Epiphany II

As you have or will read in the bulletin, on Thursday’s a group of young men meet here at the church, striving to attain their religion badge for the Cub Scouts. This past Thursday our subject was how Christ ministered to others: how He healed the sick and drove out demons, how He made the lame to walk, how He sent the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, which I thought was an interesting way of looking at how Jesus ministered to us, and finally, how Jesus turned water into wine. We looked at that last miracle, Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding at Cana, for some time. And the thing that stood out for us was this line from Blessed John: “This,” wrote John, was “the first of His signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory.”

This, the first of His signs. St. John talks a lot about signs, some scholars have dubbed his Gospel the “Book of Signs.” What Matthew, Mark, and Luke call miracles or works, John calls signs, signs that there is something very different about this Jesus, signs that God is close, perhaps too close for comfort, or perhaps too close to not be comforted. And this sign, the making of water into wine, was the first of His signs, the first sign of Jesus’ glory.

Signs of glory. “We usually think that glory is the bright shining presence of God, the white-hot holiness of the divine that is so stunning, even Moses had to be hidden in the cleft of a rock to keep it from frying him to a crisp,” and so it is. “We think that glory is the power of God that is so raw and so real, the priests who once entered the Holy of Holies did so at great peril (and if anyone else tried casually to enter that place where the glory of God dwelled, they would surely die),” and so they did. “In Hebrew kabod [means] glory and it means something with gravity, something heavy, something weighty in the sense of being momentous. In Greek doxa is glory, doxa as in doxology or orthodoxy, which means right glory or correct worship. Glory being what it is, so great and powerful and even deadly, you would think that the first time the glory of Jesus was displayed, His glory would be a little more, say, noticeable. You would think that the first time Jesus manifested a great sign of the Kingdom of God, that Jesus would have given us that sign without a certain reluctance. But no.

This first of His signs, the first sign of His glory, was done because His mother told Him to. St. John tells us that when the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother, ignoring her Son’s complaint, said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Mother Mary decided it was time, time for her Son to show, even just a little bit, who He was and what He was about to do. And so His glory quietly manifested itself in about a hundred and fifty gallons of wine.

Signs of His glory, signs of the Kingdom of God come near. The Cub Scouts and I talked about signs, we talked about how we ourselves are signs, signs that point to one kingdom or another. What we do, our attitudes, our speech, our efforts and priorities, all these things are signs that point out what we believe, and more importantly, they point out who we are. If we are Christians, then, if we proclaim that we follow Jesus, if we acknowledge that we have been baptized into new life in Him, then what we do and who we are should be signs pointing to the Kingdom of God, and not just that Kingdom, but that Kingdom come near.

There are times in history when what we do, our attitudes, our speech, our efforts and priorities, when our response to events serve as signs, clear signs of who we are and Whom we follow. This is one of those times. This decade of disasters, of terror attacks and tsunamis, this decade of persecutions and hurricanes, this decade has now given us the earthquake in Haiti. Haiti was already a beautiful disaster, it is the country perhaps worst prepared to deal with such horrific devastation. The loss of human life is so staggering that there is danger of that number becoming just a statistic rather than an actual number of people, the New York Times reporting this morning that there are 200,000 feared dead. The Haitian government, already an almost useless body, is now non-existent. At least half, maybe two-thirds, of the churches in Haiti are gone, the Roman Archbishop is dead, the Anglican Archbishop is alive but cannot account for most of his people. Millions homeless, food is scarce and the water undrinkable, and little hope for things to get better any time soon.

So this is one of those times, one of those times when what we do in response to such an event serves as a sign of who we are and Whom we serve. Perhaps there is nowhere on Earth that needs the Kingdom of God to come near than Haiti, perhaps there is no people who need a sign that Jesus is alive, perhaps there is no place that needs a glimpse of His glory like Haiti. Those four young Scouts, the Paixao and Barclay boys, have decided who they are and Whom they serve, they have decided that now is the time to be themselves a sign of the Kingdom of God come near, and they are asking you to do the same. They ask you to pray, pray for the victims and pray for their rescuers, pray without ceasing. They ask you to give, to look for them and their special envelopes for Haiti, to look for all ways that you can be a sign that even amidst such devastation, the Kingdom of God can and does come near, too near for comfort and too near to not be comforted. The Lord will somehow redeem the situation in Haiti, the glory God will be made manifest there. The Kingdom of God will come near to the Haitian people, and Jesus will somehow tell you how to be a sign of the Kingdom. Do whatever He tells you.

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