Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sermon: Epiphany 2

18 January 2009 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: John 2:1-11 (Amos 9:11-15, Eph 5:22-33)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

This miracle, turning water into wone at a wedding feast, is, according to St. John, “the first of His signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.”

This first of many miracles got the disciples’ attention, it was a manifestation of the Lord’s glory, of His divine nature. It worked faith in the disciples, and this in turn brought about an even greater, though unseen miracle: the miracle of the mystery of faith itself.

And it is fitting that this, the first manifestation of His glory, was done at a wedding, the celebration of the mystery of the oldest institution known to man, the order through which God continues to create humanity, bringing new people into the world.

It is also fitting that this first sign was done at a feast, a celebration of great joy in the context of a meal. For indeed, it is impossible to have a feast without eating, to celebrate without bread on the table, without hospitality, and without table fellowship.

And again, it is fitting that this first miraculous manifestation of the Lord’s power was an event marked with not only wine, but with the “good wine,” wine made miraculously by the Word and command of Jesus. Wine is also part of feasting, of celebration, of joy. The Lord spoke through the prophet Amos, promising that in the final paradise, “the mountains shall drip sweet wine” and that the Lord’s people “shall plant vineyards and drink their wine.” In many of our Lord’s parables, eternity is pictured as a marriage feast in which wine is enjoyed by all the guests.

And yet, in this fallen world, marriages, feasts, and the drinking of wine are far from ideal.

What was created by God to be a wondrous bond between a man and a woman for life, designed to create a nurturing home for children, has fallen into selfish short-term partnering arrangements that are anything but a place of refuge for little ones. In the culture of death, we see abortion, abuse, and neglect of children. We see selfish parents going back on their vows. We see marriage even being redefined to run contrary to nature. The picture has become so murky that one is hard-pressed to see this as St. Paul did, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church.” The biblical notion of a man lovingly serving as the head of his family, and his wife lovingly submitting to his headship has largely become a forgotten relic – and we can see the results all around us.

Feasts have likewise changed from being celebrations of thanksgiving to our gracious God who provides all things, into being hedonistic displays of gluttony and consumerism in which God may never be mentioned except for as a curse word. Wedding receptions, in particular, have become crass and vulgar affairs wrapped up in self-obsession and wasteful spending that, far from calling to mind the mystery of men and women binding themselves together in love, instead become spectacles of gaudiness and trashiness unbefitting the dignity of a Christian sacramental act.

Even wine, one of the oldest and most joyous gifts from the Lord to man, has been perverted and ruined by our sinful nature. Instead of serving man in pleasure, alcohol is often abused and turns man into a slave, sometimes violent, and even to the point of the alcohol becoming a false god. What a terrible distortion of the glorious promise of a paradise in which wine drips from the very mountains, its sweetness to be enjoyed.

Sin has taken all of these good gifts and corrupted them, turned joy into despair, turned grace into a curse, and distorted the manifestation of our Lord’s glory at a wedding feast as He turned water into wine.

And yet, the fact that sin has corrupted this sign makes this sign all the more meaningful. For our Lord uses this miracle not only to prove a point, not only to “manifest His glory,” but also to give His blessing to marriages, to feasts, and to wine. He has come to reclaim what man, at his basest and vilest, has perverted and made nearly unrecognizable as gifts of a gracious God.

“You have kept the good wine until now,” says the master of the feast. The best of the Lord’s creation is yet to come. This “first of His signs” is but a preview, a small glimpse into His re-created Eden, His new creation, His eternity that He has prepared for us, His redeemed.

For no matter how unfaithful husbands and wives are to one another in this fallen world, Jesus is the perfect Bridegroom to His Church. Jesus indeed shows men how to love their wives, as marriage as it was created and as it was intended to be is the very picture of Jesus’s love for the Church. Marriage is redeemed by the Redeemer, and the bride and bridegroom become one flesh, even as our Lord’s flesh is mingled with our flesh in the mystery of Holy Communion. For in mutual love in which each spouse loves the other above himself, we see the picture of the Lord Jesus Christ and the perfect love that will be between Him and the Church when heaven and earth are made anew.

No matter how far we have taken our eyes off of Jesus as we seek to find fulfillment in material things, our Lord Jesus continues to feed us with the foretaste of the greatest feast of all – the Eternal Wedding Feast of the Lamb and His Bride. The Feast is redeemed by the Redeemer, and the eternal celebrations are unmarked by gluttony and selfishness, by garishness and false gods. For this Feast is not about us, but all about our Lord and His triumph over sin, death, and the devil.

No matter how much we abuse the good gift of wine, our Lord chooses to make His first sign a miraculous provision of the fruit of the vine. Wine is redeemed by the Redeemer, and the wine in this eternal banquet is not abused, not used as an excuse for shameful behavior, and is not there for the purpose of seeking to dull the senses or fulfill an addiction. For this is the Savior who gives His blood to us in the form of wine, the cup of the New Testament, shed for us for the forgiveness of sins.

Dear brothers and sisters, our Lord Jesus manifests His glory in the very midst of all the worldly things that we sinners abuse. This is not by accident. For our Lord’s mission is one of re-creation, reclamation, and restoration.

For we are to marry, and feast, and drink. We are to become one flesh as men and women, to multiply, to live in traditional families, and see marriage as sacred and holy. We are to feast, to enjoy the fruits of the earth, to celebrate with all the faithful the marriage feast of the Lamb, to eat the daily bread provided for us by our Creator. And we are to drink wine for sheer joy, celebrating the good gifts of creation and partaking in the blood of Christ that was shed for us men and for our salvation.

And though this was the first sign, it was not to be the last. For the Lord Jesus Christ became one flesh with His Church as He shared His body and blood at the Last Supper. The Lord Jesus gave His Bride the eternal feast of the New and Greater Passover Lamb, whose sacrifice is partaken of by all the redeemed. The Lord Jesus has promised to drink wine with us anew in His kingdom, even as He poured out His blood on the cross and gives us the wine of Hid blood in the Holy Sacrament.

The Lord Jesus withholds nothing from His Bride, the Church. The feast we partake in is eternal, for indeed, He has “kept the good wine until now.” Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

No comments: