Second Sunday after Epiphany
"Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." Isaiah 55:1
In this place it is heard God promising hungry guests wine and milk without money and without price. It comes to this, that if they would care to come to buy without money and without price, wine and milk. I have seen that some poor ones are so proud that they do not care to beg; they would sooner die of hunger than to go begging. We hear also in one gospel of that unjust steward, that he did not care to beg, when he said, "I cannot dig, to beg I am ashamed." It is heard in this place that honor prevents some from begging. They would sooner begin to steal, that they would live thereby, as this unjust steward who began to deceive his Lord; first he wasted the Lord's goodness, and then he also taught the Lord's debtors to write fifty instead of a hundred and to change the books of account. And for that reason those debtors, whose debts are left unpaid, intend to bear him into everlasting dwelling places. But who knows into what dwelling places they will finally carry him, when they realize that they will have to pay their debt eternally, just because of that unjust steward who with iniquity taught them to lessen the debt, and did not teach them to beg for grace so that the debt would be wiped away. But they did as the unjust steward commanded, and for that reason can now pay their debt eternally. It would have been better if that unjust steward would have taught his Lord's debtors to beg, but how can he teach them to beg, when he himself does not care to beg. He would sooner teach them to steal than to beg, for that begging greatly bothers the honor. We hear also of the behavior of the prodigal son, that he did not go immediately to his Father either, although poverty was upon him, but he first went to one merchant in that country and that same merchant put him to herd swine. Therefore, this prodigal son had less honor than the unjust steward; but certainly there was much honor in him too, that if he had not known the Parent's heart, he would sooner have eaten the husks from the pig trough and herded swine all his life, than that he would have gone to his Father. But it sounds as if the unjust steward had such great honor of the world that he certainly would not have begun to herd swine since he did not care to dig or work the fields. Before such a handsome steward would begin to dig in the field or to beg, he would sooner teach the debtors to lessen the debt, so that the Lord would not have so much to yearn for when the time of visitation comes, but to herd swine, that he will never do. The prodigal son had to do it, although it is kept as almost the worst work, that some honorable man-servant would not care to begin to do that because of honor. For who could stand to hear that other honorable men would call him a swineherder; it must be only a beggar boy or such a rag devil who would begin to herd swine, and he must be almost in great distress before he goes to herd swine. But now although the prodigal son had to do it, these animals do not need to think that the unjust steward will begin to herd them, who is so proud that he cannot dig and so honorable that he is ashamed to beg. But the prodigal son has to herd swine for a time, until then when distress commands him to arise and go to his Father. He would not have had to do it if he would have immediately gone to hie Father when he had spent all, but honor was so great in him that he could not go immediately as such a rag devil to his Father; he would have sooner wanted to earn his food himself in some way. But that merchant in whose service he was, that same merchant is so greedy that he would not even give food of the swine as wages. That merchant feared that the swine would fall down if the prodigal son ate with them.
Arise now, you prodigal son, and begin to think how many servants in your Father's house have a better opportunity than you in this far country, where not even swine food is given to eat. How many years or months have you already served that merchant who put you to herd swine? Are you not tired of herding swine, you wretch? I hear that the Father has prepared a wedding for you and for other rag devils who come to Him as poor and wretched as they are. I hear that the Parent's heart longs for you, unfortunate wretch, who left from the Father's house to waste and spend your substance with harlots in the far country. I hear that the Parent's heart is longing for you, and is killing the fatted calf because of you, and is preparing wedding garments ready for the time the prodigal son comes. I hear that the Parent's heart longs for you and is waiting when that unfortunate prodigal son comes in rags and tatters, black and honorless, hungry and cold. The Father has now prepared a wedding where such hungry guests can enjoy wine and milk, when He says through Prophet Isaiah, "Gome and buy, without money and without price, wine and milk." Arise, therefore, unfortunate wretch, and go to your Father and say, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before Thee, and am no more worthy to be called Thy son; let me be as one of the poorest of Your servants." Arise, arise, unfortunate son, and go soon, before all love cools in the Parent's heart, before the Parent dies of sorrow and because of waiting,. When can He hear news of that unfortunate son, who went so far in the far country so that the Parent's ears do not hear news of that wretch any more? Arise, arise, prodigal son, and go as a rag devil to your Father, that your eyes could yet once more see the Parent's face before you die. And hear now, gracious Father in heaven, the sigh of the prodigal son: Cur Father Who art in the heavens!
The Gospel: John 2:1
We heard in today's gospel that Jesus was called to the wedding and that the wine was wanting, and His mother said, "They have no wine." In accordance with this, we must, at this holy moment, consider: From where will wine come for the poor wedding guests when the wine runs out?
It appears certain that the wine was wanting in the wedding of Cana, but we hope that Mary, Jesus' mother, will reveal it to her Son, and say then to the servants, "Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it."
The first consideration: Why is the wedding wine so soon wanting? The second consideration: Jesus changes the water into wine; and third consideration: According to the custom of the world, the poorer wine is saved for the last, but in the wedding of Cana, the best wine comes last. But the guests must wait until the servants draw water and bring it to the governor. For the governor does not know from where the wine has come, but that it is good wine which Jesus has prepared; that he knows if he cares to taste of that wine which the servants carry to him.
The first consideration: Why is the wedding wine so soon wanting? We do not know why it is so soon wanting, but that we know, that there was only a little wine at the wedding in Cana. Before it became wanting, some of the guests have become drunken, but now when it began to be wanting, Mary laments, saying, "They have no wine." Although Mary herself is not the worst drinker, nevertheless she would willingly have it so the wedding guests would drink and become joyful. If it is true as Sirach says that wine gladdens the heart, then surely Mary had experienced so much of the power of the wine and what the wine effects when it comes into the heart, that she would have willingly wished it so, that the guests would have had that much wine, that they would become joyful. It was very sad for Mary to see that the wine would so soon be wanting. The wine effects that the guests become joyful and the desire to preach conies to them; they become talkative when wine warms the heart, and some begin to dance when the wine rises to the head. To some, such a burning love comes from the wine that they weep on one another's necks from love, and some reveal the most secret matters of the heart when they are drunken, for which the old saying is, "Wine is truthful." That we have seen, that the disciples became very talkative on Pentecost, when they were full of sweet wine. Therefore it touched Mary's honor, that the wine would so soon be wanting at the wedding of Cana. Surely the wine has been wanting, for the wedding guests are no more talkative; the wedding guests now sit speechless and look at each other with sorrow and a heavy mind. The wedding guests are not able to be happy when the wine has run out; they are not able to jump and dance when the wine is not gladdening the heart; they do not have burning love when there is no wine, which makes them happy and warms the heart. Said in a word: It is very sad for all the wedding guests to sit at the wedding table without wine, and some guests who are called to the wedding begin to regret already that the wedding is kept without wine. For some it becomes so sad to sit there that almost right away they get ready to leave, and some have already secretly gone out of the wedding hall, but with a bad conscience such guests go to some whiskey merchant, who gives them a different kind of wine, mixed with water. For the whiskey merchants do not dare to give the drunkards pure and clear wine, but they give such a water mixture which, along side of strong and clear wine, is a water mixture. And I think that all such guests, who do not care to sit in the wedding hall until such a time that Jesus prepares the best wine at the last, can now drink the water mixture into which the whiskey merchant has put his own urine for better flavor, and such watered wine or water mixture must be sweet in their mouths, who have drunk so much flowing devil's dung that they have lost all taste. Such guests do not complain about their pasture, no matter what kind of wine is given to them in church and in the Lord's Supper; even if flowing devil's dung was mixed with the right wine, they will surely swallow it as sweet in the mouth and with a good conscience. Those who gather devil's dung certainly do not tie a scarf in front of their mouth, although their own mouth reeks for devil's dung, but they willingly with a good mind receive that water mixture which the whiskey merchant gives to them and say, "This is good wine, this is not a water mixture." But I hope that the true guests at the wedding of Cana, who have not yet spoiled their taste because of devil's dung, and have once tasted a little of that pure and clear wine, do not go to the whiskey merchant to beg for the water mixture, but they say to the whiskey merchant, "If you want to give us wine, then give that pure and clear wine, but it probably is not to be had. And if it is not, then give even salt. Salt is nevertheless better than your water mixture, for we are like sheep who are accustomed to licking salt water from the Shepherd's hand."
But we were supposed to ask why the wine was so soon wanting in the wedding of Cana. We heard, namely, Mary lamenting, "They have no wine." And that is true, that the wine is wanting, but whose fault is it, that the wine is wanting? It must be such a poor groom, that he cannot afford to prepare as much wine as the drinkers need, or is it such a poor governor that he does not take heed of how much wine is needed? I must confess before both the groom and the bride that the governor has been lazy and careless to take heed of how the wine was going. But I hope that the governor, through God's grace, will pour into the glasses more and more of that best wine, which the bridegroom has saved for the last, when the governor first can taste how sweet that wine is which the servants bring from the well. For the governor does not know from where such sweet wine has come, but that much he knows, that it is the best wine, although he who is preparing food for the wedding guests cannot drink so much of that wine as the wedding guests drink, especially such guests who are real drinkers. I say, the governor cannot drink so much that he will fall over, for he must prepare so that all guests will receive their allotted share of both the food and drink. He must first taste the different foods; does it have ample salt, that the guests can eat it. If he feels that there is insufficient salt, then he must put more salt. And in that making of food and tasting of food, his time passes so that he cannot sit as a lord at the wedding table, but he must be in the kitchen with the servants and see to it that each course is properly prepared, that it is suitable for the guests. And when all the guests have been fed, then the governor can eat with the children and the servants. And the Saviour asks, "For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat or he that serveth? Is not he that sitteth at meat? But I am among you as he that serveth."
The second consideration: The wine has truly run out and there is no one who goes to get more. How will it go now with the guests since the wine is lacking? Mary! You who have carried the Son of God under your heart and have felt the heavenly joy already then when you became pregnant by the Holy Spirit, and have said, "My soul doth rejoice in God, my Saviour." You cannot bear to see that the guests in the wedding of Cana sit like garden-owls, quiet and still, but you, bridesmaid, surely want that the guests would be happy, especially when the Saviour has said, "Can ye make the children of the bride chamber fast while the bridegroom is with them?" You must now lament before the Lord Jesus of that lack of wine which is with this poor wedding party and say, "They have no wine." But it sounds from His answer that He did not keep Mary's request to be very nice: "Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come." Is it so now that Jesus does not want to show His godly power yet? Or is His will so, that the guests can be at the wedding without wine? I think that He cannot reject Mary's request, no matter how unbefitting this request is, that He must now prepare wine for this poor wedding party; although formerly they had wine at weddings, nevertheless now they have not had wine for a long time. But Mary believed nevertheless that Jesus cannot refuse, although it is almost an unbefitting matter, as I think, because of the world which gossips so much about wine and drunkenness at the wedding of Cana (although it is not written that they were drunken). Nevertheless He commands them to draw water into the stone vessels and to carry in to the governor. For what reason do the servants carry the water in stone vessels? And when these servants come inside, this water is the best wine. It is miraculous that water outside is not more than water, but as soon as they come to the governor, this water is changed to wine. It has happened through the power of Jesus. But the governor does not know where the wine has come from, but he thinks that the groom has prepared that wine in some way. And when the governor tastes that water, which through the power of Jesus has been changed to wine, then he knows immediately that it is the best kind of wine. It is not such water mixture which the spiritual whiskey merchants offer to the guests at the wedding of Cana, nor is it flowing devil's dung, which the devil himself has excreted, which the forest devils lap up, with which they anoint their bowels and consider it sweet: that flowing devil's dung is the best wine of forest devils. But forest devils are not at the wedding of Cana, nor such magpies and earthlings who laugh in the darkness and curse around the church, but at the wedding of Cana are Jesus' disciples, as Peter, James, John, or Nathanael, and also Mary, the mother of Jesus, who was a bridesmaid, and other women who have followed Jesus. They just now begin to believe upon Jesus when they can taste that wine which Jesus has made from the water. The third consideration: Why did the governor say to the groom: "Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse?" The governor marvels why in other weddings the good wine is given first, and when they have become drunken, then the poorer is given to the guests. But in the wedding of Cana the poorer wine was given first and the best wine is saved for the last, and that is truly a matter to be marveled at — why it is so. But so it has happened, and I think that all those guests who were called to the wedding of Cana have been able to experience that the poorer wine is given first and the best wine is saved to the last. But all guests do not have such patience that they would sit in the wedding hall so long that the best wine would be brought forth, but some of the guests go out of the wedding hall before they have tasted wine, and some go then when the wine has run out. They gather up their bones and say, "Let a dog sit here, where there is not given better wine." Many have already gathered their bones and gone out of the wedding hall, and they must be those old vessels, of which the Saviour says, "No man putteth new wine into old vessels," for the old vessel will not stand up when new wine is put into it, but will break and the new wine runs out of that old vessel which is leaky. But the new wine is put into new vessels, and both are preserved. So eat and drink wall now, guests, as long as the wedding days last: Eat and drink wine and milk, for the days will come that the bridegroom is taken away, and then the wedding guests will have to fast when there is not a governor who will pour out the new wine into new vessels, and when the wine is lacking, then the wedding guests will be sad. Who will finally prepare wine for the poor wedding guests when wine is lacking? Our hope is that Jesus is still living, if there would still be one Mary who would pray to Jesus and lament, "They have no wine!" It could probably be possible that Jesus, because of Mary's prayer, would change the water into wine so that the wedding guests would become joyful and talkative, that they would not have to sit speechless, as some now sit speechless, although the wine is not yet entirely lacking. Who knows when the messenger will come to call the wedding guests to the heavenly wedding, where they can keep the wedding eternally. There the wine will never be lacking; there the wedding guests can be joyful every day. Amen.