Adorned and beautified.
A Sermon for the Second Sunday after Epiphany
January 15, 2023 at Holy Communion
“This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory” (John 2:11). In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. ☩ Amen.
Few Gospel passages are as evocative as the miracle of Jesus transforming water into wine. The words of the marriage service keep coming back to me: “This holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought, in Cana of Galilee.”
It is no accident that Jesus’ first miracle took place at a wedding. The miracle of water into wine teaches us something about marriage. Marriage, like water, is one of the “givens” of life, a fact and a necessity. But when God’s blessing is added, it is transformed from a necessity into a source of joy. The presence of Jesus, the giver of miraculous joy, “adorned” and “beautified” that wedding. This is water turned into wine.
But this is not a sermon about marriage. It is a service for Epiphany season. It is the season of “manifestation,” the time after Christmas when we celebrate how God manifested himself in the person and ministry of the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ. Today, we are hearing the third of the three stories most closely associated with this season. The first was the visit of the Magi, when Christ was manifested to the Gentiles. The second was his baptism, when the voice of the Father and the dove of the Spirit showed him to be the Son of God.
Today, the final verse of our Gospel reading says, “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.” The “glory” of Jesus is manifested. On one level, what this means is obvious: Jesus shows his glorious power to work miracles, and his disciples believe.
But that is only the beginning. When Jesus performs a miracle, never think that it is only about demonstrating his power: every miracle of Jesus is also a moment of teaching. His miracles are parables in action. At the wedding in Cana Jesus shows only his power, but his glorious intention to be the source of joy for those who invite him into their lives. Jesus is glorified when human beings find their joy through his presence with them. When the water of your life is turned into wine, the glory of Jesus is manifested, and those who are attentive see it and believe.
What we said about marriage is true of the rest of life as well. We eat and we drink; we sleep and we rise; we work and we rest. This is the stuff of ordinary life. It is dry bread. It is water. It nourishes, but it does not excite; it sustains, but it does not enliven. The glory of Jesus is manifested when, we enjoy our daily mess as a foretaste of the wedding banquet in heaven; when going to bed tired becomes the seventh day of creation on which God rested; and when rising in the morning is the resurrection of the Son of God. The glory of Jesus is manifest when ordinary life is understood as a sign of God’s goodness—when Jesus is invited into it, and “adorns” and “beautifies” it with his presence.
The point of this is not to become easily satisfied with the ordinary pleasures of life, as if easy comfort were spiritually fulfilling—it is not. Ordinary life, without the blessing of Jesus’ presence, remains plain water. But you are offered wine; to point is to learn how to present every aspect of our lives to God for his blessing, to live in the presence of Jesus.
At the most practical level, one application of this is to embrace traditional Christian habits for inviting God into each moment. I’ll give a few examples. Consider beginning and ending each day with the sign of the cross, and the words “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.“ This consecrates your body and mind, your day and your night, to God.
Prayer and meals is another example: we invite God to our table and point upward to the heavenly banquet.
Or again, ne of the earliest surviving Christian texts outside of the New Testament, “The Teaching of the Apostles,” says that all Christians should say the Lord’s Prayer three times a day. What are the three times a day when you say the Lord’s Prayer? What about morning, noon, and night?
If these examples seem particular, granular, small, that is the point: God’s glory is revealed and our water is transformed into wine when the presence of Jesus is invited into ordinary life. In fact, we were created precisely to make this invitation, to welcome the eternal Word into our humble homes. What better could be said of commonplace hours and days, but this: “Jesus manifested his glory, and his disciples believed in him”?