Fourth Sunday after Epiphany 1016

Luke 4:21-30

“Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.'” And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

 

Notes:

On my home cable remote, there is a magic button that says “On Demand”.  Push this button and a world of entertainment opens up, when I want it, as I want it.

Notice that one of Jesus’ objections is to the attitude of the people in Nazareth.  He understands that they have an “On Demand” attitude.  He has done great things in Capernaum, now he must do them in Nazareth!  It is only fair, and since it is his hometown he must do them for us! The people of Nazareth have an attitude that assumes they are entitled to the great things of God.  They want the “On Demand” button pushed.

But notice Jesus response.  He irritates them by pointing out that though there were many widows Elijah was only sent to the widow at Zarepath, and though there were many lepers only Naaman the Syraian was cleansed.  This is more than Jesus being counter-cultural, or pointing out that gentiles are worth saving, or tweaking the beards.  He is saying something entirely profound if we will but listen.

Jesus is not about doing things “On Demand”.  He is about doing things for those who truly desire.  The difference between the people of Nazareth and the Widow of Zarepath and Naaman is one of obedience and faith.  When presented with the words of the prophets, even if they did not understand or if they argued, the Widow and Naaman, believed and obeyed.  This is why the Nazareans are so upset, Jesus is calling them out on their faith and obedience.  This is what drives them to attempt to drive him off the cliff.  He is to be scapegoated for their lack of faith and obedience.  They are not getting the great things of God to which they feel entitled “On Demand”.

Today, as we read this lesson, we are faced with the same choice.  Do we think we are entitled to the great works of God?  Do we believe that God is at our demand? Or do we recognize the need to trust and obey?  Are like the Nazareans or the Widow or Naaman?

If we desire to see great things, if we desire to see miracles, if we desire to see God’s blessing upon our lives the life of our congregation, then we must have faith and live in obedience.  Jesus says that if we love him we will keep his commandments.  If we love Jesus, we will obey Jesus, and in that faithful obedience we will be blessed.

That is the choice that lies before us all.  Our way? An “On Demand” religion? Or the way of faith and obedience? The way of Love.  God has opened this way through Jesus the Christ, by loving us first, may God give us the faith and love to obey.

Homily Notes for 2 Epiphany 2016

Homily Notes for 2 Epiphany 2016

John 2: 1-12

 

               The wedding at Cana enjoys a special place in Anglican tradition.  It is referenced every time we celebrate Holy Matrimony in the Charge to the Couple indicating the special blessedness of marriage by the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at the event, and the performing of his first miracle there.  In our nave we even have a window in our East Wall, in the series of the seven sacraments, commemorating the event.

               But what is this passage really about?  What is the point?  Is this a party trick?

               Well you might think it is the latter, as every priest, at some point, makes the joke when handed a glass of water.  But, I will let you in on a secret.  No, it is not a party trick.  If you want to know a deeper secret, this passage is really about wine! Seriously, wine, vino, is the point.  Not to go to Sideways, but it is not so much a conversation on Merlot v. Cab v. Malbec v. Chardonnay v. that pink wine that calls itself white.  It is about wine and what wine communicates in the history and theology of Ancient Israel.  It is about Wine and God.

               Note the setting.  A wedding where wine runs out.  What is important here is not that the wedding cannot continue, but there is no more Wine.  See here is the clue, Mary is upset that there is no more wine and she confronts Jesus with the fact.  “They have no wine”, she says.  Jesus’ response seems at first to be cruel, “Mother, what does that have to do with me, my hour has not come.”  He is asking if she really understands what she is asking.  This is not about cultural embarrassment, or saving face.  He is asking if she knows just what she is asking of him.  Her response, “Do whatever he tells you” shows that indeed she does understand.

               So what is she asking?  She is asking for, wait for it, wine!  Wine is a metaphor of both God’s blessing and judgment upon Ancient Israel.  When the people of Israel keep God’s covenant they are blessed by God as those with wine.  When they fail to keep God’s covenant the wine of God  becomes sour to them. Psalm 4.7 tells us that contemplation of “God puts joy in the heart more than when they have wine.”  Provers 3.9-10 tells the young that if they honor God with their first fruits their vats will be bursting with wine.   Isaiah 24.11 tells of people crying out in the desolate city because there is no wine.  As that passage continues into Isaiah 25.6 the Lord will provide on his holy mountain a feast with well-aged wines, and it will be declared (v.9) that Behold this is our God.

               “They have no wine”.  They have run out of blessing and only God can provide the richness and fullness of the blessing that is sought.  If Jesus blesses the marriage with wine, it will be a statement of who he is, and Mary knows full well what she is asking and commands the servants to listen to her son.

               Jesus commands them to fill the purification vats with water.  The ritual purification rites are hereby transformed.  What will cleanse is not the ritual of the law, but the wine of Christ.  In this we see a foreshadowing of the Eucharistic cup that it taken, blessed, and transformed into the Blood of Christ, or the New Covenant, which is shed for the forgiveness of sins.  Wine the blood of grapes is a sign of the blood of Jesus Christ through which comes our purification.

               In this miracle we see the glory, the presence of God, made manifest.  This is Jesus’ first sign as he heads to his hour the ultimate revealing of God with us in the crucifixion and resurrection.  This is the hour for which he has come, and he reveals himself in the context of a wedding, a prefigurement of the wedding supper of the lamb, which we celebrate with each Mass.  This is the good wine of God’s blessing.

               Yet, notice one thing about this short passage, there is a synergistic element here.  Jesus does not draw the water, rather the servants listen to Mary’s instruction and then follow Jesus’ commands.  They fill the jars, Jesus makes the wine.  They fulfill Jesus’s commands and the people are blessed through Jesus’ work.  So too with us.  We are blessed to be a blessing.  When we follow Jesus’ commands, not only do we receive the blessings of God, not only are we purified, but we are then sent to be a blessing to the world.

 

May God grant us the grace and will to follow Jesus, and may Christ always give us his new wine.  Amen.