….. and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” “Quenching one’s ‘thirst”
John 2:1-11 continues the theme of ‘Marriage’. Here Jesus is a guest at a wedding banquet. Robert Brearley wrote that this cameo of a joyous feast in Cana being enjoyed by Jesus and his family is a sign to the church that we are “to rejoice as the people of God and to toast the world with the amazing good news of grace.”
The Bible is full of references to God’s love of banquets and celebrations and His generosity.
DRAFT SERMON/SERMON OUTLINE
Connection to creation care – sustainability etc.?
These readings remind us of the meaning of ‘Marriage”. Marriage mirrors God’s relationship with his people. All through the Bible we see God as the ‘husband’ of his people. His “chosen People/Church” (I purposely use these words as the original ‘chosen people, Israel’ will also be redeemed and brought back to their God) is His bride whom He loves and cherishes (Ephesians 5:25-27).
Marriage is the closest, most intimate relationship we can experience here on earth and God uses it to illustrate the intimate relationship He wants to have with His people.
Marriage in the Bible is a covenant agreement. As a couple should be faithful to each other so, too God expects His people to be faithful to Him – having other ‘gods’ or ‘idols’ was like adultery. A covenant is a contract, an agreement, between two parties. When God is one of those parties it is a sacred agreement. In our readings today we see how God understood the relationship between Himself and Israel as a contract. In Jeremiah (3:14) we read how he tells Israel “I am married to you’ – just as we have seen in our Isaiah reading.
We know how God freed His people from Egypt – the great ‘Passover’ narrative. He said, ‘I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.”
In Ezekiel 16.8 the prophet also quotes God and connects the Old Covenant with marriage:
‘When I passed by you again and looked upon you, indeed your time was the time of love: so I spread My wing over your and covered your nakedness. Yes, I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine.”
Ezekiel 6:9 tells us that God was ‘broken’ or ‘crushed’ by Israels rejection.
But God remained faithful. Sending His Son, Jesus Christ to bring salvation and redemption to all human beings and the whole of His creation. Under the new Covenant, the Church is seen as a bride preparing for marriage. This is the fundamental difference between the Old and the New Covenant. In the Old Covenant, when Israel agreed to God’s proposal and Moses performed the ritual described in Exodus 24, they were married. However, when we enter the New Covenant, we are not yet married. We are like a bride preparing for marriage, even though we have already agreed to it. Before the actual ceremony takes place, the reasons for the failure of the first covenant must be removed. In other words human beings need to be redeemed and restored to their original relationship with God, in which they were made in His image. Hence God’s sacrifice of His Son Jesus to conquer the power of Satan and to enable his people to choose the way of righteousness. We live in a state of ‘the Now and the Not yet’. Jesus through his death on the cross and resurrection inaugurated the new Kingdom. We are called to repent and turn to Him and to learn to live once again as God originally planned. This requires a change in our way of living, thinking etc. a change that can only be brought about as Paul says in Romans 12.2. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed (metamorphoo) by the renewing of your minds.” (the Greek word metamorphoo is similar to what happens to a butterfly when it emerges from the cocoon.) The process of change, for humans, is an undertaking which lasts a lifetime.
The Bible tells us that Jesus will return once more to the world he made and loves. At that time, all things will be made new and evil will be defeated for ever. Above all we will see another Marriage. The Marriage of Heaven and Earth. God will come to live on this Earth with his people – heaven and earth will be joined together.
Today’s readings offer us a message of HOPE AND ENCOURAGEMENT filling us with, hopefully, JOY and GRATITUDE!
Just a few weeks ago COP26 came to an end. There is to be a follow-up this year in Egypt to see how much progress countries have made. It was not all doom and gloom but it certainly wasn’t the huge step forward many had hoped for. Many are greatly concerned about the impact humans have on the environment and what that could mean for the future.
The texts explored here give us above all HOPE. Hope that is centered on God’s amazing love for all of His Creation, of which we are a vital part! From the biblical texts we see not only how God holds everything in His hands but also how important the welfare of the whole of His creation is to Him. Like us, He wants what he loves to be cherished and cared for. In Genesis we read how that cherishing and care was entrusted to human beings. The very reason God made humans in His likeness – to enable us to fulfil that calling. The Book of Revelation reaffirms the Isaiah text: that God will honour His part of the Marriage covenant. God will in the end come and completely renew the whole of His Creation, returning it once again to its original ‘very good’ state.
That doesn’t mean though, that we can just sit back and let things continue as they are. No, we are still called to care for the whole of His Creation – not just the natural world but also our brothers and sisters all over the world. And being made in ‘His image’ we are to care for it as He would.
As Christians we are called to live our lives according to God’s will, furthering Kingdom values and revealing God’s glory. This requires not just change in our personal lifestyles but also helping to bring about justice throughout the world. Understanding our relationship with God will help us to see the wider picture, too. Our relationship with others not just those close to home, but around the world. We are all made in the image of God and we are all inter-connected and need each other – just as we are inter-connected with, and dependent on, the rest of creation.
Getting involved in your church or congregation with projects such as A Rocha’s Eco-Church or the work of the ECEN (European Churches Environmental Network) could be a start. Or even just by deciding to be more aware of what you buy/eat/wear etc. Where it comes from, how it was made etc.
Collect for this Sunday:
Almighty God, in Christ you make all things new:
Transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace,
And in the renewal of our lives make known your heavenly glory;
Through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
Who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God, now and for ever. Amen.
Further verses from Revelation on this theme:
Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.”
Revelation 21:2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.
Revelation 22:17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.
5-6 God’s love is meteoric,
his loyalty astronomic,
His purpose titanic,
his verdicts oceanic.
Yet in his largeness
nothing gets lost;
Not a man, not a mouse,
slips through the cracks.
7-9 How exquisite your love, O God!
How eager we are to run under your wings,
To eat our fill at the banquet you spread
as you fill our tankards with Eden spring water.
You’re a fountain of cascading light,
and you open our eyes to light.
by Rev Elizabeth Bussmann, Diocese in Europe