Sunday, January 15, 2012

110th Anniversary Sermon

110th Anniversary – January 15th, 2012 – John 2:1-11

In the Name of Christ Jesus, the Light of the World +
Old fashioned Jewish weddings could last a long, long time. I don’t mean a few hours, or all night. It wasn’t uncommon for a wedding and the party following to last for days. And so, even as much as we stress about wedding planning today, it was much more difficult then. You had to store up provisions, you had to plan out several meals. And while the family would have to provide and arraign all these things, you would have a dedicated “master of the feast” whose job it would be to see that all the new courses and meals kept being brought out, whose job it would be to see that all the merriment and joy continues.

“And on the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with His disciples.” And so right after Jesus begins His ministry, He takes His few disciples and brings them to a wedding in Cana – quite probably the wedding of a relative as His mother was in the know about what was going on behind the scenes – “When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, ‘They have no more wine.’” Mary knows what’s going on in the back, in the kitchens. And what is the problem? They have run out of wine. Now, think like a good Jew for a moment – wine is part of everyday life, it’s a staple of life. More over, there would never be a Jewish celebration without wine – for as Psalm 104 teaches, God makes plants bring forth both food for man as well as “wine to gladden the heart of man.” Wine was a good and holy thing, a gift from God to bring joy – even in the middle of the Passover meal, even in the middle of the escape from bondage in Egypt, there is still wine. It’s a great and sacred gift from God.

And there, at that feast in Cana – it was out. Gone. Dried up. God gives wine for joy and devotion – and it’s gone. Do you see how this would be an embarrassing thing? How this would be viewed as just a bad sign for the married couple – I mean if the joy runs out even before the wedding party is over, that doesn’t bode well. And so Mary goes to her Son and tells Him that the wine is out. He says, “Woman, what does this have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” Mary knows. Mary knows that her Son Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah. She knows that when the Messiah comes, it will be as the Prophet Isaiah declares in the 25th Chapter, “On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces,” – Mary knows this, and she starts putting two and two together. My Son is the Christ, the Messiah. We are at a feast. Cana is in the hill country…Lord of hosts, a feast, full of wine? It’s a good connection to make. But Jesus tells her, “No mom, Isaiah 25 isn’t being fulfilled in full, not yet. It’s going to be a while before I tangle with death and swallow it up.” But Mary knows how God works – God likes to give partial fulfillments – little foretastes of the goodness to come, and so she says to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.” If there’s going to be wine at this party, well, it’s in God’s hands now.

We know what happens – “Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.” These jars are used for religious washings and blessings, and God Himself is going to use them for a miracle. Quite fitting. “Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. And He said to them, ‘Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.’ So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called to the bridegroom and said to him, ‘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.” And Mary was sort of right. There it is – good wine, well aged, there at a feast in the mountains. Christ acts with love and compassion for this married couple. It’s not the full fulfillment, but still, love and joy are given. And this wedding feast is saved, the celebrations will be able to continue, and there will be joy and laughter and delight in God’s gift of love that he had given to the bride and the groom.

So, Pastor Brown, that’s all well and good, but today we are celebrating the 110th Anniversary of Zion – and this is just the normal text for the 2nd Sunday in Epiphany. Couldn’t you have picked out something better, something a little more appropriate for an anniversary? Nope – because first of all, if you are going to celebrate an anniversary, it’s going to probably be appropriate to talk about a wedding. But more than that – the Wedding at Cana is a image, is a parallel of what God has done in this place for the past 110 years. In fact, what God has done for His people here for these past 110 years is even more a fulfillment of Isaiah 25 than what we saw in John 2. Or did you not know that every communion Sunday in this place is nothing but the continuing wedding celebration of Christ Jesus and His beloved Bride, the Church? This is what St. Paul teaches in our Epistle: “This mystery [marriage and the two becoming one flesh] is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church.” Whenever you see marriage in the Scriptures, God uses it as a teaching image, teaching about His salvific love for us. This is also why God tends to get really upset when people make a mockery of marriage or eschew it – that doesn’t go over well in the Scriptures. But we are taught that Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the Church, “giv[ing] Himself up for her that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word, so that He might present the Church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” Christ Jesus goes to the Cross, suffers and dies – and with His death He destroys death – Isaiah would say that He swallows it up forever. And He does this for His bride, the Church – it is for the Church that He gives Himself up. And having giving Himself up, He takes the Church and washes her, makes her clean and pure, and then He brings her into the great and never-ending feast of joy and love for all eternity.

And what has God been doing here in this place for 110 years? Well let’s see, Christ Jesus, who has died for us, washes us with water and the Word – that’s Baptism. Christ Jesus has established this congregation to be a place people are baptized – that through this congregation they might join the Church that is timeless and spread throughout the world – that they might be washed clean of their sin and forgiven. And then what happens to us who have been washed clean in Holy Baptism. We who are now part of the Church, part of the Holy Bride of Christ, are called by our Lord to come to His table, to His feast. The Lord’s Supper is the Wedding Reception – it is where we here on earth for a moment touch and participate in the joys of the heavenly feast that goes without end – therefore with Angels and Archangels and all the company of heaven – we for a moment are brought into that feast now all so that our sin would be forgiven and that we would have strength to endure this life until we are called to the never ending feast. This is what God has been doing here for the past 110 years.

Because that’s what a Church is, that’s what a Congregation is. It is simply a place where God takes the promises He has made to His people in His Word and delivers them to people. The timeless truth, the timeless Gospel is given to us here and now in this place. Christ Jesus comes to us here with His gifts and His blessing. He comes here and His mercy does away with our sin, His love covers our sadness and shame, His righteousness beats down our sinful desires and fills us with compassion for our neighbor. That’s what this place is. And God has been kind to us, kind and loving, for He has called us here to this place to receive His mercy, not just as individuals, but He has called us together. God does not just leave you alone in this life, but He gathers us together where we together may hear His Word, where we together may receive Communion and celebrate that we have been joined together in Christ, where we may pray together “Our Father”. And for over 5 generations, God has continued to come to His people in this place. Through language changes and World Wars and depressions and oil busts and dust bowls – through almost every tumult and trial you can think of in this world, Christ Jesus has still continued to come to His people here. He has continued to provide us His rich feast. This is a great and joyous thing.

We see from our Gospel, indeed, we see from the entirety of the Scriptures how Christ Jesus our Lord desires us to have joy – not a mere passing earthly joy – but the true joy of having our sins forgiven and being restored to everlasting life. For 110 years, He has called us to partake, to share in this here. This is a wondrous thing – for from the Mount of Calvary where the pall of death was destroyed rich wine flows even here to Lahoma rich wine, wine become His most Holy Blood, given to us for life everlasting. Christ Jesus will not let the celebrations of His love end in vain – God grant that we rejoice in Him all of our days in this life, and even into the life of the world to come. In the Name of Christ Jesus, the Light of the World +

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