20 January 2020

Homily for Epiphany 2 (2020)

"Restoring Joy and Gladness"
John 2:1-11

Another Sunday after Epiphany, another piece of our new liturgical art to behold. Take a look, either on the wall—the first one on the lectern side—or on your bulletin. Six stone water jars sit on the ground. A servant kneels, holding another water jar. As the servant pours from his jar into one of the six, you can see ordinary, clear water turning into joyous red wine. Liturgical art may not paint the whole picture with every detail of the story, but it does evoke the story and its meaning for us to ponder.

Today we hear Jesus bringing joy back to the wedding at Cana. When they ran out of wine, the bride and groom almost committed social suicide. After all, once the wine runs out, the party’s over. The bride and groom would be the laughingstock of the town for years to come. Not even the joy of being happily married could save them from the ongoing disgrace.

Jesus’ Mother takes the first step to help this young couple in need. She approaches her Son and tells Him the need. While she doesn’t really ask anything, she does intercede to her Savior Son on behalf of the couple in dire straits. “They have no wine,” she simply states. Nothing in the story suggests Mary doubted or had little faith. Quite the opposite! She certainly trusted her Son and asked Him, the only true Savior, to rescue the couple and restore their gladness and joy.

Then Jesus gives what sounds like a brusque response. In most of our English translations, it sounds like a rebuke. How many sons who honor their mothers can actually get away with calling their mothers, “Woman”? But let’s not impose our cultural sensitivities on Jesus and this story. When Jesus answers His Mother’s request, He literally says, “What is it to Me and to you?” Jesus is still showing the greatest respect to His Mother; He’s including her with Him when He talks about His “hour.” What is His “hour”? It’s His time of dying and rising to bring the greatest joy and gladness to the whole world. And the term, “Woman”? It’s actually a term of great respect in Jesus’ day. When Jesus responds to His Mother, He’s saying, “What is it to me and to you, Mother, that they have no wine?” We could loosely translate: “Eh, no big deal, Mom!” Their lack of wine will not deter Jesus from bringing true joy and gladness.

Jesus does not reject His Mother’s request. No, He’s about to grant it so that He can reveal Himself. His “hour” of suffering, dying and rising for the world has not yet come, but He will use this wedding crisis to give a foretaste of what His “hour” will do in greater measure. His “hour” will bring great gladness and joy, just as weddings and wine do. And notice how Mary tells the servants to do what the Lord says. It sounds like the Church, doesn’t it: telling the servants—all followers of Jesus—to pay attention to and “do whatever He tells you.” You see, Jesus brings great gladness and joy in what He says and does. Weddings and wine are but a foretaste.

Jesus tells the banquet servants to fill the six stone jars to the brim with water. After they filled the pots with water, somehow the water turned into wine. And not just any wine; the best wine! The head caterer—who did not know where the wine came from—told the bridegroom: “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.” No cheap wine for Jesus! He gives only the best. And notice how He used an element of His own creation—ordinary water—to deliver this best wine and all the gladness it would bring. And how about that amount? Anywhere from 120 to 180 gallons of heavenly wine and its earthly gladness! Jesus is not stingy with His gifts; He’s not cheap with His gladness and joy.

Now for those Jews who paid attention in synagogue school, they would have realized what just happened. In Jeremiah 31 God had promised to save His people from exile in a foreign land. The day would come when they would leave their exile and return to their homeland. And they would rejoice greatly. As Jeremiah proclaimed: “They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord, over the grain, the wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; their life shall be like a watered garden, and they shall languish no more.” (31:12). The prophet Amos said something similar. When God rescues His people, Amos said, “the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it.” God’s rescued people would return to their cities, they would “plant vineyards and drink their wine” (Amos 9:13-14). The abundance of wine would send a message: God had rescued His people.

So, when Jesus blesses the wedding at Cana with an abundance of wine, He is manifesting His glory. He is announcing that He has come to rescue us, His people, from our exile in sin and death.

It’s no coincidence that wine shows up only twice in John’s Gospel—here at Cana and then at the end of the Gospel, at the cross. Here Jesus gives the sweet wine of joy and gladness, but on the cross He consumes the bitter wine of our sin, suffering and death. Same thing with Jesus’ Mother, Mary. She shows up here at the wedding, and then at the end of the story at the foot of the cross. Here she gladly intercedes for the couple in distress and instructs the servants to follow her Son’s bidding. At the cross, her tears flow and her own heart is pierced with grief. Yet there Mother Mary receives the tender care of her crucified Son as He gives her into the care and keeping of the Apostle John.

What’s the point of all this, as we continue celebrating Epiphany? When God reveals Himself in His incarnate Son, we see the source of true joy and gladness—our Lord Jesus Christ. Weddings may give joy, but Jesus gives even greater joy in rescuing you from sin and death. Wine may gladden the heart for a time, but the wine that Jesus gives—His blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sins—provides eternal gladness.

Everyone loves the joy and festivities of a good wedding. So let this story of Jesus at the wedding at Cana give you the joy and festivity of enjoying life with God and with one another, now and forever. As Isaiah said, “As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you” (62:5). The Lord of weddings has made you His bride. In fact, every time we gather here in this place, we enjoy the eternal nuptials that come only from Christ crucified and risen. You see, King Jesus loves you, His Church, and has given Himself for you. He sanctifies and cleanses you with the washing of water by the word, so that He might have a glorious Church, without spot or wrinkle or blemish. That’s your true joy and gladness.

Wine at the dinner table gladdens the heart. How about the wine that Jesus gives at His Supper table? With the eternal wine and the eternal gladness of His holy Meal,  His very Body and Blood actually present here, Jesus nourishes you and cherishes you from now into eternity. A foretaste of the feast now; the full feast to come when Jesus returns. Now you may also ponder another piece of our liturgical art—the one closest to the altar on the lectern side. Now you may anticipate the Wedding Banquet of the Lamb and His Bride, the Church. Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment