Saturday, January 18, 2020

Epiphany 2 Sermon

Epiphany 2 – John 2 (and Genesis 2) – January 18th and 19th, 2020

In the Name of Christ Jesus, the Light of the World +
The Wedding at Cana, and Jesus's sign performed there, reminds us of a simple yet rather profound truth – if you want to understand who God is, you need to understand weddings. I mean, really – the Scriptures are replete with wedding imagery – think of the parables where the Kingdom of God is compared to a wedding – the Bible ends with eternal life being compared to a wedding – the Church in both Old and New Testaments is depicted as God's bride. I'll even argue that creation in Genesis is really the story of a wedding, the first wedding. Genesis 1 tells the story of God setting up the wedding, Genesis 2 tells the story of the wedding from Adam's perspective, waiting for his wife. Weddings all over the place.

And today we do not understand weddings. We don't. I hesitate to do this, but I need to address some of the myriad ways that society doesn't understand weddings today. And I'm not going to talk mainly about same sex marriages – we know that God created marriage to be one man, one woman. But our society's misunderstanding of weddings started long before just a decade ago. Consider – if I were to ask folks why two people should get married, what answers might I get? “Because they love each other.” Blech. Marriage isn't supposed to be about an emotion, no matter how wondrous or lovely that emotion is. I hope all of you who are married enjoy and are attracted to your spouse – but that's not what marriage is. Simple emotions, especially ones based upon physical attraction don't last. And frankly, in a marriage, there are going to be plenty of other emotions involved. When I leave dirty dishes out and my wife finds them, I don't expect “love” to be the emotion to best describe her feelings at that point. And yet, we speak of marriage being primarily about love in society – and that leads to so many marriages falling apart. Other emotions steal love's thunder, or eyes wander a bit. We can lament “the thrill is gone” - but if you think marriage is supposed to be based upon the thrill of young love, well, what did you expect?

And of course, there are times we are tempted to think of weddings primarily as a big fancy shindig, full of dress-up and expensive costumes. Don't get me wrong, I love a good party – and as it should be clear from our Gospel lesson, Jesus loves a good party too, and when it's a Jesus party, the party don't stop. And we'll talk about the honeymoon trips, which again are a fantastic thing – I can talk your head off about Ireland as Celia and I honeymooned there – but the party and the dresses and the trips – those aren't what make a marriage – they aren't the typical reality. Our wedding parties and trips today tend to be utterly unrealistic – they tend to be fairy tales – expensive fairy tales, sort of disconnected from real life. This wedding at Cana – it was at one of family member's house – and the family ran the food – that's why Jesus and His mom are running around in back by the kitchen – they're running the kitchen for a cousin's wedding. It was realistic – not the pretend extravaganzas that society says that we should have today. Because the point of a wedding isn't to pretend she's a princess and he's prince charming and spend like it either.

So what's the point of a wedding? Genesis 2:18 is one of the most important verses of the bible, if you want to understand how things work. Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” In all of God's wondrous creation, even before the fall, God sees Adam by himself and says, “This isn't good. Adam needs someone else he needs a helper.” And note there, that word “Helper” isn't dismissive – it is from the word that means strength, protection, support. It's a great creation that God has made, but it's too much for one alone, I will make for Adam a support, a companion, one fit for him and then these two will have all of creation to enjoy and work in together. And so God throws a wedding. Adam sleeps, God pulls out a rib, fashions Eve – Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh - “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” Congratulations – man and wife – what God has joined together let not man put asunder.

And it's good, and God decides to take a walk away from the reception for a bit, and when He comes back, everything is messed up. Imagine you were at a wedding reception today, and everything is going wonderfully, and you step out for a moment, visit the rest room, and when you come back there's screaming and shouting and crying and the two families have gotten into fist fights. That's Genesis 3. That's Jesus before He is born of Mary walking back on in and seeing all hell breaking loose in His creation. Adam, Eve – what's going on – you were fine just a bit ago. And Jesus knows – sin has broken out. And these two people that He had created and put together are at each other's throat.

And let's face it – since that first wedding in the garden – that's a good description of how marriages go. People who are supposed to support each other often annoying the tar out of each other, or working against each other, hurting each other. A pastor friend of mine likes to describe marriage as “mutual hostility towards each other interrupted by moments of tenderness.” Thus the reality of sin in the world. And thus also part of why the younger folk aren't getting married as much any more. They see the fighting, the hostility of the generations before them – the divorce, the bitterness – and they say that's not for them. Or this – they think, “I can't get married yet, because I don't have this set up, or I haven't done that yet. Let me buy a house first, get more established in my job...” Or in other words, let me make sure I can do just fine completely on my own before I partner up – that way I know I'll be fine if I have to kick some lousy partner to the curb. And it's sad and depressing and utterly unromantic – but it is honest about the terrible impact of sin in people's lives. And frankly, too often we in the Church haven't been honest about sin, about our own sin and how it affects us, and we hide it, we pretend it isn't there, and stress and anger and resentment grow and grow while we pretend everything is pious and holy and keep up the smiling face, all while things break apart. Because that's what sin does – it drives people apart.

And this is what God sees. Sin driving people apart – even the couples He specifically put together, to be a family, to build, to be His instruments of creation. And I don't have to tell you, there's not a family here that isn't touched by divorce and things breaking, and it's horrible and wretched and tragic. And that is why Jesus becomes man. There's only going to be one way to fix things, to stop this, to put things right – and that is by forgiveness. That is by Christ Jesus being the Lamb of God and taking up the sin of the world and taking it to the cross and destroying sin and death there. And one day, after He had come in the flesh, Jesus was there at a wedding – cousin of His most likely – and there Jesus is, true God and true Man – and think of what a fully mixed bag Jesus would see as He looks at that wedding. The joy, the blessing that it is, but also the faults, the failures, the hardships so unnecessary these two would unleash upon each other. And while He's looking His mother walks up to Him and says, “They have no wine.” Sin brought about lack and hardship – never would have run out of anything in the Garden, but after Genesis 3 there is often lack and hardship.

And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” Mary saw a lack of wine, a party cut sadly short. Jesus saw something bigger – He saw sin messing with His creation, with His people – and no Mom, it's not time yet for Me to destroy sin upon the Cross – that hour has not yet come. But Mary knows her boy – you don't have to fix all sin yet – servants just do what He says.

And then, the water becomes wine. Without any show, without any fuss. Jesus decides to let the party go on. Even in the midst of sorrow and sin and our own guilt and shame, Jesus determines to increase our rejoicing and celebration and pour out every blessing. Give us our daily bread, our daily wine. And the wine is strong – uncut – so strong that the master of the feast is surprised. And there, Jesus' disciples, watching this – they get a glimpse, they get a sign of who Jesus is. The Party goes on – and the two shall be together and they will enjoy being together – especially this afternoon.

Jesus' goal is to put people together – not just as spouses, but think of all the other various relationships He gives us – parents, children, neighbors, coworkers, friends, a congregation. And He created all of this to be nothing but blessing for you. But sin pulls these relationships apart. Sin and the fear of consequences and death pull us away from the very God who would give us these blessings. And so, to fix this, to see that you get your joy and celebration and relationships that will not end – Christ Jesus goes to the Cross, He dies, He rises to fix things. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. In Baptism, He restores you to the family of God – you are once again a child of God and things are good. He feeds you His Supper so that you are strengthened, so that being forgiven you forgive those who trespass against you. Because that's how sin is fought here and now, in our relationships – we live in Christ's forgiveness, and with that forgiveness we are reconciled to each other, even after we have sinned against each other. And Jesus gives you His love, His forgiveness over and over so that you will endure even until the Last Day when you are raised – and then you'll see it. Revelation 21 -
And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Forgiveness and Reconciliation and Joy. Because of Christ Jesus, who has called you to be His own – this is what you will see. Understand who God truly is – understand His gift, His true wedding for you. In the Name of Christ Jesus, the Light of the World +

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