The Wedding Feast - Reflections 1-16-19

Texts for Sunday, January 20, 2019
Second Sunday after Epiphany

Isaiah 62:1-5
Psalm 36:5-10
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
John 2:1-11

I have a serious 
God in flesh made manifest earworm. 

That phrase about God is from an Epiphany season hymn.  I start humming it any time I see or think the word “manifest”. Yes, even ads for the TV show Manifest (as in list of cargo/passengers) can trigger it. 

The question that is asked of each Gospel text this season is how is God manifested through this story. I try to substitute the words revealed or made visible or appearing, but my earworm is a slippery and insistent little bug. And to top it off, Epiphany is particularly long this year. And, yes, I am aware of how petty this “problem” this is. 
So, Ms. Earworm, let’s sing. 

The Gospel for the week is one from John, slipped into this year of Luke because it along with the visit of the Magi and Jesus baptism make up the traditional “big 3” manifestations of Epiphany. In John, this is the first of seven signs that reveal who Jesus is and what is his mission here.  

The story? Jesus changes water into wine at a wedding feast at Cana. His first public act in John is water into wine.

At first blush, this is a little disappointing for me. I liked the spectacular swoop of the dove and booming voice at Jesus’ baptism, and the political intrigue and deception of Herod by the Magi come from afar. Wedding and wine just don’t come up to the spectacular level I expect when I hear God made manifest. Believe me, my daughter’s wedding was this fall so I get how embarrassing and dramatic the whole “oops-out-of-wine” situation would be and even more so in that culture. But the later signs in John include healings, feeding 5000 people from five loaves of bread and two fish, and raising Lazarus from the dead. Now those are impressive! 

I do, however, admit that this text offers an enjoyable and well-written story, even a little comical if you let it be. Jesus' mother realizes that the party at this wedding is about to be out of wine (I love that part because I know so many women who would notice that and try to help). Jesus is relatively unimpressed and says that they – Mom and Jesus - should mind their own business (again, a typical responsive from a son). But Mom was not phased. If you’ll remember from Advent and the Gospel of Luke, she understood even before Jesus was born that her Son was going to turn the world upside down. “Ok”, she said, “I’m getting off your back”, but then turned to the servants and told them to do whatever he told them to do. Can’t you just see the twinkle in her eye or her sneaky smile? This is one of those family stories that gets repeated at family gatherings.

I also admit that plenty of better-educated and more sophisticated theologically people think this story is plenty spectacular as a manifestation of God.  As it turns out, the story this week points to expectations for the arrival of God’s new age, the great feast at the end of time. The fine wine is a clue. And the amount of wine is a clue. It is an eschatological* thing.
On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever. Then the Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.  Isaiah 25:6-9

Ok. I can get that.  The whole end-of-the-world, coming-of-the-long-awaited Messiah/Savior, is in fact spectacular. For that matter, the great feast at the end of time is often called a wedding banquet. Six giant stone containers of water becoming “good wine” show abundance and generosity - God’s invitation to party hearty! 

Note that this event is not as “public” as say the feeding of 5000 (which, by the way, also demonstrates the abundance and generosity of God). But do note the people who are in on the mysterious transformation: the servants. What a wonderful parenthetical statement – though the servants who had drawn the water knew. The parentheses get at the other part of Jesus’ mission. He is here for “the least of these” …. for servants, not the guests of honor. 

Ms. Earworm, let’s move on to the verse that includes manifest in power divine, changing water into wine

How about you? 
How is God made manifest in your life? 
Are you looking for a splashy manifestation? Or a subtle one?

* Eschatology is the study of the final events of history, or of the ultimate destiny of humankind; theologically, it points to the end of the world and final outcome directed by God

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Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

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Iowa City, IA 52245