The basis for today’s sermon is the gospel reading from John chapter 2, where it is written, “11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.””
In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Lord Jesus turns water into wine, rescuing the wedding reception and so also the dignity of the bride and groom in the small town of Cana. It was a pure extra, a cup-runneth-over sort of miracle, He didn’t have to do this in order to die on the cross and rise again to forgive our sins and by His atoning blood reconcile us to the Father. And yet this is the first, the chief, the start of His miracles. St. John writes and calls it a ‘sign.’ A sign of what? What does this miracle show us?
The sign shows Jesus’ power, of course, in that He was capable of turning water to wine with just a word. In that, we can see a token of His authority over creation. He created the world in six real days. At His command, the very stuff of nature obeys Him still. By Him all things were made, and He continues to uphold the universe by His Word of power. This is Good and True enough.
What’s Beautiful about this though, is how the miracle signifies the overflowing mercy and love of God for His fallen creation. It has to do with joy. It is significant that the miracle was done at a wedding feast. They were celebrating the gift of marriage, of family, and all the good that goes with it. They were even drinking wine. I probably don’t have to tell you this, but… when used rightly, these things of the created order are a great joy.
And yet in our sin-broken world’s tendency towards immoderation, we are all too capable of abusing the good gifts God gives. Jesus rescues a wedding party, and it seems a scandalous thing: we often find in these an occasion to sin. We poor miserable sinners have a tendency to indulge desires in sinful ways. People eat so much it is unhealthy. We can drink until we are sick. How much pain has been caused by the misuse or abuse of things like wine or feasting far too plentifully, or even worse, the self-serving tendency to treat people – even the people in our own family – only as accords our own gratification? To consider all people who have been hurt, all the people and families that have been broken by human sin, we ought to repent of ever thinking that the Modern world could improve on God’s good order for relationships. God created these gifts and gave them to us, we would be best served to listen to His wisdom for how our lives and homes are best ordered. [οικονομια].1
So it is that where unbelievers might take this as an excuse for even more indulgence, we Christians have a right and holy fear of misusing God’s gifts. We know what we’re capable of. So it shows us something that Jesus rescues this newlywed couple from disaster. Heaven is a feast, not a funeral. The kingdom of God has the quality of joy. Jesus came to suffer and die on the cross, to pay for all our sins, to remit all our guilt. His suffering and blood atonement was not the end goal, but rather the justification for your life. The end goal is the high feast of heaven, where the people of God rejoice to live before Him in holy and happy joy. Your sins, however great the immoderation and however hard the hangover, they are forgiven. Jesus has paid it all. He is renewing you, and He will raise you who believe and are baptized to the blessed life eternal. The resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. There, after God has perfectly raised and renewed you who believe, there will be no sorrow in the feast. In heaven, we will be perfectly sanctified, our desires and willpower in perfect harmony with God’s will. God is no [Bacchus, a] party animal, but neither should we think that it will be boring in the resurrection, beholding the glory of God in the high feast of heaven.
“11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.”” Until that day, dear Christians, hold fast to the hope of everlasting life, and order yourselves together according to the Lord’s wise commands. Moderate yourselves, as is befitting a person made in the image of God and redeemed by His own blood. “33 … let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”” Do not look to worldly gratification as if that were the end of our sorrows or the source of our joy, but rather look to the superabundant mercy of God, who restores us, His fallen creation. Here and now we need the means of grace, for God to purify us, to cleanse us of our iniquity. The Holy Supper here in time is a foretaste of that blessed feast to come. In this holy feast He forgives your trespasses. In this communion He has something to do with you, He invites you to His own holy supper. In the harmonious confession of faith at this altar, He unites us to Himself, and so also the promised great high feast to come. Just as repentant sorrow is the fitting response to our sin, and reverence is fitting for the One Who is truly present among us in His Body and Blood, so also joy and thanksgiving are fitting responses for the gifts He gives. God grant you holy joy and steadfast faith, for your sins are forgiven. In the name of + Jesus. Amen.
1[So, we who are born from above… we don’t want to abuse God’s gifts. We know that we are sinners and that we need help. So we might find an unfortunate suspicion appearing occasionally in history, that the only way to approach wine or feasting or family is through complete abstinence. A few crazy monks would get so annoyed in their struggle against sin that they’d say: “Desires are the cause of so much suffering.” This is the root of the tradition where monks would try to become holy by cutting themselves off from anything they desired. As if it were the wine that were evil, rather than their abuse of it. They would abandon their families and refuse to care for them. They would fast beyond the point of bodily training, fast to try to free themselves from any worldly concerns. I am impressed by the self-discipline it takes to fast that much, but the application was foolish, and ultimately ineffective (see: AC XXIII for a historic example). In the days of the Lutheran reformation, one important reform was that monks and clergy were allowed to marry. I’m very thankful for this. This is a case where we need [the third function of] the Law. Jesus shows us that weddings, marriage, are good. Family is good. Wine is good. It is only our sin that has made these things perilous. Heaven is not a funeral, but a feast.]