All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name. It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to Your name, O most high. Psalm 66
Oremus. Almighty and everlasting God, who governs all things in heaven and on earth, mercifully hear the prayers of Your people and grant us Your peace through all our days; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
The second Sunday after the Epiphany continues the theme of our Lord’s manifestation as God in the flesh. This is clear above all from the assigned Hymn of the Day: “The Only Son from Heaven.”
The only Son from heaven, foretold by ancient seers,
By God the Father given, In human form appears.
No sphere His light confining, No star so brightly shining
As He, our Morning Star.
O time of God appointed, O bright and holy morn!
He comes, the king anointed, The Christ, the Virgin-born,
Grim death to vanquish for us, To open heaven before us,
And bring us life again. (LSB #402)
Exodus 33:12-23 Moses begs to see God’s glory, but Yahweh tells him that no one can see His face and live. But God does this for Moses: hides him in the cleft of the rock, and passes by, and then taking his hand away lets Moses glimpse his back-sides. We remember Luther and Heidelburg – good stuff to review on this reading.
Amos 9:11-15 An alternate OT reason that picks up the Gospel theme of “overwhelming bounty” – the hills flowing with wine – as the sign of the Messianic age.
Eph 5:22-33 An epistle lesson obviously chosen to match the “marriage” theme of the Gospel and that points beyond marriage itself to what that institution signifies in Christ. The most important lines: “And I am saying it refers to Christ and the Church.” Augustine offers a unique interpretation of that in his homily on the Gospel for this day.
Romans 12:6-16 (Historic Epistle) The Blessed Apostle unpacks the life that is lived as sacrifice to the Lord. A truly fabulous text for describing what the uniquely Christian life (i.e., the life lived in union with Jesus Christ) looks like. MUCH good sermon fodder here if it is chosen as the text.
Holy Gospel: John 2:1-11
This reading introduces us to the very first of John’s famous “signs” and it has intimate points of tie-in with chapter 19. These two chapters should be read together – they illuminate each other. We note that the Blessed Virgin Mother appears only twice in John’s Gospel: here and in chapter 19. We note that the image of marriage (so important in John!) is connected here to “my hour” – i.e., to John 19. We see the first talk of “manifesting his glory” – a glory which is fully revealed only in the “lifting up” of the Cross in John 19.
2:1 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Third day? Third day from what? The last event was the encounter between our Lord and Nathanael. That could be the point of reference, or it may simply mean “on Tuesday,” or yet again, it may invite us to think of the most famous “third day” of all – the Day of the Resurrection.
Mary’s role as intercessor here has been much commented on through the years. Especially in noting how she prescribed to our Lord neither time, manner, nor means of answering. Instead, she informs Him of the need and leaves it entirely in his care how it will be answered.
Jesus’ words to her sound harsher in English than I think Greek warrants. “O Woman” may well ring in with Gal 4:4 and the whole idea that St. Ireaneus explicates of the new Eve. In John 19, from the Cross, He calls her by this title again, and there entrusts her to the Beloved Disciple, who is not named, perhaps precisely so that we might slip ourselves in there. This Woman is the one our Lord gives to every disciple He loves as their own Mother. Also note that if she is Woman, in John 19, our Lord is “the Man” – Ecce homo!
The response of our Lord to Mary’s prayer is idiomatic: “What to me and to you?” Does anyone know if it could possibly be rendered in English: “What does that have to do with US?” I didn’t have time to chase down the idiom.
“My hour” in John again is simply pregnant. Think of His words in John 12: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” Think of His words in John 17: “Father, the hour has come: glorify Your Son that the Son may glorify You.” Think of John 19: “from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.” Note then in John 19 itself “that hour” refers to the moment when our Lord “leaves” His mother to become the new Adam from whose side His bride will be created.
John 2:6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 9 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 10 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.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
St. Augustine has a great deal of fun with the six jars being six ages, but such fun we might want to forego. What six above all says is: “not seven!” Not fullness. Not completion. Waiting and expectation for the restoration of the fullness of creation. And so the six “water pots” are crying out like all of creation is to be made new. And so they are.
Our Lord who seemed to tell His blessed Mother “buzz off” in fact does not let her down. In response to her prayer, He performs His first miracle. And that miracle is to no circus trick. It is the transformation of the ordinary into the extraordinary. As both St. Augustine and Luther point out in their homilies, the Lord does it all the time, all around us. We just take it for granted because He usually does it more slowly; this time it was instantaneous. Following His instruction, nature became “super nature” and He gave not just wine, but the finest. So fine that the steward is perplexed at why the bridegroom kept the good stuff till the guests were already, well, “happy.” I’m sure the bridegroom is perplexed at well. The best is saved for the last. That’s a message in John’s Gospel too – the best is yet to come. It awaits the end of all signs, when all signs have their fulfillment. In chapter 19 it is not wine, but blood that pours out, and we cannot help but see in that pouring out of the blood from the side of Christ, by which His wife is created and made and sustained, an image of the Supper itself. Note the joy of this in LSB 408 “Come, Join in Cana’s Feast”
Come, join in Cana’s feast Where Christ is honored guest.
He welcomes all who come to taste The wine His hands have blessed.
The old wine now is gone From jars that stand apart.
No longer can it satisfy The yearning, thirsting heart.
But Christ, the Word made flesh, Bids water turn to wine.
He fills our empty cups again With grace and truth divine.
Come, friends, and share the Feast; Here drink the wine supplied,
By Him who is both guest and host – Our Lord, the Crucified.
For now He lives and reigns Through all eternity
With Father, Spirit, Three in One, The glorious Trinity.
So the “sign” of the Wedding Feast pointed to something bigger that God was up to, a Wedding Feast that was being planned for all eternity when our Lord, who had left His Father to seek His Bride, and then left His Mother, was joined to His wife and became One flesh with her. That One flesh going even into death and coming out alive – that One flesh and His Blood given us even to eat and to drink – the joy of union with Him, our Bridegroom.
In John's Gospel there are no spare parts. Everything has full meaning. Nowhere is that clearer than in today's Gospel. The wedding in Cana is not just another miracle story - another demonstration of the Lord Jesus' power over creation. John's telling of it invests it with far greater meaning.
Consider: A wedding - the celebration of two lives being joined in one. And where such a union is being celebrated, there is joy and singing and gladness. Mary shows up at Cana. Jesus and his disciples are there too. Jesus speaks of "his hour" and says "it's not yet." At Cana there is water and wine. At Cana Jesus displays His glory. At Cana Jesus does what John calls His "first of signs."
The first of the "signs"? That leads us to aks what they were signs of? If this is the first, then what's the final sign and the greatest? And when does this hour of Jesus finally arrive? Where's do we meet Mary in John's Gospel? In fact, where are the only two places in John's Gospel where Mary shows up? Do we ever meet anything like water and wine again? And where is there next a wedding? Where and when and how does Jesus show His glory?
All these questions point from the story we just heard to the nineteenth chapter of John's Gospel. It's the nineteenth chapter which permeates the story of Cana's wedding feast and fills it to the brim with meaning.
So, what do we find in chapter 19? We find Jesus, bruised and battered, hanging on a cross, and dying. And what was that dying all about? Consider: There, in chapter 19, when Jesus is hanging on the cross, we meet Mary again. And Jesus leaves her. Gives her into the keeping of the beloved Disciple. But when is it that Scripture says a man leaves his mother? Why, when he's getting married! "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh." Is Calvary about a wedding, after all? Is Calvary a marriage?
Before you throw the idea as absurd, think! What did God do in Eden the first time round when he introduced the whole idea of marriage? Isn't it rather like what he's doing on Calvary? Then, the man was cast into a deep sleep and from his side was taken that from which his bride was made. So, it is as Jesus enters the sleep of death, that from his side flow water and blood and from that water and blood God fashions a Bride for His Son - the Church. The Church that is born again in water and nourished by her Bridegroom's blood in the Sacrament. Wedding feast supreme.
"Woman," he calls Mary at Cana. "Woman" he called Mary there on Calvary. "My hour has not yet come" he said in Cana. "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified" he said of Calvary. "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to myself." This he said signifying by what death He would die. (John 12:32,33).
In Cana, Jesus takes the Jewish jars of purification and filled them to the brim with good wine. At Calvary, Jesus takes all the Old Testament pictures and types of the salvation of God and fills them to the full with His own suffering and death. And does it all to win a Bride for himself, the Church. Does it all to become one flesh with us so that all that is His might become ours even as all that is ours becomes His - there on Calvary. Ours the sin, the death, the darkness, the judgment. His the love, the light, the life, the glory.
And the glory that Jesus manifests at Cana is a hidden glory, the same kind of glory that shines from the cross. It is the glory of a God who is determined to go to the uttermost lengths because of His great love for His bride. It is the glory of love that no human hatred can destroy, that even death cannot wipe out. A love that ends in resurrection. That too is in Cana, for the first thing are told about Cana is that it happened "on the third day." Resurrection!
And so the Church has always celebrated the Eucharist as the wedding feast of Christ. For in the Eucharist the heavenly Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, comes to His bride, the church, and unites Himself to her, so that she might live from His life. Here He who took our own flesh from Mary in order to carry our sins to death, places into our mouths that very flesh and blood in order to bind us to Him as "one flesh" - so that as He is risen, we will be raised. So that as He lives in the Father's glory, we will come to live in the Father's glory. All our sins, His. All His life, ours.
How well the hymn-writer Jaroslav Vajda understood this! Listen:
Now the silence, Now the peace, Now the empty hands uplifted
Now the kneeling, Now the plea, Now the Father's arms in welcome
Now the hearing, Now the pow'r, Now the vessel brimmed for pouring
Now the body, Now the blood, Now the joyful celebration
Now the wedding Now the songs Now the heart forgiven, leaping
Now the Spirit's visitation, Now the Son's Epiphany, Now the Father's blessing.
Now Now Now.
From Cana to Calvary, from Calvary to Hamel. Jesus' wedding feast! Amen.