Called By a New Name

Text: Isaiah 62:1-5
Date: Epiphany II + 1/17/16

You all know the recent triumphs of the demonstrably very small homosexual lobby especially pressuring the Supreme Court of The United States of America to presume to change the definition of marriage to the great confusion and consternation of many, especially the faithfully Biblical and orthodox Holy Christian Church. I say they presume to change the definition because it is not within the power of any human government to change a fundamental part of the creation of God. God created marriage. And we discover today that He created it for more than just establishing and promulgating human society. He created it because marriage is of the very nature and essence of God’s relationship with His holy, redeemed people. Remember how Saint Paul, as he was talking about marriage, said, “‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’” And then he continued, saying, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (Eph 5:31-32). That always seems like such a strange comment coming out of left field, so to speak, especially if it is read as one of the lessons at a wedding. In the parable of the Ten Virgins (Mt 25) Jesus refers to Himself as the bridegroom. The Church is the Bride of Christ.

It is especially appropriate that our Lord’s first miracle was performed at a wedding. For, as we heard in today’s Old Testament reading, marriage has always been the description, the image and essence of God’s relationship to His people, the Church. Jesus is the revelation of God’s relationship to us.

In proclaiming the future of the glory of His redeemed people, The Lord Himself says through the prophet Isaiah, “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet.” The good news of God’s love cannot be kept a secret for long even and especially when all we seem to see around us is desolation and destruction. The Lord says to us His salvation will win in the end and decisively.

“I will not keep silent…until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch.” This righteousness is the wisdom and well-being of the Church, people reunited, restored, saved and kept now in the close, grace filled and lively fellowship with God.

This character of the Church is bright and shines as a torch for people to see, “city on a hill” so to speak. “The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory.” Of course they could not and cannot yet see or perceive God’s reflected righteousness and glory as the Church seems to be very weak, poor, low on the list as a reliable source of truth, wisdom, morality, strength or even love. But the Lord is here speaking of the ultimate end game of His plan of salvation for the world. The day is coming when the nations and all kings will not only see God’s righteousness and glory but confess it themselves, whether to their salvation or their damnation.

Then our God says to us in our struggles of sin and faithlessness, “and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give.” Our old name, we would agree, is “Forsaken” and our lives “desolate,” dry, lifeless. It is that nagging feeling as we look at our circumstances around us and within us and conclude that God is not here, that He has given up on us, forsaken us, as in His Holiness He has every right to do. But looking forward to the ultimate end of His plan of salvation he says, then “you shall be called by a new name.” And what is that name? That name is “My Delight Is in Her” and our lives “Married; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married.”

Do you who are married remember the strength and depth of your love that you felt for each other at the beginning? I wonder what was going through the minds of the young couple in Cana as they went through the wedding ceremony surrounded by friends and family, and at the celebration that followed. That love doesn’t disappear but rather changes and grows in strength and depth as the years go on. And there, among the friends and relatives, almost as an add-on to the guest list, was Jesus, because He was Mary’s Son, and His disciples, I suppose because it wouldn’t be proper to not invite the rabbi’s students. Today’s Gospel does not say that the bridegroom even knew that they had run out of wine behind the bar. The wine never stopped flowing because Jesus provided more than enough. The bridegroom had to be shocked, even stupefied when, nevertheless, the master of the feast complained to him, balled him out, charging him with keeping back the good wine until everyone finished the cheaper stuff. “Good wine? Cheaper stuff?” he must have wondered. Then the Evangelist John tells us the meaning of this, the first of his signs, that in this way Jesus “manifested his glory and his disciples believed in him.” The prophet says, “The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory…. You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God,” for “as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.”

This is the essence of marriage. The Savior Jesus Christ is the bridegroom, and the Church is the Bride of Christ. God chose to redeem and save His creation from sin and death simply because He loves it. He loves us. He loves you. God is love. It is a love so deep, so broad, so high “that God, the Son of God, should take Our mortal form for mortals’ sake!” (LSB 544). It was in that mortal form, in His human flesh that the love of God destroyed death and brought forgiveness, life and salvation by His blood shed on the cruel cross.

The marriage proposal, therefore, comes to you to believe that He had you in mind when He paid that great price. It comes to you through words God speaks. It comes to you through baptismal water and is renewed, deepened and strengthened through His giving of His own body and blood for us Christians, His Bride, to eat and to drink. It comes to you with the promise of the great marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom that has no end. In accepting that marriage proposal all we do is receive it echoing the inspired words of His mother, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). Then, as His eternal bride He shares His righteousness and His glory and rejoices over you, now and forever.