The Second Sunday after Epiphany| January 15, 2017| Rev. Rolf Preus| St. John 2:11
This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him. St. John 2:11
When God appeared to Moses on Mt. Sinai, Moses asked to see his glory. God refused. He said, “You cannot see my face; for no man can see me and live.” God went on to explain to Moses how he would appear to him. We read in Exodus 33:21-23,
And the Lord said, “Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.”
He would not let Moses see his face. God’s glory must be covered or it will destroy us. Sinners cannot face the holy God. That’s why they make up religions to try to avoid having to face him. Holiness cannot tolerate sin. God is holy and we are sinners. That’s a problem. The religions of this world address the problem by denying both God’s holiness and man’s sin. The holy God punishes sin. Sinners manufacture a god in their own image who doesn’t punish anyone. The God that the Bible portrays as a consuming fire is changed into a warm fuzzy. Sin is likewise defined away as dysfunction, brokenness, or something else whereby the sinner becomes a victim, rather than a culprit – anything to avoid the confrontation of the holy God with his fallen sinful creatures.
When God’s holiness is compromised, his law as the immutable standard of holy living is also compromised. That’s what’s happened in America. God’s law affirms the value and dignity of human life. The loss of his law means the debasing of human life. Human life is cheapened. The value of a human being is measured, not by God creating us in his own image, or our redemption by Christ’s blood, or by our sanctification by the Holy Spirit, but by how much money it costs to take care of a child.
The United States Department of Agriculture has just informed us that it costs $233,610 to raise a child through the age of seventeen. That doesn’t include college. That’s a lot of money. Children are way too expensive. Besides that, they keep you up at night, cause you endless worry, break your stuff, and often break your heart.
Yes, children are a burden. And so are old folks who cost so much money to keep alive, even though they are beyond making any solid contributions to the economy. And so are disabled people who have special needs that cost so much money to meet. And so are you. So am I. We are a real burden.
Our generation can toss the holy God out the window and replace him with an indulgent, nonjudgmental, distracted, divine enabler of whatever we want, but we will surely reap the whirlwind of such idolatry. When the holy God is denied, the sin of sinners is defined as goodness and truth. That’s what has happened. Marriages and families have suffered.
God’s word teaches us that the intimacy between a man and a woman from which children are conceived belongs to marriage and to marriage alone. Our generation teaches that fornication is the expression of true love. God’s word teaches that marriage is a lifelong union of one man and one woman and that the only legitimate grounds for divorce are adultery and malicious desertion. Today, divorce is par for the course, except of course for those couples that don’t bother getting married before they move in together to commit sexual sin that they pretend isn’t sin if they really love each other while they are committing it.
When the holy God is denied, sinful man takes his place. But he makes a poor god. Still, we understand why sinners want to deny God’s holiness. It is a fearful thing for a sinner to fall into the hands of the holy God!
But look, sinner, look and see the holy God revealing his glory in a way you can witness without being destroyed. See the glory of God revealed. You don’t have to hide under the cleft of a rock. You can look him in the eye and not be destroyed. He doesn’t shine on you the light of judgment, but of his grace. He doesn’t come to punish you. He comes to rescue you from punishment.
Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. St. John writes of him, “We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” He first revealed his glory thirty years after he was born of the Virgin Mary. It was not in stilling the storm, raising the dead, healing the sick, or casting out demons. Our incarnate God first revealed his glory at a wedding celebration where he turned water into wine.
It was good wine. When God looked upon the world he had made in the beginning, Moses records, “Behold, it was very good.” God makes only what is good. And God made marriage. That makes marriage good. When God became a man he placed himself under the law. He covered up his glory and lived a life of obedience and humility. Then, when he first showed his glory to the world he chose to do so at the celebration of a marriage.
God approves of marriage. God sanctifies marriage. God knew what he was doing when he made Adam and Eve in his own image and blessed them and told them to be fruitful and multiply. He was doing something wonderful. It is still wonderful today.
Sin corrupts everything it touches. That means it corrupts marriage. But Christ sanctifies everything he touches. And he touches marriage. Water is water. To change water into wine – good wine – is to do what only God can do. It is a creative miracle. Only God can create. Only God can create marriage and the family.
When we look at marriage and the family in light of Jesus’ first miracle, we see something much greater than the miracle itself. We see the almighty God choosing to dignify marriage with his blessing and his grace. God will not abandon this holy institution.
God defends marriage. Listen to how St. Paul describes Christ’s love for his bride, the church. The apostle writes:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:25-27)
The Christian husband protects his marriage by treating his wife as Christ treats his wife. He doesn’t force her to serve him. He gives himself for her. His love for her costs him his life. He serves her needs. She needs to be holy. He regards her as holy. He sees her as a glorious bride. He doesn’t pick at her faults. He doesn’t even see them. Instead of seeing what’s wrong with her, he sees her as holy and without blemish.
The way the wife protects her marriage is by treating her husband as the Church treats her husband. St. Paul writes:
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. (Ephesians 5:22-24)
She doesn’t seek to supplant him as the head of the home. She accepts him as her head. In this way he can best take responsibility for her, and care for her needs. She doesn’t ask if he deserves her respect. She submits to him out of respect for her Lord Jesus. She doesn’t try to govern him. She submits to him. The world says this submission is demeaning, but the world also creates idols that rob us all of the dignity we have in Christ.
And that is the key to understanding marriage. It is all about the dignity that we have in Christ. When Christ gave himself up for his church, he offered up his holy life to the bar of divine justice in place of her sinful life and thereby set her free. When he baptized her, he washed away every sin, every spot, and every stain. The miracle of changing water into wine signifies the greater miracle of changing sinners into saints. Both of these miracles are God’s work.
That means that we are God’s work. Think of it! We get married, forget God’s word because we’re so enamored with foolish, romantic notions of love, learn that romance is a rotten foundation for marriage, behave selfishly, weaken or break what wasn’t so strong to begin with, and are left facing all kinds of self-inflicted problems: a lack of trust, a history of disappointments, memories of unkind words and unkind deeds, and general unhappiness. What is a husband or wife to do?
First, learn this lesson. Just because you broke it and need to have it fixed doesn’t mean that you can fix it. You can’t fix what you broke. Jesus can. You can’t. Learn this lesson, and you won’t run away from God when you ruin the good things he gave you. Instead, you’ll run to him, knowing that he is more than willing to repair what you broke.
Jesus defends marriage, protects it, and restores it to the beauty God gave it in Paradise. He does so by giving himself up for his bride and making her holy. His sacrificial offering on the cross and the washing of Holy Baptism are joined together. Our baptism makes us holy. We are washed in the blood of the Lamb. We are forgiven of all our sins, filled with the Holy Spirit, and set before God as that holy bride of Christ without fault or blemish or any such thing.
Now this is a spiritual reality that our eyes cannot see. But we are not the sum total of what we see. We are spiritual beings, and we are united to God in a spiritual communion that God himself has established. You won’t learn this from the culture of death that legalizes baby killing while trashing and perverting God’s holy institution of marriage.
We won’t consult the world or imitate the world or receive instruction from the world when it comes to matters pertaining to marriage and the family. Where we have sinned against marriage, we lay those sins on him who changed water into wine at the wedding of Cana. He brings to our homes a glory that doesn’t frighten us and cause us to hide from him. It is the glory of his grace in which our souls find rest and peace. Amen.