Your God Shall Rejoice Over You

Teaching for Sunday, January 17, 2016

Old Testament

Isaiah 62:1-5

For 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.
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.
You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
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.
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.

The Psalm

Psalm 36:5-10

5 Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens,
and your faithfulness to the clouds.

6 Your righteousness is like the strong mountains,
your justice like the great deep;
you save both man and beast, O Lord.

7 How priceless is your love, O God!
your people take refuge under the shadow of your wings.

8 They feast upon the abundance of your house;
you give them drink from the river of your delights.

9 For with you is the well of life,
and in your light we see light.

10 Continue your loving-kindness to those who know you,
and your favor to those who are true of heart.

The New Testament

1 Corinthians 12:1-11

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says "Let Jesus be cursed!" and no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

The Gospel

John 2:1-11

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 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 said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, "Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward." So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now." Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.



Teaching


Our reading from Isaiah 62 starts
For Zion's sake I will not keep silent,
and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest,
Isaiah, "I will not keep silence" reminds me of Romans 8:34  who is to condemn? Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us? Jesus keeps interceding for us. That is what vindicates us, justifies us, makes us righteous before God.

It continues, "The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory";  This is God speaking to Zion, to Jerusalem, to the people of God. There is a "new name", the church is the people of God today (Hebrews 12.22-23). When the world and all the powerful people of the world realize God is in his people, that God's ways are the right ways, this is not our glory alone, this is glory to God. This is part of what we are asking for when we pray "your kingdom come." The kingdom of God will come -- "on earth as it is in heaven."

Why is God promising all this to his people? God loves us.  This is deep, profound.  His love reaches to the heavens. It is not just that God wants what is best for us. "As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you."  This love is deep, personal, intense. God delights in us. He rejoices in us. Recently, when I was feeling unloved, several people have said some very loving things to me in the last few days that have moved me to tears. When we speak word of love to others, we remind each other of God's love. And God's love is so, so much more.

One way God expresses his love for us is through gifts.  Gifts are all from the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as he wills. These are different for different people. I conclude that it is God's will for us to be different.  Our differences are something to affirm, to celebrate, not condemn or worry about. Let us grant one another the freedom of being different. Our gifts are for building each other up, for building up the church, for the common good, not serving self interest. As the many parts of the human body are different in many ways, but all integral parts of the same body, so is the body of Christ. When we affirm each other in our differences, we build up the unity of the body.  When we celebrate the diversity that God has created in us we proclaim the wisdom in the glorious love of  God.
 
In his love, God has great plans for us. We're called a royal priesthood, a holy nation.

How priceless is your love, O God!
your people take refuge under the shadow of your wings.

They feast upon the abundance of your house;
you give them drink from the river of your delights.


John tells of Jesus' first sign in Cana of Galilee. The location of Cana is unknown, with at least three possible sites, one 5 km and another 12 km from Nazareth, all are small, obscure places. This happened on the third day, probably meaning the third day from the last mentioned event, when Jesus first spoke to Nathaniel. Nathaniel had been skeptical of Jesus. When Jesus spoke to him about seeing him (when Jesus wasn't there) that helped overcome that skepticism.  But when Jesus said "You shall see greater things." "You will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man" Nathaniel might have still wondered. 

After giving the setting, the account begins the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." I had overlooked the lesson in this before.  Maybe others have also. Mary is an example to us to be attentive to others' needs.

Why was this first sign of Jesus at a wedding feast? Wedding feasts were big occasions that may have had the whole town participating for maybe a week. But this is in just a small town. It would have been a major embarrassment to run out of wine, but no real harm to anyone. But Jesus turns the water into wine. Jesus didn’t turn the water into a fruity grape juice, or into ordinary table wine. He instantly produced the finest and most expensive of wines – a fine vintage wine that would normally take years to age. The first obvious and very important conclusion is that only God can change physical reality just by willing it to be. Jesus was God or at least empowered by God. Jesus revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

But there's more. John was an eyewitness and tells the important things that he saw, but he's clearly aware he's telling stories with deep symbolism. One common interpretation of the symbolism is that the water jars used for ritual cleansing speak of the Jewish ceremonial system. There were six jars, with six as the number of being human and imperfect. The water of ritual cleansing is replaced with wine. That reminds us of Jesus, during the last supper, saying this wine "is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many. "  The steward saying "you have kept the good wine until now" shows how the new covenant surpasses the old.

Another lesson I see is that Jesus transforms everyday situations. He cares for us in things that are less than life and death struggles. He turns failures into blessings. And more than transforming situations, Jesus transforms us.  In our day to day activities, God is at work.  We can find meaning in God's presence in all we are doing. If Jesus can change water into wine for an embarrassed wedding couple, how much more can he change us through the transforming power of his Holy Spirit. John tells us that “all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God. (John 1:12).

Jesus gives us abundant life. This sign at Cana points to his power not simply to improve the quality of our lives but to change and transform us to be like him – people of joy, peace, and love who do not fear death, but who know and experience even now the taste of eternal life – the life of God’s kingdom. 

He gives us everything we need to live as his disciples – as sons and daughters of God. Jesus blessed the wedding in Cana, not only with his presence, but with his power. He will bless us as well, not only with his presence, but with his healing love and life-changing power.

Additionally, from this passage we get the teaching of some churches that marriage is a sacrament. Whatever we call it, here we can see the Lord blesses marriage with his presence at a wedding feast. Elsewhere he describes marriage as "what God has put together." Human marriage is profound, a uniting of a man and woman into one body. And marriage points to a even deeper truth.  Marriage a symbol of our union with God. Paul (Ephesians 5:31-32) wrote:
“For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother,
 and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.”
This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
John the Baptist described Jesus as the bridegroom. And at the return of Jesus, the apostle John tells us in Revelation 19:9 of the marriage supper or wedding feast of the lamb. Jesus wants us to experience joy and  pleasure with him, have a great celebration.

Our Isaiah 62 passage says
"For as a young man marries a virgin,
so shall your builder marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
so shall your God rejoice over you.
God loves us. He loves us deeply, intensely. If God is for us, who can be against us? And nothing can separate us from the love of God.

How priceless is your love, O God!

Praise the Lord!