From the Gospel reading, the Wedding at Cana. God blesses marriage, despite our constant attempts to screw it up. (And golly-bob-howdy do we have lots of ways to do that.)
Read more after the jump.
This is the first of Jesus miracles. On Epiphany the Lord reveals the savior to the wise men. Last Sunday John the Baptist saw the glory of the Trinity. Today, the disciples see it. We have a gradual unfolding of the plan of salvation. The savior is being revealed to the world. And the world needs a savior because the world has turned away from God and his word. But we don’t want to spend too much time criticizing the world, getting too high an opinion of ourselves. After all, we are here because we need this savior too. You need him, as much as the disciples did, as much as the people at that wedding did. And not for the reason that is most obvious – that they had run out of wine. Even if Jesus hadn’t been there to fix it, the lack of wine, while embarrassing, would not have meant eternal damnation. But Jesus is there. He does give new wine, the good wine. And the people continue their rejoicing, not knowing that Jess is the one who has made it all possible. The disciples know. They are aware of what happened, because we are told, they believed in him. But the rest of the crowd, even the master of the banquet, don’t know all that Jesus did.
That’s how it is. Jesus saves us, and we don’t know – or often don’t care, what it is he has done. We look at miracles like this one, and think, “OK, so what” and don’t really consider that our Lord is not only performing a miracle – something that needs the power and will of God himself, but he is doing so in a way that inaugurates a new era. An era of rejoicing over the salvation he has given. Jesus gives new wine – the best wine.
And this miracle is done at a wedding. In the wedding service we say, “Our Lord blessed and honored marriage with his presence and first miracle at Cana in Galilee..” It’s only appropriate that when God reveals himself, when he inaugurates the new age, as he brings about the new creation, he does so by giving his blessing to that great gift of the first creation – marriage. Marriage is not simply a thing God added onto creation at the end. Oh look, here is creation all done, now we need to add a little something to it. No, when God declares that all he had created was good, it means that the man and woman were part of that. For it is not good for the man to be alone. Creation was incomplete until God gave Eve to Adam as a part of the good creation. And he intended that marriage be a symbol, a type, of his relationship to his people. Saint Paul shows that marriage is the relationship between Christ and his church, but that’s not just some invention of Saint Paul. The Old testament continually compares the people of Israel, God’s people, to a bride. Their idolatry makes them spiritual adulterers, but God promises to redeem restore and purify Israel, to present her spotless, as a bride beautifully adorned for her husband. And so Jesus begins his work by showing the disciples that marriage is a blessing instituted and created by God, and blessed by God.
For That is how he created them :Male and female. Maleness and femaleness is not merely a state of self-understanding, but it is the manner in which God creates humanity. It is not simply what you consider yourself to be, any more than being human is merely a state of mind. After all, if someone says, “In my heart I know I am really a dog or cat or lion” they can get costumes, and dress the part, but it does not make them a dog, cat or lion. You could even die your hair, get contacts to change your eyes, and if you were really gung-ho get hair plugs around your head to simulate a lions mane. But that will not make you a lion. Even if you could get surgery to alter your appearance so that everyone thought you were a lion, you would still just be a person in lions clothing. So also with male and female. You can not simply dress the part, or change what God has made you. God created them male and female, and blessed them and said be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. Mankind, in our sinful state spends our days trying to think up ways to ruin what God has created.
At the time of Jesus there was a problem in Rome. The young men and women were staying single too long. They wanted to as scripture elsewhere describes it, sit down to eat and drink and rise up to play. They didn’t want to settle down and raise a family. At one point the Roman senate actually had to pass a law saying that it was expected that romans would do their duty, get married and have a family. Even pagan Rome, which was known more for its wild parties and libertinism, was forced to recognized the value of family. Of course, the people responded to this with shrugs and indifference, and Rome went the way of all civilizations. You can not long treat the family badly and still have a society.
As we learn in the fourth commandment – honor your father and mother – all of society begins with the family. That is the cornerstone. Husbands and wives coming together, and that love begetting children by the grace and mercy of God. Those children then becoming a part of the society. Marriage is far more than just two people who love each other joining themselves together. If that’s all it is, then it really doesn’t matter whether, as one person in japan did a number of years ago, people marry porpoises. But if marriage is the means by which God has given for us to be fruitful and multiply, to raise our children in the fear and love of the lord, to be a part of the community of this world, to say nothing of reflecting the love that Christ has given to his church, if marriage is all those things, then we run a great risk in experimenting with the nature of matrimony. Delaying, pretending to be parried without being married, joining together those who can not be joined together, it’s as if society has decided to try everything that is not marriage, call it marriage and then see what the results are. Ancient Rome could answer that question for you, if it still existed.
That was the strength of the church. The church said that women and children should be given their dignity and honor, as part of a holy estate given by God, rather than as possessions of a ruler. The church recognized the value and importance of marriage instead of promiscuity. The church recognized the value of chastity as a great gift, whether practiced by those who remained chaste and single, and so honored God with their bodies in that way, or by those who lived chastely in the married estate, honoring and loving their spouse, and raising their children in the fear and love of the Lord. Today we live in a society that values hook-ups more than marriage. That says all things are to be permitted, and then allows anyone to indulge those fantasies in the most grotesque way in the privacy of their own online world.
We could sit here all day and thunder against the world and its perversions, never once recognizing that the church is filled with sinners. And if we do our thundering right, we can condemn the world without ever touching ourselves. But the church has people who struggle with chastity, both in and out of marriage, pornography, divorce, it’s not as if those things suddenly become impossible once you sign your name to the membership list of the local church.
That’s why we so desperately need Jesus. We need the new life he gives. We need the new kingdom he brings. That’s why this miracle is so important. It is the inauguration of the new age. A new age, with the wine of rejoicing given by Jesus himself. But what sort of thing is this new age?
In John’s Gospel we only see Mary twice. Jesus says two short sentences to her. Here, Woman, what is that to me, my hour has not yet come. And when his hour has come, says, Woman here is your son. In today’s Gospel reading his hour has not yet come, but it will. He helps out with this wedding, but it is not his time. His glory is yet to be fully revealed. That will come at his death. That’s where we see the full glory of God, because that’s where we see our salvation won for us. And a quick look at any random commandment – today it happened to be the sixth – is enough to make us know how desperately we need this forgiveness, the life that Jesus gives.
Luther cautions us in the Large catechism, “For where conjugal chastity is to be maintained, man and wife must by all means live together in love and harmony, that one may cherish the other from the heart and with entire fidelity.”
It’s not and easy thing to do. And there are plenty of ways to mess it up. That’s why even we in the church so desperately need the forgiveness that God gives. That’s why he came. To bring you forgiveness of all your sins. Whether they were committed in thought, word or deed, whether it was your own sin or encouraging others to sin, whether it was in something you did or something you neglected to do. Regardless of the sin, Jesus came and died for it. No matter how great your sin, he is a greater savior. That’s why we celebrate epiphany, the season of Jesus being revealed to the world. Because we need Jesus. You need the forgiveness he brings you through his death and resurrection. He came to forgive you for all the commandments you break, for all the commandments that the world hates and despises.
He came to restore you, to give you a new life in him.