Monday, January 21, 2013

Second Sunday After Epiphany (C) 2013

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.

Text: John 2:2
Theme: A Hallowed Guest

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Some people have a flair for the dramatic. Most at least have a fascination with it. Unfortunately this is usually an expression of our sinful natures. Yet God, who holds the potential for drama beyond our wildest imaginations, is characteristically unpretentious.
Jesus’ first public sign occurred at a wedding banquet. Weddings always carry the opportunity for drama. But Jesus is unassuming. He doesn’t make a spectacle. He doesn’t announce ahead of time that He is going to perform a miracle. He quietly blesses their celebration and in so doing subtly reveals Himself as the Messiah.

When you study the signs and miracles Jesus performed in the New Testament you will notice that He never advertises them first. He doesn’t look to draw a crowd. He doesn’t use hype. It was common practice in ancient times to make table wine by adding water to the thick syrupy vintage stored for long term keeping. At wedding celebrations- which typically ran for days- the poorer wine was normally served last. But for this honoured couple in Cana Jesus provides a delightful surprise. Nothing He put His hand to was ever second-rate.

Jesus’ presence at the wedding of Cana reminds us that God instituted and blesses marriage. Furthermore, from the beginning to the end of the biblical witness marriage is used as an analogy to describe the relationship between God, the husband, and His people, the bride. Yet the history of humanity has a sad spiritual record and tells a sorry nuptial tale. It’s a litany full of disappointment and angst, betrayal, regret and renewal. Think of the centuries and centuries of steadfast patience displayed as the Almighty stood by His chosen people.

Now we are part of the saga. We are descendants of Adam and like him have rebellious and selfish natures. It’s not just that we are prone to unfaithfulness- we inherit it! Many places the Old Testament calls insolence and spiritual unfaithfulness adultery. Every motivation we pursue that caters to our self-centeredness is a departure from the covenant of His unconditional love. There is more than enough here to occupy our repentance. Yet God remains a faithful husband to His bride in spite of her faults, failings, and even unfaithfulness.

At the Cana wedding Mary didn’t know the details of what Jesus planned to do but she knew He was capable. Her advice to the servants remains the simple directive of faith and obedience. “Do whatever He tells you,”1 she said. Faith does not question the motives of God but delights in following His ways. As such it is always active in seeking our neighbours’ welfare. Our activities of faith are not orchestrated by the determination of our will but flow automatically from gratitude for God’s mercy. Even when opposed and frowned on by the world we commit our way to God who alone has the power to judge the motives of hearts. We draw strength and encouragement from fellow believers as together we travel through the valley of the shadow of death.

Even when we cannot fully discern or understand what God is accomplishing or the way He brings it to pass we nevertheless learn to patiently wait on His promises. There was once a pastor who had a little five year old daughter. The little girl noticed that every time her dad stood behind the pulpit while getting ready to preach he would bow his head for moment before he began. The little girl noticed that he did this every time. So one day after the service the little girl went to her dad and asked him, “Why do you bow your head right before you preach your sermon?” “Well Honey” the preacher answered, “I am asking the Lord to help me preach a good sermon.” The little girl looked up at her father and asked, “Then how come he doesn’t do it?”

Indeed, the Holy Spirit doesn’t disclose every mystery to every person at the same time. Recall what the apostle says today, “There are different kinds of gift but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.”2 Knowledge is a reward of faith but not a prerequisite for it.

Is there not a spiritual lesson that can be drawn from the handling of the wine? Our incompetence is contrasted with Christ’s skillfulness. It is characteristic of humans to take something pure and water it down. We can of our own efforts never attain any measure of spiritual purity. We cannot justify ourselves. We cannot purge the guilt from our souls. But the blood of Christ flows redder than wine. Christ takes that which is corrupted, stained, and fouled and makes it holy, spotless, and pure.

Yes, you, the sinner defiled by immorality, tarnished by selfishness, sullied and polluted by falsehood and greed, racked by regret; you the rebel driven by desire; the renegade not to be trusted; the scoundrel not worthy to be loved; yes, you- you are immaculate, pristine, unblemished; your soul purified by the blood of the Lamb. You are cherished with an uncompromising love, treasured with an immovable affection. You are the object of His sacrifice and passion. You are freed and forgiven- granted a new lease on life.

And how can we speak of the miracle of the wine without thinking of the wine of immortality that we receive straight from the Bridegroom’s table! Holy Communion is not an add-on or ad hoc ritual that serves as a sort of spiritual object lesson. It is a divinely ordained means of participating in the life of God. When you receive Christ’s body and blood you receive the power of His life. Of course the unbelieving heart receives it as a judgmental power. Could one invite more guilt on himself or herself than to despise the sacred body and blood? But the trusting heart receives this power as a means of salvation. Through it we have a preview of the celestial joy to come.

Dear friends, the word of God is unassuming. But it is powerful. It is immensely powerful, infinitely powerful- powerful beyond imagination. Not in the sense that we think of raw, physical strength or force but rather in its potency and persuasion. It sheds light into darkness, brings order out of chaos and turns hostility to peace. It answers Satan’s accusations and bars the gates to hell. The word is powerful because it is inhabited by the mind of Christ and wielded by the Holy Spirit. God’s word is finally the ultimate power because it is the antidote for death. It is a redemptive word because it is living.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ isn’t simply an amazing historical fact- the sensation of which has worn off over the centuries. It is a present reality that gives vitality and hope to all who sojourn in this fallen existence. The crucifixion is the power of forgiveness in our baptism and the resurrection is its life-giving power. The Bible says, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”3 And again, “In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”4

Jesus chose to be present at a wedding for His first miracle. The sign He performed was a modest epiphany. He chooses to remain united to His people now; present for them and promising a transformation to a heavenly wedding celebration that far exceeds all earthly ones. In His blessed name, Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Second Sunday After the Epiphany
20 January 2013
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 John 2:5
2 1 Corinthians 12:4-6
3 Romans 4:25
5 1 Peter 1:3