Water into Wine, Water into Blood

↓ Download Service Folder

Second Sunday after the Epiphany
John 2:1-11

We all have times in our lives when the “wine runs out.”  And we are tempted to ask, Where in the world is God?  What could he possibly be trying to show or teach me by such a hardship?  When the Lord doesn’t answer on our terms we often get impatient, we are tempted to question his graciousness when we face sickness, financial problems or loss.  Even when things are good, and we’ve got plenty of wine, so to speak.  Do we always remember to thank our God?  Or how often doesn’t the humdrum mundane rhythm of life often drown out our need for Jesus.

The truth is, no matter the situation God is always there and he’s using the good times, the bad times, the mundane, and even the things we don’t understand – for our eternal good.  In every situation God wants to direct our attention to our Savior Jesus.  He doesn’t leave us directionless in this, rather he gives us signs.  This morning let’s ponder those signs have a God that turns water to wine, and wine into blood. 

  1. Water into Wine

The part of God’s word for our meditation this morning begins with Jesus and his disciples being invited to this wedding feast in the backwater town of Cana.  Now, Jewish weddings traditionally lasted for seven days.  We don’t know which day of the feast they were on, but seemingly it was pretty early on in the celebration, since they were about to run out of wine and that was a serious problem.

Right away, we meet Mary, Jesus mother, and can you picture her?  Running about as the hostess, making sure everything is just right.  We can be fairly confidant that she had some kind of leadership role at this wedding because she’s commanding the servants and she’s also one of the first to notice that the wine is gone.

A happy wedding feast is about to end in shame.  A wedding couple is about to begin their marriage on a sour note.  A joyful moment is about to be overshadowed by the depression of having to send everyone home early.  What should have been a day to celebrate new life is to be cut off prematurely.  Nothing except a miracle could save it now.

And Mary turns to Jesus.  She knew her son.  She remembered all the things people told her, angels included, about the things that he would do.  She knows that Jesus could do something about this situation!  She knows that nothing, save a miracle could save the wedding feast, the reputation of the hosts, and perhaps her own reputation might be bolstered – She’s thinking, “where are you at Jesus!” – swoop in and save the day.

But what is Jesus response to his mother? “Woman,[a] why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”

Some might think this response of Jesus is harsh or even disrespectful.  Jesus calling his mother “woman” is not a term of disrespect.  In those days, one might address a queen in such a way.  But that said, this is a rebuke none the less.  By these words Jesus is saying, “Mom, I love you, but your maternal authority, does not extend over me and my call as Messiah, as savior – My hour has not yet come!

APP:

The hour has not yet come.  That’s not a response that we like to hear when we our wine has ran out.  When we are fervently praying and hoping that God would act.  That’s not the response we want when we hear of the young couple on the verge of their 5th wedding anniversary – and they’re filing for divorce.  That’s not the response we want when awaiting medical results and the fear is that the disease is terminal.  This isn’t the response we want to hear when we want God to act on our terms, in a way that’s right now – in a way I can see and touch and smell.

Why does God permit hardship and pain in our lives?  Ponder the Sign that John gives to Mary and the disciples at the wedding.  This is his FIRST miracle and what does Jesus do?  Does he act how we’d expect or how Mary expected?  Does he move a mountain? Does he cause the sun, moon and stars to stand still? Does he calm a storm or raise the dead? Does he even stand up on a table and say, “Hey look what I can do!”  No, at a wedding, in a humble house hold in back woods Cana population a few dozen people some sheep and some camels.   And he quietly, almost secretly changes water into wine.

The Lord quietly reveals his Glory. Jesus is indeed with you, with us when we face the hardships of this world.  When our cup is dry, when our wine is gone – when earthly pleasure is turned to pain or joy to sadness – he wants us to remember the quiet ways in which the Lord reveals his glory in our lives.  It’s the reading of Psalm 23 at the death bed, reminding the person of the hope of heaven.  It’s a Christian family that rallies around a person during and after a painful divorce, to remind them that “Here stands your Christian Family, who you’ll be with forever!  Even when your earthly one has failed.  It’s a sinner, who in time of doubt turns to the Lord and finds peace and a full cup of forgiveness for all their sins.  The Lord will indeed graciously provide.  Our Jesus speaks to us, in his word with the voice of the creator God.  He reminds us that we can turn to him in every need.  There is nothing beyond his care.  Not even a little wedding, in  backwater Cana where they ran out of wine.

 

  1. Wine into Blood

Such a seemingly simple thing for Jesus to provide wine for his first miracle.  The first sign as John calls it.  And make no mistake about it, Jesus provided abundantly.  He answers the prayer for help from his Mother, he provides for the need of the wedding party.  Don’t miss this bit either, Jesus here is providing the wedding gift for his disciples!  They were poor fishermen who couldn’t afford to bring a good and appropriate gift to this wedding.  Had they come ate and drank and had their fill, wouldn’t Jesus and his disciples have looked like freeloaders or wedding crashers?  Yet, there were six stone water jars and six disciples present – one for each of them.  Jesus provides the gift for them.  And it’s not a cheap wedding gift.  He provides the best wine, as the head of the banquet noticed.  Two hundred and forty liters of wine, excellent wine, today would have a cash value upward of twenty thousand dollars.

Think of who Jesus and those six men are.  They were the first New Testament Church!  Those six men were the first who put their trust, their hope and their belief in Jesus as the Savior.  And what does this miracle do for them?   As John says in v. 11.  What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

The first of the signs – that is to imply that many more would follow.  And what do signs do?  They give information.  They point the way.  Every time Jesus performs a miracle in John’s gospel, this is what John calls it, a “Sign.”  Whether it’s raising the dead, feeding the five thousand, healing the sick, walking on water – they are all signs.   Signs as John says later in his gospel, “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ and that by believing you may have life in his name!”

APP:

Those miracles do not come cheaply.  Each and every one of them in their own way pointed to Jesus who would shed his blood on the cross for the sins of the world.  And wouldn’t you know it, our gracious Lord still provides for his little church, a sign for us that points to our highest good.  He gave to his Church the Lord’s Supper.  Where body is in with and under the bread, and blood is in with and under the wine.  That we might literally taste and see that our Lord is good.  Jesus tells you, no matter the sin, have no doubt – I gave my body and my blood for you.

And this sign, Holy communion, the Lord’s Supper – it still comes to us in a quiet way.  There’s no fan fare or thrill of a magic trick.  It’s quiet and peaceful assurance grasped by faith.  It’s just simple sign between sinner and Jesus. A reminder that the Lord is with us, that he provides for us, when we have plenty – or when our cup is almost empty.  He is there when we have the strength to stand or kneel at the altar, and in the quiet moments when the number of breaths we take is in the single digits.  Ponder the signs Jesus gives you the Lord who turned water into wine, is the same Lord that turns wine into blood.  Amen.

Hear of Your Savior’s Compassion and Glory!

↓ Download Service Folder

16th Sunday after Pentecost
Mark 7:31-37

INTRODUCTION
He surely must have thought, “What is there to make life tolerable?  I can’t work because I can’t understand.  I can’t love because I can’t express it.  I am a prisoner in my own mind.  My family has abandon me to the beggars cup and to the mercy of others.  When I stand out in the night air – I would scream out in pain to the heavens for the circumstances of my life.  But I can’t cry out, at least I can’t cry out anything intelligible.  And even if I could cry out – I couldn’t hear it.  This silence is overwhelming.  Life is an altogether unhappy, affair.  Even the world around me seems quite dreadful.  From my one narrow window on the world, my eyes, all I see are the troubles of others.  Even I am a trouble to others.  The people that care for me, those that visit me and put up with me – they could be doing other things with their lives other than attending to me.  Oh that I could hear once again!  I could hear the voice of a friend.  A word of encouragement, a voice of compassion!”

CONTEXT:
Startled from his thoughts like these a group of those that attended to him, the closest thing he had in this world to friends, came and got him.  What did they do?  Did they scribble something in the dirt?  Did they wave their hands?  Did they have smiles on their faces?  Was the deaf-mute man cognizant of the fact that they were taking him to attempt another cure?  If so, did he even want it?  The “cures” back in those days were hardly cures at all.  They probably made things worse.  I’m sure the last thing this poor man wanted was to be laid back on a table or a cot and have some reeking foul herbal concoction poured into his mouth, and into his ears yet again.

PART 1: By his Compassion   

EXPOSITION
His eyes must have been darting all around.  Searching faces in the crowd of people.  Searching for an answer to all the commotion going on.  This was certainly different than any other time they brought him somewhere to attempt a cure.  Some in the group ran ahead, they ran off with a purpose as though they wanted to get somewhere before anyone else.  Shortly those from the group returned and they brought with them 13 men.

The one at the front had a kindly face.  He seemed taller than the rest.  Although the men he was with had clearly been on a long journey – this man’s face was clean with no blemish or defect.  He looked kindly.  Like someone that you’d want to be around friendly, pleasant yet seemingly modest and wise.  His eyes, though they were something else.  Clear, and calm – innocent, yet dignified – serene, yet they looked familiar with tears.

The crowd pushing and jostling all around, suddenly parted.  And this captivating figure, this kindly man grabbed the deaf-mute man by the arm and pulled him aside.  They walked a ways, out of eye shot of the crowd.  The eyes of the deaf-mute man no longer flitted back and forth.  They were locked, fixed, almost cemented in place – centered on the man in front of him.

Then he did some strange things.  He put his fingers into his ears.  He didn’t even have to say it the meaning was understood.  These I will open.  Then he stuck out his own tongue and spit on the ground.  The deaf-mute man in astonishment steps back with his mouth open. And calmly this man reaches out and touches his tongue.  Again, he didn’t need to say a word.  The meaning was understood. This I will unloose.

Then this man who pulled him from the crowd stepped back and turned those innocent and dignified eyes to the heavens and gave a visible sigh.  Was it a sigh of sadness?  Was it a sigh of relief?  A silent and quick prayer?  A smile formed on his lips and then he uttered the first word that this deaf and mute man had heard in years, “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”). The sound of the wind, the sound of the crowd in the distance, the crunch of rocks under foot, and the rustle of clothing – the sound of his own voice, his own laughter, now that he can speak what to say but words of thanks – all those things rushed into his ears for the first time in ages.

He must have thought, “Who is this man who’s able to do such a thing? To make the deaf hear and the mute speak?  And who am I that this man should have compassion on me to do this?  I did nothing, and I have nothing to give to repay!”  What incredible mercy, and what incredible compassion!

APPLICATION:
Incredible compassion.  On me!  One who is always so ready to cry out to the heavens, to rage against the powers that be for the unfairness of life.  Compassion on me, who if I’m honest, has never been truly compassionate to anyone in my life!  I’ve never had a thought that wasn’t self-centered or self-serving. Compassion on me, who by rights deserved to be left in silence.

What is his name?  What does the crowd keep saying?  Jeshua? Is that it?  Truly?  Doesn’t that mean He Saves?  What a fitting name, indeed the most beautiful name I’ve heard in my life!  A Savior with compassion.  A Savior who heals completely and with no cost.

Now I can hear and speak as surely as everyone in that crowd.  There were no foul herbal concoctions.  There was no speech training.  There was no therapy or sound tests.  I’ve been wholly and completely cured.  It’s as though I were never deaf, as though my tongue was never mute.  It’s like my hearing and tongue have been created new!  Who is this compassionate man, this Jeshua, who’s voice commands the elements, who’s name means He saves?

PART II – His Glory
And as Jesus and the now healed man return to the crowd and see their friend healed – they are elated!  They cry out again and again “He has done all things well!  He has done all things well!  He makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak!”  And yet he keeps telling the crowd to quiet down!  Why?  They have rallied around him and they would make him king if they could by some means.  The more he tries to quite them, the more he implores them, the louder they become.

What a strange man this is, that now healed man must have thought!  He denies the adoration of a crowed?  Anyone else who had just performed such a wonder would no doubt be basking in the glory of the moment!

No doubt the news of Jesus, and the things he was capable of doing were flying around in that crowd, fueling their exuberance.  How elsewhere he had raised the dead, how he had cured other sick people, how the last time he was in that city he drove DEMONS from a man!  EVERYTHING THIS MAN DOES TURNS TO GOOD!  Everything obeys him, deafness, muteness, demons, even death itself obeys him!

Oh, but perhaps that’s the point!  A lesser man would’ve given in, a lesser man would’ve accepted the glory of the moment.  But the wonder that this Jesus just worked – this man with the voice of the creator God – Should it not have taught them that he was more than a feeble sinful man?

Were there not some in that crowd, the disciples, perhaps even the man who was healed who pondered the words of the crowd, “He has done all things well, he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak!”  Why does that sound familiar?  Oh! Isn’t that the prophet Isaiah?  How does that whole section go?

“Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
he will come to save you.”

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Then will the lame leap like a deer,
and the mute tongue shout for joy.

APPLICATION
He came to save them, yes but he came to save you as well!  He came to put an end to all blindness, deafness, lameness, muteness, and EVERY effect of sin.  Every chain by which sin holds this world down was broken by him with a vengeance.  He comes to save.  He saves – that’s his name.  Jeshua, Jesus!

He didn’t come to revel in a moment’s glory, but to bring Glory to the Father in Heaven.  And he did that in a strange show of Glory, glory in weakness.  Jesus wanted those people in that crowd, that deaf and mute man now healed to see him in the light of that strange glory.  When the voice of the Creator God himself was rendered virtually mute by the screaming agony of the cross.  This is why Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2 “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”  Later in that section Paul calls Jesus the Lord of glory! He says, they crucified the Lord of Glory!”  They crucified the healer of the deaf, mute, lame, and demon possessed – the man with the voice of the creator!

So in those times when we’ve felt like that deaf-mute man – in our darkest hours in the where we ourselves have wanted to scream out to the heavens at the unfairness of life, or because of our own guilt, or because of some effect of sin. When the Devil says, “look at your life sinner!  If God loved you would he have allowed that cancer?  Would he have allowed that illness, would he have allowed that tragedy?”  Just remember, that Jesus is the Lord of glory.  No matter the ailment, disease, or cancer, or the effects of old age or even death – none of them can separate you from the Love of Jesus, none of them can invade your soul, they cannot conquer your faith because they can’t infect the eternal life – that perfect and complete healing – that was won for you by the Lord of Glory himself.

This is the great thing about this miracle, the healing of the deaf-mute man – that his healer, his Jesus is our Jesus.  Just as he healed that man back then, today he is the same Lord that has healed you!  Truly he has done all things well!  We can hear his compassionate voice, and we can take solace in his Glory – For He has done all things well. Amen.

Built up together on the Cornerstone

↓ Download Service Folder

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
Ephesians 2:13-22

INTRODUCTION:

When an artist, builder or a craftsman begins a project one of the first steps is to select quality material.  For example, renaissance sculptor Michelangelo became involved literally at the ground level when it came to selecting materials.  He would spend hours down in marble quarries.  He would give precise orders on how and where to take the blocks from.  He needed specific coloration, weight, and size.  He wouldn’t think about beginning one of his masterpieces on a cracked or discolored block of stone.   Neither would any other self-respecting craftsmen – well except for maybe one… Our God.  He takes a pile of rubble, cracked and shattered stones and shapes and fashions each one of them into something precious and holy. He chips off the hard edges and fits each one right where it should go.  He raises them up so that they rest firmly and straightly next to one another supporting each other – He measures them and straightens them so that they are built up together on the corner stone!

 

Part I

This is the picture language that St. Paul uses in his letter to the Christians living in Ephesus.  That church was made up of many gentile believers, that is non-Jewish people, native Greeks.  However, there was also group of former Jews who belonged to that congregation as well.

Listen to the gentle but effective language that Paul uses with the gentiles in particular, “In Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”  Paul gently reminds them here of where they came from.  They were indeed brought out of a deep dark quarry far away!  This must have been a hard subject for many of those former pagans Christians as they were reminded on regular basis by Christians from a Jewish background of their past sins.  The former Jews still regarded them as barbarians, outsiders or maybe in some cases not even believers at all!  Yet,  Paul treats them gently here because he knows that they probably needed very little reminding.  He is trying to Build them up together on the Corner Stone.

Because can you imagine the guilt that many of them felt as they remembered their former lives?  How many of them participated in the dark rituals of that Ancient Greek pagan religion.  How many of them participated in sexual immorality of the Temple of Artemis – one of the wonders of the world in it’s day.  Worship of Artemis was so horrible that I actually can’t talk about it from here.  How guilt ridden do you think those people were as they thought back on how they had offended the True God with their actions?  How they had hurt their spouses or people they loved with the worship of that pagan God, or when they though on the things they indirectly taught their kids.

 

APPLICATION

Memories of those gross sins don’t fade.  I think we all know that to be true in our own right.  On those nights when you lay in bed and your brain won’t shut off and we think about things that we thought, said or did that were just so foolish.  And with tears in our eyes we say, “Lord forgive me for the sins of my youth.”  Or maybe it’s “Forgive me Lord for the sins of this morning!”  So we too remember that we were brought up from a pile of rubble in a dark quarry far away.  We fly to the Lord in sorrow and repentance daily – as the hard edges are chipped off and we are built up on the cornerstone.

 

Part II

So Paul gives the Ephesians comfort!  He says that they had now been brought near!  They had all been brought to the same building site and they are fashioned by the same craftsmen!  He goes on to say this, “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.”  Paul is referencing here the Temple in Jerusalem.  Maybe you’ve seen pictures of it?  How it had those different gates that only certain people could go through. Gentiles were only permitted to enter so far in. There was actually a sign posted at one of those gates that said if a gentile would pass that point the penalty was death!  They were considered outsiders people to be looked down upon or at the very best tolerated.  But now the Christ has come, and all that ceremonial law is done away with, it had fulfilled its purpose!  So Paul says, “His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross.”

He is reminding them that it is the cross of Jesus that unites believers.  No matter where you came from, no matter who you are or who you were, how grave your sin, or even how saintly you think you might be, it’s the cross of Jesus, it’s his blood that unites believers.  We are all the work of the same craftsmen.  We could never hope to shape and fashion ourselves to the perfect dimensions that God demands!

There was one price paid for all sin, the death of the Son of God – so then all sin is equal!  Not even just because all sin is equally evil in the eyes of God or like St. James says if you break one commandment you’ve broken them all, but because there was one price paid for all of it – the perfect life of Jesus, the precious blood of Jesus.  Paul reminds the Ephesians of this that they might be built up together on the Cornerstone.

 

APPLICATION

Jesus reconciling all sinners back to God through his death cross unites the individual sinner and Jesus but it also lays the foundation for how treat one another…

I guess let me put it this way.  I was talking to a friend of mine once and talking to her about this sort of thing.  How all sin is equal in God’s sight because there was one price paid for it.  She just didn’t buy it.  It was too much for her to wrap her mind around how a murderer could confess his sins, repent, fly to Jesus and be saved.  In her mind the sin was too great.  I used the example of Jeffery Dahmer.  I don’t know if that name is known much any more but basically he was a terrible serial killer and did horrible things to people.  However, some reliable sources say that during the end of his time in prison he was brought to faith in Jesus, he confessed his sins.  If that’s true, the day his fellow inmates murdered him, he went to heaven!

I guess, as a Christian, I don’t see there a message of despair or an impossibility – but rather a message of the greatest hope!  That if a man like him, or a man like the thief on the cross – who obviously did something horrible to get that punishment – can be in paradise!?  I know that Jesus blood covers me too!  For every vile thought we’ve ever had, for every murderous threat we’ve ever whispered under our breaths for every violent thing we’ve ever done – it’s paid for, our debt is paid in full!  This is how Jesus himself shapes and fashions us and builds us together on himself the corner stone.

Do you see how this connects to how we as brothers and sisters in Jesus regard each other? I’m going to teach you all a little Latin right now.  I’m hardly a student of the language – but this is my favorite phrase and it’s got a nice ring to it.  simul justus et peccator – say it with me?  A rough translation is “same time sinner same time saint!”  There is not one of us who is not this – same time a sinner the same time a saint.

This is why Paul tells the Ephesians, Through the cross… “he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

We are reminded of that message of peace – peace with God through Jesus, peace and forgiveness for one another because we recognize that we are simul Justus et peccator – same time sinner same time saint.  So through forgiving one another, praying for one another, encouraging one another loving one another as one family of believers – we are built up together on the Cornerstone.

Part III

In that line of thought then Paul concludes his words of encouragement to the Ephesians by saying, “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

Do you catch the hopeful, energetic present tense, right now, feel of Paul’s words here?  “You ARE not foreigners, you ARE built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, the whole building IS joined and rises, you ARE being built together…”

Would it surprise you to learn that Paul wrote this hopeful encouraging message while chained to a wall hundreds of miles away in Rome?  How could he be so hopeful or exuberant for the Ephesians?  Well, Paul says elsewhere while he might be in chains – the Gospel is never chained – the good news is never chained. It always spreads, it always grows!

While he might be in prison, while believers might face persecution, rejection, or even execution for their faith – through the spread of the Gospel, living stone continues to fashioned fitted and Built up together on the Cornerstone.

 

APPLICATION

It always makes me sad when I hear of church closing it’s doors, being abandon or sold off and demolished.  I actually shed a few tears when historic Trinity Lutheran in Milwaukee burned down by accident earlier this year. Ten years and 10 million dollars in restoration work – poof burned up in a few hours. Now they have to start all over and construction and restoration won’t be done for a long time…

That in and of itself is not such a bad picture for the church.  A building, a church, or as Paul speaks a temple that is continually under construction.  Because when Scripture speaks of “the Church” it NEVER speaks about a physical building of wood and stone.  The church is you and me.  The living stones.  The ones who are taken from being cracked and shattered building material. Construction on that grand temple, the Spiritual house of God, will never be completed on this side of heaven. Daily as the Holy Spirit works through the Word there are new stones being added and each one has its place. Daily we are shaped and fashioned and restored by the peace of God’s Word to fit next to one another, and support each other, set on the firm foundation of the Gospel as The Holy Spirit continually builds us up together on Christ the Corner stone. AMEN

I Will Help You Speak.

↓ Download Service Folder

6th Sunday after Pentecost

Exodus 4:12


Ordination & Installation of Benjamin Zamzow

↓ Save Audio

 

Participants in Today’s Service

Vacancy Pastor Seth Scheuerlein
St. Luke’s Lutheran Church
Grand Rapids, MN

Guest Preacher Michael Spaude
Ascension Lutheran Church
Antigo, WI

Circuit Pastor Bryan Prell
Petra Lutheran Church
Sauk Rapids, MN

New Pastor Benjamin Zamzow
St. Mark’s Lutheran Church
Bemidji, MN