Sermon, Epiphany 2C, Sunday January 20th, 2013.married couple train tracks

St Petri

 Isaiah 62:5

5 As a young man marries a young woman,

so will your Builder marry you;

as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride,

so will your God rejoice over you.

John 2:1-11

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

 4 “Woman,[a] why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”  6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.[b]

 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. 8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples put their faith in him.

The very first sign that Jesus gave to people about the reality of God’s kingdom breaking into their lives is given at a wedding – in the little town of Cana.

This is not surprising. When you look through the Bible at the many references to weddings and marriage that the biblical writers use to describe and proclaim the good news of God’s love for human beings, it is easy to see that marriage is an especially good way to speak of the Kingdom breaking in on us. Weddings are joyful. So is the gospel. Wedding celebrate life and relationships. So does the gospel. So we as Jesus’ “Bride”, the church, celebrate the same when we share the love and hope of Jesus with everyone.

In the New Testament we hear that our life in Christ is a never-ending wedding feast. We are “married” by faith, to the Bridegroom. We are God’s church, God’s community, called The Bride, for whom he died and rose and lives. Men are called to be like Jesus for their wives – giving up their own lives in loving kindness and service to their wives, says Paul…..

Even just by being at this wedding and doing this sign of God’s presence breaking into people’s lives Jesus strongly affirms the gift of marriage.

Marriage is a hot topic and an ever present challenge to many people in our time. Generally speaking we are not doing too well with marriage. We all know the difficulties in our own families and in our own lives, not to mention that statistics of failed marriages.

It is no surprise that those married can often fall into bed, exausted at the end of a long day and proclaim with St Paul that “Marriage is a great mystery!” It is glorious and God ordained and it is hard.

This sign at the Cana wedding is one significant indication, along with the many in Scripture, that marriage is a very great gift of God for human beings. Some would say, according to God, that this relationship is above all other human relationships.

But not everyone believes this or lives like this in our day. Marriage is in decline in the West. It has been for forty years or more. Among many people there is a deep pessimism about marriage. “They were doing alright until they got married”, I have heard said more than once.

This pessimism and fear of marriage comes from a big shift in how we approach marriage.

Generally speaking, it used to be that the purpose of marriage was to create a framework for life-long devotion and love between and man and a woman – a solemn bond designed to help the two people put away their own desires and interests for the sake of the relationship and one’s whole family and indeed, the whole community in which people lived.

In these times, marriage has become something else. Instead of finding meaning as a person through self-denial, giving up one’s own freedoms for sake of the other, and binding oneself deliberately to the responsibilities of marriage and family, marriage now is more about emotional and sexual fulfilment for the purpose of self-fulfilment or finding one’s self.

Generally, put briefly: people marry not to fulfil a calling or responsibilities to God, to family and community but for themselves. Marriage used to be entered into for the good of the other and the common good of all. Now it is more a private arrangement for the satisfaction of individuals.

The problem with the newer view is that it puts a crushing burden of expectation on marriage. As a result those considering marriage are often caught between both unrealistic expectations and longing for marriage at the same time terrible fears about marriage.

Today people are looking for someone who accepts us as we are and fulfils all our needs, at the same time as needing very little or nothing from us. We are searching for a low maintenance person to meet all my needs. This search has been called the search for the “Me-Marriage”.

The truth is that this is just not possible! To expect your partner to be everything you need her to be without you having to change and compromise is impossible. To expect him to provide everything you need and fulfil all your hopes and dreams without you having to give something and be something is impossible.

Men, you will never find the perfect babe who accepts you just the way you are so you do not have to change a thing. Women, you will never find a man who can provide all you want and need in life without any investment on your part.

Simply put, we are asking too much of our marriage partner these days.

On the other hand, a lot of people want too little out of marriage. They are deeply scared of marriage. A lot of people are so frightened about marriage that they do just about anything to make sure a relationship cannot happen. They become picky, picky, picky! “I want someone who will accept me just as I am, but I know that there are plenty of things within me that need to change, and anyone who gets too close will see this and out of love will want to change me!” So, I will avoid relationships getting too close.

The problem with wanting too little out of marriage is that you end up with a stone-walled heart. You heart will never be broken, but your heart will never beat either….

Just like Jesus, the Bridegroom, and we, the Bride, the church are incompatible until Jesus gives his life for us and serves us and forgiveness us and makes us acceptable and beautiful to God in the process, so no two people are totally compatible. No two people can meet each other’s needs totally. Why?

1. They are broken imperfect people who have a natural self-centredness. We all are imperfect, rough at the edges, full of life experiences that have hurt and damaged us when we meet our partner.

2. When you commit to marriage (usually when you get engaged) you immediately change. So, we never really know who we marry. The person you meet is now different. Something has changed already.

3. And then, you can’t really know your partner of the future until you get there. Even if you choose to live together before you get married, you can’t really know the person you marry until you marry and until you get to the     future together.

So marriage really is ”learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married (Meaning of Marriage, T. Keller, p 38). The way to re-think and re-calibrate our heart to marriage so that we are not wanting too much or too little from our partner is what Jesus did to bring us into union with him.

This first sign at a wedding is the beginning of all he has done to bring us into union with him. He gave himself for us like he gave this water and turned it into wine for the people present. He poured his life out like a drink offering to God for the sake of the community he loves. He died to his own interests and needs (Romans 15:1-3) and instead, served us with self-giving compassion and kindness bringing us into a relationship with our heavenly Father so intimate that we speak to the God of all creation and power with his name, “Papa”.

The good news of Jesus and the gift of marriage from God explain each other.  As a Christian you can see marriage how it is meant to be. Your experience of marriage will unveil the depth of Jesus’ love and hope and will drive you to rely on him more for your marriage. Your awareness and understanding of the gospel will help you experience a deeper love and commitment to you marriage partner.

Friends, we who believe in this Jesus who attended and blessed weddings, and still does, do not have to make a choice between being personally fulfilled in our marriage relationship or sacrificing ourselves to the point that we have no personal fulfilment in our relationships. He tells us that we can enjoy mutual fulfilment through mutual sacrifice.

We don’t have load up our partners with totally unrealistic and therefore, crushing expectations but simply apply ourselves to learning to love the gift that he/she is from God.

We do not have to be scared of marriage, as we if we are doomed to fail or that we will not be good enough at it. The reality is that you are not good enough at it and you will not be good enough at it, but with the wine-maker, Jesus, his Word in your heart and life, he will be good enough for you both as you apply his pattern of self-sacrificing love and the joy that comes from it in the long term. By seeking him and his good wine of forgiveness, hope, joy, wisdom and inner strength, you will experience the transforming love of God for you and your marriage partner – your companion for life.

As a young man marries a young woman,

so will your Builder marry you;

as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride,

so will your God rejoice over you.