Sunday, January 17, 2010

Epiphany 2 sermon

2nd Sunday after Epiphany – January 17th, 2010 – John 2:1-11

In the Name of Christ Jesus, the Light of the World +
John records for us in His Gospel, the first miracle that Jesus performs, or as John phrases it, the first sign that Jesus did. This, the first of His signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested His glory. John uses this language of signs throughout His Gospel – so this morning, let us consider what a sign is. A sign lets you know what something is – it identifies a thing. And John records multiple signs – counts to three and then just keeps going. This is because in Jewish law you needed three people to identify someone – once you had three witnesses, the truthfulness of something was confirmed. So, John is going to show in his Gospel the signs, the proofs that show that Jesus is the Messiah, True God. These are going to be things that manifest His Glory.

Well, how in the world does the Wedding at Cana manifest Christ’s Glory? It’s not very spectacular to our way of thinking – I mean, the miracle is nice – but only the servants see it. The master of the feast, he doesn’t see the miracle. The Bridegroom, he doesn’t know where the wine came from. Only the servants – the hired help, they are the only ones who see. It’s not as though Jesus strides into the middle of the room and says, “Behold, where there was no wine, now – Let there be wine” and massive jugs of wine appear. Just very quietly, very simply, without drawing attention to Himself, Jesus tells the servants to fill jars with water, and then take to the master of the feast. There’s not even any hand wave – no mud rubbed on the jars. Just quiet and simple. And Jesus even seemed quiet about doing this. When His mother came to Him and told Him that they were out of wine, Jesus said, “Woman, what does this have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” Now, just as a note – this isn’t harsh sounding in the Greek. If I walk up to someone today and say, “Woman,” – I’m probably fixing to say something rude, and quite possibly get myself slapped. It doesn’t come off that way in Greek – it would be more like, “Dear Woman”, or even just saying, “Mother” in English. Dear woman, I know you want Me to get this preaching and healing stuff on the road, but it really isn’t time for that. Be patient. And yet, Jesus is never One to turn down those in need. So very quietly, water is changed into wine.

And not only wine, but good wine, full wine, strong wine. The master of the feast is confused – Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now. This makes sense – you serve the good, strong wine when people are first there – when they can appreciate the taste – and then, when they are well pleased and enjoying themselves – you go to the lower quality stuff, the watered down stuff – because it’s harder to get things moving than to keep them moving. But Jesus doesn’t make anything poor, and if He makes wine, by gum He is going to make wine, good wine. And in the midst of the confusion, only the servants know, and His disciples see, and they believe.

So why do the Disciples “believe”. It says believe, it’s not just a simple matter of being amazed, or marveling, but they believe. Why is a simple, quiet, miracle, where no one but the servants and the disciples, who would have been following Jesus around, suddenly bring forth belief, why is it a manifestation of Christ’s Glory as True God? Because it’s wine. Let’s face it, today in Oklahoma, wine doesn’t have all that good of a reputation. Most of you here probably don’t even like wine all that much – in fact, during the lesson when it said that Jesus made good wine some of you probably thought, “Is any wine really good.” Moreover, what do we call a bum who’s drunk? We call him a wino. Wine isn’t well respected in our culture today. But in Jesus’ day, wine was important, wine was life. You would mix a little wine into the water you got from the well, and any of the nasty little bugs in the water would be killed off, so you could drink the water and live. And more over, wine was a vital part of celebration, of rejoicing – wine to gladden the heart of man – that’s Psalm 104. Wine was something worthy of sacrifice to God, it was the drink offering with a pleasing aroma. It was one of the three major blessings of agriculture – Israel was promised that God would bless their grain and their wine and their olive oil. And more than just that, wine was a sign of the coming Messiah, of what things would be like when the Messiah comes. We ourselves heard in Amos 9 The mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it. That’s what’s going to happen when the Messiah comes! Good wine is a good thing! And then, there the disciples see Jesus, and there they are, up in Cana, in hill country of Galilee, and what do you know – sweet, good wine everywhere. Jesus is the Messiah! The disciples see this sign, they see this and it identifies Jesus as the Messiah. And they believe in Him.

But it’s not just significant that there is wine; it’s also of note that this miracle happens at a wedding. If Jesus had wanted simply to have wine, that could have happened whenever. But they are at a wedding. We think of weddings as wondrous, beautiful times – and they are, but they are more than just the sentimental ideas we normally think of. Weddings hearken back to the Garden of Eden. There was a wedding, there was marriage before there was any sin. Before the Fall God took Adam and Eve and joined them together. Marriage points back to the Garden of Eden, to perfection – which is why there is to be a party and celebration and rejoicing. And then. . . the wine is gone. That’s a reminder of the fall, of sin. Adam gets told he’s going to have to wrest food from the soil – and the Bridegroom’s wrestings weren’t enough to provide wine for all. Lack, sorrow, sin and it’s damage all showing up. And into this party about ready to be ruined by the impact of sin strides Christ Jesus – and very quietly, the celebration is restored before anyone really knew it was in danger. Do you see how this is a God-thing, a restoring of what gets lost at the Fall? That is something the Messiah does!

But more than just pointing to paradise – as we heard in Ephesians, marriage is a picture of the holy and perfect love that Christ has for the Church, His Bride. Christ cleanses His Church by the washing of water with the Word, with Baptism, and why – so that He might present the Church to Himself in splendor, without spot or blemish or wrinkle or any such thing. The image, the picture of God’s love is the Bridegroom making sure that everything is perfect for His Bride – that’s how Christ loves us. At Cana, this earthly bridegroom, he couldn’t – his wine had run out. So Christ steps in, and He makes all things good – good like they were in the Garden of Eden. And it was good. This is precisely what Christ does to His Church. We in the Church, we are sinful folk, filled with more spots and blemishes and scars and disfigurements than we care to think about. But into our lives comes Christ Jesus, and He looks upon us with utter, perfect love, and He strides to the Cross and suffers and dies so that we might be forgiven, He rises so that He might claim us as His own to live with Him forever, and He washes us in His own Holy Baptism, so that we are clean and forgiven and spotless and without blemish in His sight. Jesus makes all things perfect, not just at a wedding in small town Galilee, but in you, by virtue of your Baptism, you have been washed clean, restored to God, claimed as God’s own. This is what the Messiah does – He rescues, He saves, He redeems His Bride the Church so that He might have her for all eternity. It is the picture of heaven, of our eternity with God, where He has come and saved us and made us to be with Him for all eternity – the bliss of Eden restored and surpassed in the glories and wonders of heaven.

And indeed, there is one more bit of significance that we see in this text, that comes out even for us today. It was no accident that our Lord turned water into wine there in Cana, and it was no accident that on the night when He was betrayed our Lord took the wine in the cup and said, Drink of it all of you, this cup is the New Testament in My Blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of your sin. Here in the Supper, we are joined to Christ, we share in, we are made partakers of His Body and Blood, we are joined to Him in a way beyond anything that we experience in this life – we join in the mystery of the ages – This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church. Here, in the Church’s great feast – we get a taste, a glimpse, a participation in Heaven, for we are joined now to Christ, and indeed, in heaven we will ever be at the feast of the Christ Jesus – the eternal celebration of glory and wonder that heaven shall be. Christ our Lord forgives you your sin, joins Himself to you, gives you His own Body as a pledge and token, indeed, a sign that you yourself shall rise even as He has risen, gives you His blood as proof, as a sign that it was shed for you, so you know that you are forgiven and redeemed. This is the wonder of this gift.

This, the first of His signs, Jesus did at Cana and manifested His glory. And His disciples believed in Him. Christ Jesus restores all things – we see this begun in John’s Gospel as that little wedding in Cana gets a taste of Eden restored. We see Christ Jesus accomplish this for the world by His death and resurrection. And indeed, our Lord continually shows that He is God, makes us to share in His Glory in that most precious sign and gift – His Holy Supper. And we, beholding His love for us, communing with Him and with all the Church and the hosts of heaven, we like His disciples believe in Him. In the Name of Christ Jesus, the Light of the World +

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