Epiphany 2 Sermon, 2020

When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come” (John 2:3-4).

They had run out of wine.

They would soon run out of joy.

I’m not talking about the abuse of wine called drunkenness but the right use of wine called joy.

In Psalm 104, it is the Lord who causes the grass to grow, and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth, and wine to gladden his heart (cf. Psalm 104:14-15).

The proper use of God’s creation yields joy.

God gives the growth by means.

Water nourishes thirst and keeps us and the plants alive. That is the right use.

The abuse of water, too much of it, kills—us and the plants.

The right use of words, spoken and sung, written and retold, brings us joy while the abuse kills us on the inside. Sticks and stones do break our bones, and some words hurt us.

Wine, again, gladdens hearts, calms nerves, and settles stomachs. That’s some of what St. Paul has in mind when he encourages Timothy both to “keep [himself] pure” (1 Timothy 5:22) and to “use a little wine for the sake of [his] stomach and [his] frequent ailments” (1 Timothy 5:23).

The proper use of God’s creation yields joy.

The abuse of God’s creation kills.

Eating forbidden fruit brought death into the world for Adam and Eve just as indulging in today’s forbidden fruit brings death into our homes and families.

There’s always a boisterous advocate for what’s forbidden, a peddler of a life apart from suffering. 

“You will not surely die…” says satan. “…You will be like God” (Genesis 3:4,5).

Adam and Eve must have loved hearing that.

And we’re no different.

Consider that Adam and Eve knew only “good.”

They knew God’s Law and were happy in it. But they were enticed away by the devil’s lie.

They were convinced that it was better to know good and evil than it was to know only good.

Knowing only good puts real limits into place.

Knowing good and evil removes those limits.

Knowing only good rejoices in the Lord’s Prayer, for example, when Jesus teaches us to pray “Thy will be done.”

But knowing both good and evil causes us to pray that petition hoping that God falls in line with what we want and expect.

Because each of us would rather pray: “My will be done.” That’s exactly what we want.

And so, today, Mary, the Mother of our Lord, the Mother of God, is, for all of us again, a good example.

She says to the servants: “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5).

His will be done. God’s will be done.

She doesn’t ask for wine.

They’ve run out of wine. But she doesn’t ask for wine.

She simply tells God what’s going on.

He knows. Of course He knows. But she lets Him know that she knows what’s going on.

“Do whatever he tells you.”

Even if He says “No,” do whatever He tells you. If He leaves the wedding dry and joyless, so be it.

Thanks be to God, in fact.

But do whatever He tells you.

That’s amazing faith, rarely seen in the mirror.

And it’s more amazing when we consider the rhetoric Jesus uses.

“What does this have to do with me?” He says. He was testing her, and she passed.

But we might have responded with, “Well…nothing.”

His hour has not yet come, after all.

What difference does it make if this wedding has no wine?

It’s a social faux pas, that’s true.

If the reception has no wine, the people will call you cheap.

But that’s not why Jesus has come. That’s not His hour.

St. John writes: “These [things] are written…that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).

It may not be immediately apparent to us, but the almost dry wedding in Cana does have to do with Jesus, and this is one of the things that was written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ and have life in His name.

Turning water into wine means so much more than a joyous feast and God’s blessing of marriage, one man and one woman, for the procreation of children, till death us do part.

Though that is what’s going on, there’s more.

“There were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification [and] Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them…to the brim. [Jesus] said…’Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.’ So they took it” (John 2:6-8).

These stone jars would have been used prior to the wedding feast.

“For…all the Jews [eat only when] they wash their hands, holding to the tradition of the elders” (Mark 7:3).

With water they wash so that with wine they may drink. Water gets you to the feast, but, at the feast, there’s wine. Water cleanses and prepares, wine strengthens and preserves.

Water and wine, for this Jewish wedding and for the Christian Church, are inseparable.

It’s not okay to have children baptized and then abandon them to the world.

“There is no easier way for parents to merit hell than through their own children, in their own home, when they neglect to teach them [the love of God in Jesus Christ]. To trust in God, believe in him, fear him, and hope in him. To worship God and hear his Word. To learn to despise the kings of this world, to bear misfortune meekly, and not to fear death or to love this life” (Day By Day We Magnify You, 65).

It’s not okay to baptize children and abandon them.

Likewise, it’s not okay to serve wine from the Christian altar without instruction in the Christian faith.

We are to make disciples of all nations, baptizing and teaching (cf. Matthew 28:19).

Water gets you to the feast, and wine keeps you there.

God gives the growth by means.

The Means of Grace. And the means of parents.

What else are the hungry, thirsty, and naked, the prisoners, the sick, and the strangers here but your own children (cf. Matthew 25:35-36)? For their sake, your home is a blessed hospital, that you would tend them, feed them, and bring them up in lives of faith and devotion (cf. ibid.).

“What does this have to do with me?” Jesus says.

This one wedding, this one sign, one miracle, this one day is the history of the world reduced to one.

Mary provides another example of patient, long-suffering, Christian faith.

The water shows us how and why we enter into the feast. The wine shows us how and why we stay.

The miracle, the sign, teaches us that God gives the growth by means of His Son.

It is, after all, water and blood that’s flowing from His pierced side, alleluia.

Water, for the font, that you may enter.

Blood, under the wine, in the cup, that you would be strengthened and preserved unto life everlasting.

That is the right use.

What does this have to do with Jesus? Everything.

He was testing you. And you passed.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Second Sunday After Epiphany, 2020
John 2:1-11
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

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