January 20, 2013
Second Sunday after Epiphany

Sermon Title: “Until We Shine”

Isaiah 62:1-5

The Vindication and Salvation of Zion

62For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest,
until her vindication shines out like the dawn,
and her salvation like a burning torch.
2 The nations shall see your vindication,
and all the kings your glory;
and you shall be called by a new name
that the mouth of the Lord will give.
3 You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
4 You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
and your land shall no more be termed Desolate;
but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,
and your land Married;
for the Lord delights in you,
and your land shall be married.
5 For as a young man marries a young woman,
so shall your builder marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
so shall your God rejoice over you.

Last week we went to a Baptism. This week, a wedding. Weddings are, at their best, an exercise in hope. At their best, they are like the living out of a dream.

There may very well be a few present this morning who not only have been to a wedding recently but were the participants.

If your nuptials were within the scope of your memory, you might remember what the pastor was trying to tell you during the ‘pre-wedding sessions.’ One of the things I try and tell people is that the one you are marrying will change. Like everyone and everything which God has created, change is inevitable. Brides find that the dress so carefully cleaned and boxed has somehow shrunk. Grooms find that less hair products are necessary. But what really is dynamic, requiring adaptation, is the relationship itself.

We were at the dinner table one evening. It was my childhood table, my mom and dad and two sisters were there, carrots were passed and my father said, “no thanks. I never really did care for them.” We all looked at him, but my mother especially, we looked at him as though he had lost his mind, or that his body had been hijacked by some other, unknown being. He had, after all, sat in that very chair and ate cooked carrots for, well, decades. I guess he changed.

Weddings also require that the participants understand that one of the biggest challenges is, not to love the one you have married, but to love the one your spouse will become.

For as a young man marries a young woman,
so shall your builder marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
so shall your God rejoice over you.

Isaiah speaks of this challenge, between bride and bridegroom, not in human terms, but in the perfect world of God’s relationship with us.

See it is just wrong to go into any relationship, dissatisfied with the present state of things, hoping, well, I’ll change her. Let me tell you a secret about human relationships: “don’t count on it.” For us it is best to go in with the realization that we cannot change our beloved. However, it is written somewhere, “nothing is impossible with God.”

Now, This possibility does not promise that if we only wish hard enough, cajole persistently, that God will work through our petitions, insistences, bargaining even, and turn that which we need into that which we desire.

The first hurdle that any disciple must leap over, jump even is that God seeks to change to suit our needs. Wrong. it may seem like God changes. No matter how devoted we are to God, no matter how hard we try to parade our love and fidelity across the heavens, seeking some shift in the Divine intention, God does not change. Instead, God seeks to change us.

This unbelievable commitment is revealed in Isaiah’s wedding scene, not by turning water into wine, but through a similar miraculous process. God will not leave us alone. We are a people who are pursued; gone after, even into strange lands that seem far away from everything the world hoped for us. At our most basic, elemental self, we are never beyond transformation. Not in a sudden wave of the hand, reflected in some strange ripple on the surface of those earthen vessels, but by an unwavering seeking us out.

Jesus takes common water and turns it into precious wine. In like manner, God takes common sinners and turns them into a royal bride. By uniting with God in covenant…in relationship…the nation is redeemed and made new again despite its sinful past. In the ancient world, a bride’s purity was of ultimate concern. The purity of the bride assured the purity of the marriage. In this scenario, however, Isaiah recognizes that the bride, Israel, is less than pure. The bride is made pure through the act of marriage. The bride is purified not because of any action on the bride’s part; the bride is redeemed and made pure due to the gracious and pure love of the bridegroom.

The love that is affirmed at a wedding is not just a condition of the heart but an act of the will, and the promise that love makes is to will the other’s good even at the expense sometimes of its own good-and that is quite a promise.

Fredrick Buechner, in his book “the hungering dark,” writes,

Like so much of the Gospel of John, the story of the wedding at Cana has a curious luminousness about it, the quality almost of a dream where every gesture, every detail, suggests the presence of meaning beneath meaning, where people move with a kind of ritual stateliness, faces melting into other faces, voices speaking words of elusive but inexhaustible significance. It is on the third day that the wedding takes place; the third day that Jesus comes to change the water into wine, and in the way of dreams the number 3 calls up that other third day when just at daybreak, in another way and toward another end, Jesus came and changed despair into rejoicing. There are the six stone jars, and you wonder why six – some echo half-heard of the six days of creation perhaps, the six days that preceded the seventh and holiest day, God’s day. And the cryptic words that Jesus speaks to his mother with their inexplicable sharpness, their foreshadowings of an hour beyond this hour in Cana of astonished gladness and feasting, of a final hour that was yet not final. But beyond the mystery of what it means, detail by detail, level beneath level, maybe the most important part of a dream is the part that stays with you when you wake up from it.