THE 2ND SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY AD 2016
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT REINHARDT
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.
After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days.
January 20th. Christmas is almost a month behind us, which means the bills are all coming due. And being well into the first month of the year it’s the time for budgets and financial planning. Our “quick" Board meeting at Trinity on Wednesday night turned into a lengthy session on how we could trim the budget and encourage people to respond more faithfully and generously to the Church’s needs. Although a necessary part of the Board’s God given work, such meetings are never the most uplifting. They focus on need and consider lack, as they wrestle with how to do something that makes most of us uncomfortable - asking others to give.
Throughout the meeting as the Pastor, I tried with God’s help to continue to fulfill my calling, which is to direct people beyond the need and the lack to the One who opens up His hands and satisfies the desires of every living thing. In the face of the reality, that a handful of people largely support the work of the Gospel with their gifts in most churches, and the fear that goes along with that, that the loss of any one of those could bring real hardship to the congregation, I spoke up about the main and greatest Giver, who has promised never to leave or forsake us.
What a blessing that we get to see that Giver in action today. Need and lack. Yes, there was plenty of need and lack going on in Cana. Some suggest that some of that need was due to Jesus and His disciples showing up at the wedding, kind of like it is today in the Church. If you’re going to have Jesus present, then you have to provide for a Pastor and you’re going to need to buy bread and wine. Yes, the wedding and Church might be a lot cheaper without Jesus, but it would kind of miss the point then, wouldn’t it? There is no Church without Christ, and so there is no church without His word proclaiming ministry and His real presence.
Need and lack, yes there was plenty of that going on in Cana, need beyond imagining for many of us - even for those of us who have to wrestle with things like Church budgets with rising costs and less income. The seniors amongst us, who still have some sense of good old country hospitality, would get the idea of just how awful it would be not to have enough for your guests. But even that compares little to what was going on in Cana. You see, at that time hospitality was serious business - the groom could have been sued for not providing well enough for his guests. He had a duty to look after them - a social and legal one.
Life wasn’t starting out well for this young couple. Not only embarrassment, but real shame was on the line, which I know in our day and age counts for little, in a society that has lost all sense of it, but it was a very serious concern at the time. The shame of the need and their lack would follow them throughout life to the grave and beyond. It probably would have stained their children and children’s children as well. Not even a life time of making up for it would have removed it. Every generous act would have been tainted with it. “What a surprise,” people would say, “that those cheapskates can do something so generous. Can you believe that? Hard to believe that they could be so gracious, when you remember that miserable excuse of a wedding feast.”
And yes, if you can’t get your mind around that, perhaps, the thought of a nasty lawsuit being filed against you on the day after your marriage, can get you into the hearts and minds of that young couple. No, things were not starting out well. When you grasp the depths of the need and lack that was in Cana, you might be able to start to understand why Jesus would choose this as the first sign, that He would do to manifest His glory and why John underlines it by recording it in His Gospel right after the calling of the Apostles. Make no mistake about it Jesus is not starting out small here, what He does in Cana is a big deal. Not as dramatic perhaps as raising Lazarus from the dead, but a big deal nonetheless, with a whole lot to say about who He is and what He has come to do.
The first thing to note, is that He changes one created thing into another, with nothing but His word of command. There’s only One who can do that. Sure if we take yeast and add it to grape juice and give it some time, it will turn into wine, but to change one substance into another with nothing added but your Word? No, there’s only One who can do that, and that’s the One who creates out of nothing - the Maker of heaven and earth. So, we have a man and a woman, at the start of their new life together, that isn’t beginning well, and you’ve got God coming to them. It should make you think of something, beloved. Some other time, when you had a young couple, whose lives were starting out in need and lack and great shame. Add to that a woman in the story, who had a special Seed born of her, and you have to try pretty hard not to have the Garden of Eden pop into your head.
You see, with His first sign, Jesus is showing us that He has come to deal with the whole mess that we’ve gotten ourselves into - from its first roots all the way to its bitter fruits. It begins in Cana with this Adam and Eve like couple and carries on through healings and casting out of demons to the resurrection of Lazarus and finally to His own empty tomb. That we’re heading there, from here, is hinted at by the fact that Jesus performs this miracle at Cana on the third day. The third day should always make you sit up and pay attention as a Christian, it highlights all that follows in bright yellow. Here is something it says that is connected to what the women found when they went to the tomb on the morning of the third day.
When you unpack the depths of this simple miracle in Cana, its full meaning can begin to dawn on your heart and mind. When you see what need and lack Jesus is really answering here, which goes way beyond a lack of wine, then His gift of an abundance of the best of wine has so much to say to us about His answering of those deeper needs, that each and every sinner has … that each of us has. When it comes to our own spiritual needs its hard not to think that we’re just kind of getting by with Jesus’ help. Our never ending struggle with our own brokenness, which sees us falling and failing over and over again, whether by doing what we know that we should not do or by failing to do what we know that we should do, can blind us to the fullness of what Christ has given us and made us to be.
Poor and miserable in our sin? Yes, that is what we confess and we are right to do so, that we might receive the free forgiveness of God, that He wants to pour out on us in Christ. But we must not lose sight, beloved, of what Christ has made us to be through our baptism into Him, where with His almighty Word He has truly changed us from one thing into another. And not just a ho-hum other, no, the greatest and best other. No, beloved, we must not short change ourselves in Christ. In ourselves, yes, we must recognize our need and lack, but in Christ we must confess the fullness of the beauty, the holiness, the purity, the goodness, the perfection that we have through our Baptism into Him.
That you might not doubt but believe this truth, and so learn to boldly confess it, the Lord Jesus performs an even greater miracle than Cana’s before your eyes this morning, by adding His Word to ordinary bread and wine to make it His body and blood. If after that Word is spoken we must say, that this is His body and this is His blood, how much more must we say of the sinner that receives it, that this is a holy child of God? Like the bread and the wine, the sinner remains, but there can be no question that Christ has been added to that sinner, as surely as Christ’s Body has been added to the bread and His Blood to the wine. And just as ordinary bread and wine become holy and precious after Jesus adds Himself to them, how can we not say the same thing about ourselves and others to whom He has also added Himself?
Need and lack. Yes, we have plenty of that going on in ourselves, but oh how wondrously, God has answered that need and lack for us in Jesus, beloved. More wondrously than we can ever imagine, and yet one day, when we are guests at the eternal wedding feast of the Lamb, we will know and see just how holy, perfect and complete Christ has made us to be in Him. Until then, He asks us to look to the wedding feast in Cana and the gifts that He gives us in His Bridegroom’s banquet here this morning, and trust that not only can He, but He truly already has, begun transforming us from what we were, to what we will be. And believing all of that, how can we not but trust that Christ is more than ready and able to provide for all our earthly needs as well, whether it has to do with Christmas bills or Church budgets?
Need and lack. Having Jesus at the feast brought need, but with Him present there was no lack. Having Jesus in the Church also brings need, but again, with Him present there will never be any lack. Having Jesus in your life also brings need because He asks you to give, but again there will never be any lack with Him around. Going without Jesus in the Church or in your life? No, not a good idea, because all you have then is a whole lot of lack. Which is why the Lord is present here for you today to meet all your needs, beloved, that you might know no lack now and forever. Amen.