15 January 2011

Homily upon Epiphany 2

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.


Michael L. Anderson, M.D. said...

So once again, the world's turned upside down ... if it's not a rough feeding trough, enthroning the divine Bread of Life, then it's a place of execution, hiding the wedding banquet to which all are graciously invited. Isn't this all marvelous? What a blessed message we have been allowed to experience by the sharing Rev. Weedon!

Speaking of Cana to Calvary to Hamel, one may wish to add "Terra to Cana."

"Cana" means "place of reeds." On the third day, water was turned to wine, at Cana.

But on yet another third day, ground emerged from water ... our physical stuff, our solid habitat, from which God personally crafted our flesh.

We were meant to spring forth like reeds, like dominant grasses exulting and dancing in the sun's brilliance. But in sinful and envious rebellion, we would instead choose to bend from God and go it alone, feeding and fending as we ourselves think best.

Scammed by a Liar, we come to be mortally bruised and cut down like the traveler to Jericho, left to die in miserable isolation ... even on this hot-house place, or planet, of reeds.

So a Stem, a Root of Jesse, descends and is lifted up, to get striped and bruised to heal our bruises. The Root will bind and give balm; and at His Bride's, there is always found room in the inn. The Root even turns "No vacancy" signs upside down.

Isaiah 42:3, "A bruised reed He will not break." Surely not; He the merciful has better things in mind, and in His own while, as once He did at little Cana.

William Weedon said...

Love it, Dr. Anderson! That totally preaches.

Steve said...

Thank you Fr. Weedon. What an encouraging word. It reminds me of I Cor 2:9. What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him." The depth of our God and his plan is well, beyond us.


Anonymous said...

I also like Vadja's complementary hymn (not in LSB, but in WELS' CW):

Then the glory
Then the rest
Then the Sabbath peace unbroken
Then the garden
Then the throne
Then the crystal river flowing
Then the splendor
Then the life
Then the new creation singing
Then the marriage
Then the love
Then the feast of joy unending
Then the knowing
Then the light
Then the ultimate adventure
Then the Spirit’s harvest gathered
Then the Lamb in majesty
Then the Father’s Amen