Monday, January 21, 2019

John 2.1-11; Second Sunday after the Epiphany, January 20, 2019

John 2.1-11; Second Sunday after the Epiphany, January 20, 2019
Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN
On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 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 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.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. (John 2:1-11, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
“Dad, you’ll never guess what we found in the yard!” 
That’s the first thing Miciah said to me when I saw her at the end of one of the work days on our Mission Trip a few years ago to New Orleans.  We had been divided into different work groups. 
“We were hauling out a pile of debris out of the back yard, and at the bottom was a stop sign.”  She popped up a picture on her digital camera.  The picture showed the classic white and red sign with a few dings and scratches.   When the hurricane blew it must have come loose of its post.  When the levy broke, and the flood waters raced down the streets it dumped the sign and all that debris in a big pile right there in that back yard.  Now that stop sign was more than just a piece of trash.  That sign was a sign of something powerful that had happened.  It was a sign that pointed to the power of Katrina that happened over 14 months ago; wind so strong it can tear a sign from a post; water flowing at such a rate that it carries bricks, cinderblocks, branches, glass, mud and a stop sign, and deposits them in a big pile in a back yard with the stop sign at the very bottom.  Now, you can go over to the youth room at Divine Shepherd, Blackhawk, SD and see that sign tacked up on the all.  As it hangs there it’s a sign of something very powerful.  Actually, two things; one the awesome power of a hurricane and a flood; and the even more awesome power of the Holy Spirit that moved a Youth Group from South Dakota to give the hope of God’s love in Jesus to people still living in the wake Katrina’s destruction.  Kind of like God giving a hug of reassurance to people who really need it. 
Now here in the Gospel lesson for today St. John tells us about a sign, kind of like that stop sign.  He says, that Jesus turning water into wine was, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory.  We just heard his account and we know it well.  Jesus, his disciples and Mary his mother are quietly enjoying the wedding feast.  The unthinkable happens, the wine runs out.  Mary asks Jesus to do something about it.  Jesus says, “not yet.” Mary tells the servants to do whatever Jesus says.  Jesus tells them to fill these very large water jars used for ceremonial washing with water “to the brim” and take it out and take it to the steward.  Water goes in the jars, wine comes out.  And really good wine, “you’ve saved the best for last!” the person in charge of the feast says. 
Jesus changes water into wine.  We’ve probably heard many explanations of exactly what this miracle is all about, from Jesus blessing marriage, to Jesus showing that drinking alcohol isn’t in and of itself a sin (after all he made nearly 200 gallons!).  Now John tells us exactly why he put this account in his book.  By this sign, St. John tells us Jesus manifested his glory.  Manifested is one of those fancy church words that means: to shine the light on, to show, to make clear.  In this miracle sign Jesus tells us who he is.  In this miracles sign Jesus tells us why God was born in human flesh.  If you have any doubts about that just listen to what John tells us at the end of his Gospel:
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31, ESV)
And that’s exactly what happened at the wedding of Cana.  The last thing John tells us about it all is that his disciples believed in him.  Now John tells you and me this story so that we too can have our faith in Jesus strengthened, so that we can believe that he is our Savior from sin, and that we poor sinners gathered in his name more than 2000 years later… can have life in his name.
So, what’s the sign?  Well, Martin Luther said that a sign (as John is using it here) is something that has something visible for faith to hold on to.  God loves to give us exactly what we need for faith to hold on to.  God knows how human beings work.  He knows that we need things to be concrete and tangible.  He knows the old saying “Seeing is believing.”  In the Old Testament, Luther says, [God gave] the pillar of fire, the cloud, the mercy seat; in the New Testament Baptism the Lord’s Supper and ministry of the Word[1], and the like.  By means of these God shows us, as by a visible sign, that He is with us, takes care of us, and is favorably inclined toward us. (LW 1:71)
So here at this wedding, Jesus shows that he is not only concerned with people but also such minor details as weather there is enough wine for a wedding celebration.  He showed that God was present there, in love and care for people.  He used these large jars set aside for cleaning to make wine, wine like the wine he uses to give to you and me the forgiveness he won at the cross.  In the wine he gives to you and me he is also present to take care of us.  Have you ever thought about the Lord’s Supper that way?  As a sign that God is with us to take care of us and is favorably inclined toward us.  There in broken bread and poured out wine we are reminded of Jesus death, we are reminded of how he bled and died for our sins.  We are reminded how he …loved the world, that he gave [himself], that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, ESV) Jesus gives us his very own body and blood, really and truly present, as a visible sign of what he did for us on the cross.  We come to this altar and drink wine and eat bread, a meal for our body; and in, with and under those touchable, taste-able things we receive the very body and blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins.  Jesus supplies us with all we need for eternal life right here.  He gives us everything that we need, and then he gives us even more.  Jesus fills our spiritual needs and our physical needs.  These are signs for faith to hold on to.  It’s just like the Catechism confesses says:
What is the benefit of this eating and drinking? These words, "Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins," show us that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.
I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true.
Now some of you may be offended, but I’ve never understood how God can offer such a marvelous gift as the Lord’s Supper to his people and we say that we don’t need it.  And frankly, I’ve never understood the idea that once a month is enough of this great gift.  I think the problem is we think strong faith is that which doesn’t need God’s gifts very often, when exactly the opposite is really true.  Strong faith clings to the gift of forgiveness that God gives every single day and longs to receive them as often as possible.  You see, when we think we don’t need God and his activity in our lives that’s having faith in us.  Faith in God means leaning on him in all things.
Jesus turns water into wine.  He did it in at the wedding in Cana and he does it today.  I think it is Mary who shows us what it all about.  When the problem pops us, she turns to her Lord in faith.  Oh sure, some say she was just turning to a faithful son for help, but I think it’s more than that.  Remember how she reacted when the Angel came to her and said “you will conceive and bear a son...”?  “I am the Lord’s servant let it be done to me as you have said.”  When the wine runs out she goes to Jesus for help and then in faith she responds by telling the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”  She doesn’t know what Jesus is going to do.  She just places the problem in his hands and gets ready for his answer and action.  Jesus turns the water into wine.  He provides all that is needed and then some.  It’s the best wine ever.
Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t always exhibit that kind of faith.  It’s difficult to “let go and let God.”  There are even times when I think I’ve done just that and as it turns out I’ve been depending on myself again.  Here’s a picture I want you to keep in mind.  I got this one from Wally.  It’s a puzzle he put together.  I’ve got it set outside my office door at the parsonage.  It’s behind the main door so those of you who’ve visited and just stood in the door haven’t seen it, but it’s right where I can see when I go out of the office.  This, I think, is a picture of Jesus at the wedding of Cana.  This is what Jesus is doing there.  Look at how he embraces this person.  Look at the love in his face.  I think you can see the worries and care of this man just melting away with Jesus loving hug.  And look what the man is doing… nothing.  He’s receiving the gift that he just doesn’t deserve, the love of God in Jesus Christ.  It’s just as Luther said he shows us by a visible sign, that He is with us, takes care of us, and is favorably inclined toward us.  Got troubles?  I do, every day.  You do to.  That’s life in the 21st century.  That’s human life since our parents in the Garden of Eden tried to run it by themselves, without God.  That’s life since you and I try to run it ourselves without God.  Well God does a miracle right here too.  He is present to take care of us.  Now as great as this picture is… right here God gives you something even better.  It’s real food for real people; bread and wine to satisfy the stomach; Jesus’ body and blood to satisfy the spirit.  Here is a very powerful sign, a very powerful action where God himself is present to save.  Here shows you his love for you in his death at the cross for the forgiveness of your sins.  Here he tells you that he is with you always and nothing can separate you from him.  It’s a sign.  It’s a miracle.  It is God right here for you.  Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

[1] Luther here is likely referring to the Office of the Holy Ministry, i.e. Pastors.

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