2nd Sunday after the Epiphany
Grace, Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and His only Son, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.
Most everybody here has been to at least one wedding. Some of us have been to more than one in our lifetimes. Do you remember the wedding ceremonies? I remember parts of the weddings, like, how the pastor droned on and on about love or fidelity or whatnot. Maybe you remember the wedding dress, the decorations, or the fact that the bride will now be known by a new name that belongs to the groom… but mostly we remember the wedding receptions.
The Apostle John didn’t tell us about the wedding at Cana, but he did tell us about the reception. He does not tell about what the bride was wearing or what the priest said at the ceremony. Maybe it is just because he was a man and didn’t pay attention to those parts of the wedding.
I remember the receptions I attended pretty well, or at least the dramatic parts of them. One reception I attended the brother of the bride, a Marine, got drunk and wanted to fight the groom. At another, a member of the groom’s family told stories that were not fit for mixed company. At another, the reception was at a hotel which the best man’s father owned and when the champagne ran out, he decided to procure some more from the hotel’s larder.
The son of the owner had no sooner set his hands on the first bottle when they were surrounded by security. The groom and his friend were asked why they were pilfering the champagne. The son of the owner said, “Do you know who I am? My father owns this hotel. We were getting more champagne for the reception.”
The head security guard knew who he was and said, “That’s fine. Why don’t we call your father and ask him if he wants more champagne.”
Unlike Jesus at the wedding of Cana, this son did not have the authority of his father. By his word alone, he could not provide additional wine for the wedding feast. This son of man did not have absolute power in his father’s world…
It is hard to imagine and nobody really wants to hear one is powerless over their own existence. No one wants to be told they cannot do anything they wish. We sometimes think that who we are entitles us to do what we want. After all, who is to tell us what we can and can’t do?
Satan used this same temptation to cause the downfall of our being. We, who were once righteous and glorified by God, have embraced sin to the point of our own destruction. When we committed that first sin, we gave up our participation in the holiness of God.
The moment we gave in to sin, we died to God. That same sin has been eating away at our dead flesh all of our existence. The worst part of this reality is the illusion we create that we can actually save ourselves, the fantasy that we can become alive again through our actions.
In truth, we do not have this power. Like the man at wedding reception, we cannot take what we want. We do not have the authority. Only the Father has the authority to give. Only the Father has the power create life or to raise the dead.
We are so deceived that we cannot even see the only true salvation to our condition. Thankfully, we do have a Father in heaven who knows his children and what is needed to bring us back into His glory.
God the Father has always known it would require the sacrifice of one who is purely innocent to fulfill the Law. He knew no human being could ever free another from their sin, let alone free himself from sin. This is why Jesus Christ, truly God, became a man to live a blameless life in complete satisfaction of the Law.
Being both God and man, Jesus Christ not only lived his life without sin, but he also took the sin of every member of his Father’s creation as his own. Being without sin, he took our sin to the cross. There he died with the weight of the world upon his shoulders. He bore that weight of sin into the grave.
On the third day, he redeemed our dead flesh by raising his own body from the tomb. By doing this, he redeemed all the people from their sin and gave them new life. This life he gives is holy once again. The sin we could never expunge from our lives is now washed clean in the blood of our Savior.
In our culture a wedding will have a reception. In this reception people attend a feast. There is dancing and picture taking. There are speeches and cake cutting. When the reception is over most people have only memories and sometimes some photographs to remember the event. The bride and groom, however, have more to help them remember the wedding day – gifts.
Yes, almost every guest at the wedding brings a gift for the new couple. These gifts are piled high on a table for everyone to see. The gifts are wrapped so that it may be a surprise to the bride and groom. Usually the couple sends out a list before the wedding with requests for certain gifts. So we have this picture of gifts hoped for and gifts expected. There is also the anticipation of a gift unexpected. It may be a gift that the new couple needs but for which they did not think to ask.
Jesus Christ gave the wedding couple and the guests of the feast in Cana an unexpected gift. By the authority of his Father, Jesus turned water into wine thus showing his power over creation. We too have received a gift from Jesus that was hoped for but one we did not deserve; salvation from sin and death.
This salvation is a great gift. By the mercy and grace of God Almighty, we have been given what we needed most, forgiveness. Moreover, through this gift of forgiveness we are given life eternal in the kingdom of God.
Through His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, we now become like Christ. We now become sons and daughters of God with whom He is pleased, but this is not the only gift He has given us. Through Christ, we have been purified. We have been made holy. We have been sanctified to live as His loving children.
Like Adam receiving the breath of God into his nostrils, God has breathed His spirit into us. The gift Christ gave us through his death and resurrection is the same power and authority his Father has given to us… forgiveness of sins.
St. Paul speaks to us of other gifts given to God’s people in his letter to the church in Corinth.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord;and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. [1 Cor. 12:4-8]
He continues to describe the many gifts of the Spirit, such as wisdom, knowledge, healing and interpretation of tongues.
These are all fine gifts indeed and just as the gift of wine Jesus provided at the wedding in Cana, we are continually blessed by these gifts when we remember by whose power and authority they come. Some of you may have one or more of these gifts by the Holy Spirit, yet there is one very important gift given to all believers – and that is to confess, “Jesus is Lord”.
By confessing Jesus Christ as Lord, the Holy Spirit gives everyone the power and authority to forgive sins. This is the same forgiveness given to us by Christ through his body and blood in atonement for our sins. God so loved His creation that he forgave us our sin through the sacrifice of His only Son. Christ now lives in us and therefore, when we forgive the sins of others, they are truly forgiven by God himself.
In the gospel of John, the master of the banquet at the wedding in Cana, after tasting the wine Christ had created from water said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” [John 2:10] This was the first miraculous sign Jesus performed, revealing his glory.
It was at this point that the disciples put their faith in him. Our faith began in our baptism when the Holy Spirit was given to us in the water and the Word. Your baptism was the first miraculous sign Jesus performed in your life, for through your baptism, you were given life everlasting as heirs to the kingdom of God.
We now walk in the newness of life. We now walk in the forgiveness of sin. Our lives were changed the moment the baptismal water touched our foreheads. Our hearts became the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit and the Faith of Christ became our faith.
This is truly a wonderful gift. The Holy Spirit now works through us in wisdom, knowledge, and healing. The power of God works through us as we forgive the sins of our brother, our sister and our neighbor. This in itself is truly miraculous, but the best is yet to come.
On the Last day, we shall see Jesus as he is because we are children of God. Yes, the best is yet to come. Until that day, the love of God gives us the power to love each other. The Holy Spirit gives us the authority to forgive sin, and the faith of Jesus Christ, gives us salvation.
Jesus Christ is the groom and the church is his bride. The bread and wine of which we partake at this altar has been provided for us by the groom. It is another of his miraculous works revealing his glory. This is truly the best wine of any wedding feast we will ever attend.
The Father of the groom has given you this promise:
You shall no longer be named Forsaken,
For the Lord delights in you.
And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
So shall your God rejoice over you. [Isaiah 62:4,5]
You may not remember the day of your baptism, but you will remember the reception. You will remember forever the salvation given to you through the water and the word. You will remember the forgiveness of sins through the best wine made by the hand of Jesus Christ. His body and blood sanctifies you to enjoy the marriage feast of the Lamb for eternity.