Text: John 2:1-11
Date: Epiphany 2 + 1/14/07
One of our homebound members, dear Gladys Cline, sorely misses attending the Divine Service here in her home church of Zion. When I visited with her last week she spoke a concern that I’ve heard many especially long-time Christians and members express, but she said it in an especially poignant way. She said, “But when I come to church I get tears in my eyes.” “Why?” I asked. She said, “Because there are so few people there on a Sunday anymore.” Many of our long-time members recall and have told me of the days—the “glory days”—when “the church was so full we had to set out extra chairs in the aisles,” when the membership of Zion Church was upwards of 2,000 members. The simple reason, I tell them, is that in today’s society people in general just do not see their need of Christ, of His Church or of their attending to hear the preaching of the Gospel, of prayer and worship, of receiving the sacraments.
At the same time, however, that so-called “main line” churches have experienced declines in membership and worship attendance, those who study such things tell us, surprisingly, that there is actually an increase of spiritual yearning among people, a thirst and desire for something with deeper meaning for their lives. Dr. Dean O. Wenthe, President of our seminary in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, lately noted an article called “The Fatigue of Secularism,” and said, “Its point was that men and women are no longer satisfied with simply seeking more pleasure or more possessions. Increasingly they want more meaning…. Young people, especially, are searching increasingly for something that is greater than self-absorption. They want something greater than self. They want to give themselves to a great and truthful cause.” Witness, in recent years, the growing alternative to national Missouri Synod youth gatherings by an organization of what I would call “confessional Lutherans” called “Higher Things,” “an organization of pastors, teachers and laity that seek to teach the faith to the youth of [T]he Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.” It’s motto is a refreshing, “Dare to be Lutheran!” In its gatherings it unashamedly presents the lively Truth, the solid, reliable doctrine of the Bible, the catechism, the Lutheran Confessions and the historic liturgy.
Today’s Gospel, as we proclaim the Epiphany, the manifestation of the Light of Christ to a world lost in darkness, proclaims that we have a God and proclaim a Lord Who is actively involved in our world. The Gospel deals not only with the issue of going to heaven when we die, and it is not only the issue of finding meaning in my life now. It is both. As the last miracle or sign Jesus performed—the raising of Lazarus from the dead—announces the Savior as Lord over the last, greatest enemy of death, so this, the first of his signs—the changing of water into wine—shows that God cares and is interested also in the smallest and least of our needs and concerns, here simply provision for the continued joy of a wedding feast and to “save” the host of the feast from the embarrassment of running out of wine.
This text is ultimately, however, about faith, as St. John says, Jesus “manifested His glory, and His disciples put their faith in Him.” Now, some describe faith as “blind,” and many times that’s how we feel when, though we have put our trust in Christ, still we worry and wonder because we do not think we see His leading and guiding hand. But faith is not blind. It, rather, “sees” beyond especially what we may consider “impossible odds.” As the Book of Hebrews says, faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” [Hebrews 11:1 (ESV)].
Mary, the mother of our Lord, was told by the angel before Jesus was born, “nothing will be impossible with God,” and Mary believed, saying, “let it be to me according to your word” [Luke 1:37-38 (ESV)]. Still, as when she and Joseph thought they lost the 12-year-old boy Jesus that one year coming home from the Passover celebration in Jerusalem, after frantically searching for him for three days, when they found Him in the temple, she needed to be reminded by her Son and Lord that He was about His Father’s business. There’s a little reminder of that today when Mary brings the concern of the depleted wine supply to Jesus. He speaks courteously as her Son, but authoritatively as her Lord, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” By faith, though Mary did not know exactly what He was going to do, still, she knew He would do something and simply says to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.”
Faith comes to a person when you “do whatever he tells you”—not in the sense that faith is at all the result of our own actions, preparations or obedience, but in the way of being in the place where Christ acts for us and for our salvation, where His Word enters our ears, our minds and souls. And where else is that place than right here where His Word is read and taught, preached and proclaimed, where he no longer turns water into wine but with bread and wine gives us His very body and blood and with it the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation?
“Do whatever he tells you.” Jesus directed the servants to fill the six stone jars with water and then take some of the water to the master of the feast. It must have sounded and looked silly at first. Why so much water? And what was the MC to do with it? “Do whatever he tells you.” So they did. And there was good wine and joy. But, more than that, John says, there was glory and there was faith for those who knew where the water now become wine came from.
“Do whatever he tells you.” Jesus said, “Go…and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” [Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV)]. This too sounds and looks silly; that with a little water splashed a person is suddenly made a disciple. But as Martin Luther wrote in his hymn,
All that the mortal eye beholds
Is water as we pour it.
Before the eye of faith unfolds
The pow’r of Jesus’ merit. [LW 223:7]
“The eye of faith.” “Do whatever he tells you.” So we do. And there is glory and there is faith.
“Do whatever he tells you.” Jesus took bread and said, “Take, eat; this is my body,” and some wine, saying, “Take, drink; this is my blood,” and then the command, “Do this.” Again, apart from faith, this looks silly, people solemnly filing forward and kneeling to receive a little wafer of bread and a little sip of wine. “Do whatever he tells you.” And so we do. And there is glory and there is faith.
“Do whatever he tells you.” Mary said that. “Make disciples by baptizing and teaching, eat, drink, abide in me and my word.” Jesus said that. Through these, his Word and sacraments, as through means the Holy Spirit works faith when and where he wills in those who hear the gospel. And where there is the true, saving faith, there is the glory of Christ. You are the glory of Christ, for he came to become what we are in order that we may become what he is, sons and daughters and fellow heirs of the kingdom of God our Father.
Jesus manifests his glory and his disciples put their faith in him. Look around you. This is the Good Wine—young couples made one in holy matrimony; baptized children whose angels “always see the face of [the] Father who is in heaven” [Matthew 18:10 (ESV)]; fellow members offering their service to the work and mission of our congregation; single folks either preparing for or already engaged in or retired from all sorts of godly vocations; Christians united in a common confession of the one, true faith, one Lord, one baptism, one God and Father of us all. We have been made the glory of Christ, the light of Christ in our world today. Together we are told, “Do whatever he tells you.” And as we do, faith sees our Lord bringing his care, his healing, his glory, his salvation, his joy.
“Shout for joy to God…sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise!” [Ps. 66:1 (ESV)].