Epiphany 2 2020
January 19, 2020
Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID
Several years ago now there was big deal made out the possibility of a 13th astrological zodiac sign. For some people, this was big news. This is what sets the tone for the day, or week, or year. Now some people take these signs and their related horoscopes more seriously than others. For some it is good for a laugh, but for others it will determine the moves they make throughout the day. If your sign says that another person from another sign will bring you luck, good or bad, then you will be on the look out. If your sign says that it is your day to find someone you love, then you will have your senses on the lookout for that love. On the other hand, if your sign says that you will face heartbreak today, then you had better stay in bed. While not as popular today as they used to be, the same mentality exists within the “spiritual but not religious” crowd looking for signs in all the wrong places.
The first commandment tells us that all of this is nonsense. You shall have no other gods, which means, We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things. Our future will not be determined by astrological signs or horoscope renderings; the thoughts and plans of the Lord are not always for us to know. If good things happen or if bad; if it is your day to find love or heartache; simply trust in the Lord that His ways are not always our ways and our thoughts are not always His thoughts.
We often ask Jesus, through our prayers, for what we need and what we want. But we end up twisting things around, wanting the signs to be about us, rather than about God for us. Lord, give me a sign if I should take this job. Give me a sign that I am on the right track in life. Give me a sign if I should marry this person. A sign, the first of His signs, is what Jesus gives in our Gospel reading today.
Jesus changes water into wine. We see this in our Gospel reading today even, as Jesus is invited to a wedding feast. His mother comes to Him with a problem. The wedding feast typically lasted seven days, and in quite the social blunder, the groom runs out of wine for his guests. Jesus changes water into wine so the party could go on. In this the first of His signs, He saves the best for last.
But it is so much more than this! Jesus is revealed through His signs. These are more than miracles. These are signs that Jesus does to reveal to us the glory of God. It is the perfect picture of God's grace; reckless and indiscriminate gift giving. Our Lord pours out His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation upon us who neither deserve them, nor are capable of appreciating them. This is the Gospel and it is music to the ears of those who feel lost and despondent and too evil to be favorably regarded by God. Looking at this sign at Cana, looking at his calling not the righteous but sinners, and even eating with them, looking at him as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, is left with one escapable conclusion. Jesus who gives good gifts to sinners. For the Lord delights in you!
Though He changes water in wine, declaring who He is and bringing people to faith in Him, this sign, all the signs of Jesus, all the works of God in the Old Testament and in the New Testament point to this one, greatest sign of all: the sign of the cross. For it is on the cross that a true miracle happened as the Son of God was crucified bearing the sins of the world. It is on the cross when the hour of Christ comes as He saves the best for last. It is on the cross where He is filled to the brim with our sin and then He pours out His righteousness to those who don’t deserve it. It is on the cross where we find God’s answer to suffering, to pain, to evil. It is on the cross we find direction for our lives, direction that leads us to follow Christ into death and to the resurrection.
What is so often lacking when one looks at their zodiac sign, or looking for the lightening bolt from heaven, the booming voice, or the still silent voice is the sign that truly matters: the sign of the cross that is made upon your forehead and upon your heart when we are baptized. We are marked with the sign of the cross; marked as children for God, claimed by Him, redeemed by Him, given a new name from the mouth of the Lord Himself!
The cross will not always be appealing; it will not always come in attractive packaging; it will not always some piece of fashion in jewelry or clothes; but the cross stands before our eyes, pointing us away from the things of this world and to the things of Jesus. The sign of the cross may not always bring good days, it may not bring worldly love, it may not even bring an answer to every question; but it does bring the forgiveness of sins that was won on it for our sake by Jesus our Savior. And where there is forgiveness of sins, there is life and salvation.
You do not need to look in the paper or search the internet to find your sign and what your fortune will be for the day; just make the sign of the cross in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Look to the miraculous signs of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, where the Lord is present and working for you. “To us in the New Testament, baptism and the eucharist have been given as the visible signs of grace, so that we might firmly believe that sins have been forgiven through Christ's suffering and that we have been redeemed by his death. Thus the church has never been deprived to such an extent of outward signs that it became impossible to know where God could surely be found” (LW 1:248 on Gen. 4:3). Look to the Word, the Word of God who became flesh, the Word combined with water, bread, and wine, the Word written for you. Jesus is ever present with you through the dark and difficult days of your life; ever present with you on the bright and joyous days, ever present with you through the sign of the Word become flesh dwelling among you in His Word. So next time someone asks you, “What’s your sign?” You may respond: It is the sign of the cross, marking me as one redeemed by Christ the crucified.