Monday, January 18, 2016

Second Sunday After Epiphany (C) 2016

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

Text: John 2:11
Theme: The Life of the Party

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

In God’s presence life is sustained. In His absence death is inevitable. It is truly a miracle that life -any life- exists at all. After millennia of accumulated human knowledge we have no power to commence life from inert material. We can analyze processes and enhance their function but we cannot create life. That takes a miracle. That ability separates us categorically from God. It’s fascinating to think that in heaven the whole concept of miracles will cease to exist. God’s life-sustaining magnificence will be on display at all times. Something to look forward to!

With an eye towards the future life God still calls us to attend to the present. Today we find people enjoying life at a wedding celebration- some perhaps a little more than they should. We hear a number of times of Jesus being invited to social functions. This wedding celebration is exceptional because Jesus uses the occasion to broach the topic of His divinity. When the wine ran out He supplied more. And it was better.

Jesus never proffered dull signs of His deity but this was about as low key as it comes. It wasn’t a dramatic miracle. The stormy sea was not calmed. The blind were not sighted. The dead were not raised. But subtlety does not equal trivialness. The laws of nature were radically circumvented. Divine intervention was undeniable. This Messianic vintner extended the banquet celebration. It was enough to awaken faith in His disciples. Still, no one understood yet that Jesus wasn’t merely the life of the party. They were in the presence of the Bridegroom who sits at the head of the table at the heavenly feast. Their guest was Himself, the personification of hospitality. Veiled in human attire they didn’t recognize it yet.

Today’s wedding of Cana account contains a tense moment between Jesus and His mother. We see that she oversteps the mark in the assumption she made about Jesus’ response to the lack of wine. As such, Mary shows congruence with fallen humanity. Sinful humans always think they know better than God even if they don’t intend to initially. Remember, we’re called to repent not just for careless actions. We’re called to repudiate the entire orientation of our sinful nature. Consider how the Lutheran Confessions say it, “It is an established truth that Christians must regard and recognize as sin not only the actual transgression of God’s commandments but also, and primarily, the abominable and dreadful inherited disease which has corrupted our entire nature. In fact, we must consider this as the chief sin, the root and fountain of all actual sin.”1 There is no way for us to circumvent this reality.

When the promises of God are despised we are made vulnerable to His judgment. God promises that the Holy Spirit works through the word and sacraments. He offers no other means. Satan too, can mimic the Spirit’s approach. The Scripture says, “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.”2 Satan never presents his opinions as lies. (Who, except those who have already aligned themselves with evil would deliberately follow lies?) Satan must mimic the truth. He even uses Scripture to set the bait. But he cannot outwit the Lord and we should have confidence in this fact. The Scripture says, “Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus be cursed,’ and no can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.”3

The presence of the Holy Spirit in your life may not seem dramatic from human perspective. Perhaps, like your daily routine, you consider your spiritual life to be rather pedestrian. Maybe you’ve never felt prompted by the Spirit. Maybe you struggle to offer up your prayers or often feel uninspired to listen to His word. Never think this means His work lacks validity. The authentic presence of God need not be melodramatic or showy. He often works methodically to build the spiritual structure, which is your faith. A skyscraper is built one section at a time. It doesn’t come premade from IKEA. A Blue Whale is sustained by millions of tiny krill. It does swallow a single, large portion of food. Faith is built up in this way too. Through constant exposure to the word, through the continual attention of the Holy Spirit, through the regular support of other Christians faith is sustained and strengthened.

You are baptized for a purpose. You are equipped for a mission. It may not be a mission in some exotic place. It may not seem thrilling or praise-worthy. It may not gain you notoriety or fame. But it is consecrated work because it is sanctified by a holy God. Much of your waking day is lived at the threshold; the conflict zone where the influences of evil are engaged in struggle with God’s truth and light. This happens in the real lives of real people. Hearts, and minds, and wills are stretched to the limit. Adultery competes with fidelity; lust with loyalty. Deceit strives against honesty; lies against truth. Selfishness rivals with contentedness; greed with temperance. Power-grabbing contests with submission; control with sacrifice. Lawlessness contends with obedience; anarchy with stability.

These struggles aren’t caused by differences in perspective; they are ignited and rage because of sin. Christians acknowledge these facts for what they are and act accordingly. You might be the only voice of reason, the only presence of purity, the only source of strength, the only foundation of hope for someone. Of course it’s not you; you’re a vessel of the living God. You are called to be His mouthpiece. The more the church falls silent the more other voices will crowd out the truth. God demands that we don’t mix the sacred with the profane. That is, we don’t mingle falsehood with His truth. We don’t try to smuggle in human opinion under the guise of divine decree. We don’t invest our hope in created things but in God’s promises.

The Bible is full of encouragement to persevere in the midst of struggle. Paul said he could not help but preach the gospel. Isaiah says today, “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shine out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch.”4 His word will not return empty and we cling to that promise even when the evidence seems otherwise.

For most people in ancient times daily life was a struggle. There was very little leisure time. That’s why weekly observance of the Sabbath and participation in things like wedding celebrations were so important. Respite from the hardships of life was essential. Today people enjoyed it in the presence of Jesus as a dinner guest. Believers find their eternal rest in Him. The greatest threats cannot harm us. Jesus Christ was hung from a cross so that you wouldn’t be hung out to dry at the judgment. He rose from the dead and that means our decayed corpses won’t be left lying in the grave. Manifest sinners that we are, believers are, nevertheless, declared righteous and holy because of His blood shed for us. The wine from His table is better than that supplied at Cana. It carries forgiveness that opens the door to eternal life.

Jesus may not have been the first viticulturist (Noah is the first one mentioned in the Bible5, though Adam was undoubtedly the first.) but He will certainly be the last. His heavenly banquet awaits all the faithful. There will be no need for miracles. The final vintage is a ceaseless supply of His lavish provision.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Second Sunday After Epiphany
17 January, 2016
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Formula of Concord
2 2 Corinthians 11:14
3 1 Corinthians 12:3
4 Isaiah 62:1
5 Genesis 9:20