Sunday, January 16, 2011

Miraculous . . . or Marvelous?

Epiphany II
John 2:1-11

(An audio version of this can be found here and clicking on "Stream.")

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 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.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “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.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

The apostle Paul writes: “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified . . .” (1Cor. 1:22-23). The Gospel appointed for today seems to have a little something for everyone. For Jews demanding signs we have Jesus changing water into wine. For Greeks seeking wisdom, we have a little moral of the story: “Save the best for last.” But what’s in it for those who are looking for Christ crucified? What’s in it for those who are not merely looking for miraculous manifestations or for a revelation of common sense?

It is really no big deal for Jesus Christ, true God and true man ,to be changing water into wine. What could be more simple for the One by whom and through whom all things were made? Why, if He wanted to, He could turn YOU into a stone jar of fine wine — or a pillar of salt.

The marvelous epiphany in this text is not that Jesus did a miracle, but rather that the Lord God Almighty should have anything to do with the cares and concerns of sinners. When His mother expressed a need, Jesus replied, “Woman, what does this have to do with Me?”

Are you looking for Jesus to do something for you — something miraculous perhaps? Do you call on the Lord God Almighty to get you out of a jam, to make you feel better when you are in pain, to grant you success in the face of failure? What does that have to do with Him? Why should He care? As the Psalmist wrote, “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Ps 8:4) Or as the prophet Isaiah wrote (Is. 40:17), “All the nations are as nothing before Him, they are accounted by Him as less than nothing and emptiness.” By comparison, if you went to the mayor and said, “I’m broke,” what would that mean to him? If you went to the state rep or governor or president on up the line to the Lord God Almighty, what makes you think they would care?

Jesus shows that the Almighty God has something to do with us. Ultimately, it isn’t what is miraculous. It’s what is marvelous. It isn’t changing water into wine. It’s when His hour comes. When in this text Jesus says, “My hour has not come,” He is pointing to what lies ahead. That something is noted later in the Gospel of John (17:1), in Christ’s prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you.” And again in the Gospel of Mark, “The hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.” (Mark 14:41)

God didn’t send His Son into the world to do miracles. He gave His Son for the forgiveness of sins. If the Church were about doing miracles every Sunday . . . but no. He forgives sins every Sunday. And we act as though that were boring.

Like a teenage daughter who wants an expensive prom dress and is told “No.” She throws a fit and accuses her parents of not loving her. She doesn’t consider the fact that she has a roof over her head, food to eat, clothes to wear, free taxi service, an ATM machine that looks like her mother’s purse or her father’s wallet. All of that is boring.

Christ crucified is the ultimate epiphany in which God reveals that He has something to do with us. There is no miracle on the cross; only what is marvelous. On the cross Jesus says, “I have something to do with you. Your sins I atone for with My own blood. Your lying and your self-centeredness and your disrespect I atone for with My innocent suffering and death.” If God has not spared His only begotten Son, will He not give you all good things?

Jesus shows that He has something to do with us today where He joins His body and His blood to bread and wine according to His word. At this Lord’s Table this morning, there is no miracle going on. As Lutherans, we categorically deny both transubstantiation and consubstantiation, that the bread is changed into Christ’s body or that the wine is changed into His blood. That would seem miraculous. In fact, the magical term “hocus pocus” comes from a misunderstanding of the Lord’s Supper. The Latin, which few could understand, was “Hoc est corpus meum” or “This is My body.”

We do not practice miracles here in this sanctuary. We are stewards of what is marvelous. Jesus unites Himself with us, meets us, cares about us in this blessed communion. Whether we run out of food or money, and when it seems as though we are of no concern to Him, we live by faith not by sight. “Lord, it seems like You’re not going to have anything to do with me. But I know better. You took on this flesh. You suffered and died for my sins.” Cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you. Worries, anger, sins. Bring them here. He has something to do with them. Another Krueger child . . . Amanda . . . Alexandra, Annabel, Abigail, Cast cares.

Confident of this marvelous fact, knowing that the Lord God Almighty has something to do with us in a gracious way, we in turn may ask others “What have I to do with you?” Whether it be to tsunami victims or our military abroad or children in the school, we are a concern to each other. We are no longer anxious for ourselves. We are anxious for each other. Jesus has something to do with you. Now you have something to do for others.

We have not gathered here this morning for Jesus to do miracles. We are not gathered here to get some interesting perspectives on life or Ben Franklinesque helpful advice for living. We are here because it is marvelous in our eyes that the Lord God Almighty should have anything to do with us. Therefore, do not look for a miracle as proof of God’s love for you. Look to what is marvelous, the innocent suffering and death of God’s Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

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