Wednesday, January 17, 2007

2nd Sunday after Epiphany

It's been awhile since I've gone ablogging, so here is my new post. It is taken from my last sermon.

Grace, peace, and mercy from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Wine is a gift of God. I realize that wine can also be a curse, because any gift of God can be abused and turned into a curse rather than a blessing. When it is abused the effects are apparent and disgusting. Butwine is a gift of God. The Christian religion is not a tee-totaling religion. That is the Muslim religion. The Christian religion recognizes
that God gives man wine to cheer his heart. One of the Messianic signs
alluded to in our Old Testament lesson is that, “The mountains shall
drip with sweet wine.” When the Messiah delivers His people, they shall,
“Plant vineyards and drink its wine.” Wine is portrayed as a positive
good here and a sign of the Messianic kingdom.

Wine is especially appropriate at weddings. Weddings are occasions of
joy and happiness. Who would not want to accompany the joining of man
and woman in a lifelong union and not have this heart gladdening
beverage available? It would certainly not be those who invited our Lord
to their blessed wedding feast, It was certainly not Mary, the mother of
our Lord, who, when the wine gives out, goes to our Lord and pleads for
the couple. It was certainly not our Lord, who, when the wine gives out,
blesses that couple with His first miracle. In fact, He supplies more
wine, and not just a little. He changes six stone waterpots filled to
the brim, about 20 or 30 gallons each, to the best wine at the wedding.
After the wine gave out, He supplied about 480 bottles of wine,
estimating the amount conservatively.

It was the groom who was required to bring the wine. It was his duty as
host to see to the enjoyment of the guests. He was in charge of its
dispersal. He had control over when the wine was served and how much was
served. Unfortunately, this groom had planned poorly for his wedding
feast. The wine gave out.

It was an embarrassment for the couple to run out of wine. They had
failed to sufficiently cheer the hearts of their guests. It was also a
sign of their own human frailty, an example of the way we fail to serve
our fellow man. Human nature in its frailty often fails to do our duty
to God and man, not just in being hospitable, but in loving our neighbor
as we love ourselves, and, more importantly, loving God above all
things. We have failed to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and
strength. We have failed to love our neighbor as ourselves. Born with
this sinful human nature, we have discovered that we do not have the
resources necessary to do what God requires of us. We are guilty.

But where all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, God
Himself sends a Redeemer. He sends His own Son to rescue us and deliver
us from the consequences of our sinful nature. He spares His own Son not
at all but freely gives Him up for the life of the world. Christ Himself
willingly goes to the cross and opens up His own veins so that the
mountains may drip with sweet wine, so that you can drink and have your
fill. There you find forgiveness for your sin. There Christ does what
you cannot do and saves you from your death, hell, the devil, and
eternal shame.

Weddings are a joyous occasion and should not be marked by shortages.
This is because the union of husband and wife in heart and body
represents something greater than the sum total of the bride and groom.
In the union of man and woman a mystery is revealed, the two shall
become one. The estate of marriage is meant to be a reflection of
relationship between Christ and His Church.

Paul teaches this in our epistle lesson. He says, “Wives, submit to your
own husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as
Christ is the head of the Church, his body, of which He is the Savior.”
He says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loves the Church and
gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing
with water through the word… In this same way husbands ought to love
their wives as their own bodies.” This unique relationship that Christ
calls man and woman to reflects the will of God not only for two
individuals but for mankind in general. God calls you into relationship
with Himself. As a husband lays down his life for his bride, or at least
he should, so Christ laid down His life, to make you His own. In the
waters of baptism He washed you and cleansed you so that you stand
before Him now without spot or wrinkle or any blemish, but holy and

When we see the groom standing at the altar, loving and cherishing the
woman coming down the isle to be His bride, we are reminded of the love
that Christ has for the Church. It is that love which Christ has for
you. He wants you to be His own and has spared no expense but gave
everything so that you would be His. When you sin and go astray, like
Hosea’s wife, He lovingly calls you back to mercy and grace. He forgets
your sins and welcomes you home.

Christ, your heavenly bridegroom, then, prepares a feast. This is no
meager meal. It’s not an MRE. He doesn’t provide the meager bread and
water of a prisoner. It is not the soup kitchen that philanthropist
provide for the poor and homeless. No. It is a marvelous feast provided
out of his limitless abundance. At that great feast, His wine does not
give out. There are no shortages, no lack of planning. He knows exactly
what you need and He provides it for you in spades. He doesn’t give just
a little, just enough to satisfy the palate. He gives out of His own
liberality and the abundance of His goodness. The mountains drip with
sweet wine in the kingdom of our Lord.

Perhaps we fail to recognize the goodness of God because we ourselves
are so sparing and limited in our capacity to bless and forgive others.
We are like the bridegroom at the wedding of Cana who measures out what
we think is just enough to satisfy but never waste. We are afraid to
waste things like mercy and forgiveness on those we think might not
appreciate them. Peter comes to Jesus and asks, “Lord, how often shall
my brother sin against me and I forgive him, up to seven times?” You
know our Lord’s answer, “I tell you Peter not up to seven times, but
seven times seventy.” He doesn’t mean 490 and then you’re done. He means
keep forgiving. Repent! Quit being so stingy. Forgive truly as you have
been forgiven in Christ. Be sons of your father in heaven whose mercy,
grace and forgiveness has no limits.

Christ’s forgiveness has no limits. He is ready to forgive more than you
need. He will gladly waste His forgiveness on you. He lavishes His love
on you. He doesn’t spare any expense, but has paid for everything on the
cross and it is more than enough. Christ went overboard by giving His
precious blood for you. There is no giving out when it comes to God’s
forgiveness in Christ, because the precious blood of Jesus outweighs by
far all the sins of the whole world. God will be generous to you in
forgiveness and mercy and life. If Christ is so gracious and liberal
with earthly things like wine, why would we believe that He is stingy
with things like mercy, forgiveness, and eternal life?

So Christ, the heavenly bridegroom, has prepared a feast. And today we
come and enjoy a foretaste of that feast to come. Here in this cup the
mountains drip with sweet wine, the best wine. This is the best wine
because it is accompanied by His very blood. It is shed with love and
liberality on Calvary’s hill. We see it gushing out from His pierced
side. Our Lord’s wounded side is a fountain of grace and peace. It is
delivered to you here in this cup. It is a cup that never runs dry. His
forgiveness is always there. The steadfast love of the Lord never
ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning.
They are new to you this morning. Come and drink from the finest of
wine, squeezed from the grapes of wrath on Calvary and delivered to you
in this cup. There is no wine like it.

After the miracle of Cana, Christ’s disciples believed on Him. There He
revealed His glory. This is the second Sunday after the Epiphany. This
miracle was an epiphany to our Lord’s disciples. They saw and believed.
After seeing this sign they believed. Today Christ gives you His signs.
He brings you to the waters of baptism where He washes clean from every
spot or wrinkle. As one popular comedian puts it, “There’s your sign.”
He pronounces forgiveness through the pastor. There’s your sign. He
makes known His grace and mercy through the bread and wine of Holy
communion. There’s your sign. This is what He shows you so that you may
know His will toward you, and not doubt that He is there to forgive,
renew, and strengthen you to life eternal.

And this great miracle occurs on the joyous occasion of a wedding. He
produces His first miracle there, so that you may see how much God
approves of this estate of marriage and so that you may have a picture
of the love and longing that Christ has for you. It’s a little embarrassing
isn’t it, to think that Christ loves you so much, but He does. He is your
heavenly bridegroom who has spared no expense to make you His own and to
rejoice exceedingly over you. He celebrates His love for you with
liberality and abundance. And this He will do for eternity as you are
ushered into that ultimate wedding feast and there is joy and happiness
forever. Amen.