Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Manifestation of God in Jesus Christ

Epiphany  2 +B       
17,  January 2016      
The Reverend Robert R.M. Bagwell+
Isaiah 62:1-5
Psalm 36:5-10
I Corinthians 12:1-11
John 2:1-11

"God is LIGHT"!  Have you ever considered how many times the holy Scriptures refer to God and Light?  We are in the season of LIGHT, symbolized by the star that the three Magi followed to find the Messiah, the babe born to deliver humanity from sin and death.    When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  (John 8:12)

What was the first act of creation?  God said:  let there be light, and there was light. (Genesis 1:3)  In the Psalm we read   For with you is the well of life, and in your light we see light. (36:9) Light…Truth.  Did you know that last Friday was Martin Luther King's birthday?  What was his dream? Was it not for an illumination of Truth

.If you look at my Facebook page you will read these words of Paul to the church at Corinth: :For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6

This is the season of "theophany". This fancy theological word means manifestation of God to the human five senses.  The events: the wise men, Christ's baptism with the Holy Spirit descending like a dove, the changing of the water into wine, All manifestations of God's power over creation.  The scriptures are replete with such examples, but it is not until Jesus that we see such miracles lodged in one person.   In a real sense, Jesus IS the Epiphany.  

This brings us into the story of the wedding at Cana.  Jesus and disciples were present as well as Jesus' mother Mary.  Into this all important part of this unnamed couple=s life comes Jesus.  He is attending this important family event as a guest. For a Jewish feast, wine was  essential. So, for the wine to run out at a wedding would have been a  terrible humiliation for the bride and groom.  Therefore, once his mother Mary, (who was apparently the first to notice this problem)  had brought this problem to Jesus' attention. He felt  compassion for the couple and saved them from this embarrassment.   Notice what happens: the Virgin Mary calls the problem to Jesus attention.  Jesus replies in a way we might think rudely, but not so in the Hebrew idiom.  But Mary will not hear of a refusal.  She replies to the servants in a phrase :do whatever he tells you. 

This is a  phrase that we should all internalize and determine by the Holy Spirit=s help, to live by. Jesus tells them to fill six stone jars with water. Dont you know that the servants are wondering what in the heck Jesus is having them do that for?  Then as they did what he said, the miracle happened.  There is an important principle here.  When we are obedient to God, miracles happen.  Our obedience  in faith, unleashes the power of God to do the impossible.

Jesus did  not use the opportunity of the miracle to publicize himself. He had the servants present the wine to the master.The temptation existed for Jesus to become a great public miracle man, but He avoided it.  Jesus turned the opportunity of the wedding miracle to the purpose of God.  He began the long difficult process of revealing himself, to his disciples.  It is a recurring theme from that time to this very day.  I note that John did not use the word miracle. The term used  is sign.

Why not miracle?  A sign points to something other than itself.  A miracle draws attention to itself. We are invited through this story to see God revealed in Jesus Christ, not to wonder at how water becomes wine.  The  disciples seem to be the focus of this miracle.  Imagine the feelings and questions that must have overcome the five disciples as they watched  this man Jesus demonstrate for the first time who He is.  as in this story of Jesus turning the water into wine at the wedding. Nobody knows how he did it.  We are not told. It just happens. There is mystery here. But one thing is for sure ‑ this wine was the best. It would have been given awards. The cultural custom was to serve the best wine first, and as people became intoxicated to serve the inferior. God doesn't make the inferior.  This was the wine of God's grace poured out in abundance in Jesus. The other wines just did not measure up. They were empty. Tasteless or left a bad taste. Like religion based only on what we can do, ends up that way ‑ empty. The stone water jars for purification were empty. A new way was needed, a new wine, not based on laws but grace, and as St. John tells us, "his fullness we have received grace upon grace" (John 1:16). The sign of the water turned to wine is told that we might believe. The point of the scripture reading  is that his disciples believed in him all the more following this event. I still want the signs.  I NEED the signs.  And yet....the sign is always there...The sign par excellence is Jesus.  Jesus takes the mere water of our  lives and changes us into wine, the ordinary into the extraordinary.    Have you ever noticed that in the gospels Jesus never is stingy with his grace?  Jesus turned about 180 gallons of water into wine. That's about 1000 bottles of wine, far more than many weddings could have used. And that's the point ‑ not the wine but the superabundance of grace, of love and forgiveness that's available to everyone in Jesus. It's wine that never runs out. It's wine, the wine of grace, the wine that is Jesus himself, which is the best of all.

Perhaps you have heard about the Primates meeting in England.  I must admit, the positions taken by the African primates in particular, gave me great anger.  But in the midst of the anger, the profound example of Christ Jesus in our new presiding bishop makes me ashamed of my anger.  The Bible does say, that human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.  (James 1:20) 

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said this: it may be part of our vocation to help the communion to help many other to grow in a direction where we can realize and live the love of Gods children are fully welcomed where this is truly a house of prayer for all people.  And maybe its a part of our vocation to help that to happen. And so we must claim that high calling: claim the high calling claim the high calling of love and faith , love even for those with whom we disagree and then continue and that we will do, and we will do it together. We are part of the Jesus Movement, and the cause of 
Gods love in this world can never stop and will never be defeated. I don't know about you, but that sounds a lot like Jesus to me.

There is an old Rabbinic saying, Without wine, there is no joy. Maybe this story is teaching us that Jesus brings joy to lives...a wine so rich, full and pleasing that its just not a party without him...I've been thinking about weddings being joyful; and all the anticipation and fulfillment involved; but connecting that with marriage being a symbol of the relationship between God and God's people‑, that is the connecting point!  When Christians are unhappy, it's usually because they are wanting their own way rather than God's way.  How similar to marriages!  They key to our mutual joy in Christ is, wanting his way as Lord and Savior. Jesus is our LIGHT!  He is the LIGHT of the world. John chapter one says it this way:
In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it.   Blessed Julian of Norwich said it this way He said not you shall not be in a tempest, you shall not be travailed, you shall not be diseased, but he said, you shall not be overcome.   Alleluia to out Light, He is Jesus.

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