“Wedding Presents”

Epiphany 2

January 17, 2016


Text: John 2:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-5; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; Psalm 36:5-10


          Today’s Gospel lesson is the story of Jesus attending a wedding at Cana of Galilee. When the couple ran out of wine at the party (which was a hugely embarrassing situation in those days), Jesus’ gift to them was water changed into wine. This new wine was not your ordinary everyday wine. It was a vintage so good that the befuddled wine steward, who was not aware of Jesus’ miracle, questioned the groom’s judgment: “Most people serve the best wine first, then bring out the lower quality stuff when the guests are too intoxicated to care. But you have saved the best until now.” Jesus didn’t give them an ordinary present. He gave them the best.

          In our reading from Isaiah, the prophet speaks of God’s faithful love and of God’s intention to restore his people with terms of marital endearment. “No longer will you be called Abandoned and Deserted,” God said through the prophet, “but instead your name shall be My Delight Is in Her, and your land shall be called Married. The Lord delights in you, and your land shall be cared for again, and God will rejoice over you as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride.”

          Modern people often find it strange to talk about the relationship between God and his people in marital terms. This is in part because our society tends to think of marriage in romantic and sexual ways. Although there are some contemporary Christian songs that have words that sound like something one would sing about a person with whom they are romantically involved (the Jamie Grace song “Hold Me” comes to mind), many Christians, including me, find thinking of our relationship with God in that way rather creepy.

          Now this is probably obvious to most of us, but when the Bible uses marriage metaphors to talk about the relationship between God and his people, it is not talking about romance or about what happens in the bedroom. Marriage is about far more than that. Marriage is first and foremost about love and commitment. Scripture tells us that love and commitment are at the center of God’s relationship with humankind. God loves us and is committed to relationship with us and to bringing about our well-being. Today’s psalm also affirms this. It sings about God’s faithful love for his people, a love that provides refuge and abundant provision as God’s gifts to his people.

          In today’s lesson from 1 Corinthians, Paul also talks about God’s gifts to his people, about the spiritual gifts God provides his people because of his love. But the way Paul begins this discussion may be a little surprising. He starts out by reminding the Corinthian Christians that they had formerly been Gentile idol worshipers, often misled by false gods that can’t even speak. So he reminds them that no one speaking by God’s Spirit can curse Jesus, and no one can truly confess Jesus as Lord unless they are guided by the Holy Spirit. I believe Paul said this to remind the Corinthians, and us, that faith itself is a gift of God, and not our accomplishment. Faith is what happens when we recognize and respond to the gift of God’s Spirit working in our lives.

          Paul goes on to remind us that there are many different spiritual gifts, many different ministries, many different activities, all of which are given by the same Holy Spirit. Different gifts are given to individuals for the common good, for the benefit of everyone. Whether an individual’s gift is wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment of spirits, speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues, or another gift that the Apostle Paul doesn’t happen to mention, that gift is valuable to the functioning of the whole body of Christ. No one gift is better than another. God distributes the various spiritual gifts among his people as the Spirit sees fit, according to what is best for accomplishing God’s purposes in the world.

          One might see the spiritual gifts as God’s wedding present to us. They are evidence of God’s love for us, God’s commitment to us, God’s desire that we flourish in doing his will. Just as Jesus gave the couple at Cana the finest wine, God gives us his best. In giving spiritual gifts to his people, his church, you and me, God does not give second rate stuff. God does not give us the leftovers after giving the best gifts to others. Every gift of God is God’s best. While humans may value some gifts more highly than others thanks to our flawed nature and incomplete understanding, every gift God gives us is important and necessary for the church to be what God means for it to be.

          Typically people give gifts at weddings with the intention that the gift be used. This is true of God’s gifts to us as well. God has given us these spiritual gifts for the common good. They are not for our benefit alone; they are given so we may use them for the spiritual and physical well-being of each other and all others. They are intended to help us and others have the life which God intends, both in relationship to God and to the world in which we live.

          We have received these gifts from God because he loves us and is committed to us. Surely the most appropriate response on our part is to love God, to be committed to God and his ways in the world, and to use the gifts God has given us toward helping that happen. May that be our faithful response.


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