Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sermon -- 2nd Sunday after Epiphany (January 20, 2013)

Go to full-size imageJOHN 2:1-11

Ideas for this sermon were gleaned from a sermon by Rev. Mark D. Lovett of Concordia Evangelical Lutheran Church, Hoisington, Kansas, printed in Gottestdienst, Vol. 20, No. 4.

In the name + of Jesus.

     Mary came to her Son at the wedding in Cana with the news: “They have no wine.” (John 2:3)  This was no mere passing along of information.  This was a catastrophe. Mary knew her Psalms.  She had learned to confess, “You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart.” (Psalm 104:14-15)  Wine was not just a way for the people to party.  It was a staple at every dinner table.  Wine meant prosperity and God’s blessing.  On the other hand, a lack of wine meant judgment.  The prophet Isaiah had proclaimed, “There is an outcry in the streets for lack of wine; all joy has grown dark; the gladness of the earth is banished.” (Isaiah 24:11)  When there is no wine, there is no blessing.  And at the wedding at Cana, they had run out of wine.  No wine, no feast and no joy.
     Mary knew where to turn for help.  She turned to Jesus.  His attendance at this wedding was no happy coincidence.  It was by divine design.  Surely Jesus would do something.  After all, Jesus had come to do great things.  Jesus would bring joy and feasting and blessing to Israel.  Surely he would help here.  However, Jesus did not respond with a blessing, but with a rebuke.  Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me?  My hour has not yet come.” (John 2:4)
     Jesus had come to establish a kingdom which would bring joy and feasting and blessing to Israel—to the world, in fact.  But Jesus’ kingdom was not going to be ushered in at the wedding in Cana.  It would not come by giving people momentary relief to their embarrassing problems.  It certainly would not come by Jesus acting as a miracle worker at the prompting of his mother.  Jesus said to her, “My hour has not yet come.” (John 2:4)  That hour would come when Jesus fulfilled all the work he had been given to do.  And though she was dismissed, Mary was not discouraged.  His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:5)  Jesus would bring joy to the feast.
     In the same way, Jesus does not usually act because you demand it.  Like Mary, you may come to Jesus and highlight to him what are your shortcomings, where you have run out of resources, when you have come to your wits’ end, and when you have no more solutions.  You should not be surprised that your resources, your wits, and your solutions run dry.  You are a sinner living in a sinful world.  You are frustrated by the people you have to deal with and by the circumstances which make life hard.  You try to find joy and peace from what this sinful world has to offer.  You hope that your money, your friends, your job, your hobbies, or whatever else will supply it.  But like the wedding party in Cana, you may suddenly find that the source of your joy is gone.  Frustration turns to desperation.  You scrape and scrounge for anything to bring you joy, and you find nothing.  The blessings have run dry, and so does your hope.  Do not seek joy from a sinful, dying world.  You will always be disappointed.
     The wedding at Cana had no more wine.  The master of the banquet had no clue.  The groom at Cana had no answers.  Feast had turned to famine.  Joy had turned to frustration and desperation.  The Lord would also have you recognize that you are powerless, helpless, and hopeless.  The Lord lets you experience the panic and the pain of being at your wit’s end.  Your solutions might bring a moment of happiness, but they produce no joy.  Your answers might provide a moment’s rest, but no lasting peace.  The Lord wants you to know it and feel it so that you will finally give up trying to find joy and peace and comfort in what is momentary and uncertain.  That is why he answers not with a blessing, but with a rebuke.  Repent.
      The Lord may give a rebuke, but he follows it up with blessing.  Mary was sure of it.  His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:5)  Jesus would bring joy to the feast.  Mary was sure of it.  You can be, too.  Jesus is the only one who will bring joy to you, too.
     Jesus ordered the servants to fill the water jars used for purification.  The people were interested in the party; they were not interested in purification.  The water had run dry and no one seemed to be in any hurry to fill them.  But Jesus ordered the jars to be filled.  And then, from water which was intended to purify, Jesus brought forth what was missing from the banquet.  What the groom had failed to provide for his bride and the guests, the heavenly Bridegroom provided in the highest quality and in abundant measure.  The Lord brought forth … wine to gladden the heart of man….” (Psalm 104:15)  Jesus brought joy to the feast.
     This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. (John 2:11)  Jesus showed that he is the Lord’s Anointed by his miraculous sign.  It is no accident that Jesus chose a wedding to be the occasion that he would perform his first miraculous sign.  For, he is the heavenly Bridegroom who comes to give his Bride all that she is lacking.  Jesus has delivered to you into his kingdom through the purifying waters of baptism.  In these waters, he provides you with the righteousness which you lack and which you need.  You may think what you need is a more plentiful bank account, more understanding friends, a more caring spouse, a more luxurious home, a more convenient job, a more comfortable life, etc….  As quickly as you can find these, just as quickly can they be taken from you.  Those who have these things—which is your perception more often than their reality—are not saved by them.  If you lack God’s favor and blessing, what good is anything else???  The heavenly Groom gives his Bride what she lacks.  He cleanses your very heart and soul.  He clothes you in his own righteousness so that you have all you need to stand before the Father.
     Jesus brings joy so that you may feast.  At the feast, Jesus continues to provide God’s mercy and forgiveness.  Though you have fallen short in living up to God’s standards, and though you have sought peace, joy, and blessing from other suitors, your Groom does not disown you.  On the contrary, Jesus lived and died for you.  He shed his holy blood as the bride price to make you his own.  The blood he poured out for you for he gives to you in the Lord’s Supper.  In the wine, he gives you his holy blood for the forgiveness of all your sins.  Here, he keeps his Bride pure and blameless and beautiful.  Here, in the wine, he pours out blessing and salvation.  Here, you already take your place in the heavenly banquet is set.  He brings joy to the feast; for he brings joy and comfort through the feast.
     This is how Jesus ushers in his kingdom – through the shedding of his blood and by his sacrificial death for you.  The benefits of this are given you to through the baptismal waters which purify you and through the festival meal which the heavenly Groom provides for his Church.  Jesus makes sure that you will always have what you need, and he does not skimp on his mercy and forgiveness.  The waters always cleanse.  The food always nourishes.  The wine does not run out.   God’s blessings are not chintzy.  Therefore, your joy is not fragile and your comfort is not iffy.  Jesus brings joy to the feast.
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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