Making Our Hearts Glad – Br. James Koester

Br. James Koester

The Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C

Isaiah 62: 1-5
Psalm 36: 5-10
1 Corinthians 12: 1-11
John 2: 1-11

Several years ago I found myself in Cana of Galilee. I was there with a group of pilgrims from St. George’s College. We weren’t there for a wedding, but we did go to the church where the wedding of Cana is remembered. I must confess, I wasn’t impressed. The town doesn’t have much to commend itself, at least not the part I saw. The church isn’t all that old, just over 100 years, but it is reputedly built on a fourth century church which is built on a first century synagogue. In spite of modern day Cana, and my not being very impressed with it, it is easy to imagine Jesus, together with his mother Mary and his disciples there in the village for the wedding. Cana isn’t far from Nazareth, in fact it’s just on the other side of the hill about 9 miles from where Nazareth is located. I am sure that Jesus must have known Cana well. In fact as a young boy out exploring it would have been easy to walk back and forth between to the two villages. He would have been known in Cana, and probably related to some of the people who lived there. So it is not at all hard to imagine him being invited to this particular wedding. The bride or groom, or both, could very well have been a friend, a cousin or certainly an acquaintance.

As is usual with these sorts of pilgrim tours, after we saw the Church we stopped off at one of the countless souvenir shops nearby. I don’t think the particular souvenir shop you are taken to is an accident. Our guide seemed to know, or be friends with, or related to every single shop keeper and restaurant owner we met! As was usual I was wearing my habit that day, and in an instant the shop keeper was all over me. Hello Father. Welcome Father. Look at this Father. Can I interest you in this Father? In spite of his best efforts to sell me something, I kept my hands firmly in my pockets. I wasn’t interested in buying anything. He did however see me pick up a bottle of Cana Wedding Wine and look at it. Before I knew it, the bottle was in a bag and presented to me as a gift, no doubt my “reward” for bringing in a group of pilgrims who were buying things.

Now I don’t know much about wine. I usually depend on someone else to make the selection. But I confess I was curious about this particular wine. After all it has a certain reputation! I was glad to have a bottle of it (but even more that I didn’t have to pay for it.) I put it in my bag and took it back to the College. A few nights later I opened it to share with the other pilgrims in the group. To call it ‘plonk’ would have been high praise! The wine was undrinkable. I was expecting the good wine that Jesus made, and instead had a bottle of the inferior wine that the host served first. After having tasted wine from Cana, I knew why the host was so thrilled with the wine Jesus produced. Anything, even fresh water, would have been better than what we had just drunk!

When I was in seminary, I had a professor who often spoke of alarms. He would say, when you see such and such in scripture, an alarm should go off in your head because the passage is telling you something else as well. Well the story of the Wedding at Cana is at least a three alarm story because any passage about weddings, wine and banquets, and especially this story about weddings, wine and banquets is really a passage about the nature and being of God.

As they say, everyone loves a wedding. That is certainly true for the prophets. Over and again the prophets use the image of a wedding or marriage to say something about God. And that is exactly what Isaiah is doing today.

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.[1]

In scripture a wedding, at least this wedding, is a reminder of God’s intention toward the people of God: so shall your God rejoice over you! God did not create the heavens and the earth to abandon them, but to rejoice over them. God did not cause you to be born in order to abandon you, but to rejoice over you. A wedding, at least this wedding, is a reminder that God rejoices over you.

There is a wonderful line in Psalm 104 which always brings a smile to my face when we come across it in the Office.

You make grass to grow for flocks and herds, and plants to serve mankind.

That they may bring forth food from the earth, and wine to gladden our hearts,

Oil to make a cheerful countenance, and bread to strengthen the heart.[2]

I love this image of wine making our hearts glad. But even more so, I love the image that Isaiah paints for us:

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-matured wines,
of rich food filled with marrow, of well-matured wines strained clear.
And he will destroy on this mountain
the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
the sheet that is spread over all nations;
he will swallow up death for ever.
Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,
and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.[3]

In scripture wine, at least this wine, the fine wine Jesus made, is a reminder of God’s intention toward the people of God: Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all the faces… and will make our hearts glad. God did not create the heavens and the earth for misery, sorrow, death and tears but to make them glad. God did not cause you to be born in order to abandon you, but to share with you in a feast of rich food and fine wine and to make your heart glad. Wine, at least this wine, this fine wine Jesus made, is a reminder that God will wipe away all tears. Even your tears. Especially your tears. And will make your heart glad.

One of my favourite images in all scripture comes from the very last book, the bookRevelation:

Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.[4]

Growing up, meals were an incredibly important part of the day for my family, and Sunday dinner was the highlight of the week. Out would come the linen tablecloth, the silver and crystal and best china. Mum would usually make roast beef and Yorkshire pudding and some amazing dessert. Dad would carve the roast, pour the wine and we would talk and laugh and argue and discuss all sorts of things. Friends, and especially future in laws, on their first Sunday dinner at the Koesters would be slightly intimidated by it all, but soon Sunday dinner at our house became a highlight of their week as well. For my family, Sunday dinner was about so much more than eating, it was about belonging.

In scripture banquets, at least this banquet, is a reminder of God’s intention toward the people of God: I will come in to you and eat with you. God did not create the heavens and the earth to leave them alone and isolated but so that they would belong to God and God to them. God did not cause you to be born in order to leave you alone and isolated, but in order that you might belong to God and God to you. Banquets, at least this wedding banquet, is a reminder that God longs for your companionship, not just for today, but for always.

So as you sit then this week, no matter where you are: at home, at your desk at work, riding on the subway, cast your mind back to that wedding at Cana and remember that this wedding and indeed all weddings is a sign of God’s intention for you. That God truly does rejoice over you. Yes, even you! That God longs to make your heart glad. Yes, even yours! That the desire of God’s heart, is to be the desire of your heart. That God wants to love you, yes you, and for you to love in return.

All sorts of alarms should be going off in your head and heart today, not because the building is burning down, but because God’s heart is aflame with love for you.

[1] Isaiah 62: 4,5

[2] Psalm 104: 14, 15, 16

[3] Isaiah 25:6-8

[4] Revelation 3:20

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  1. John G. on February 17, 2023 at 09:28

    God loves you and wants you to desire Him and love Him back. “Jesus waved to me this morning!” I exclaimed to my Priest Sunday morning. “I hope you waved back!” my Priest replied. I hadn’t waved back. I was too surprised to see Jesus….like that…. marching out in the recessional… but there he was.. for a moment… waving to me. So, Brother James, your lovely, biblical sermon confirms my spiritual experience. Logic dictates that I need to know the love of Jesus before I can love others or even myself rightly. Reason is a good thing because I don’t frequently have vivid spiritual sightings of the Lord. But I need an intimate sense of His love if I am to love Him and myself indeed to be my best self. Could that be why Jesus gave us the Holy Eucharist? To feel His Presence first hand? I come back to your message. God loves you and wants you to desire Him and love Him back. Thank you.

  2. Catherine Warren on February 17, 2023 at 09:06

    Thank you for this reminder of God’s love, a reminder of how God rejoices over me. I get stuck quite easily in thinking I am a terrible person who can never be good enough. I needed this today.

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