Second Sunday in Epiphany: Surprised ?

First Reading: Isaiah 62:1-5

1For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
  and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest,
 until her vindication shines out like the dawn,
  and her salvation like a burning torch.
2The nations shall see your vindication,
  and all the kings your glory;
 and you shall be called by a new name
  that the mouth of the Lord will give.
3You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
  and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
4You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
  and your land shall no more be termed Desolate;
 but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,
  and your land Married;
 for the Lord delights in you,
  and your land shall be married.
5For as a young man marries a young woman,
  so shall your builder marry you,
 and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
  so shall your God rejoice over you.

Psalm: Psalm 36:5-10

5Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens,
  and your faithfulness to the clouds.
6Your righteousness is like the strong mountains, your justice     like the great deep; you save humankind and animals, O Lord. 
7How priceless is your love, O God!
  All people take refuge under the shadow of your wings.
8They feast upon the abundance of your house;
  you give them drink from the river of your delights.
9For with you is the well of life,
  and in your light we see light.
10Continue your lovingkindness to those who know you,
  and your favor to those who are true of heart.

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11

1Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. 3Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Let Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.
  4Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

Gospel: John 2:1-11

1On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” 5His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. 9When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

CHILDREN’S SERMON:  Turn to your neighbor and share something that made you happy at a wedding you attended or at your own wedding.

Let us pray: Lord may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, my Rock and my Redeemer.


Epiphany is the season of “ah ha” moments as we catch glimpses of what this babe in Jerusalem is revealing to us as God incarnate, true God and true man.  Last week we stood at the baptism of Jesus, full of expectations, looking for an expert to explain it all to us, and hearing the voice of God speaking from heaven, “This is my son in whom I am well pleased.”  Gulp.  We stood at a mystery of the Trinity as the Holy Spirit appeared like a dove.  We are baptized into that mystery.  That Trinity walked with us this past week and will go with us into tomorrow.  Wow!! 

         Today our lectionary takes us to the Gospel of John and Jesus’ first miracle, first sign. Jesus surprises us in three ways that might be “ah ha” moments, epiphany moments, for us today.

“Ah ha” #1:  Jesus is at Weddings

         John chooses the wedding of Cana for his first place of ministry for Jesus.  Matthew opened with the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ State of the Union address.  Mark opens with an exorcism after Jesus read Scripture in the temple.  Luke opens with Jesus being driven into the wilderness for testing with Satan.  John, however, opens with a seemingly concerned mother, Mary, coming to Jesus at a wedding, asking for his help.  Do not race past this context.  It is so human, so us.  For older Christians who know the story, this does not surprise us at first glance.  But let’s think for a minute of how many places we find Jesus unexpectedly–places outside the Temple, outside the Scriptures, and outside our expectations.  God is often outside “the box!” working outside our boxes.  Jesus was criticized for eating at Levi’s home with sinners.  He was criticized for letting Mary anoint him with oil.  He stopped on the way to Jairus’ house to deal with the woman with the flow of blood, allowing contact.  He touched lepers.  He slept while boats were threatening to capsize in a storm.  Jesus stops a funeral procession to raise the son and comes four days late after Lazarus has died.  God’s ways are not our ways.

         What does this tell us about our God?  Our God is often working in places and people we do not expect.  It is easy for me to despair and grumble a I listen to the evening news and hear all the debates going on about any number of issues.  The statistics are overwhelming and God is never factored in the picture of our future.  Or there is a sideways comment about the role of “those” Christians in politics as if Christianity was a political party and we all think the same.  It is easy to grump and yell at the ipad or TV. 

         Our text today would lead us to ask where Jesus is in the story of our lives.  Is he the invited guest in the audience of our life that we send someone to call on when we get in trouble?  “Please pray for me….”  And if more people pray, more spiritual power is generated.  It might be similar to thinking that the more money we have in the bank, the safer we are or the more people that like us on Facebook indicate how loved we are.  Then again we might think that God is there and he is aware but somehow the time is not right.

         It is hard to think of God being in the wings with the power but seemingly not active, just enjoying the situation.  Maybe he is waiting to be called upon.  Perhaps his timing is not our timing.  Perhaps our prayer for this year is to have eyes that see God present in the most ridiculous places – the shower, the pub or restaurant, working in Bethany garden beside us, or even walking with us through Wal-mart.  Jesus appears in unexpected places outside the church.  Perhaps we need only ask for help and wait for him to answer in creative ways we do not expect.  

“Ah ha” #2  Water to Wine

This wedding is not a Saturday afternoon or evening commitment.  This is a week of celebrating.  The people have been celebrating, probably drinking.  The steward indicates that it is at the end of this party. People are draining the good wine but partying is not over yet.  What can Jesus do?  Certainly sermons are not in order.  Enhancing the fun at a party is not what we think Jesus will do.  We often think in terms of evangelism or healing – solving our problems but not increasing our fun.  But that is not what Jesus does.  Jesus tells the servants to take the water that is set aside for purification and Jesus uses that water to make more wine for people who have probably been drinking.  The steward says, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.”  I suddenly realized that Jesus used water set aside for purification for the miracle.  Do you feel a tension inside as we realize that which is set apart for holy use, purification, is used for partying?  How do we get our minds around that?  I think that tells us something about the heart of our God.

We could easily say that Jesus wants us to enjoy the abundant life –

 John 10: 10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

God wants us to live life abundantly.  The truth is, though, many face each day wondering if the wine is going to run out and life does not feel like a party.  The anger and the frustration we live in today is not because people are experiencing “abundant life” but because people are afraid the wine is going to run out – and for many it is. 

         So what does Jesus do?  Jesus takes that which is set aside for holy use and uses it to help the people who do not even know who he is.  Wait, he takes that which is set aside for holy use and enriches the life of people who may not know him?  We are like that water set aside for purification and Jesus can use us to be wine in someone else’s life.  Have you ever thought of yourself as a cup of wine?  Now that is a bit of a new thought.  Let me be clear that I am saying this symbolically and not saying we should go out drinking, but we have been blessed to be a blessing – not just to friends and family but even to the others we may not even know.

         Let me share a verse that seems to indicate this interpretation. 

1 Peter 2:9 tells us

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,

God’s special possession,

that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

Could it be that this miracle, this sign, is not about how God makes my life sweeter and happier but how God wants to use me to make the lives of others who may not even know him, better?  That is a slightly different thing than the evangelism emphasis we often put on witnessing to a stranger.  Just being who God has blessed us to be and sharing that blessing is not necessarily the same as making sure someone is going to heaven.  The Holy Spirit works through ordinary water, us, set aside for God’s purposes, to create wine, blessing.  We are the medium transmitting the blessing, not the blesser.  God blesses.  We are the water he uses.

         And, God saves the best for last!  Our stories have not ended but we know, despite the trials, the end of the story will be the best part!

“Ah ha” #3  Timing

It is difficult to deal with this passage that surprises us with the places Jesus chooses to work and surprises us with elements he chooses to use,  without also surprising us with the direct exchange with his mother. Mary comes to Jesus and informs him of the dilemma the host is facing, the wine is running out.

         Jesus responds to her, “Woman…”  A couple weeks ago we saw Jesus differentiate himself from Joseph when at the temple at age 12 he tells his parents, “Didn’t you know I had to be in my father’s house.”  In today’s text Jesus does not respond to Mary as “mother” but as “woman.”  He is pulling rank.  That feels very direct.  It’s kinda like Jesus plays a trump card.  I fear we have become so cozy with Jesus as a God of love, putting his name on bumper stickers, on mugs, and who knows where else that when Jesus claims status, we are offended.  Jesus is not ours to order around to resolve our problems the way we think they need to be resolved and on our timelines.  We fall into sloppy theology thinking we deserve health, wealth and prosperity because we believe and have faith, because we live in a country with Christian roots, or maybe because we are baptized or Lutheran.  It is so easy to feel entitled to God’s special attention for we are his special people.  I love the scene in Fiddler on the Roof when the father, Tevya, says to God something like, “I know we are your chosen people but I wish you would choose someone else sometimes.”  Jesus does not flatter and appease Mary and he does not flatter and appease us.  Life is not about my happiness and my comfort but about God’s kingdom.  Jesus is clear on that.  Sometimes he has to say “NO” to our prayers not because he does not want to answer the need at hand but because the time is not right.  He has a plan.

         In the face of Jesus’ seemingly blunt response, Mary does not pout and act rejected.  Nor does she clam up and act rebuked.  Mary maintains faith that her request is proper and that Jesus is the only one who can resolve the problem and turns to the servants and tells them to obey him.  God’s timing is not our timing. 

         When God acts, though, we notice that blessing is abundant.  120 to 150 gallons of the best wine is presented to the host.  Let us remember that God does not flatter us and pamper us but when the time is right, God blesses us abundantly.  Because our story is not ended, we do not know exactly how that will play out.  The broken engagement or broken marriage leads to a whole new chapter in life that was not anticipated.  The confinements of Covid cause us to resurrect old forgotten hobbies or entertainment and think of creative ways to connect.   Cory Ten Boom famously said, “When God closes a door, he opens a window.”  That does not necessarily mean happy ever after now.  We may have to wait til eternity.

         The wedding at Cana reminds us that God is present, often in unexpected places.  God uses unexpected things to bless in unexpected ways.  He wants to use us who are “holy” to bring joy to those facing problems.  And God is always honest and direct with us as he works on a time line that he knows is best.

         Open our eyes Lord to see you in new ways and new places this week.

         Open our hearts Lord to people you want to bless through us this week.

         Open our ears to hear you speak honest words to us and help us be patient as we wait for your timing.

The people of God said, “Amen!”

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