Monday, January 11, 2016

Quite a Wedding Feast

Today, I give thanks. Among my thanksgivings is a word of gratitude for the readings for this coming Sunday. The Gospel lesson is John 2:1-11, which recounts Jesus' miracle at the wedding in Cana. The Old Testament lesson is Isaiah 62:1-5, which foretells the time when God will take his people as his bride and rename them "My Delight Is in Her." The Epistle lesson (1 Corinthians 12:1-11) explains how all the Spirit-activated gifts of Christians are enabled by the same Spirit--a beautifully unifying text. Even the Psalm (Psalm 36:5-10) is short but to the point, describing how God's people "feast upon the abundance of your house," where God lets them "drink from the river of [his] delights."

In lectionary years A & B, the gospel lessons for 2Epiphany also come from John, but they recall Jesus' encounter with John the Baptist and his calling of Philip and Nathaniel. Those are great stories which also underscore the theme for this week as articulated in the collect--"Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ's glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth"--but I'll take a wedding feast over an HR seminar any day.

All week, I will look for ways to write about the wedding feast. As with many of John's stories, there are many carefully constructed layers to peel back. To start things off, however, and to set the whole week's work in a particular mindset, I want to underscore today that the setting for Jesus' first "sign" is as important as the miracle itself. The wedding in Cana is more than just a big party where Jesus reveals his power. It is an image of God's long-promised banquet where Jesus reveals his true identity as the long-awaited bridegroom.

I won't explain it all now--that's what this week is for--but think about the different images in John's telling of the story:
  • "On the third day..." - The third day of when? The week? Given the full gospel story, it can be no accident that John introduces this miracle as a third-day revelation.
  • "When the wine gave out..." - Instead of underscoring the embarrassment this would have been to the host of the banquet, consider what it means on a larger scale for the supply to have failed. This isn't just a circumstance in which Jesus shall act; it's an indictment of the world.
  • "My hour has not yet come." - I usually think of Jesus' harsh words to his mother as a statement of his reluctance to act before his ministry becomes public. Today, I'm wondering whether his hesitation had more to do with this particular setting. Could Jesus have recognized what it would have meant for him to reveal himself at a wedding banquet? Might that have been too much theological significance too soon?
  • "...six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification..." - I love John's unnecessary but necessary details. This isn't an accident. This is a comment on who will use those jars in the fullest possible way.
  • "...each holding twenty or thirty gallons." - That's a lot of wine--a tremendous abundance of wine. That says less about the party that followed and more about the one providing it.
  • "But you have kept the good wine until now." - Again, John makes the same point by comparing the world's provision and that which Jesus provides.
  • "Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him." - This isn't just a demonstration of power. It's a sign. It's a revelation. It's an epiphany. And what happens? The disciples believe.
I've never thought that this was one of my favorite passages, but I'm starting to think it may be. There's a lot here--too much for a sermon but plenty to sort through until a single sermon comes out. I think it's going to be a good week.

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