January 17,2010 Second after the Epiphany (RCL C) Isa. 62: 1-5; I Cor. 12: 1-11; John 2: 1-11
From Isaiah, in the 62nd chapter, thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken, neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate; but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah; for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married.
That’s the King James, with the transliteration of the Hebrew, as we had this morning in English translation: thou shalt be called My Delight is in her –Hephzibah—and thy land Married—Beulah.
Two familiar Hebrew words, of course. Hephzibah I guess a pretty old-fashioned name, more 19th century than 21st, but my mother had an older friend when I was a boy who had that name, which I just thought sounded funny. In any event it seems kind of like poetry to me now: Hephzibah, “my delight is in her.” I enjoy watching the T.V. show NCIS, on Tuesday evenings, and one of the main characters has that name, an exotic Israeli agent called “’Ziba.” Hephzibah. Wonderful.
And of course Beulah, more familiar, in poetry and hymns, and our friends of the Beulah Presbyterian Church over in Churchill. The reference here of course not just “married” as opposed to “single,” but for the nation and people of Israel, the land itself, in profound and eternal covenant, married to the LORD, cared for and treasured in a covenant of steadfast love and faithfulness. No greater loyalty and commitment, no greater love, heart and soul together. And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.
Good news, Israel. Good news. Comfort ye, comfort ye my people. Grace and peace indeed. Grace and peace.
All this a wonderful Old Testament preface and preparation for the traditional reading in this season after the Feast of the Epiphany of the story of the Wedding Feast at Cana, and the miracle that was the first sign, John tells us, for those who would see it, of the deepest miracle of all, the miracle of Jesus himself, Incarnate –Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing. Himself the Bread of Heaven and the fresh Wine of Life Eternal.
At Bible Study this week Bill Ghrist recalled the saying of John the Baptist as we heard it last week in Luke. I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming . . . . He will baptize you with Holy Spirit and with fire. What the Baptist says in the John gospel is similar, just before the story of the Wedding Feast. He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’
I’ve thought about that and I think it is just the right prelude. Water as the critical ordinary material of ordinary life on this world and perhaps as near as we can tell of ordinary life in the universe, as we hear reflected in the things the scientists tell us in the studies of the Mars Rover and of the Moon, to say that where there is water there is the potential for life. Just plain water.
But Holy Spirit! Now we’re talking a new language. Here at Cana the door swings open and in the presence of Jesus water just can’t be what it is. Unexpected grace. His life, his death on the Cross, his body broken, his lifeblood poured out for us. All present in this moment. No such thing anymore as plain old ordinary water.
No such thing in him anymore as plain old ordinary anything. In his presence there is blessing and transformation and a bursting forth into this world of the Life of the World to Come. Unexpected grace. Just his presence: Breathe on me, Breath of God; fill me with life anew.
Just his presence is what made all the difference, what makes all the difference. And the wedding banquet of these cousins of Jesus in this little Galilean town becomes before our very eyes in his presence the Banquet of the Kingdom of God, the feast of resurrection. The point and message and miracle is that it’s not just the water that it transformed in his presence, but everything--and all of us.
Where Jesus was, heaven was. Where Jesus is, heaven is. What it can be for us, as we open our eyes and our ears and our minds and our hearts to him. Country roads and Galilean villages. His faithfulness all the way to the Cross. Your life, my life, here this morning, at this table. Where did this new wine come from? Unexpected grace. Blessing. Changing everything. The Wedding Feast of the Kingdom, here this morning. No one has ever in all the world had wine like this before.