IN NOMINE JESU
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, all of us, I am fairly certain, have heard of or witnessed firsthand, miracles. Doubtful any of us have seen someone rise from the dead, or as in the case of our Gospel text this morning, turn water into wine. But I’d venture to say we are all familiar with miraculous stories of diseases mysteriously healing or people walking away from accidents that should have left them dead or in a comma. For those of you who work in the medical field, I’m sure your experiences with miracles are far greater than most. If you Google the word, miracle, thousands of stories and examples will populate your feed. In many respects miracles seem to be everywhere – occurring every day, in every corner of the earth – from simple to profound moments that oftentimes leave us speechless. As infrequent and uncommon as we think they are, miracles really are all around us.
It was a little less than a month ago that the Church celebrated one of its greatest miracles – the birth of our Savior. That a young woman would consent to the archangel Gabriel to bear the promised Messiah; that her betrothed would remain ever loyal to this maiden and name the child as the angel commanded him; that this couple would flee their hometown of Bethlehem to Egypt in order to escape the evil hand of Herod; and that this same couple would marvel and gladly receive the words spoken of their newborn child by the devout Simeon; are but a few of the instances that surround this miracle. It was and remains the beginning of many miracles associated with the one we call Jesus.
And so it is on this Second Sunday after Epiphany, a season where we celebrate the miracle that is the Incarnate Christ, that we hear again about our Lord’s first sign – His first publicly recorded miracle – the changing of water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana. Attending a wedding with His disciples and Mother in Galilee, our Lord is told by Mary that the wedding host had run out of wine. Following the guidance of the Blessed Mother, the servants listened to Jesus’ instructions and filled six stone jars with water. After taking these jars to their master and drawing from them, the water became wine and the wedding feast continued with great jubilance and joy. And so it was here, at this feast and in this miracle, that our Lord’s glory was revealed – a glory St. John describes no less than 17 times in his Gospel text.
You know, I really like our Gospel this morning. It’s not simply because the text includes a reference to that most noble gem, that great saint and exemplar of the faith – the Blessed Virgin Mary. Nor is it because I enjoy a good wine (although six stone jars might be a little past my limit!). And it’s not because I so eagerly like to point out to my Christian friends, especially my teetotaler chaplain peers, who think the consumption of alcohol is sinful, that the first miracle of our Savior was changing water into wine! Rather, I enjoy this reading for the same reason I think so many of us do – we simply like encountering our Lord doing miracles. Referencing passages that testify to the miraculous nature of Jesus is something we oftentimes do in an effort to prove who Jesus is. Engaging those around us in conversations about our faith, pointing out examples like that which St. John records is a means for us to illustrate to others that Jesus is who He would later proclaim to be – namely, the Son of God – the promised Messiah of YHWH.
This enjoyment – this desire of ours to “prove” our faith – is something I find Christians doing on an increasingly frequent basis. On one hand it makes perfect sense. We live in a world with growing numbers of competing faiths and philosophies. The one holy catholic and apostolic church’s claim to absolute truth is no more. Christianity may have more adherents than any other faith, but those that deny the Triune God and reject faith in the Christ are to be found by the millions in every corner of the earth, including those in our own neighborhoods and communities. Many of us may wish nostalgically for a time when the Christian faith was the mainstay in society. Whether or not this ever was the case I’m highly skeptical, but I know such a reality will never occur until our Lord returns for His Second Advent.
Moreover, we seek to “prove” our faith because we see people, including those in our families and closest to us, doubting the teachings of our Lord and His Church. On this reality I could lament for hours on end. You know as well as I that our world is filled with sin, that there are those – including we who sit in these pews – who daily and frequently turn from our Lord’s commands and commit sinful acts we all know to be unrighteous and ungodly. Which makes us think if only we can prove to others (and ourselves!) that Jesus truly is Lord of our lives and that we ought to do everything which He proclaims…well, then maybe we won’t be so inclined to sin and perhaps the world in which we live will turn from its sinful ways.
But here’s the problem with such thinking – we don’t need to “prove” anything. Proving that Jesus is the Christ is not our task. Our call as Christians is not to construct some grand plan that convinces the world that Jesus is who St. John and the other disciples proclaimed. Granted, the Church is commended by our Lord to go, teach, and baptize. She is called to be a witness to the miracles of the One who changed water into wine and later would do the miracle of miracles by becoming sin for us, defeating the power of Satan by His rising from the dead. But the Church need not consume herself with the business of apologetics. Ours is not to prove, as Christ has already done so. Ours is not to convince, as the Holy Spirit moves the hearts of individuals when and how He pleases. Our confession should never be one we find confidence in simply because our explanation of God is better than others. To do so would belittle our faith and make it one merely of reason and philosophy. In other words, our ability to win a debate with an unbeliever or doubter does not make our faith valid.
Which is why in this season of Epiphany – in this season of miracles – we rejoice and find confidence in our faith solely because of who God is, what He has done, and what He continues to do. Our call this day is simply to confess that which has been revealed to us. This call is not something we find on our own. It is not something we seek out. We cannot grasp it by our reason or through philosophical argumentation. In no uncertain terms, it is not something we need to prove. It is a gift – a miracle – given to us by God through His means, His Holy Word, His Holy Sacraments. Our call to faith is never a past tense proof. It is a here and now reality.
My dear friends, miracles truly are all around us. They are evident in our everyday lives. They are found in this congregation and among its members. They were present at our Lord’s Nativity. We encounter them at the wedding feast in Cana. And we witness that miracle of miracles when Jesus rose triumphantly from the grave. Today they are evident in the waters of Holy Baptism as Rebecca’s name was written into the Book of Life. They will be given to each of you when you come on bended knee to receive into your mouth the very Body and Blood of our Lord. So rejoice and be glad. Rejoice and be glad in this gospel text and our mutual faith. Rejoice and be glad, never worrying about proving your faith, but simply letting Christ be Christ. In the name of the Father and of the X Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
SOLI DEO GLORIA
Rev. Graham B. Glover