2nd Sunday of Epiphany
Isaiah 62:1-5; John 2:1-11
Signs are an important part of our culture. They tell us all kinds of things. Take a look at these signs, and think about what each of them means.
Start PowerPoint slides “signs.” They’ll advance on their own.
The purpose of a sign is to make you aware of a reality you may not otherwise know: sharp curve, wildlife that may jump in front of your car, train coming, where the airport is compared to where you are, etc.
LCM Building. Leave on screen.
Once you understand the reality a sign is revealing, you usually don’t pay attention to the sign. If a sign draws attention to just itself, it has not fulfilled its purpose. A sign always points to something else.
Notice that John deliberately refers to Jesus changing water into wine at the wedding at Cana as “a sign.” It points to something else, a reality that those present may not otherwise be aware of. The point of this sign wasn’t the miracle itself, it revealed something else entirely. Be thinking about what that is.
The steward totally missed the sign. After tasting the wine, he went to the bridegroom and made an assumption based on what he already knew. Different wine, good wine; obviously it must have been stashed away by the groom until now. Nothing new, nothing different. Because he doesn’t recognize the sign, he doesn’t get what the sign is pointing out.
Who knows what the other guests thought. But this sign revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him. Every time John writes of “signs” (17 times), it always has to do with the reign of God breaking into the world, present in Jesus. God has come to do something new and different. Not just change water into wine, not just heal the sick and cast out demons; but in Christ, God comes to make the world new. The sign points to a new reality. Sin and evil and death will no longer have the last word. They no longer reign supreme. God is doing something new. And it is happening in the person of Jesus.
This sign at the wedding of Cana points to God’s presence in the world in a new way; a reality that this broken world can’t contain and can’t explain.
This sign points to a new and present reality that turns our normal world upside down – a new reality where death leads to life, where forgiveness is a done deal, where the meek inherit the earth, where enemies are loved. How often do we miss the signs that reveal these new things God is doing, the overcoming of our brokenness and the brokenness of the world? God is forgiving and showing mercy all around us, but because we don’t always see the signs, we don’t always see it.
There are signs pointing to God’s new reality right here in front of us, around us right now: the Word of God read and proclaimed, Jesus’ presence in bread and wine, a community of people created in his name. Every time you show mercy, it is a sign of God’s new reign. Every time you give away money or material things to the point that it actually affects your lifestyle, God’s new reign is shown. Every time the words “I forgive you” are experienced, it is a sign of God’s presence in the world.
If that’s not amazing enough, think about this: most of our neighbors don’t see the signs so aren’t looking for it. They don’t know about the power and depth of forgiveness and love. They’re missing out on God’s new reality because like the steward, they don’t know they are seeing signs.
So God has planted this community of faith right in their midst. We are the sign for them. You point to a new reality that your neighbors may not otherwise see. You reveal God’s forgiveness in ways that are so startling that it demands attention; you make known God’s love to those who have simply missed the signs; you expose God’s peace amongst those who hate you; you show mercy where the stewards of the world never expect it. Want a sign? You are giving away more of your money, more of your time, more of your resources than you ever have before.
You are a sign of the presence of God’s new reality. You are revealing to your neighbors something other than the normal self-serving existence. Some will see the sign revealing Christ’s glory and believe in him. Some will see and experience the love that you point toward, the forgiveness you reveal.
God provides signs for us, and sends us as signs to those around us. This is a new reality. God is doing something new. And it is happening in the person of Jesus. May we be looking for the signs. May we be signs that are impossible to miss.