Cruce Tectum

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

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Second Sunday after the Epiphany

Second Sunday after the Epiphany (C)
January 20, 2013
Text: John 2:1-11

            Times of celebration are marked by enjoyment of God’s abundance.  Today is Confirmation Day and New Member Sunday, and we’ll have cake.  Many of us enjoyed God’s abundance all too abundantly over the recent holidays.  As a result, some will go to the gym, and others of us will buy new pants.  Food and drink, feasting, naturally accompany celebration, even as fasting naturally accompanies repentance.  The people of God have always turned to Him in the day of trouble with fasting and tears, repenting of their sins, but also clinging in hope to His Word of Promise, that He will deliver, He will save, and He will usher in a new Kingdom by sending His beloved Son.  So also, the people of God have always celebrated the joy of the Kingdom by feasting, by enjoying food and drink with Gospel rejoicing and freedom.  And so one of the promises about that Kingdom, one of the indications that that Kingdom has arrived, is abundance of wine.  Listen to this beautiful promise from the Prophet Isaiah: “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; ESV).  Wine gladdens the heart of man, as the Psalmist sings (104:15).  It can even have medicinal qualities, as the latest scientific research attests, and as St. Paul himself points out to Pastor Timothy: “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments” (1 Tim. 5:23).  I suspect Paul throws that into his letter, not only for Timothy’s sake, but for those who thought they were somehow holier in God’s sight by denying themselves enjoyment of God’s good gifts.  This is called asceticism, blatant works-righteousness, and it’s a sickness that has infected the holy Christian Church from the beginning.  If all this talk about wine as a good thing is making you uncomfortable, repent.  Just read the Bible on this… you’ll be scandalized!  Wine is a good gift from God, to be enjoyed responsibly and with thanksgiving, and it is, in fact, a very clear indicator of God’s salvation delivered in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Not only do we drink wine at the altar, wine which Jesus says is His true blood, but if we can believe the Bible (and I hope you’ll agree, we can), we’ll be drinking wine in heaven!  The unending celebration of the marriage feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom, the wedding of Christ and His Church, is marked with feasting and drinking.  The Lord’s Supper is but a foretaste of the heavenly feast to come. 
            So it is that Jesus attends a wedding feast with His disciples in Cana of Galilee.  His mother is apparently a guest of some standing.  Perhaps the happy couple is related to Jesus.  In any case, Jesus blesses it with His presence.  It is a lavish affair.  Jewish weddings typically lasted a whole week.  Seven days of feasting.  Can you imagine hosting a week-long wedding reception?  But there is a crisis at this particular wedding.  The wine has run out.  It is a great embarrassment.  I’m not sure we 21st Century Americans understand what a catastrophe this is.  This breaks all the rules of ancient near-eastern hospitality.  It shows a lack of planning, a lack of care, a lack of celebratory solemnity.  This is more than a party foul.  We want these kids to start off their married life on the right foot, after all.  And Mary knows what to do.  She brings the need to the attention of her Son.  What is amazing about this is that Jesus has not yet performed a miracle.  She knows He’s special.  She remembers the prophecies, the shepherds, the wise men, all the things she has pondered in her heart for the last thirty years.  She doesn’t know what He’ll do, or how He’ll do it, but she knows she can trust Him with it.  And in this, Mary becomes our model of faith.  In the day of trouble, we, too, call upon Jesus.  We don’t know what He’ll do, or how He’ll do it, but we know He will deliver us, because He promised it (Ps. 50:15).
            It’s frustrating, though, not knowing what He’ll do or how He’ll do it.  It would be much easier to prescribe the solution for Him, to tell Him what we want done, and how and when we want it done.  But that’s now our place, as Jesus makes clear to His mother in the text.  He’s almost rude, isn’t He?  Woman, what does this have to do with me?  My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4).  It’s as if He said to His mother, “Why should I care, woman?  And why do you care?  It’s none of our business.  Be quiet and sit down.”  What is the meaning of this strange response on the part of the Savior? 
            Jesus is Mary’s Son, and as her Son He perfectly fulfills the 4th Commandment.  He honors Mary and Joseph, serves and obeys them, loves and cherishes them, perfectly, in our place.  You and I have not honored our parents and other authorities as we should.  Jesus fulfills the Commandment for us, even as He takes our sin against this Commandment to the cross, where He dies for our forgiveness.  So the point is, Jesus is not a know-it-all kid smarting off to His mom.  Remember that Jesus is also Mary’s God, the only-begotten Son of the Father.  Jesus makes His response to Mary as her God.  And isn’t that what God so often does to us?  We come to Him with our problems, and He lets us suffer it for a little while.  He lets us bear the holy cross.  Sometimes it seems like God is rebuking us.  Sometimes it seems like He’s giving us the silent treatment.  He doesn’t always immediately remove the thorn in the flesh, but He says to us, as He said to St. Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).  Sometimes He waits awhile before He gives us relief.  Sometimes relief comes only at our physical death, when we die and go to heaven.  He does this to bring us to the end of ourselves.  We’re so deluded.  We think we’re self-sufficient.  We think we can work things out on our own.  We think we can save ourselves.  The reality is, though, that not only can we not do it on our own, we can’t do it at all.  We can’t contribute in the least to our salvation.  We’re absolutely helpless.  Even our good works are damnable sins in the sight of God, filthy rags as Isaiah says (64:6).  Suffering leads us to despair of ourselves.  It acts as God’s Law to kill us so that He can raise us to new life in the Gospel of His Son.  God leaves us with no resources within ourselves so that He alone will be our help, our salvation, our joy, and so that we fall helplessly into His hands in faith that He will deliver.
            So what does Mary say to the servants after Jesus rebukes her?  Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5).  He’ll take care of it.  And He does.  Six stone water jars are present for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding about twenty or thirty gallons.  Fill them with water, Jesus commands the servants.  They do.  And then, at Jesus’ command, they serve some to the master of the feast.  It’s the best wine he’s ever tasted, and he’s tasted some!  No box wine for Jesus.  This is vintage promise fulfilled, a feast of well-aged wine, well refined.  It’s a miracle, a “sign” as John calls it, Jesus’ first (v. 11).  The disciples recognize the prophecy fulfilled.  They experience an epiphany.  They believe.  This man, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Mary, is the Son of God.
            And notice how the Lord gives His gifts.  He bestows His gifts in rich measure, the very best, on people He knows will abuse those gifts.  He gives the best wine to drunks.  And yes, for all the good things I’ve said about wine, remember that drunkenness is sin.  It is an abuse of God’s good gift.  Jesus gives the best wine to drunks whose taste buds are unable to recognize and appreciate it.  That’s just how our God works.  He gives rich food to gluttons who will have to buy new pants.  He gives His grace to sinners who are unworthy.  We don’t deserve it.  It is by grace, apart from works, apart from deserving, so that no one can boast. 
            In fact, this whole event points us toward a greater reality that defies all reason.  Our Lord Jesus takes for Himself a Bride who has sold herself into prostitution.  He takes for Himself a Bride who cheats on Him with every lover crossing her path.  He takes for Himself a Bride who has despised Him, rejected Him, blasphemed Him.  So great is His love for her, He dies for her, to make her His own once again.  That Bride is the Church.  That Bride is you.  For all your sins, for all your unfaithfulness, for all your abusing of God’s good gifts, for your drunkenness and addictions, for all your despising of your parents and other authorities, for your rejection of God and His Word… Jesus dies.  To make you His own.  He cleanses you in the waters of Holy Baptism.  He washes all of that filth away in His blood.  He gives you His righteousness as a gift.  He gives you eternal life in His death and resurrection.  Because as Your husband, everything that is His is yours.  As His wife, everything that is yours is His.  He takes what is yours and nails it to His cross.  He gives you what is His, His eternal life and righteousness, in words and water and bread and wine.  This is the feast of victory for our God.  It is a great wedding celebration.  The Table is set and the very best wine flows, His blood, shed for sinners, shed for you.  Mary tells you what to do: Do whatever He says.  And what He says is this: “Come, my beloved.  The feast is prepared.  Come and eat and drink and be merry in Me.  For my delight is in you (Is. 62:4).  You are my beloved, because I have said so.  And in Me, the very Kingdom of God has arrived.”  So, dear friends, let us lift the cup of salvation (Ps. 116:13) and drink to that.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.           


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