Sermon for January 20, 2013

John 2:1-11 (2nd Sunday after the Epiphany—Series C)

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT 

January 20, 2013

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Our text is the Gospel Lesson from John 2:

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 9 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 the bridegroom 10 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.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

            It was another ordinary wedding in first century Galilee.  The wedding took place in the evening, when the bride was brought to the groom’s house in a festive torchlight procession.  Beforehand, both the bride and groom bathed and were anointed with aromatic oils and dressed in their finest clothes, saved especially for the occasion.  When the family and all the neighbors were gathered in the house or courtyard, a gala meal would begin.  But before the meal, the guests would ritually purify themselves by washing their hands.  During the meal, the wine flowed freely.  Poetry would be read and songs sung, and gifts would be presented to the couple. 

            In Cana of Galilee, everything was in order.  It was all so perfectly ordinary.  The purification rites had taken place as the guests had gathered.  The stone water jars were empty, indicating their use.  The gala feast was in progress.  Everything was ordinary, even to the point of the fruit of the vine flowing, and flowing, and flowing.  But the wine flowed a little too fast and couldn’t keep up with the feast, so the wine ran out.  I’m sure this was not the first time in the history of weddings that this had happened.  Makes this just another ordinary wedding in Galilee. 

            But then we are shaken out of our ordinariness.  Having asked that the stone water jars which were previously used for the purification rituals to be filled with water again, Jesus told the servants to draw water out and give a sample to the master of the feast.  Water in, water out, right?  Only if we were being ordinary.  What the master of the feast tastes is not water!  It’s wine, exquisite wine, top vintage, great flavor.  This is extraordinary!  Every person serves the good wine first and saves the lesser quality wine for later in the party.  But here the good wine has been kept until now! 

             This wedding in first century Cana of Galilee is suddenly not as ordinary as first thought.  What makes it so extraordinary is the presence of Jesus and what He did there to reveal His glory.  Jesus actually turned water into wine!  Ordinary people can’t do that!  Only God can do that—Jesus is God, God-in-flesh-made-manifest!  This is extraordinary in and of itself—that the Son of God would take on human flesh and dwell among sinners in order to show us the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 

Ordinarily, the glory of God and sinners do not mix.  Moses asked the Lord to see His glory.  God replied, “Man shall not see me and live.” (Exodus 33:20)  Isaiah panicked when he saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and said, “Woe is me!  For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, Yahweh of hosts.” (Is. 6:5)  We are told in Psalm 5, “The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.” (Ps. 5:5)  God and sinners are like oil and water; they don’t mix. 

And the reason they don’t mix is because of God’s holiness.  Psalm 130:3 reminds us, “If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?  (Ps. 130:1)  The implied answer is, “No one.”  In and of ourselves, we have no holiness.  We have no righteousness, no right-ness.  Deuteronomy 4:24, which is quoted in the New Testament by the writer to the Hebrews, tells us that the Lord our God is a consuming fire.  He destroys whatever is useless and contrary to Himself.  Most assuredly that would be people who are by nature sinful and unclean, people just like you and me who daily sin against God in thought, word, and deed, by what we do and by the good we fail to do. 

Yet God, out of pure grace, does the extraordinary in dealing with sinners.  Instead of condemning, punishing, and destroying, He forgives, restores, and makes us new.  I guess in a sense you could say that He changes us from water into wine.  We pass from death to life.  We become new creatures; old things pass away.  All things become new.  This happens only because God in the person of His only-begotten Son became a man so that He might make known to us the glory of God in the most extraordinary of places—on a cross. 

The glory of God is made known to us chiefly in Jesus’ suffering and death in our place and for our salvation.  This is indeed extraordinary!  At the beginning of His passion, our Lord said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:23-24)  Is that not what the Lord Christ accomplished with His death and resurrection?  Suffering and dying on the cross, bearing the load of our sins, Jesus purchased and won the forgiveness of sins for all people.  It was only through a death like this that all people could be saved.  Because Jesus died, all people who believe in Him through God’s gift of saving faith will live!  One seed, Jesus, dies so that a great harvest of redeemed and saved “fruit,” you and me and all people, might live.  Extraordinary! 

It is through the forgiveness of sins and the new life of faith in Jesus that we are made holy to stand in God’s presence as children of God.  Paul writes in Galatians, “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” (Gal 3:26)  But we are more than just children of God—we are the bride of the Lord Jesus!  Extraordinary!  We read in our Old Testament lesson this morning, “As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” (Is. 62:5)  No longer are we consumed by the Lord’s holiness.  No longer are we punished for our sins.  In Christ, we stand before Him forgiven, holy, and righteous.  We stand before him radiant, dressed as a bride for her groom.  From Isaiah 61, “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” (Isa 61:10)  The garments of salvation and the robe of righteousness is Jesus Himself who covers us with His redeeming blood.  The Lord covers us with His righteousness and salvation so that we stand spotless before Him like a bride should on her wedding day. 

And it is a heavenly wedding feast that we look forward to celebrating.  It is the Church, you and I as believers in Jesus Christ who are His bride.  You and I are covered in the robe of Christ’s righteousness that covers over all our sins.  You and I are new creations who stand before the Lord in holiness and purity.  And we will celebrate with our Lord at His wedding feast—the heavenly banquet He is preparing for us.  In the Lord’s Supper, we receive a foretaste of this feast to come.  But at the Last Day, when our Lord Jesus comes again in glory, we who have heard the gracious invitation of God and have received faith in Jesus Christ will be ushered into His heavenly banquet hall.  We will hear our Father pronounce His everlasting blessing upon us for whom Christ died and rose again to save.  We will sit in the presence of our heavenly Father at His banqueting table as the bride of His Son, Jesus Christ.  And this is a wedding feast that will have no end! 

Ordinary?  Not by a long shot.  Jesus’ presence and first sign at Cana in Galilee changed and ordinary wedding feast into an extraordinary one.  Jesus’ presence among people revealed His glory as true God who had come among us to serve us by giving up His life into death on a cross.  Jesus has redeemed us from our sins, forgiven us, and made us to stand before His heavenly Father radiant as His bride.  He gives us a foretaste of the marriage feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom through His Body and Blood given and shed in, with, and under the bread and wine at the banqueting table of His Supper.  Even as we commune today, we look forward to the heavenly feast that we will celebrate together with all the Lord’s saints from every time and place.  Oh how extraordinary it all is to be the bride of Christ!  Amen. 

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