2022-01-16 Epiphany 2
Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen!
The season of Epiphany continues with the familiar miracle of Jesus: Changing water into wine. It reminds me of the story of the Lutheran Pastor who got pulled over for drinking and driving. The police officer came to the window and looked in and saw the opened wine bottle sitting on the front seat beside the pastor. “Have you been drinking, Reverend?” the officer asked. “Only water, Officer.” replied the Pastor. The officer grabbed the bottle and smelling it said “This isn’t water, this is wine!” “Praise the Lord!” yelled the Pastor, “He did it AGAIN!”
Probably the holiest DUI charge that officer ever gave out I’m sure! But what do we make of this familiar sign and wonder of our Lord from John’s Gospel? It continues down the path of the Epiphany season in that it reveals more and more about who God is and what He has done for us and our salvation. It’s like a Divine Scratch & Win ticket! You scrape off the top coating revealing the winning numbers underneath! This miracle at the Wedding in Cana is much the same. It’s the first of our Lord’s signs that He does in John’s Gospel, further revealing Him to be the Messiah.
So the context for this first miracle is a wedding. Normally, such events are 70% stress and 30% happiness. But at this particular wedding, the ratio changed! We’ve run into a big disaster. Mary, the Mother of our Lord comes to Jesus and says “They have no wine.” This was major! Not having the fruit of the vine at your venue is like saying to the guests “Pack up your boy scouts and hit bricks! Go home. We have nothing for you here.” To us in our culture, we’d be a little bit miffed but we could carry on. But back in the day, this was a massive social faux pas! All the conversations and the merriment and the toasts and everything revolved around the drinking of table wine. There was no quick solution. Cana was literally the middle-of-nowhere-Israel. It wasn’t on any major roads or trade routes. You couldn’t just run out to the local booze boutique and grab a few extra cases of vino. So the stress level rocketed up to 98% while happiness diminished down to 2% for the wedding planners and most likely the family.
We can relate to this, right? We’ve all been there in a similar situation. We’ve all walked a mile in those stressful shoes. Situations outside of our control strike out of nowhere. How do we respond as God’s people? How do we respond as sinful human beings? When the stress makes the blood pressure rise and that giant vein on our forehead looks like it’s going to blow, how do we respond? It’s like I tell my kids all the time, the only thing in life you can control is you. And how we respond to situations is fully within our control. I think we can learn a lot from Mary our Lord’s mother in this lesson. She becomes aware of this difficult situation and what does she do? Yell and scream and freak out? Does she get verbally abusive? Does she lash out at the world and the wedding planners who goofed? Not at all. She takes the problem to Jesus. A simple 4 word prayer: “They have no wine.”
Mary lives out her faith in Jesus Who is in control of all situations. It’s like the Hymn What a Friend we have in Jesus says: “Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged-Take it to the Lord in prayer!” The lesson is to take our problems to the Lord. Don’t freak out. Don’t flip your lid. Don’t blow your top. Don’t snap, lose it or overreact. Take it to the Lord. This is easier said than done, of course. The old square-headed German tempers don’t die easily! But the consequences of our Lord’s grace for us in His cross and in our Baptism mean that we can and should bring Him our troubles. We ought to rely on Him and His provision to get us through our darkest times. Faith to believe and trust that not even death on a cross can stop our Lord is all we need. Even in seemingly minor situations like running out of wedding booze at the party, Jesus shows that He cares and will do something about it. Take it to the Lord in prayer.
That’s another key point to this. Mary doesn’t tell Jesus what she wants Him to do. In other words, she doesn’t provide a solution and game plan for Jesus to follow. We’re often guilty of that. We pray for a specific outcome that God should do for us and then we get mad and offended when it doesn’t work out that way. Just as key as what Mary did say is what she didn’t say. She doesn’t tell Him how to solve the problem. She doesn’t say “snap your fingers” or “wave the magic wand” or even “fill up those 6 stone water jars over yonder and turn them into wine!” That’s probably not the solution to the dilemma we would have come up with anyways? But then again, God’s ways are not our ways. We should leave the details up to Him!
Think about Moses and Israel running from Pharaoh and being hemmed in by the Red Sea! Do you think Moses thought God would solve the problem through the unthinkable? Splitting the sea and truckin’ on through? Or how about lil’ shepherd boy David standing before giant warrior Goliath? Does it make sense to crank this 9 foot monster in the head with a rock from a slingshot? How many of us would do that? Or how about a dead body taken down from a Roman cross and placed in a grave, only to rise again to life 3 days later. Who would have come up with a solution like that to sin and death?! Remember Mary’s simple prayer and be reminded that we are better left leaving the solutions in God’s hands.
So we see what happens next in the Gospel. Jesus agrees to Mary’s prayer and that’s when the miracle happens. The Divine Solution unfolds through changing the water into wine. He tells the servants to use the 6 stone water jars for washing and fill them up to the brim. And that’s that. No fire from heaven. No grandiose display of power and might that we think would accompany the Son of Man’s first sign and wonder. Nope. He will leave the Hollywood Style theatrics for another day. Instead, it’s just His word. The still small voice of God that created the universe from nothing speaks and His word is accomplished.
“Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now!” (JN 2:10). The family’s honour is saved! The stress level goes way back down and the happiness level rises way back up! The wedding party people carry on as if nothing has happened. The majority of the folks there were none the wiser. Mary knew. The servants who filled the jars knew. The disciples knew and believed in Him. And that’s it. St. John ends the story right there. His miracle at Cana pointed to that which the people could not see, our Lord’s Divine Nature. Through each sign and wonder He performed, it was further being revealed who this Jesus was: God in the flesh serving His people. Here, in the midst of His people, God continues to work His miracles. His promise in the miracle of the water and word of Holy Baptism. His presence given in, with and under the bread and wine of Holy Communion. And, in the greatest miracle, the solution for sin and death, our Lord dying and rising for us! A far more amazing miracle than we could have possibly imagined or expected. The light and life of the Epiphany season is revealed once again for us and our salvation. The name of the game with Jesus certainly is to expect the unexpected. Amen!