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                     of Almelund, Minnesota

         

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Seeing is Believing

Pastor Marla Amborn

Immanuel Lutheran Church

January 14, 2018

John 1:1-11

 

A wedding celebration – a day filled with hope and excitement. A day rooted in love and flowing with anticipation. A day when the two become one, taking on a new identity as husband and wife.

 

This past summer my daughter, Marissa, married her sweetheart, Justin Woodruff. It was a joy-filled day, long in the making. This couple had dated for eight years and they had known one another since they were children. Much preparation went into shaping this special day into just what they wanted it to be. Marissa loves to make things by hand. She and her friends spent months carefully crafting over 300 paper flowers – Beautiful, intricate flowers for bouquets and corsages. Justin’s dad, Pastor Jim Woodruff, and I co-officiated for the ceremony, personalizing the message to them as only two parents could. For the unity ceremony they planted a tree using soil from our yard, Justin’s parents’ yard, and the yard from the home they now share. Many talented family members and friends sang and played music for the ceremony and for the reception that followed. Every effort was made to make this day special, just the way they always dreamed it would be.

 

It is at a wedding celebration such as this that our gospel lesson for today is set. It is at the wedding at Cana that Jesus turns water into wine. At his mother’s prompting, Jesus does this gracious act so that the wedding couple and their families won’t be embarrassed by the lack of wine. The deeply held value of hospitality is preserved. He did what he could so that this couple’s special day would be as perfect as possible.

 

This might seem like an odd way for Jesus to begin his ministry. He could have healed someone, or done something dramatic like walking on water. But instead he blessed this wedding reception with bountiful wine. In doing so, he revealed something about himself. To those who had eyes to see, he gave a glimpse into his identity as the son of God.

 

This is the first “sign” in a series of seven signs, Jesus performs in the gospel of John. We might call this a “miracle,” but John calls it a sign. Signs signify something, they point to something other than themselves, that have meaning. In this case this sign points to Jesus’ divinity.

 

This season of Epiphany is about revelation. Throughout Epiphany we get glimpses of the glory of God come in human form in the person of Jesus Christ. Two weeks ago we celebrated Jesus’ baptism. Jesus’ identity was revealed as the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus like a dove and the voice of God proclaimed, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Last week Jesus called his disciples with the words “Come and see.” Today those disciples get to see Jesus’ divinity revealed as he turns water into wine.

 

Throughout his ministry, Jesus’ ongoing task involves revealing his divine nature as the Son of God. People’s task is to recognize the revealed glory of the Son of God, to believe it, and let it shape our lives. 

 

Jesus did this sign behind the scenes, out of the view of most of the guests. The vast majority of the people who drank that wine had no clue they were drinking the fruits of Jesus’ first miracle/sign. But the servants knew what had happened and his new disciples knew. John writes “Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.” Aha, his disciples believed in him. What a gift it was for the disciples to have that “sign!”

 

Jesus’ identity is revealed to us through this and other signs. Signs are there for those who open their eyes to notice them. Jesus did many signs for the disciples. Jesus gives us many glimpses into his glory -- if we have the eyes to notice.

 

Toward the end of John’s gospel, he writes: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31).

 

The life of faith involves recognizing God’s signs, believing them, and then witnessing to them. The life of faith is a process of noticing who Jesus is and living as Jesus would have us live, so that we might have abundant life.

 

Tomorrow our nation celebrates Martin Luther King Junior Day. For many it is a day off from school. For some it is a day off from work. But for all of us it is a time to reflect on the legacy of this man and what it means for our nation and our lives.

 

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a pastor first and a Civil Rights leader second. The values he fought for and died for are rooted in his Christian faith. Values like recognizing that all people are created in God’s image as beloved children. Values like loving your neighbor and praying for those who persecute you. Values of nonviolence – turning the other cheek.

 

As we think about the life of faith, the messages Jesus preached, and the way we respond, Martin Luther King Jr. provides a powerful example of truly living your faith.

Under King’s leadership, our nation made great strides in the 1960s as we ended Jim Crow segregation laws and supported voting rights for all people. The Civil Rights movement raised the consciousness of our nation to more faithfully live into our founding value that “all men are created equal and we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, and among them are the right life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration of Independence).

 

Martin Luther King reminded us that as a nation we are stronger because of our diversity. He also called us to live with compassion for those who are most at risk. We are reminded of our founding values of welcoming those at risk by the inscription on the Statue of Liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

 

We are a nation of immigrants. We are all immigrants and children of immigrants – people of every race and ethnicity, every color and creed. That immigrant heritage is our foundation and our strength. By bringing people together from all over the world we get a blending of cultures that brings out the best in all of them.

 

These are values we need to be reminded of today. These are values we need to remember and live into. They are values that are under attack. As Christians, it is our duty to love one another with Christ-like love and to speak words of love, and to act with love, not hate. As Christians we will be judged by how we treat one another and especially how we treat those who are oppressed or in need. As we welcome “the least of these,” we welcome Jesus, and as we fail to care for “the lease of these,” so too, we reject Jesus and will be judged accordingly (Matthew 25:31-46).

 

At a time when some of our leaders would divide us into warring factions of “Us and Them,” Martin Luther King reminds us “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”

 

This Epiphany Sunday and this Martin Luther King holiday weekend both challenge us to look with new eyes. In our scripture for today Jesus revealed who he was. Jesus gave his disciples, and those who had eyes to see, a glimpse of God’s glory. Do we have the eyes to see? Do we notice Jesus’ signs? Do we recognize Jesus at work in the world                            and join him in his mission of love and salvation?

 

Our task is to see Jesus for who he is, the Son of God, and recognize what a difference that makes. Our task is to let God’s love shape our lives and our witness so that, like those disciples at Cana, we see and believe.

 

It is my prayer that we look at life with eyes wide open to Christ’s love for all people, and that we live faithfully as his disciples loving God and loving all of our neighbors                                  with Christ-like love.  Amen.