Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Epiphany 2 - John 2 (sorry it's late!)

(wma download link here)

You know that kind of day – the kind of day when you just can’t catch a break. It’s not just the boss or the teacher or the traffic or the lines at the store. It’s not any one thing. It’s all of them. They add up, piling on top of each other like a tower of emotional frustration.

It’s usually after one of those days - when you’re just barely getting dinner started, and the kids are hungry, and the spouse is cranky, and your feet are hurting - it’s usually one of those days that it happens. You need it, but there’s no more milk in the fridge. Then it all adds up. The tower of frustration falls over. Life just doesn’t seem to be worth living because the milk has run out.

Maybe that’s never happened to you. But things like that have happened to you. Life has a way of running out just when you feel like you need it most. You need cash, but there’s none in your wallet. You need credit, but it’s maxed. You need socks, but they’re dirty and full of holes. And if you think that’s bad, try living in Darfur where thousands are dying of starvation, disease and murder right now, because of their race and their religion. Or move to south America and see what it’s like to have drug cartels run your country. Or head east in our dear Jersey and get out of your car where the homeless families and prostitutes roam. Life has run out early for them. And you live on, getting upset when you go a day without milk.

What’s going to happen when things really start running out? Oil? Clean air? Drinkable water? If we’re to believe Al Gore’s recent movie about the polar ice-caps, such times may not be so far away. If we pay attention to the rising toll of bird flu deaths in Asia, the pandemic they say is coming might give us cause for pause and prayer. And if we continue to ignore the gradual implementation of Islamic shria law in western civilization, the jihad that will follow will no doubt finally teach us how good this world is at taking away the things you need for security just when you’ve put all of your trust in them. And this is to say nothing of the fact that time itself is running out, running out on you, and on your death bed you will be left wishing you had done more, knowing you haven’t done enough. There, all your selfish pining for a chance to make it up won’t do you a bit of good.

This running out of things, of course, is no mystery to anyone. The rich and completely self-centered people, people like us, do manage to ignore our world’s shortage problem most of the time. Yet, even we are forced to suffer the pain of it. Nothing is sacred to the curse. Nothing is safe from mold, rust and moths. That gas tank revolves around empty like a never ending harpy screaming for you wake up and realize that something is going wrong. Things are running out.

The gas tank, just like the empty bag of sugar in your pantry and the worn out soles on your shoes are there as messengers from God. In an attempt to jerk you out of your sinful enslavement to the materials of this world as your idols and your sources of hope and trust, God withholds from you good things in abundance. God has cursed these good things with rot and decay and non-renewableness because he wants you to see that a sinful life in a broken world is not about fun or entertainment or even good family memories. It’s not about seeing what you can, or getting what you can, or even surviving as long as you can. Those life-goals can be met by just filling up the gas tank again, putting more food on your plate and buying more love in your life. But even with all of that you still are enslaved to your problem, to being in curvatis, to being completely “curved in on yourself.” Things run out from your life because you have run out of faith in God. And as a wakeup call to this problem of your heart, God has withheld all good things in abundance from you, to show you what needs to be filled up first.

But it was to prove that he was the man sent to fill up the first things that Jesus Christ, one day at a wedding in Cana, started bringing about the abundance of paradise just a little bit early. For Isaiah the prophet had foretold that in the world to come God the Lord would “make for all peoples a feast … [including] well aged wine.” And this feast would come with the appearing of the King who would shepherd the peoples back to their God. And in his work of filling the world up with grace again, from the moment he was born in grace as the form of a man, to the moment when he repented in grace of the sins he had not committed and was baptized for their forgiveness, to the many times when he gave that grace in miracles which stopped the running out of wine and bread and health and life, even so that something as simple as a wedding could go on – all of it of was part of his bring to completion that grace in a march with a hardened face towards a cross where the substitution of God for man did more than just give wine in abundance – it kill death and running out forever. More than simply taking away the running out which is the fruit of our sin, it destroyed the faithlessness which is the root of our sin, and by the Word of his resurrection, gave us something to believe in which is the forgiveness of our sin.

When the master of the feast at Cana tasted the wine that Jesus had made, he found that Christ had brought him a wine far better than that which he had tasted before. The wine of this world had not only run out, but paled in comparison to the water combined with the Word of God. And even to this day, in water combined with the Word of God and in wine combined with the Word of God, the best which is yet to come – the best which is saved for last – still comes early in the epiphanies of our Lord, where he manifests and reveals himself to us as the God with the power to stop all running out once and for all, beginning not with the milk or the socks, but starting with your heart, where he has and will continue to give you the faith which brings hope in life everlasting. And believe you me, that is going to be one not-hell of a party.

In the Name…

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