Your God Rejoices Over You

Text: Isaiah 62:5 and John 2:1-11
Date: Epiphany II + 1/20/13

Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed because He is the King and Lord of love, the love of God that passes all understanding, the love that moved Him to save you from your sins and death, the love that even now woos you, the Church, to be His bride. “For…as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” “Your God Rejoices Over You.”

It seems a rare thing, after all the careful planning and preparation for a wedding, when the day finally comes, that everything goes as planned without something going wrong. Everything went perfectly at our wedding, for instance, until someone discovered that the wedding cake was locked up at the bakery and the owner was gone on vacation. What happened on your wedding day that wasn’t planned? Weddings are not only supposed to be happy occasions but are supposed to be perfect, right? The hope of perfection almost always sets you up to be disappointed to some degree.

Today we remember the first sign or “miracle” performed by Jesus and it happened at a wedding. Everything was almost perfect that day except for one thing—they ran out of wine. It wasn’t with wondering awe that the master of the feast then spoke with the bridegroom. He had no idea there was a miracle involved. He could only figure that the cheapskate held back the good wine. No, it was with some indignation that he criticized, saying, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine.” Well, at least that didn’t ruin the whole day. In fact because of God’s love, the day was made even more joyful.

This is to say that our Lord’s earthly ministry begins on a happy note of joy. And what is more joyful than a wedding, the gift of marriage and family? We just finished our Advent and Christmas rejoicing over the Holy Family, and we’ll see another joyful moment next week in Jesus’ home town (Luke 4), a moment that, nevertheless, turned sour quite quickly. This was more than an appropriate occasion to begin “on the third day” of Jesus’ arrival, as the Old Testament often describes God’s relationship with His covenant people in terms of marriage, family and children. We heard these words today, “Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house,” says Psalm 128, “your children will be like olive shoots around your table.” Today’s Old Testament reading from Isaiah is a love story from God who calls the object of His love, His people, names like, “My Delight Is in Her,” and their land “Married.” “As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,” says the prophet, “so shall your God rejoice over you.”

“Your God Rejoices Over You,” every one of you! What makes this really good news of joy, however, is that it was not always so. The entire Old Testament is the record of Israel’s faithlessness, forgetfulness of God’s mercy and deliverance, their idolatry (dare we say “adultery”?), transgression of God’s Law and attraction to other “loves” and evil. And though the story, the history, does serve as a warning for us, it is so because it calls forth the acknowledgement of our very real sin and very real unbelief. But how do we dare make such an acknowledgment since the punishment is not just a slap on the wrist with the warning, “now don’t do that again.” What do we truly deserve from God for our spiritual blindness, deadness and disobedience? “The soul who sins shall die,” says the Lord (Ezek 18:4). “Who can endure the day of [the Lord’s] coming, and who can stand when he appears?” (Mal 3:1-2). Or, as we say with scripture before confessing our sins in the Divine Service, “If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities (should keep a record of sins), O Lord, who could stand?” (Psalm 130:3). No, as the letter to the Hebrews says, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10:31).

But God has appeared in Jesus. And it is almost as if he hasn’t noticed or has forgotten our sin, our disobedience, our unworthiness. “On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.” And as you file by the tables you notice a few place tags that tell you “Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples.” It was a very joyful event…until they ran out of wine. What did Mary expect her Son to do that she brought the problem to Him? Jesus responded with a cryptic, “My hour has not yet come.” What “hour” was He talking about?

They would find out. And we have found out. But even though this mysterious “hour had not yet come,” nevertheless Jesus moved into action, turning water into wine to provide for the joy of the wedding, not to mention covering the embarrassment of the bridegroom. Apparently this “hour” he spoke of did not mean he was not able to do something helpful for the bridegroom, for the guests, for the wedding day.

How many “hours” have you spent in embarrassment? in fear? in frustration with various challenges and trials? And how many of them did you conclude were not “hours” that belonged to or involved Jesus at all? that you were on your own on this one? that had nothing to do (or so you thought) with the “forgiveness of sins, life and salvation” that you received on Sunday as we confess of the Sacrament of the Altar in the Small Catechism?

But Jesus’ “hour” did come; that dreadful hour for the act of His “greater love,” as He said to His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, “It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand” (Mark 14:41-42). Yet, even then, it was “on [just] the night before He was betrayed” that He instituted His sacrament of love, in the foreboding shadow of the Cross, that He threw a mini-wedding feast, if you will. For here, in this sacrament, we receive a glimpse of what the Church calls “the marriage feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom that has no end” (Prayer of Thanksgiving, LSB p. 161).

Marriage, in God’s sight and according to His design, is the creation of one brand new person out of husband and wife. It is the place where God’s creative hand gives new life to children. It is never “perfect,” of course for sin tries to destroy, to separate, to kill that one new marriage person. And let us say it clearly on this 40th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, it is sin and rebellion against God that is the ultimate cause of this form of legalized murder.

If God has “married” us, if Jesus is the bridegroom and we the Church the bride, then we together have become one brand new person in Christ: “one,” Jesus prayed to the Father, “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:21). “One, new” person. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Cor 5:17). One new person in Christ – “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph 4:3-6). As a new creation of God, then, “we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice [even] in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:2-5).

To all the baptized, that is, those who have been made one with God by His gracious action, “as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” Let God’s joy draw you ever closer and increase your love, joy, peace…faithfulness (Gal 5:22) and hope. “For all things are yours…and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s” (1 Cor 3:21, 23). Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord.