2nd Sunday after Epiphany, year C, 2016 (preached 1/17/16)
first reading: Isaiah 62:1-5
second reading: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11
gospel reading: John 2:1-11
Today the lectionary presents us with weddings. The institution of it and the joy of it.
Marriage is an important part of our culture. Perhaps not as much as it used to be – more people are choosing to remain single, and others don’t feel the need for the state or Church to legalize their relationships. But, in general, we have a culture that values marriage.
Things were quite different in the time of Isaiah and when Jesus walked the earth. Marriage was EVERYTHING. For a woman it offered protection and security. For a man it was the way to provide legitimate heirs. How much love played into it depended on the individuals, but to be married was the goal for everyone. To be alone was culturally “second rate.”
This is why Isaiah uses marriage to describe Judah’s future. They will go from “forsaken” and “desolate” to delightfully married, and God will rejoice. The same attitudes of marriage were present in the time when Jesus was born and lived among us. Weddings brought two individuals together, brought two families together, brought the whole community together, and were a sign of hope for the future.
Weddings are wonderful and special. In Jesus’ day they could last up to a week! In our day we have a party, we take pictures, we remember the day every year. And yet, at the same time, weddings are pretty ordinary. I mean, people get married all the time.
Over 2.1 million couples got married in 2014 in the United States. That’s almost 6,000 weddings a DAY.
Isaiah’s vision of a nation restored, legitimized and filled with joy, and the setting for Jesus’ first miracle in the gospel of John, tell us something wonderful about how God operates.
Many times we think that for something to be holy it has to be unique, ULTRA special, EXTRA ordinary – something set apart. And while it’s true that holy things are things set apart, what makes them holy is the function they serve. No thing is inherently holy. It’s what we DO with a thing that makes it holy.
Over 6,000 marriages a day, nothing special about that. But God gives us a message through using this example in Isaiah and John. And the message is this – that God can and does take what is everyday and ordinary and make it holy.
Through the marriage imagery in Isaiah, and Jesus’ attendance and first miracle at a marriage banquet, we learn the God wants to take things familiar to us and use them to help us experience the divine.
A wedding may be commonplace, and even if it takes place at city hall, invoking God’s name and blessing makes it a holy thing. Our meeting here together this morning in and of itself is not a holy thing. People meet together all the time: at the grocery store, a concert, the doctor’s office, at restaurants, the senior center. But when we meet and call on God’s name, to praise God and hear God’s Word, then it becomes worship, and worship is holy.
I drank a glass of water this morning. Thank goodness that for most of us here, water is an everyday ordinary thing. We turn on the faucet and it’s there like magic. My glass of water was not holy. But God decided that the act by which you and I would become God’s children would involve simple everyday water.
Again, God using an ordinary everyday thing to make a holy connection to us – a holy covenant. Because when God’s Word is spoken over everyday water, it becomes in the words of Martin Luther, “a divine, heavenly, holy, and blessed water.” (Book of Concord, Tappert ed, Large Catechism, p. 438)
We eat and drink every day. It’s one of the first things we do as a newborn, and one of the last things we will do before we die. Once again God chooses one of our most ordinary activities to make holy.
In the Old Testament God instituted the Passover – in the New Testament Jesus gives us the new covenant through the eating and drinking of holy communion. Everyday substances of bread and wine, that when joined with God’s Word, become for us a sacrament of forgiveness. Jesus took the bread, took the cup, blessed them and made them holy.
Over and over again, God takes the things we KNOW – the things we experience in our daily lives – and uses them to form and keep a relationship with us, and to strengthen our relationships to one another. Because God knows we are both spiritual AND earthly people.
We cannot disconnect from our human senses, and so God USES those senses – sight, touch, taste, hearing and even smell – to connect with us.
Indeed God loved us SO much, want to be so intimately involved with our lives and way of living, that God chose to be among us. God chose to be born and live with us, to experience the joy of a wedding, the relaxation of eating with friends, the death of a loved one, and even death itself – all out of love for you and me.
It’s an amazing thing – that God stoops so low, indeed Jesus BECAME an ordinary person, to meet us in love.
Because Jesus lived among us, God understands first hand our humanity and how it works. It’s wonderful, and I’m so grateful, that God uses the things we find familiar, in order to form and keep us in faith.
We don’t have to travel to some far off place to find what is holy, we don’t have to conjure up complicated potions, we don’t have to perform great athletic feats, we don’t have to be perfect people to find the holy.
God comes to us in Jesus – with water, with bread and wine, saying, “where two or three are gathered together in my name.”
May we recognize him in these moments, in these things, and give thanks.