Second Sunday after the Epiphany

Readings: Amos 9:11-15 | Romans 12:6-16 | John 2:1-11

Text: John 2:1-11 

There are two Old Testament readings assigned for this Sunday. One is from Exodus 33:12-23. In that, we read: 

18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” 21 And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.” 

Moses wanted to see God in His glory. The trouble is, sinful man cannot see Him and live. Moses was permitted to see his back. 

Centuries have been spent by man seeking the face and the glory of God: 

  • Mystics seek God in emotional experiences. 
  • Jewish mystics have sought it through a devotion to the Torah: “Kabbalah takes man beyond the normative understanding of reason. It goes beyond the exoteric part of Torah and transcends normative existence. It uncovers many of the infinite layers of the secrets of life, of Creation, of the soul, of the heavenly spheres. It penetrates beyond the garments and the body of the Torah. It is the very core and soul of Torah, the ultimate revelation of Divinity – exposing the inner meaning, effects and purpose of Torah and mitzvahs.”1 
  • Spiritualists old and new seek to find God through their own devices—repetition, music, occasionally intoxication—all so they can achieve what even Moses was not permitted to see. 
  • For His part, God gave the Levitical code to keep sinful man at a safe distance. Through the blood of sacrifice, water of purification, the smoke of incense, the veil before the Ark—God covered His glory so that they would not perish. 

Enter Jesus onto the scene. The Evangelist John comments that the “Word became flesh and tabernacled among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only-begotten Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) It’s a new era for the glory of God and sinful man. The sin hasn’t gotten any better (that’s the delusion that humanity is advancing over generations). But while we were still as wicked as ever, Christ came and tabernacled in our midst. We certainly did not become more worthy of beholding the glory or face of God. The difference was the incarnation, and the gracious purpose of God to reconcile sinners to Himself. 

At the Wedding at Cana, we hear: 

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

At first glance, it seems unrelated and trivial. So what? Jesus was invited to a friend’s wedding and saved them from a huge embarrassment. But in view of who Jesus is and what He has come to see, there is so much more to behold! 

  • The Lord is revealing Himself in His tabernacle among us in a new way. Where will people see God? Not just in the Temple. How will He show His glory? In this creative work which takes the old and fulfills it; which brings an abundance which man could never conjure up. To whom will He show His glory? Not simply to one man, but to His disciples who believe in Him! 
  • Under the Law, the glory of God had to be kept away from sinful man. When the Word became flesh, He made His intention clear that He wanted to take up a permanent dwelling among this fallen race. 
  • In the Old Testament Lesson we heard from Amos 9:11-15, the Lord says that this new era will be marked by “the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it”—an abundance of cause to rejoice and celebrate. It is a joy and peace that alcohol by itself couldn’t possibly give in its intoxicating properties. As God gave us wine to “gladden the heart of man” (Ps. 104:15), it’s only in seeing the Son of God’s mighty deeds that we know true elation. 

So, this sign shows that God’s restoration has come. Jesus is the end of the waiting of the Law. He is the end of the divide between God and sinful man for all who believe. 

This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. 
  • Here is the message of Jesus at the wedding in Cana: He is there to show what Moses and Amos anticipated. The glory of the Lord would be seen by people from all nations, even the “remnant of mankind.” (Amos 9 quoted in Acts 15:17). 
  • His glory is manifest in human form (Phil. 2:8). Moses could not see, but here, the Lord is present in the midst of sinners. He is approached by His mother with a request. He is an ordinary guest, and yet the Lord in His glory. 
  • The glory of God is not something for man to seek out on our own deceitful terms. Rather it is what God makes known in His own timing. 

Likewise, with the coming of Jesus in the flesh, and His glory manifest, the answer is no longer: “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live” (Ex. 33:20). Now the face of God is visible in the Son of God [2 Cor. 3:18]. 

Jesus has come to hear our prayers, just as He did of His own mother, to bring us the joy of His salvation, and to make the face of God seen in our midst. This brings us full-circle back to something God gave during the ministry of the Levites. And it is with this unveiled face, and revealed glory, that the Divine Service ends with the Aaronic Benediction:  

24The Lord bless you and keep you;  
25the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;  
26the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. (Num. 6:24-26)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. 

Second Sunday after the Epiphany

Readings: Amos 9:11–15 | Romans 12:6–16 | John 2:1–11

Text: John 2:1-11

Today, we’ll start with the end of the lesson: “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.”

The Wedding at Cana is not primarily about marriage, or whether drinking wine is right or wrong, or being saved from awkward social situations, any more than pop holiday music captures the true significance of Christmas.  Yes, there may be trees and holly, crackling fires and joyful reunions.  But these ancillary things do not teach you about the Incarnate Son of God, born to save us from our sins.  Neither will the union of a man and woman, nor the frivolity of a reception with an open bar will show you the glory of Jesus Christ.

To only view the Wedding at Cana as Jesus’ endorsement of alcohol at parties, or encouragement for marriage, is to miss an entire dimension of who Jesus is and what His work is.  Those are to view it from the vantage point of the earth, and lends itself to eisegesisEisegesis, literally reading into the text, is when someone starts with their life experience and shoehorns a biblical passage to fit their situation.  An example of that is reading the account of David and Goliath and allegorizing Goliath into obstacles in your life, and concluding that if you had enough faith in God, you could conquer in personal growth—your “Goliaths.”

So, this isn’t to say that the Lord doesn’t bless marriage or that He forbids the use of alcohol (see Psalm 104:14-15).  It’s just that those are not the main features of this text.  In this season of Epiphany, the Church concerns herself with how God reveals His glory in His Son.  His glory is for those living in darkness to see a great light, for men to believe and cling to God’s Son as the only One who can rescue them, sustain them in their pilgrimage, and bring them to eternal peace.

So, what is going on at Cana?  Why the wedding, and why the water into wine?  To answer those questions, we need what’s called exegesis, which is bringing the intended meaning out of text and the rest of Scripture.  One of those other passages was selected for the Old Testament Lesson today from Amos 9:

11    “In that day I will raise up

the booth of David that is fallen

   and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old,

   12  that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by my name,” declares the Lord who does this.

   13  “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when the plowman shall overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed; the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it.

   14  I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them;

   they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.

   15  I will plant them on their land,

and they shall never again be uprooted

out of the land that I have given them,”

says the Lord your God.

Here, the Lord is speaking through the shepherd-prophet Amos to deliver a message of good news.  It’s a message of restoration after destruction, but better than before.  It is a promise from God of healing that is for all nations, as many as call upon God’s Name.  Using the imagery of walls, nations, and fields, the Lord is telling them of the age of the Messiah. “In that day, I will raise up…Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord” encouraged the first hearers to look ahead to what God would do, and what He did do in His beloved Son.

But especially note one of the signs of the Messianic age: Abundant wine, “When the treader of grapes [shall overtake] him who sows the seed; the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it.”  Wine is one of those clues of the blessings of the age of Messiah, and to say that the mountains drip with it is to say blessing will far exceed whatever has come before.  How great could they be? Recall the words of Isaiah 25, “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples…He will swallow up death forever” (Isa. 25:6-8a)  How about death being swallowed up forever?!  Through God’s promised Savior, such blessings are yours, and they are never to pass away, for “they shall never again be uprooted out of the land that I have given them.”

The opposite of this is having no wine, as Jeremiah said, “Gladness and joy have been taken away from the fruitful land of Moab; I have made the wine cease from the winepresses; no one treads them with shouts of joy; the shouting is not the shout of joy.”  No wine signifies judgment, and the joy that is taken away from mourning our sins and the toll death has taken on us.  But to have the wine restored signifies that the Lord’s salvation has come.

This is not to give the sinful flesh license to abuse actual wine, as Noah did, and lay naked in his tent [Gen. 9:20-23], or for us give in to drunkenness and immorality.  We’re talking here about the joy of salvation, not the numbness and impairment of alcohol, which God repeatedly condemns (e.g. Isaiah 5:11-12; 1 Cor. 5:11; Eph. 5:18; and allegorically Rev. 18:3).

At the wedding, Jesus revealed His glory as the One who ushers in, and is the center of the Messianic age.  As the prophets said before, the Lord is husband to His people [Isa. 54:4], and that when He came to reclaim His bride, His people would joyfully be taken to be His forever [Hosea 2:16].  The master of the feast at Cana duly notes that the best wine has been reserved until the latter time, because it is in these last days that God has spoken to us by His Son [Heb. 1:2].

So, it is that we live in this age of the Messiah!  It is Jesus who comes to us when we are crushed under the weight of our sins and groan from the tribulation of this world.  Even though we live in the age of Messiah, the age of the New Testament, we are tempted and we fall to the weakness of our flesh.  God is the one who keeps our life, but we fear losing our health and hang our hopes on the abilities of doctors and science as if they themselves had power to save.  The Church belongs to Christ, His Holy Spirit sees to the growth and sustaining of faith, but think clever programs and marketing will bring a greater yield from the Lord’s harvest.  This same mighty Lord is in our midst in worship, but how easily we can get hung up on the human and earthly elements that we miss His blessings because of our unbelief!

Yet, since the Messiah has come, and we are in between His Incarnation and His glorious, eternal return, we can be confident in our Bridegroom’s dedication.  He has given Himself up for us that we might be seen as holy and blameless in His sight [Eph. 5:25-27].  He has also sent us the gift of the Holy Spirit into our hearts.  The same Spirit who once hovered over the waters of creation, when the light was separated from the darkness, is there to minister to us.  It is He who manifests the glory of Jesus to us anew, every time that our hearts have grown cold and our joy is nowhere to be found.  Through His powerful Word and the tangible signs that point to Him—Baptism, Absolution, and the Supper—we behold Jesus’ glory: “Glory as of the only-begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)  It is He who now brings us out of the darkness of unbelief, making us light in the Lord [Eph. 5:8].

And that’s the light that was described in the Epistle reading from Romans 12:9-16:

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.

This isn’t simply a laundry list of things for Christians to do, but a description of the life we have in God’s Messiah.  It’s the result of our heavenly Bridegroom’s work in His bride, the Church, and each of us individually. 

Here in Christ is a glory which is prepared for all people.  It’s not just for those who can relate to weddings.  It’s not a joy that’s held back from those who must abstain from alcohol.  We remember this wedding celebration because our Bridegroom was there, and He made Himself known in part.  His hour would come, when He would, “for the joy that was set before Him, endure the cross” (Heb. 12:2).  Our crucified and risen Lord and God has become our Bridegroom—He is ours and we are His forever.  And this day, we rejoice to be invited to the foretaste of the marriage feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom, where He gives us joy in His Body and Blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. Amen.

Second Sunday after the Epiphany ( John 2:1-11)

Bethlehem Lutheran & Bethel Lutheran Church, Lebanon & Sweet Home, OR

Second Sunday after the Epiphany + January 20, 2019

Text: John 2:1-11

When Moses was leading Israel through the wilderness toward the land of promise, he was content to know that the Lord went with them.  But more than a stranger on the bus, Moses knew that He wanted to know the Lord’s ways and find favor in His sight.  And God responded in kind: “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”  But even with the Lord’s promise to go with him, the knowing His ways, the promise, “I know you by name,” Moses longed for more.  He said to the Lord, “Show me your glory.”

But this request, the Lord was not going to fulfill.  It wasn’t the right time.  For all the closeness that Moses had, seeing God face to face, being known by Him, even having his face glow from being in the Lord’s presence—it wasn’t time to see His glory, because “You cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” (Exodus 32:20)

Around fifteen hundred years later, God is still with His people, but in a new way—a deeper way.  “The Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17)

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Building on the closeness that Moses knew, the Lord indeed is going with His people, He has made known His ways through Moses and the Law, and He is indeed personally present.  Again, there is a request: “They have no wine.”  But the response isn’t simply, “That’s not my concern”; it’s “My hour has not yet come.”  The answer is, not yet.  But even as Moses was given a glimpse of the glory of the Lord from the cleft of the rock, the Lord begins to reveal Himself to His people.

If we get caught up in how Jesus did this, or how much wine, or what quality it is, we miss the greatest thing: This sign is about God revealing Himself in a greater and new way to His people, a way that was not possible in times past.  “This, the first of His signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested His glory. And His disciples believed in Him.”  The Lord was unveiling His glory to His chosen people.

What is His glory?  Certainly there’s the technical answers about a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, how Moses could not enter the tabernacle because God’s glory had entered it.  But it’s easier to describe than that.  God’s glory is the unmediated intimacy which He has with man.  This has not been seen on earth since the Fall—ever since then it has been as the hymn says, “Though the eye of sinful man, Thy glory may not see.”  God’s glory has been held back, concealed, clothed.  Just as Adam and Eve could no longer be naked without shame, so God and man could not dwell together in perfect and shameless nakedness.  The union was broken with sin.

St. Paul speaks of this union which God desires with man in terms of marriage:

23 Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior…Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish… Christ nourishes and cherishes the church, 30 because we are members of his body…Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.

He concludes by saying, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church.” (v. 32)  You could say that marriage is an analogy for God’s quest to restore that intimacy with man that was lost in Eden.  And just like the closeness and intimacy of husband and wife, it unfolds over time.

The revelation of God’s glory is akin to man and woman and the road to becoming husband and wife.  Two people meet, and there’s chemistry, but they’re unsure, gradually getting to know one another.  Trust is developed over time and through experience. Infatuation strengthens into genuine love, self-sacrifice and putting the needs of the other above your own interests.  Then there’s the mutual agreement that this is the person that you want to spend the rest of your life with.  And upon being married, declared husband and wife before the community, leaving father and mother and holding fast to each other, that the point of consummation is reached.  Husband and wife become one flesh—bonded together physically, emotionally, and materially.  “What God has brought together, let no man rent asunder.” (Mark 10:9).

And what God has brought together begets children for husband and wife—now father and mother—to nurture together.  This is the order which God established, an earthly reflection of a heavenly reality, the union of man and woman as a parable of the salvation of the world.

But tragically, we human beings have turned over that order and the consequences are palpable.  Today, many Christian churches in America are commemorating Sanctity of Life Sunday, but this isn’t just a problem of abortion.  That’s only a symptom.  There is a culture of casting every tradition aside and fulfilling one’s passions that’s akin to desiring to see God’s glory before it’s the right time to be revealed.  We seek the glory of marriage before the right time and without the burden it involves.  Closeness is sought up front without the time and mutual trust which must come first, and it results in deep secrets being turned into weapons of revenge.  The expectation of sexual intimacy and pleasure are seen as the next step for dating couples, without the duty and commitment that undergird it.  That union is further divided when one turns that mutual enjoyment inward and substitutes an image on a screen.  Couples want to be one life and property, but without the legal obligations from the state which support and enforce that.

Led by hormones and a flippancy toward tradition, it’s actually the next generation that suffers. This is where abortion often shows up, as a desire to eliminate babies from the one flesh union.  Here, the CDC reports that 85.7% of abortions are by unmarried mothers—those who don’t have the stability of a committed husband who does the godly thing and raises the child he has brought into existence.[1]

But God did not jump the gun on His married intimacy with His Bride, the Church.  He revealed His glory when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the Law to redeem those under the Law.

How much we need God to bring us back to that intimacy we had with Him at the beginning!  And that is His burning desire!  God so often compares Himself to a husband longing to retrieve His wayward wife, because we are the ones who left Him.  We are the ones who left Him and made a mess of our lives and the lives of others.  In spite of our unfaithfulness, Christ, our husband, calls us back to Himself.  Even while we were delighting in immorality, Christ was dying for us.  While we were playing fancy free with His order, He was tirelessly seeking our place in His new creation.

At Cana in Galilee, Christ began to reveal His glory, “glory as of the only-begotten Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  That was just the start!  His glory was most fully revealed to us (so far) when He was lifted up on the cross to take away the sin of the world[2]—to take away your sin and mine.  That’s where God, your husband, not only revealed His heart, but also showed exactly what He was willing to do to win you back and restore that perfect intimacy.

And still, we have not seen all of His glory, but only as much as we are allowed to see now.  We have His Word, we have seen and believed in His Son, lifted up on the cross. The light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of His people Israel—is that He came in the flesh to redeem us.  Yet even still, our Bridegroom is with His Bride.  He hasn’t abandoned us or forsaken us while we wander through the wilderness.  To Moses, He said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 32:14)  That was true enough then, but even more so now, because now our Bridegroom baptizes us into His death and resurrection.  He gives of us His Body and Blood to eat and drink.  He has made Himself one flesh with us, and we with Him.

So this day in time, as He comes to us with His Body and Blood, I want you to focus on the 2nd stanza of the hymn, “Soul, Adorn Yourself with Gladness.” (LSB 636).  Stanza 2 expresses our longing for our heavenly Bridegroom:

Hasten as a bride to meet Him,

And with loving rev’rence greet Him.

For with words of life immortal

He is knocking at your portal.

Open wide the gates before Him,

Saying, as you there adore Him:

Grant, Lord, that I now receive You,

That I nevermore will leave You.



[2] John 12:23-24

2nd Sunday after the Epiphany ( John 2:1-11)

Bethlehem Lutheran Church and Bethel Lutheran Church, Lebanon and Sweet Home, OR
2nd Sunday after the Epiphany + January 14, 2018
Text: John 2:1-11

Why did this wedding take place on Tuesday?  That’s what the 3rd day was, after all (Sunday is the first day, etc.).  The third day was the day of double blessing.  In creation, God saw what He had made and declared it good.  First, the separating of land and sea, and second the splendor of plant life.  Nevertheless, God blesses the third day, and so Jewish couples would get married on Tuesday.
But to talk about blessing when Jesus is present at this wedding, is to make this more than an event for one couple.  On this day of Double Blessing, the very One through whom that good came is present.  The Lord blesses marriage with His presence.
The Word of the Lord says in Psalm 127,
    Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
       Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
    It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
       eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.
    Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
    Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
    Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
Of course we believe that God blessed marriage for Adam and Eve.  But the more incredible thing about Jesus being at this wedding is that God blesses marriage here, on our side of the fall into sin.
Just ask around though, and see how few marriages look blessed—if they last at all.  From our perspective, the double blessing upon marriage too often ends up being a sizeable material blessing for lawyers.
If you’re looking for God’s blessing upon marriage, don’t look below.  The reason God blesses marriage is the same reason He sets the Third Day apart as sacred.
Jesus is at this wedding as one who is engaged (not in the ordinary sense).  He has promised Himself to His Bride, the faithful people of God, the Church.  For Him, marriage is not first something we do in commitment to each other; it’s what He does for His redeemed
25…Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:25–27)
The gift He gave His bride was His own life to save her from death, His own blood to wash her from filth, and His own righteousness with which He clothes her.
For Christ and His Bride, the Church, the Third Day truly is a day of double blessing, for it is the day on which He completed His great act of love and faithfulness.  For Him and His Bride, it is not “till death do you part” but “to be united unto eternal life.”
It’s God’s will that our earthly marriages reflect that as much as we are able.  Yet for sinful husbands and wives, repentant divorcees, and grieving widows, our Bridegroom’s double blessing gives forgiveness, renewal, and everlasting hope.