Epiphany 2 January 15, 2006

In Nomine Iesu

Pastor Thomas L. Rank

Text: John 2:1-11

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. 3 And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” 4 Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” 6 Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And He said to them, “Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.” And they took it. 9 When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. 10 And he said to him, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!” 11 This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.

DEAR FATHER, YOU ARE OUR HIDING PLACE AND OUR SHIELD; WE HOPE IN YOUR WORD (Ps 119:114). AMEN.

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ,

In Revelation 19 the marriage supper of the Lamb, of Jesus Christ, is the great feast of salvation, the wonderful gathering of God’s people with their Savior. In Ephesians 5 we read about the beautiful relationship between Christ and His bride, the holy Christian church, and how the marriage of man and woman ties in with that spiritual union. In Matthew 22 our Lord tells a parable during Holy Week that has at its center the invitation to a wedding. “Come, for all things are now ready,” is the gracious invitation to the kingdom of God.

To all of these we can add the text before us from John 2. It is not coincidence that the first miracle of Jesus occurs in the context of a wedding. Christ and His bride, the Church, are united through the love of Christ, a love that is all about sacrifice, even to death. And the Church receives this love, and willingly follows the Savior, trusting Him with her very life.

To break the union of Church and Christ is the goal of the enemies of God. This union is broken through teachings that point the church away from the sacrifice and love of Christ. This union is compromised when the church, the bride, falls away and seeks someone other than the bridegroom.

It is no accident that when the Old Testament prophets speak of the idolatry of Israel they use the term “adultery.” God’s chosen people had abandoned Him and had gone seeking others, other gods, other pleasures, other sources of life and contentment. In the Old Testament we find that Israel committed a grievous error through its abandonment of the true God. Israel’s search for someone or something to replace the true God resulted only in failure, in death and discontentment. Israel was not happy after its abandonment of God. The church also has no joy, no life, no hope without Christ.

But here in John 2 the couple to be married invited Jesus to the wedding. Nothing could be better than for Jesus to be there. For Jesus, God, is the one who first instituted, established, the estate of holy matrimony. In Genesis 2 we find that God creates Eve for Adam, and puts this man and this woman together. The man and woman are together to be one, and, as Jesus would teach later, let no man break apart that union.

But just as the enemies of God desired Israel to break away from God, and just as they desire also the splitting of the union of Christ and His bride the Church, so also these enemies of God do all they can do destroy marriage. They attempt to destroy in the individual marriages that exist. They also try to destroy it by attacking the institution itself.

In many places marriage is despised today. The feminists of 30 years ago actively attempted to destroy it. The advocates for the unions of gays and lesbians today try to do the same. God’s blessed institution of the union of one man and one woman is thought to be old-fashioned, too strict. Many want it to evolve into a more open arrangement in which almost any combination of two or more humans can be considered a marriage.

Yet, it doesn’t matter if Canada, if Sweden, if any other country, not even if Massachusetts or the whole of the United States, say that marriage is any union of any two people. It doesn’t matter because marriage is not defined by any state. No Christian church body has the right, either, to redefine what marriage is. Marriage was created by God. We have His word, Holy Scripture. That defines it clearly, completely. And for the faithful Christian Church, that settles the issue.

Still, many are intimidated by the number of those who agitate for reinventing marriage. What we can do is insure that where the institution of marriage is attacked that Christians will confess the truth, and work to protect it.

The attacks against marriage in the public realm, in politics and government is bad. But the battleground is more frightening the closer we get to home. For suddenly we are not dealing laws and legislatures, but we are dealing with everyday life in homes in our own communities. So even as we work to protect marriage at the state and national levels, we must also take care to protect marriage in our own homes, in our own families.

This starts with learning how God desires to protect husband and wife. Marriage is protected by the Sixth commandment: “You shall not commit adultery. What does this mean? We should fear and love God, so that we lead a chaste and decent life in word and deed, and that husband and wife each love and honor the other.”

It doesn’t take long for husband and wife to discover how easily they can irritate each other. Where there should be love, there is dislike, maybe even hatred. Where there should be honor there is mutual detesting of each other. Why is this? Because husband and wife are both sinful people, living together, in close quarters, with shared frustrations. We would hope that Christian husband and Christian wife would learn, or even enter marriage, knowing of the great and on-going need to forgive each other again and again. After all, they were both sinners in need of forgiveness before they were married. The words of the Lord’s Prayer are not new: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  But forgiveness seems far away in marriage as husband and wife maneuver to have the upper hand, instead of living in sacrificial and submissive love, husband to wife, and wife to husband.

So we find in marriage little love and little honor. We find a husband yelling at his wife as if the wife was a child. Is that honor? We find a wife despising her husband as she sees his weakness and gloats over it. Is that honor? Husbands do not like putting wives first, sacrificing for them, because husbands are selfish. Wives do not like submitting in love to their husbands because they are proud. Christ humbled Himself to the point of death for His church. That’s more than a clue for husbands. The Christian Church submits to the authority of the One who sacrifices Himself for her, and that is more than a clue for wives. Yet our sinful nature rebels at such calls for love.

The Christian home is the foundation of society. The Christian family, parents and children, is fundamental to the church. And it all starts with husband and wife. And that is why the enemies of God will always seek ways to bring strife, misery, hatred, into marriage. Satan hates harmony between husband and wife. The world works to subvert anything God says is good. And our own sinful flesh wants no part of sacrificing for someone else, or submitting to someone else. No wonder marriages get broken.

But in all this we must never forget the power of God for salvation, the Gospel, the forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus Christ. We start by understanding ourselves. We learn to see how we deserve no good thing from God, no forgiveness, nothing. But what do we find? We find love, we find forgiveness so deep, so all-encompassing, that our sins are gone, never to be found. All through the sacrifice of Jesus at the cross. His blood cleanses us, washes us of sin. Starting with that, we then move on to our spouse. This is not about ignoring sin, but of forgiving it – forgiving even when we don’t think our husband or wife deserves it; forgiving even when its not fair. And we can only do that, live that, as we keep growing ourselves in the forgiveness we receive from God each and every day: through our Baptism, through the absolving Word, through the Body and Blood of Christ in the Supper. The Holy Spirit comes to us through all these blessed means of grace and bandages our wounds, calming us with the patience and comfort of God. That is how we live with ourselves, and with our spouse. It starts and ends with Christ.

Christ was at that wedding at Cana so many years ago. He continues to be with husbands and wives even today. He knows what’s going on. He knows how marriage is attacked from both within and without. But He also made sure to take care of it, by dying, by rising, by being with us always, to the very end of the world. Let this be our strength, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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