The Second Sunday after Epiphany
“This Holy Estate”
St. John 2.1-11
20 January 2019
Rev. Philip Meyer, Pastor Emeritus
+ In the Name of Jesus +
“Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples.” [John 2.2]
What an auspicious occasion it became! Our Lord chose this ordinary event to bestow an extraordinary blessing. Yet he didn’t merely bring joy to the couple, but more importantly, he showed himself to his disciples as the Christ by changing water into wine. The Epiphany season proclaims Christ manifesting his glory as the Son of God. His miracles proclaim the onset of the Messianic kingdom, the kingdom which has no end.
Marriage is under attack in our society. The attack has become particularly malignant in these latter days. The Progressive Left which has deep roots in atheism, has taken aim at marriage with the purpose of wiping it out, or at the very least, changing into something other than what God has instituted. Those who defend marriage as defined by God’s Word, are regularly ridiculed and persecuted because they will not support same sex marriage or its more shameful variations. No doubt you’ve heard and seen these Leftists chanting, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western culture’s got to go.” They are taking aim at Christianity in particular, yet at the heart of all cultures lies the family. The animus is real and it is growing.
Why the rush to destroy marriage, the building block of all society? Because the family is the most stable unit against chaos and anarchy, and totalitarian regimes feed on chaos and anarchy. What will they put in place of the family? Without the nuclear family, husband and wife, male and female, civilization cannot long endure before hitting the slippery slope of destruction. If you wanted to reshape society, you would go after the foundation first. Destroy! Then put what you want in its place. For many people that is the government, the state. The state seizes control over all life. It becomes totalitarian, exercising brutal power. How often that happened in the 20th century, and yet our age seems to have learned nothing from history.
Marriages are occasions for joy. As an outcome of marriage there is the birth of children, another happy event. Indeed, the happiest moments in life should be marriages and the birth of children. Without stable families there will never be happiness, no matter how much money one makes, no matter how successful one becomes, no matter how much power one accumulates.
The Scriptures never sugarcoat human marriages. After all, Satan is still active in our world. He tries to destroy the good works of God. He has lied to people that the estate of marriage is a burden, something to be avoided. Yet, without marriage as God defines it there is no real happiness. Single parenthood leads many into permanent poverty. Without father and mother children easily fall into tragic situations for which there is often no remedy.
Marriages fail, but marriage isn’t the problem. They fail because there are sinners. We sin daily against our spouses, some of it trivial and some of it not so trivial. We grieve one another. Yet, God placed you together. Moses records that God himself brought Eve to Adam [Gen. 2.22]. It is God’s good pleasure that you remain together. Therefore husbands and wives must deal with sin through mutual repentance and forgiveness. Sadly, there is often no repentance nor forgiveness.
Christ confirmed marriage as a gift of God by his presence at Cana. Christ blessed marriage, this gift from a gracious God to humanity. God made marriage. Man did not invent it as the marriage deniers say. It is not a social construct invented by man which now may be discarded along with many other societal norms. No, God constructed it! He put his image in it. Our Epistle reading today presents human marriage as a picture of a far greater reality, that of Christ and His Bride, the Church, a picture of salvation. This holy estate is meant to remind us of it.
God puts two people together and makes them one, yet oneness in marriage suffers in our day because individualism runs amok. Our age seems to be all about “me.” God has given different vocations in marriage. Looking carefully at Ephesians you notice that men are given responsibility to mirror Christ. A husband is to be self-giving, self-sacrificing-even to the point of death-to protect his bride, and yet Progressives label this “toxic masculinity.” A wife is to cherish her position as the object of her husband’s love. This has been ridiculed by feminists. God planned and made male and female for mutual interaction and support for the good of the family, not antagonism based on competing roles. Marriage is to be a complementary relationship, a holy union, an holy estate. Our roles are not interchangeable, no matter how many social justice warriors chant it!
Let’s get back to our text. There was just not enough wine at Cana, an embarrassing situation for sure. I like what Luther said about the shortage of wine, and perhaps only a German could say this[!], “For there was no beer [either].” [AE 57.85]. For the guests to have no wine—nor beer—was horrific. “That,” said Luther, “would be a really idiotic wedding.” [Ibid. 86] Without wine the joy is gone. The celebration would come to an abrupt halt and the guests would go home.
Isn’t that really the way it sometimes is with life? Without the wine of celebration the joy is gone, the honeymoon is over and the daily grind of life wears us down. Without God’s blessing there can be no real joy in marriage. It was not an accident that our Lord chose a marriage as the occasion of his first miracle. He sanctified it, made it holy. He confirmed it, underlined it, and put an exclamation point on it with 180 gallons of very good wine. Jesus could say, “This pleases my Father.” Jesus came to bless this holy estate of His Father and to show his glory to his disciples, eliciting faith in them. “And his disciples believed in him.” [2.11]. This miracle really centers in Christ. He wants us to believe that he is the Christ, our Savior, but we certainly should believe what he proclaims about marriage.
We should defend marriage as God’s work, not man’s social construct. We should honor it as honoring the Father himself and our Lord Jesus Christ who comes to every Christian marriage. We must speak up in defense of what God has given and blessed. We must not be silent!
Husbands and wives will not always be dancing and laughing. Life in a sinful world isn’t like that. And when there are dark days and the wine turns sour let us nevertheless say with Luther,
God has placed me into this holy estate. Therefore it must be pleasing to him, and so it should please me.
The one who honors marriage has the comfort that God himself blesses it, no matter what the difficulties.
To you young people who are not married I offer this advice: Pray that God will bring you a godly wife or husband. Ask that God will give you a spouse with whom you can live in peace and be happy. Luther got to the core of this rather bluntly when he told his Wittenberg congregation:
And do not choose a woman for sleeping, but one for being awake. All girls can sleep well [enough]. But [see to it] that you have a watchful one, who can keep watch with you, with whom you may live in peace. The false desire soon comes to an end. [The basis of your marriage] must be more than to sleep together, but [rather also] to help in cares, raise children, bear all evils, in the plague, etc. [AE 57, p. 88]
God the Holy Spirit will help you find joy in your vocation as husband or wife. God established this holy estate in Paradise and continues his blessing after the Fall until the return of Christ to claim his holy Bride, the Church. The Sacrament of the Altar reminds us of this reality. A canticle which was once part of our liturgy reminds us of this marriage feast of the Lamb:
“Grace our table with Your presence, and give us
A foretaste of the feast to come.” [LSB 955]
That’s the Marriage of the Lamb and his Bride, the Church. And Christ’s people fervently pray:
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. [LSB, DS 1 & 2, pp. 162, 179]
On that day an eternal celebration begins and the good wine shall never run out!
In the Name of the Father and of the ☩ Son and of the Holy Spirit.