A Love Story

Second Sunday after the Epiphany [c]                   January 20, 2019

 

Song of Songs 2:3–4; 6:2–3; Antiphon: Song of Songs 8:6

Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm,

for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave.

As an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my belovèd among the young men.

With great delight I sat in his shadow, and his fruit was sweet to my taste,

He brought me to the banqueting house,

and his banner over me was love.

My belovèd has gone down to his garden to the beds of spices,

to graze in the gardens and to gather lilies.

I am my belovèd’s and my belovèd is mine;

he grazes among the lilies.

Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm,

for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave.

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

This morning, as we come to Church to hear our Lord’s voice, our Lord gives us a love note.

 

Actually, to keep things in proper order, we don’t come to Church. We are gathered. We may do all the logistics, the filling the car with gas, the setting the alarm clock, the waking up the kids and making sure they’re dressed, the driving to the Church parking lot, but no one comes to Church. We are gathered.

 

As the Catechism says, the Holy Spirit calls, gathers, and enlightens us. So, that we are here means that we have already been gathered by our Lord’s voice—his voice spoken to us in Baptism, to us in times of Evening Prayer with the family, in holy Communion in weeks past throughout the year, in all the conversations in which the Lord’s Word is spoken from one to another—this is the Lord’s voice calling and gathering us into the Church, enlightening us with his Gospel of all sins forgiven.

 

So, this morning, as our Lord gathers us together by his voice, we hear a love note. A love note from the Lord to the people he so loves—loves so much that when he gathers his people together as one body, he calls us his bride, his beloved, and names himself our groom, our lover.

 

Here is some of the poetry the Groom speaks to his Bride:

I compare you, my love,
to a mare among Pharaoh’s chariots.
10 Your cheeks are lovely with ornaments,
your neck with strings of jewels.

15 Behold, you are beautiful, my love;
behold, you are beautiful;
your eyes are doves.

[Song of Songs 1:9 and 15]

 

Here is the poetry we, the Bride, are given to respond with:

As an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men.

With great delight I sat in his shadow, and his fruit was sweet to my taste,

He brought me to the banqueting house,

and his banner over me was love.

My belovèd has gone down to his garden to the beds of spices,

to graze in the gardens and to gather lilies.

I am my belovèd’s and my beloved is mine;

he grazes among the lilies.

Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm,

for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave.

 

That is from Song of Songs chapters 2 and 6.

 

And the Groom responds,

How beautiful is your love, my beloved, my bride! How much better is your love than wine.

[Song of Songs 4:10]

 

And the Bride responds,

I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.

[Song of Songs 6:3]

 

 

The Groom pours himself out for the Bride. All that he has he gives to her to present her as a resplendent bride, with no spot or wrinkle, holy and without blemish.

 

The Bride receives her Groom as he who will give himself for her, to sanctify and cleanse her, that she may be in fear of nothing.

 

All that the Groom has he gives to his Bride. From him, the Bride receives every good gift.

 

The Groom is Christ. The One who gave himself to cleanse the sinner. The Bride is the Church, all those the Groom is each week gathering and calling to his gifts.

 

The language between the Groom and the Bride is his Liturgy, where Jesus, the Groom, is speaking his Word of gift and promise, sanctifying his Bride by the washing of water with the Word, cleansing her with his own blood for the forgiveness of all sins, and where, in that Liturgy, the Bride sings back to him in songs and hymns of thankfulness and praise, receiving his good gifts and extolling his love for her.

 

 

So we are given to hear the Gospel from John chapter 6, and we see Jesus, the Groom of the Church, searching out his bride, as he is invited to a wedding feast in Cana.

 

At this feast, he doesn’t start out as the Groom. There’s already a groom. He’s one of the guests.

 

Now, at a wedding feast, the Groom supplies the food and the wine. The Groom is the host. He is publicly giving his Name to his Bride, and he wants to show her off in all her resplendence. But at the wedding feast in Cana, something goes terribly wrong. Not enough wine. Not enough wine is never a good thing. You can’t have a wedding feast without it. And this is no way to show off your bride.

 

John 2:6:

Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from.

 

Jesus supplies the wine. Having come as one of the guests, he reveals himself as the Groom. Not the groom for this singular bride in Cana, of course, but he is announcing himself as Groom for his own Bride.

 

This particular bride at this wedding in Cana certainly belongs to her own groom with whom she is one-flesh. This is according to God’s gift of marriage, where, as God has instituted for all generations, the man and the woman become one flesh (Genesis 2:24), and what God has joined together let no one separate.

 

But having come as a guest to this wedding, Jesus uses it to proclaim himself the Groom, and in so proclaiming, to gather to himself his Bride. That is, to gather to himself all those who are looking for the Christ. For, as John says, this miracle of making water into wine is the first of his signs, and by it he has manifested his glory, and seeing his glory, his disciples had faith in him. [John 2:11]

 

 

Jesus’ glory is that he is true God having come in the flesh to save sinners.

 

His glory is the cross, where he shed the blood to cleanse his Bride, that is, to cleanse the sinners he gathers into his Church.

 

His making of water into wine is not just an exhibition of divine power demonstrating that he is the God who created all things, including water and grapes and yeast and wine, but it is his revealing that he is the Groom, and all those he gathers to himself, he calls them his Bride, the Church.

 

 

So, we come to Church and we hear a love note. It is the voice of the Groom to his beloved, a promise that he is the Groom who loves and sanctifies his Bride.

 

And, as the Bride, we speak back, confessing our sin, lamenting our shame, and pleading to him for his compassion and love. He hears our voice. He forgives our sin. He covers our shame. He stands us as his bride, sanctified by his Body and Blood, with no spot or blemish.

 

And then we speak to him our praise and thanks, bringing him our gifts, for we know that even what we bring to him is nothing other than a gift he has bestowed upon us, the  Bride he so loves.

 

In the Name of Jesus.

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