Bishop Ordinary: Rt Rev Brian R Marsh

Sermon

The Third Sunday after Epiphany, 2014
Good Shepherd, Charlestown; Trinity Church, Lebanon

Let us Pray:
O Lord, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Have any of us felt completely unprepared for a task that has been given to us? Well, of course we have. Whether it is a surprise exam, a dangerous situation, a difficult problem we must solve, a conflict with someone that simply cannot be resolved. We have all faced these difficulties. Sometimes we resolve them effectively. Sometimes not. But they are very human situations. Confronting them, we might say to ourselves, helps build character. It is part of the maturing process. And I am quite sure that it is.

 

We may be seeing some of that at play in today's Gospel reading. This particular passage shows us something of the unique and miraculous relationship between God and us. It also opens wide a window onto the ministry of Jesus in this world.

 

There are so many wonderful themes that run through the Gospel message for today that we may start at any point and reach the beautiful message of God's work in the world. We can look at the passage from John's Gospel through the eyes of Mary, the mother of Jesus. She senses a problem; there is no wine at the wedding feast. A bad omen, certainly. She mentions the problem to her son, perhaps asking him to fix things. This is a normal human reaction. How often have any of us been sent to the corner store for a loaf of bread, a gallon of milk or, yes, a bottle of wine? Perhaps we have sent a child. "Go quickly," we might says, "the guests will be arriving soon." We sense the concern in the mother's voice – and it is real.

 

We may look at this passage through the eyes of the governor of the feast. He was waiting for another glass of wine. And when he received it, he was clearly surprised by the quality of the wine. He called the bridegroom and honored him for saving the best wine for the last. The bridegroom may have been surprised by this extraordinary compliment and wondered perhaps where the wine had come from. Surely he would have questioned the servants and tasted the wine himself. And when he learned the truth of what had happened, he would certainly have wondered about the miracle that had come about on that particular day.

 

We may watch the festivities through the eyes of the guests at this wedding feast. Perhaps they wonder at the quality of the wine. They didn't know the whole story, but they knew that something different had happened. What was it? They may never have heard the whole story. But ever afterwards they would remember that on this particular day, at a wedding in Cana of Galilee, the wine was truly exceptional, beyond anything they had ever tasted. Beyond anything of this world.

 

Then, too, there are the disciples. They had come to this wedding feast as well. They were transformed during this event. They witnessed the miracle. And, as John writes, "they believed on him."

 

Who else was there? Through whose eyes have we yet to look?

 

Of course, Jesus was there. God Incarnate; perfect God and perfect man. Invited to the feast, he is there with his mother and his disciples.

 

Jesus is called upon to do something. But he expresses reluctance. "My time is not yet come," he says. What is going on here? Is this an example of the test that has not been prepared for, the challenge that cannot be met, the marathon run that has not received the proper training?

 

But the task fall to Jesus. And we now look with His eyes. He has seen the wedding, he has taken part in the feast. And as he casts about for some way to solve this problem, to save this day, his eyes fall upon six water pots. Used to purify the Jews, they are likely empty. They need filling. And so they are – filled to the brim at the request of Jesus.

 

And then the wine is distributed. We now see with our own eyes what happens. Wine is consumed each day by the residents of ancient Judea. It is drunk as a matter of course. It is present at meals as part of the diet. It is considered food.

 

But now, as each person there drinks of the wine that has come from the stone water-pots, the governor, the disciples and all the guests are surprised by this incredible wine. They may lift up their glasses in wonder. They may remark to their neighbors about the quality of the wine. And they will never forget this particular day.

 

We end this passage as the eyes of the disciples turn toward Jesus. They know they are in the presence on one who will perform miracles of the temporal world – and that of the spirit. Jesus transforms the physical world, sanctifying that which is ordinary. By his presence, he redeems and honors that which had been empty of spirit.

 

Jesus will always be God. He will always act as God. He will always recognize and honor that which is reflective of His love.

 

This is the first miracle of Jesus that is recorded in the Gospels. There will be many others. But they will all include a physical and a spiritual transformation. They are tied together in a physical and spiritual union, just as Jesus is both God and man; just as the man and woman at the wedding feast are bound together in a physical and spiritual union.

 

The miracles performed by Jesus of Nazareth are not design for show. They are all given for a purpose; to redeem God's world, to call us back to God and give us a taste of the joy we may find in a life lived in the presence of God in Christ. That our eyes may be truly opened.

 

Let us pray:
We beseech thee, Almighty God, mercifully to look upon thy people; that by thy great goodness they may be governed and preserved evermore, both in body and soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.