Friday, January 22, 2016

Neverending marriage feast. . .

Sermon for Epiphany 2C, preached by the Rev. Daniel Ulrich on Sunday, January 17, 2016.

    Everybody loves weddings.  They're great celebrations of love as a man and a woman are joined together in holy matrimony and they become husband and wife.  These two people have promised before their family, friends, and God to love, honor, and keep each other at all times, in good and in bad.  God unites these two people into one flesh, and what follows is to be a lifelong union of love, service, and commitment.  But before this couple goes off to start their new life together, there's the reception, that big party with food, beverages, and dancing. 
I.    Our Gospel today takes place at a wedding reception.  Jesus, His disciples, and His mother Mary, were all invited to a marriage feast.  These feasts were a big deal in the 1st century, bigger than wedding receptions today.  Marriage feasts were huge celebrations for the whole village and lasted 7 days.  They began as the bridegroom went to pick up his bride at her parent's house, and from there, the two processed to their new home, followed by a parade of family and friends.  Once the wedding party reached the new couple's home, the feasting began.  There was much joy as everyone blessed the couple and celebrated their new life together with music and dancing, food and drink. 
    This marriage feast at Cana must have been a lively celebration, because it ran out of wine.  The guests indulged their unquenching thirst and they drank this couple dry.  Running out of wine at a marriage feast would have been a huge embarrassment, much like it would be today.  If a couple today ran out of beverage at their wedding reception, everyone would remember it.  Whenever anyone thought of this couple they would remember the lack of drink at their wedding. 
    Mary brought this need to Jesus, but He responded by saying, "Woman, what does this have to do with me?  My hour has not yet come" (Jn 2:4).  Jesus' response to His mother wasn't harsh or disrespectful; it was simply a statement of His purpose.  He wasn't there to perform tricks, to provide beverage for this one celebration.  He was there for so much more, to provide so much more.  He was there to manifest His glory, to show that He provided for the never ending marriage feast.  And Jesus did this by turning water into wine.
Christ told the servants of the feast to fill the six large stone jars that were there with water, and to take some to the master of the feast.  When they did this, the water was no longer water, but wine, good wine.  When the master of the feast tasted this good wine, he called for the bridegroom and said, "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" (Jn 2:10).  The master of the feast was confused.  Why would the bridegroom waste the good stuff on those who obviously had indulged themselves enough already to the point that they wouldn't notice this wine's superior quality?  Why waste the good stuff? 
John finishes the retelling of this miracle at this point.  We don't know anymore about this marriage feast.  We don't know who the bride and groom were.  We don't know how the bridegroom responded to the master of the feast.  All we know is that at some point, this marriage feast ended and that upon seeing this miracle, Jesus' disciples believed in Him.
We're told that this miracle was the first of [Jesus'] signs, and that it manifested his glory (Jn 2:11).  This miracle was the first of Christ's in chronological order; He had never displayed His glory like this before.  But this sign was more than just the first in a long line of miracles, it was the exemplar, the archetype.  By turning water into wine at this marriage feast, Jesus shows us a sign of what His purpose is.  He has come to provide for the Marriage Feast of the Lamb that has no end. 
II.    This marriage feast celebrates the wedding between God and His people, between God and you.  This Feast has begun like the marriage feast at Cana, with the Bridegroom coming to claim His bride.  Jesus Christ, the true Bridegroom, has come to you, to claim you has His bride, not because of your beauty, but because of His unconditional love for you. 
    We are by far the most unattractive bride.  We don't have jewels hung around our head.  We don't have a pure white gown.  We don't have any sort of dowry or anything to offer our Bridegroom.  Instead, we're completely mired, covered with our thoroughly shameful and disgusting sin.  There's absolutely nothing about us that brings our Bridegroom to us.
    He comes completely on His own.  His unconditional love compels Him to come for you, to make you clean and pure for the wedding.  Paul writes, "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (Eph 5:25-27).  Christ has done it all.  He has prepared you to be His wife.  He has washed you clean with the blood that He shed on the cross.  He has sanctified and made you holy with the washing of Baptism, and He has given you the pure white gown of His righteousness, to wear forever. 
    This marriage feast between you and the true Bridegroom is like no other.  The joy and celebration over this union is never ending.  It is celebrated everywhere, with angels and other Christians, singing in heaven and all over the earth.  The happiness of the bride at Cana can't compare to the happiness and joy that we have with our Bridegroom.  We know that He'll never leave us.  We know that He'll always be faithful.  We know that He'll always provide for us, for our everlasting life and for the marriage feast that'll never end.
    Every Sunday, our Bridegroom gives us a foretaste of this feast.  Every Sunday, He comes to us, providing us with food and drink like no other. At the wedding feast at Cana, He provided good wine out of water.  In the Divine Service, at the Lord's Supper, He provides us with excellent wine, His blood.  This drink has been shed for us on the cross and given to us to constantly cleanse us from our sin, to constantly make us ready and prepared, to constantly forgive our sins, so that we would be holy and sanctified for Him.
    The celebration of the union between Christ and you is a celebration that will never end.  Our wedding receptions end after a few hours.  The marriage feast at Cana ended after 7 days.  The Marriage Feast of the Lamb never ends.  It's a celebration that will continue forever.  It goes on every day that you are here on earth, in good and in bad, as you live united with Jesus, in His love, His righteousness, in His forgiveness, and in His salvation.  This celebration will continue when your Bridegroom calls you home to heaven, where you'll see Him face to face.  There you'll taste the fullness of the Marriage Feast.  There you'll live with your Bridegroom only in good.  There you'll never experience the sin and death that mires this life on earth. 
    The turning of water into wine at the wedding of Cana was Jesus' first sign.  It was the first time He manifested His glory, but it was more than that.  It is when He showed why He came.  In this epiphany-miracle, Jesus revealed Himself to be the Bridegroom of God's people, providing for His wife, the Church, all that she needs for life.  Jesus Christ provides what you need for everlasting life with Him.  He purified you with the water of baptism.  He cleanses you has you drink the wine of the Lord's Supper, His shed blood on the cross for the forgiveness of sins.  Jesus Christ, the true Bridegroom, has come to claim you, His bride, and He brings you into the Marriage Feast of the Lamb, that has no end.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

No comments: