Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sermon: Epiphany 2 – 2012

15 January 2012 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: John 2:1-11 (Amos 9:11-15, Rom 12:6-16)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

“The wine ran out.”

It may not seem so at first, dear brothers and sisters, but this is a result of the Fall, of the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and of the curse and punishment doled out to man as a result of his rebellion from God.

The fact that anything – even wine – runs out is a manifestation of “scarcity.” In other words, there is not enough stuff for everybody. And so, there must be competition and some kind of mechanism to figure out who gets what. Some end up on top, and some on the bottom. God told Adam: “cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground.”

Man must work to eat. And because of this curse upon the very ground, the ground is stubborn. Some climates produce very little. Some people cannot work enough to pay for the food for their families to eat. And our sinful nature causes us to be lazy, to scheme to find ways for other people to provide us with a living, to steal, to foolishly squander our resources on luxuries instead of necessities, and to resent those wealthier than we. Our sinful nature also causes us to hoard and not share with those who are in genuine need.

And because of this scarcity, governments were instituted and economic systems developed to figure out who gets what in society. And whether it is a free market or a centrally planned economy, there is never enough. That is why our Lord told us point-blank that we would always have the poor with us.

“The wine ran out.”

There are few things more divisive – and potentially violent – than politics. When we have kings, we have scarcity. And so revolutionaries cut off the king’s head and start a democracy. And there is still scarcity. So democracies become republics. And there is still scarcity. And republics become oligarchies and welfare states and warfare states and empires and dictatorships and tyrannies. And there is still scarcity. Under capitalism, communism, fascism, and anarchy – there is still scarcity. The powerful and well-connected always have abundance while others have nothing. For there is still scarcity.

“The wine ran out.”

Dear friends, we do live in a bi-polar world of the Kingdom of the Left and the Kingdom of the Right, a church and a secular government. We do need to order ourselves politically in some way. But no matter what, we must understand that there is no Utopia, no perfect system: except one: the government of the City of God, Heavenly Jerusalem, the Kingdom of the King of Kings, the Lordship of the Lord Jesus Christ.

His mother has been telling us for two millennia: “Do whatever He tells you.”

Jesus has come to restore Eden, to replace scarcity with abundance, to roll back the ravages of sin, to crush the chaos and tyranny of Satan under His heel, and even to reverse the ultimate result of death itself!

“Do whatever He tells you.”

For His Word is truth! His Word is power! His Word forgives. His Word restores, revivifies, and resurrects. His Word gives life.

For we are all victims of scarcity, perhaps the rich even more than the poor! For no amount of money can buy what Jesus gives away for free – His life, His body, His blood, His Word, His forgiveness, and His communion with the Father! No amount of money can turn water into wine – but Jesus can, and Jesus does. “Do whatever He tells you” – for His Word is a promise, and what’s more, His Word is a promise that fulfills itself!

“When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from,” He proclaimed: “You have kept the good wine until now.”

For not only did the Fall result in scarcity, but also corruption. Not only does wine run out – along with bread, with water, with money, shelter, clothing, and with life itself – but it also runs down. Inferior wine is a result of the Fall just as much as scarcity. And the same is true with inferior bread, water, money, shelter, clothing, and life.

“Do whatever He tells you,” dear brothers and sisters!

Our Lord Jesus offers not merely an abundance of perfect wine for the wedding feast at Cana, for this was a “sign,” a glimpse into a deeper reality. He offers (truly offers, as in the sense of a sacrifice), He offers the wine of His blood without price, without scarcity, without counting the cost, without being filtered through politicians – He offers His saving Body and Blood freely, as well as the flowing waters of baptism and His Word of forgiveness! These are offered in abundance, in direct opposition to the scarceness we have brought on ourselves by our sin. The wine of His blood, the bread of His body, the water of His baptism, the Word of His forgiveness are abundant and perfect, and they cannot be hoarded, bought, sold, or bargained for – not at any price, not by any bureaucracy. For there is no price, dear friends! Love can never be purchased, for it is offered gratis and received gratefully.

Indeed, our God (who is Love) has kept the good wine until the time came for the Son to offer it to us in the wineskin of His own flesh, given to us in the chalice of His own passion, presented to us on the table of His own cross.

For hear the words of Blessed Amos, who prophesied of the wine of Christ and His people: “The mountains shall drip sweet wine and all the hills shall flow with it… they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine. And they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.”

In Christ, scarcity is undone. In Christ, inferiority is nowhere to be found. In Christ, there are no strongmen or tyrants or hoarders or brokers. There is only abundance, grace, mercy, joy, and forgiveness that lasts forever!

Look at how this Good News of forgiveness and eternal life frees us from being selfish and self-centered! Look at how we Christians are able to love, freely love, even as Christ loves us! As St. Paul preaches: “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints, and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another.”

That is what life in Paradise is like, dear friends, the true and eternal Utopia in which there is no scarcity, where there are no strife and struggle and warfare and greed, where wine flows freely, even as the forgiveness of sins drips sweetly from the very mountains, where life is endless and perfect.

For you, Lord Jesus, “have kept the good wine until now.”

Thanks be to God! Amen.

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

No comments: