Monday, January 3, 2011

Second Sunday after the Epiphany Year A

Second Sunday after the Epiphany
Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 40:1-12; I Corinthians 1:1-9; John 1:29-42
Revised Common Lectionary

"My cause is with the Lord, and my reward with my God.... the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, has chosen you." Who are the pronouns in these passages from Isaiah? Israel? The prophet Isaiah? A future anointed One? Who is God's instrument? Who is God's object? Texts escape simple readings. They can confuse, frustrate and even seem intentionally ambiguous, but they always instigate interpretation. Perhaps Isaiah is providing a summons that can be relevant in many situations, past, present and future. Perhaps his saying is relevant to any individual or group who seek to know God and follow God's ways with commitment.

The Psalmist is offering personal testimony to a relationship with the Lord our God. God's teachings are buried deeply in him, as the text of an autobiography. The Lord has given him a "new song."

In his salutation to the congregation in Corinth, Paul reminds the recipients of his letter: "God is faithful; by him you were called...."

As usual, John differs from the synoptic gospels in provocative ways. He emphasizes John the Baptist's testimony about Jesus, not any ritual of baptism. He lists Andrew, one of the Baptist's own disciples, as the first to follow Jesus. It is Andrew who recruits his own brother, Peter, to follow. John's gospel highlights that Andrew, whose seeking after God under the leadership of John the Baptist led him to Jesus. Then a brother brings a brother along. Seeking and relationships can bring us near God's anointed Ones.

In The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida, (1997), John Caputo quotes Derrida's definition of his deconstruction project: "To prepare oneself for this coming (venue) of the other is what can be called deconstruction." Then he continues: "Derrida is dreaming of what is not and never will be present, what is structurally to come (a-venir). He is dreaming and praying over an 'absolute' future, a future sheltered by an absolute secret and absolved from whatever is presentable, programmable, or foreseeable." "Dreaming and desiring, praying and weeping, on the other hand, are a passion for the beyond, (au-dela, the tout autre, the impossible, the unimaginable, un-foreseeable, un-believable, ab-solute surprise, which is absolved from the same." (p.73) At the conclusion of his study, Caputo reveals: "I have all along been trying to cross the wires of deconstruction with the prophetic tradition...." "The lines of this alliance are traced outside the space of cognition. For Derrida as for the prophets, what is at issue is not a cognitive delineation of some explanatory principle like a cause prima, not some being or essence marked off by certain predicative traits, but something, I know not what, that emerges in our prayers and tears, that evokes our prayers and provokes our tears, that seeks us out before we seek it, before we know its name, and disturbs and transforms our lives." (p.337) This quest is our salvation. This passionate seeking puts us in the proximity of God's Anointed Ones. It even causes us to wonder who sought whom first: we after God or God after us?