2nd Sunday after Epiphany
Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center
The Rev. Dr. Jason D. Lane
GRACE, MERCY, AND PEACE FROM GOD OUR HEAVENLY FATHER AND FROM OUR LORD AND SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST. The text is the Gospel Lesson from Jn 2:1-11, the Wedding at Cana, and I’ll quote it as we go.
It was THE FIRST OF HIS SIGNS AT CANA IN GALILEE AND He SHOWED HIS GLORY, AND HIS DISCIPLES PUT THEIR TRUST IN HIM. But “PUT THEIR TRUST IN HIM” for what? Another great wedding? Satan would say, “People put their trust in Him for must less than that.”
After all, Jesus said that His disciples will suffer in this world. Jesus said, PICK UP YOUR CROSS AND FOLLOW ME. The Lord of Life? “Hardly!” says Satan. After all, He was A MAN OF SORROWS, POOR and homeless, who walked into pain and agony and death. So, Satan says, “If you FOLLOW Him, what are you headed for? (And pay no attention to that risen Man by the Garden Tomb.)” As if Christ was poor because He liked it; as if He suffered because that’s what He was into; as if He did without because He preferred it that way; as if His idea of Heaven was this huge white, vapid space where lots of ex-humans walk around, trying very hard to believe that less is more forever…. Good grief, earth is more than that.
Which is why it’s not surprising that a lot of people are deceived. On the one hand, there are those who want nothing more than the earth. The Bible calls them, “worldly.” They'll even take sin for a little happiness (a very little happiness) and as much as they can get of it for as long as they can possibly keep it, so that if Christ costs them any of it, they'll drop Him for whatever's giving the momentary satisfaction. They’re willing to believe that Heaven’s nothing much, because they’re willing to believe that God is nothing much, and it’s all they can do to sooth any possible sorrow, while more than the wine is running out; while life is running out; while time is running out and then eternal fire. *** To the degree that that’s in you or me, I mean, that we’ll turn from God rather than bear the repenting and the struggling and the suffering and maybe the losing of every earthly good for His sake. I mean that we’ll sin rather than give up anything we think could make us happy at all. Such wickedness is in us all.
On the other hand, there’ve always been some people who don't want more earthly pleasures; no, they want a good deal less than earth – or at least try to want less – as though God or Buddha or whoever GIVETH US RICHLY ALL THINGS TO ENJOY as a kind of test, so that we can DENY ourselves and learn to want less and less until we’re dehumanized enough for an eternity of sensory deprivation in the same kind of nothing Heaven. In which case, Christ’s first sign should have been the withering of the fig tree – so we’d know where we stand, and if He really had to go to a wedding, He should’ve turned the wine into water and the bride into a nun – nothing against nuns – but as if you’re always better off with a little less human happiness; seeing as how there’s so much less ahead, and you better learn to like it. And underneath the pride, it’s just despair. Satan says, “Only children believe in happy endings.” Christ says, REPENT AND BECOME LIKE LITTLE CHILDREN. If you don’t want happiness, how can you be saved?
You’ll notice that Satan talks both groups of people into the same notion of Paradise. He also talks them both into the same notion of God, namely, a God of ice, who cares nothing about human happiness. Which is crazy and from Hell, but if we listen at all, then when Christ says, FOLLOW ME, we’ll say, “How far?” When He says, COME WITH ME, we’ll say, “What for?” When He says, “Let Me take you away from all this,” we’ll say, “From all this?!?” as if He was leading us into the Void, when in fact the only one who can save us from the Void is the One who said, PICK UP YOUR CROSS AND FOLLOW ME. Where to?
Well, He told His disciples to FOLLOW Him, and the first place He led them was a wedding (V. 1) AT CANA IN GALILEE. And none of these tamed one-night weddings. It was a Near Eastern wedding – think Sicilian – with a band with drums and fiddles and horns and cymbals, where you eat and drink all day and dance all night and then get up and start all over for seven days straight! (V. 2) JESUS WAS INVITED WITH HIS DISCIPLES. Now if Satan had written the Gospels, he’d have had Christ come in, say grace, and then leave, so that people could enjoy themselves. But God loves a wedding reception, with all those humans eating and dancing and making jokes – like that MASTER OF CEREMONIES with his joke about holding back the bad wine till the guests are too buzzed to notice. That was a joke like humans make, like humans that Christ loves, humans that He made to laugh and drink and sneeze and get married and much, much more. A God of ice would never stay around to bang the glasses and make the couple kiss. But the real God invented their lips – and their eyes and their bodies. The real God is the Fountainhead of all Creation and of every pleasure in it. Of course, only Mother Mary knew that the Fountainhead of all Creation was sitting there at the folding table with the friends and the cousins and the aunts. He looked like just her 30 year old carpenter-turned-preacher Son. Which is what He was - as well.
It seems HIS MOTHER WAS THERE to help, which is why, running back and forth from the kitchen, she noticed that, (V. 3) THE WINE WAS RUNNING OUT. As if they’d just emptied the last of the box wine into the pitchers, so it was okay for the moment, but, as she came and told her Son, with the drums and the fiddles and the cymbals going, "THEY DON'T HAVE ANY MORE." And Jesus did not say, “Then let them have less.” No, Mother Mary told Him – didn’t ask, didn’t have to, just told Him with mother’s eyebrows: “THEY DON’T HAVE ANY MORE!” (V. 4) JESUS ANSWERED, “MA'AM, WHAT’S THAT TO YOU AND ME? IT'S NOT MY TIME YET." Which did not mean, “I’m not here for that! If anyone wants to learn how to pray, they know where to find Me.” His Mother knew what He meant. That’s why she told the HELPERS, “Get ready.” She knew that more was on the way. (V. 5) SHE TOLD THE HELPERS, "WHATEVER HE TELLS YOU, DO IT!" WHATEVER HE TELLS YOU, whether it’s TO RICHLY ENJOY ALL THINGS, or TO PICK UP A CROSS AND FOLLOW – DO IT, even if seems strange at first and it certainly did. You see, (V. 6) THERE WERE SIX STONE WATER JARS STANDING THERE (THEY WERE FOR JEWISH CEREMONIAL WASHING), EACH WITH A CAPACITY OF ABOUT 22 GALLONS. They were religious ware, for religious purifying that God never commanded and Heaven knows what that family thought they were ever going to need 132 gallons of holy water for, but Jesus says, “More is more, and the jars’ll come in handy.” (V. 7) Then JESUS TOLD THE HELPERS …"FILL UP THE WATER JARS!" They must have thought they were going to see washing on a scale they’d never dreamed of. And if Satan had written the Gospels, this would be the story of how Jesus shut down a reception and made everybody wash for religious purposes. But Satan’s never known the real purposes of religion. Jesus said, “FILL ‘em UP!” And Satan says, “Isn’t that just what happens if you obey Him? Everybody else is at the party but you’ve got to leave and go haul water.” But Mary told them, DO IT, and she was Mary, so THEY FILLED THEM UP TO THE BRIM.
And then HE TOLD THEM, “NOW, DIP SOME OUT AND SERVE IT TO THE MASTER OF CEREMONIES.” Great. So now they’ve got to go back into the reception and announce, “Hey, anybody want some nice … water?” What else is there in a STONE WATER JAR? What else in there in a MAN OF SORROWS?
But THEY SERVED IT. (V. 9) WHEN THE MASTER OF CEREMONIES TASTED THE WATER – WHICH HAD BECOME WINE. Did I miss a drum roll? When did that water turn red? When they dipped it? When they poured it into the pitcher? As they were filling the glass? HE GIVETH RAIN FROM THE HEAVENS AND CROPS IN THEIR SEASONS, AND WINE THAT MAKETH GLAD THE HEART OF MAN. It’s just that this time He did it so fast. It is essential to realize that it was impossible: as impossible as turning sighs into singing and ashes into THE OIL OF JOY and THESE LIGHT MOMENTARY AFFLICTIONS INTO A WEIGHT OF GLORY BEYOND COMPARE – Impossible, by which we may know that God is here.
WHEN THE MC TASTED THE … WINE, HE DIDN’T KNOW WHERE IT CAME FROM, and (V. 10) HE CALLED OUT TO THE GROOM, "EVERYBODY ELSE SERVES THE FINE WINE FIRST, AND THEN, WHEN PEOPLE ARE DRUNK, THEN THEY BRING OUT THE WORSE. BUT YOU, YOU'VE SAVED THE BEST WINE TILL NOW!" And the groom’s going, “Ha! … Huh?” Where did it come from? Where does anything more ever come from? From the Lord from outside the world, who DID THIS, THE START OF HIS SIGNS AND SHOWED HIS GLORY … to save a country wedding? to keep a party going? for the sake of a little human happiness? But it’s all for the sake of human happiness, and not just a little, but more and more and more.
Every sweet thing on earth is a picture on a menu and who doesn’t put down the menu when they bring you the meal? Every earthly gift He gives, He gives to make us all want more; to make us REACH OUT FOR HIM, AND HAPLY, FIND the Fountainhead, here on earth and then in Heaven, like a wedding, only more; like wine in rivers, only more.
WATER to WINE was just for starters. The drum roll came on Calvary, with earthquakes and boulders breaking, when He turned blood into life everlasting for people who were fine with having less, because that’s all they figured they’ll ever really get – life everlasting for people who were scared of losing anything, because they didn’t believe He’d really give them more – life everlasting for people like us, who’ve negotiated which cross we’ll carry and how far, who’ve grasped at things He forbids and withheld things He told us to let go, because we would not trust Him – Him? – would not DO WHATEVER HE told US, because we would not trust Him with our happiness.
And maybe people believe that Heaven’s nothing much, because they’re afraid it’s wonderful but not really for us, not really. But why else did the Blessed God ever become a MAN OF SORROWS? SURELY HE HATH BORNE OUR GRIEFS. Why did the Fountain of the universe become POOR, if not TO MAKE US RICH? IN HIS PRESENCE WAS FULLNESS OF JOY AND ETERNAL PLEASURES AT HIS RIGHT HAND. So why’d He come down here? Mary’s Son wasn’t into pain. No, HE WAS WOUNDED FOR OUR TRANSGRESSIONS to take us with Him INTO HIS PRESENCE, in human happiness more than all the world, more than we’ve ever deserved, the happiness that we were made for when He made us for the MARRIAGE FEAST OF THE LAMB and a Consummation beyond anything that’s ever ENTERED THE MIND OF MAN – yet.
He says, COME WITH ME. He says, PICK UP YOUR CROSS AND FOLLOW ME. He says, DON’T BE AFRAID. Weddings are good, right? Well it started with a wedding, where JESUS DID THE FIRST OF HIS SIGNS AND SHOWED HIS GLORY, AND HIS DISCIPLES PUT THEIR TRUST IN HIM, and headed out for more. Amen.