In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Strange as it may seem, I have never preached a wedding sermon on the wedding at Cana. Not sure I’ve ever even heard one. I mean, why would you want to have a wedding text be the one time Jesus was actually at a wedding? Weird, right? But I suppose it’s a better wedding text than the one assigned for today, for the slaughter of the Holy Innocents. Then again…
But, in all seriousness, thank you, Jonathan and Katie, for asking me to deliver the Word of God to you on this blessed day. The Lord knows Jonny’s parents and other brothers and I have been waiting a long time for this!
It is a great blessing to find a husband or wife who loves the Lord. And the blessing grows greater and greater in the midst of a world that remakes marriage in its own image again and again, reshaping and changing and redefining so that it exactly fits what I think I want and need. What a typically American way of going about things! But, of course, if everything is marriage, then nothing is. Even if the State gets to define marriage, God created it. The basis for every good in marriage is God’s own good creation: “You’ve read, haven’t you, how the Creator, from the beginning, made them male and female, and said, for this reason a man will leave behind his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh” (Matthew 19:4-5). And Jesus, the Word through whom all creation was spoken into existence, blesses marriage by His very presence in Cana, and by the abundance He brings.
It was at Cana, St. John tells us, that Jesus did the first, or the beginning, of His Signs, and revealed His glory, which produced faith in His disciples. At first, there doesn’t seem to be much to this Sign. He gave at least 120, and maybe 180, gallons of wine to people who had already drunk up the wine that was supposed to last the whole feast. In fact, far from a sign of His glory, it almost seems like a disaster and a waste; like a bad college party or a family Christmas that has gotten out of hand. How does this reveal His glory?
Besides the fact that He is the Creator of grapes and water, and so He is the Creator also of wine, He is also the Messiah, the long-awaited Anointed One of God. What do His disciples see that opens their eyes to what He is doing? They see the fulfillment of the prophecies they have heard again and again about the coming of the Messiah. The Creator has entered His creation, and now Jesus begins the fulfillment in miniature of every promise, every prophecy in the Old Testament. Because when the Messiah comes, everyone who belongs to Israel will sit under his own vine, and drink his own wine (e.g., Isaiah 62:8-9; 65:21). When the Messiah comes, His people will come to Him and buy wine and milk without money and without price (Isaiah 55:1). When the Messiah comes, there will be a feast spread on the Mountain of Yahweh, a feast of well-aged wine (Isaiah 25:6). This is the new creation, where there will be no lack. Where Jesus is present, there is an abundance of all good things.
All God’s good gifts He gives without any merit or worthiness in us, but purely out of His fatherly, divine goodness and mercy. That includes the blessing of marriage. But you already know, and you will continue to discover, that these good gifts have been distorted by sin. What God makes good, we always turn toward our own selfishness. We try to satisfy our own desires; we do not put the other person first, but make his good secondary to our own. Our love looks very little like 1 Corinthians 13, no matter how much we sentimentalize it at a wedding. The old Adam in each of us constantly threatens to tear into two what God has joined into one. The loneliness and shame that Adam and Eve brought upon themselves in the Garden still clings to our flesh.
And so this is only the beginning of Jesus’ Signs. The Second Article follows the First, and Jesus reveals His glory in this world to be a crucified glory. He redeems all of us lost, condemned creatures; He buys us back from our self-imposed slavery not with silver or gold, but with His holy, precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. All so that we will be His own and live under Him in His Kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. He never stops pursuing His wayward and adulterous people, the sin-bound Bride whom He married by His own divine freedom. We have just celebrated how our heavenly Bridegroom left His virgin chamber to run His course with joy (Psalm 19:5). Now He goes on to give Himself for her, and pours out from the created vessel of His flesh the blood of His life, in order to make holy His Church, by the baptismal washing of water and the word, so that you and all His holy ones would stand before Him in the splendor of His righteousness, holy and blameless. He has drunk all the bitter wine of sin and death, all the way to that last sponge that He received on the cross. Now, there’s no more punishment left for you. Instead of a purification by the law, which you must fill up with your goodness, He overflows the jars with the blessing of His mercy.
This Jesus is your hope and life, for each of you and for you in your married life. Hear His Word to you continually; receive together the bread made Body and the wine made Blood. He will be your joy; He brings forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man (Psalm 104:15). He has brought you into His “house of wine” (Song of Solomon 2:4), to His banqueting table, and His banner over you is never-ending and inexhaustible Love.
As you receive from Him all His goodness, the world needs you as a sign. When the world gets drunk on its old wine of lust and adultery and divorce, it needs the blood-bought brothers and sisters of Jesus to live together in holy marriage. It needs a sign of forgiveness in the middle of all the damage sinners can inflict on each other. It needs a sign of the unconditional love of God for His people in the middle of the conditional and fickle desires of the flesh. It needs you, Jonathan, to give yourself unconditionally to Katie, to cherish her and nourish her; not because she will be a perfect wife, but because this is what Christ does for the Church. It needs you, Katie, to submit yourself to Jonathan, not because he will be a perfect husband, but because this is how the Church lives before her Lord. And finally, this world, which sees children only as a curse or a means to self-fulfillment, needs the children of the faithful to be icons of life and blessing. The world needs all this even unto death, because it needs to know that the resurrection is coming, when the feast of God’s Son, the wedding feast of the Lamb, will finally be had in all its fullness. When the prophecy of Isaiah will be seen in all its glory: a feast of rich food and well-aged wine on the Mountain of God. On that day, He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord Yahweh will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for Yahweh has spoken (Isaiah 25:6-9). Then the Sign will no longer be needed, because we will have the fulfillment. Then faith will give way to sight. It is not yet, but even now, He gives you the signs which are themselves the means of delivering His grace. From His font and altar and pulpit flow joy that extends into eternity; here is wine that never runs out. With His signs, our Lord has begun a celebration that will never end. God in His mercy grant you His great blessings now and forever, in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 12/26/13