Epiphany 2C

by Matthew Harper

January 17th, 2016

Isaiah 62:1 –5
Psalm 36:5–10
1 Corinthians 12:1 –11
John 2:1 –11

Today is all about weddings. From the wedding poem in Isaiah to Mary’s plea during the wedding at Cana, Marriage is on our mind.

Throughout Scripture God uses the imagery of weddings to describe our relationship. Weddings speak to us of commitment, love, unity, and procreation. Despite how our earthly marriages fall short we are continually struggling to find the pure ideal that reflects God’s plan.

Isaiah’s poem is striking because of the deep longing it reveals on the part of the groom. Scriptural illustrations make it clear that we are the bride, and here we see God, the groom, who is yearning, working, and reworking us so that we might be vindicated, found worthy, and crowned.

Weddings are a big deal. In biblical times the wedding celebration was a sign of love and commitment, but also of family honor and the value and honor due the bride. We need to be vindicated because on our own we are far from worthy.

It is this family honor that is at stake for Mary. John’s gospel shows us Jesus and Mary at the wedding of a family or close community member. The size and quality of the party mattered, and demonstrated value and esteem. To run out of wine during such an occasion would have been a point of deep dishonor to the family and a devaluing of the bride.

Mary is focused on this honor, but Christ’s vision is larger. Christ has before Him the full vision of His life and ministry, and yet He is not deaf to His mother’s plea. Are His words a rebuke to her? Yes, in part, to create distance. Christ acts, but at His own choosing and not simply at His mother’s behest.

God’s gifts are always given by God’s own initiative, for God’s glory. We benefit, and we rejoice, but always to God’s greater purpose. All of today’s readings hold that as a central theme. When we have nothing left but loss, when all that we have and are has run out and we are left with the empty water of ritual, the sweet wine of the Gospel refreshes us and leaves us drunk on joy.

The patriarchy and honor-rituals of biblical weddings are foreign things we have mostly grown out of. They are best left in the past. But we can see in the imagery a powerful analogy of our relationship with God, and a vindication of our identity.

The movement from loss and ritual to joy is the testimony of every believer. It is not only the prisoner who knows destitution and rejection, it is not only we who need to be set right. All of God’s creation needs the gifts only God can provide.

God’s gifts are not charity. Each of the destitute has, at one time or another, received charity. It can feed your body, but not your soul. The yearning we hear in God’s wedding poem isn’t simple philanthropy. It’s Love. Our promise of Hephzibah, of Beulah, is a promise of Love, of Marriage, of a God who loves and delights in us.

Philanthropy, like the Canaanite Cults of Isaiah’s day, offer visions of fertility, but marriage is more than that. What God yearns for, and offers, is a fertile marriage of love and delight.

This celebration transforms us. The words of Isaiah promise a remaking, a vindication, and Paul’s letter to the Corinthians discusses the many gifts God gives and how they work together for our benefit and God’s glory. We will be a bride crowned with a royal diadem, a highest honor given not because of who we were but because of who God is and what God has made us.

Every bride is beautiful. The love of the groom has the power to transform her in the eyes of all present. It has never been that beautiful people are loved, but rather that love itself makes us beautiful. When we acknowledge and live in the overwhelming Love God has for us, we will be transformed.

You are loved and you are beautiful
You are married to God
Let the wine flow.

Let the party begin.

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