Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Second Sunday after the Epiphany

Romans 12:6-16
John 2:1-11

Here on the Second Sunday, we finally have the last of the “Three Miracles” that the Feast of the Epiphany celebrated. I cannot say why the church postponed it past last Sunday and until today! We continue in the spirit of the feast, showing the various ways that Christ is revealed in the world.
Why does Christ need to be manifested? As Psalm 19 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God : and the firmament sheweth his handywork.” This, however, is God as seen in his works; Christ reveals God as he is. The text says that this first miracle at Cana “manifested forth his glory.” - but how? No one even noticed but the servants and his mother.

One of the first things that I noticed was the apparent disconnect in the conversation with his mother.
The mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.
He seems to be rebuking her, and yet he answers her request. George McDonald suggests that this indicates that his mother, – like most of his followers and like far too many of us! – was looking for a Big Reveal, a spectacle to leave no doubt that the new Solomon was arisen to free them from the Romans. But that isn’t what Christ was, nor what he reveals about God. He fulfills the request for wine – that part was reasonable – but as a sign of the kingdom. The operations of God come in hidden ways, unnoticed if no attention is payed.  And so he converts the water into wine. This was one of the two miracles Christ performed where he brought something out of nothing - the other being the division of loaves and fishes for the five thousand.  Bread and Wine, as in the Eucharist. Psalm 104, says that God brings forth “wine that maketh glad the heart of man ... and bread to strengthen mans heart.”
In both of these miracles, note that no one saw the multiplication occur. They only experienced the results. There were 5 loaves and two fish - but they didn’t multiply in place, spilling off the table like the contents of Belatrix LeStrange’s vault in Harry Potter. They simply, and imperceptibly, didn’t run out. The water in the waterpots didn’t flash and smoke, it simply was wine, by the time it was borne to the governour of the feast.
The second thing to note, is the extravagance of this miracle. With many of Jesus’ miracles, including the feeding of the five thousand, he was satisfying a need. In this miracle, it satisfied only a want – and perhaps one that not everyone had even noticed yet. They didn’t need wine.  No question of if they deserved it, no question of if it was good for them.  The governour of the feast even implies that most of the guests are probably too drunk to even appreciate that this best wine only came out now.
This is the nature of the Kingdom of Heaven. The best wine is given to all - those who drank to fast at the start, those who paced themselves throughout the feast, and those who were abstaining. It comes as a gift, with no conditions. How appropriate was Psalm 36 at Mattins this morning, as we chanted, “They shall be satisfied with the plenteousness of thy house : and thou shalt give them drink of thy pleasures, as out of the river. For with thee is the well of life!”
One final point perhaps worth investigating is that the wine was supplied from the water-pots whose purpose was ritual washing. The connection to Baptism must at least be remarked.

At Christmas, Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, was said to come “forth as a bridegroom out of his chamber.” And as Paul elaborates, Christ is the bridegroom to his bride, the church. With such proximity to Christmas, we must ask then what the connection is between this wedding and our own union with Christ.  To Dr. Robert Crouse I owe the insight that throughout Epiphany, the Gospels show the divine life manifested is Christ, as the Epistles show the same manifested in us. Paul lists many gifts that any of us may have. As Christ with the wine, we are called to give of these gifts: without fanfare, but abundantly. Not asking who deserves, that doesn’t matter. Are we able to supply a want? And we needn’t be be concerned to do extra in order to for our gifts to partake of the kingdom. We may find that God manifests his glory in our gifts, without anyone even knowing “whence it comes.”

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