Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Second Sunday after the Epiphany

Second Sunday after the Epiphany (C)
January 17, 2010
Text: John 2:1-11

The Church is the holy Bride of Christ, whom He bought with His own blood. For her He lived. For her life He died. For her He is risen and lives and reigns to all eternity. It is He who sanctifies her and cleanses her by the washing of water with the Word, that He might present her to Himself without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish (Eph. 5:26-27). As a gentle and loving husband, He woos her and tends her and gives His all for her. He spreads a Table before her. Her cup runneth over. He nourishes her with His own body and blood. There is no good that He withholds from His beloved Bride. She is His Body. She is His own, engraved on the palms of His hands. And His banner over her is love (Song of Solomon 2:4). As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so does God in the flesh rejoice over His Bride, the Church (Is. 62:5).

We behold the great love of our Bridegroom, our Savior Jesus Christ, for us, His holy Church, in the Gospel lesson this morning. Here Jesus is with His disciples at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. His mother is present. It is probably one of her relatives who is getting married. And a wedding in the ancient world is not an afternoon affair, but a week-long celebration complete with feasting and drinking and much merriment. The couple is expected to provide the food and the drink for the whole town and all the extended family. But at this wedding there is this terrible embarrassment: The wine has run out. Mary comes to Jesus. “They have no wine,” she says matter-of-factly (John 2:3; ESV). “Woman, what does this have to do with me?” Jesus responds (v. 4). “My hour has not yet come.” What sounds to us like a disrespectful rebuke and refusal to help is actually an opportunity for Mary to confess the faith to the servants and to us. In spite of the fact that Jesus has not yet performed a sign, a miracle, Mary believes He will help. And so she says to the servants, and to us, “Do whatever he tells you” (v. 5). Even when it seems like Jesus is ignoring your request, do whatever He tells you. Believe whatever He says. It is neither safe nor right to stray from His Word. His Word alone can direct you, for in His Word He delivers Himself with all His grace and blessings. And what does Jesus do? He provides. He cannot help but do otherwise. He provides for the couple, provides for His mother, provides for the guests, provides for us. “Take those six stone jars, the twenty or thirty gallon ones, those jars of the Law of Moses, made for the Jewish rites of purification, and fill them with water. And then ladle some out and give it to the master of the feast.” The servants are undoubtedly scratching their heads. What is this supposed to accomplish? But Mary told them to do whatever He says. So they do it. And when they give some to the master of the feast, behold, it is wine! It is very good wine! It is the best wine! And there is enough for the rest of the celebration and then some! The master of the feast finds the groom and says, “There must be some mistake! This is the best wine! This is not the way it’s supposed to work. We’re supposed to get the guests good and tipsy on the best wine first, and then we serve cheap stuff when they don’t know any better. But you have it backwards!”

There is nothing but the best when Jesus provides. The wine is His gift. It is a gift of His love. He brings joy and celebration to the people, and the honor of His own presence at this wedding where He performs the first of His signs and manifests His glory. It is an epiphany! Jesus is God in the flesh. He who created the stone for the jars and the water to put in them and the grapes and the fermentation process miraculously makes the very best of wine in plenty for His people. The wine is a sign that Messiah has come. The Prophet Isaiah writes, “On this mountain [Mt. Zion] 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” (25:6). The sign is performed and Jesus’ disciples believe in Him (John 2:11). The sign is performed that you may believe, and believing, have eternal life.

Beloved in the Lord, by holy Baptism, you are the holy and precious Bride of Christ, the holy Church, bought with His blood, made clean and whole. It was not always so. Before our Lord and Bridegroom had mercy on us we were not clean, not holy, but sinful, wretched, perverted, lost. God did not create us this way. He created us to be a holy and faithful Bride, but in the sin of Adam and Eve, all of humanity fell into sin, and ever since we have been an unholy, unfaithful, adulterous Bride. The Prophet Hosea served as a living picture of this sad reality in his own life. God told him to take unto himself a prostitute, Gomer, for a wife. Hosea loved his wife. He gave her nothing but the very best. He took this outcast from society and made her respectable, a preacher’s wife even. But Gomer was unfaithful to Hosea. She continued her life of prostitution. She ran away from him and from their children to sell her body for money. Not just one other man… many men. And she had no plan to come back. Can you imagine Hosea’s heartbreak? What would you have done in Hosea’s place? According to the Law of Moses, Hosea had every right to have Gomer stoned to death. At the very least we would expect Hosea to leave her, abandon her into her sin and unfaithfulness. But remember, Hosea is a living picture of our gracious God and His relationship to His Bride, Israel, the holy Church. What does Hosea do? He buys her back! The Lord says to him, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods” (Hos. 3:1). “So I bought her,” writes Hosea, “for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley” (v. 2). What must Gomer have thought of her husband? There can be only one of two conclusions: “Either he’s a fool, or he really does love me.” Of course it is the second conclusion that is true. And notice here that love creates its object. There is nothing loveable about Gomer. Hosea loves her by grace, by his own gracious decision, and in mercy, redeems her.

And so God comes to us, unfaithful prostitutes that we are, adulterous, worshiping other gods, the gods of money and sex and prestige and power, the god of self, and He buys us back. Not for fifteen shekels and some barley. Not with gold or silver. With His holy, precious blood, and His innocent suffering and death. Jesus, God in the flesh, our Bridegroom, so loves His Bride, the Church, that even after she is unfaithful, even after she forsakes Him for others, even in the midst of her adultery and idolatry, He sheds His blood for her. He could rightly have us condemned to eternal death in hell. He could abandon us into our sin. But He doesn’t. He redeems us. He buys us back. There can be only one of two conclusions. He could be a fool, but such an assertion would be blasphemous. He is the all-wise God. And so really all that is left is the second conclusion. He really does love us. His banner over us is love. He loves us as the precious and holy Bride purchased with His blood and washed clean in His baptismal water, the true water of purification. He loves us to death, literally… His death on the cross. He pours out the wine of His blood for the life of the world,[1] for our life, eternal and abundant. Here, too, love creates its object. There is nothing in us that is loveable. We simply are not loveable in and of ourselves. God loves us by grace, by His own gracious decision, and in mercy, redeems us, by the blood of Christ, and bestows on us every grace and blessing.

God comes to us this morning in the flesh, the flesh of Jesus Christ. He comes among us at this foretaste of the eternal wedding feast to come and miraculously gives us wine, the wine of His blood, the same blood shed on the cross for our forgiveness, life, and salvation. He fills our cup so that it runneth over. Nothing but the best from our Lord, His true blood in the chalice, His true body under the bread, the price of our redemption, and He gives it to us to eat and to drink. He bids us feast upon Him. It may sound unbelievable, unreasonable, perhaps even ridiculous, just like the servants in our text probably thought Jesus was off His rocker when He commanded them to serve water from the jars to the master of the feast. But as Mary said to them, so she says to us: “Do whatever he tells you.” And what He tells you is, “Take, eat, this is my body, given for you. Do this, in remembrance of me. Take, drink, this is my blood, shed for you, for the forgiveness of your sins. Do this, often, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” Do whatever He tells you. Because He is your Bridegroom. He loves you with an everlasting love. He has bought you back from your unfaithfulness, bought you at the price of His life, suffered all for you, even hell, died for you, is risen for you, lives and reigns for you. He gives you nothing but the very best. And He spreads a Table before you, a feast of rich food, a feast of well aged wine, the Supper of His body and blood. This feast will not run out. Of this feast there is no end. Your Lord, Your Bridegroom, makes all things ready. Here there is celebration and great joy. Come, Bride of Christ, adorned with His holiness, to the nuptial feast. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] The Rev. William Cwirla, http://blog.higherthings.org/wcwirla/The%20Sermonator/SeriesC/2epiphany.html.

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