Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Eat the Fat and Drink the Sweet

Epiphany is the manifestation of God in Christ. We celebrate the coming of the Magi as the revelation of God as King over all the nations. We celebrate the baptism of Jesus as the revelation of the Trinity, and God’s intentions to cleanse us from out sin. We also celebrate Christ’s first miracle, turning water into wine at the wedding of Cana. There are a number of layers that episode in John, but we should not fail to notice that Jesus does not just any water to perform his miracle; he uses the water that had been set aside for purification. In other words, in that miracle, Jesus takes the old Jewish purification rites and turns them into the wine of a marriage feast. This does not mean that God is unconcerned about purification and cleansing; it means that God is revealing more fully how he intends to cleanse us, how he intends to deal with our sins, and overcome our weakness. God’s way purification and cleansing is through the joy and gladness – but not mindless joy or forced smiles. In Nehemiah 8, when the people hear the law and it is explained to them, they, like all people should, realized how short they have come. They realize their need for cleansing, their need for forgiveness, and their need for purification and the text says that they wept. But God sent them home not to mourn but he said: “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our LORD. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” You are gathered here in the presence of God with all of your challenges, with all of your fears, with all of your needs, with all of your burdens, with all of your hurts, pains, and guilt, but you are called upon to put it all down. We are not here to grovel and moan and steep in our weakness. You are called to confess your sins and then hear God’s promise of forgiveness and believe it and rejoice. This day is holy to our Lord; eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared. For the joy of the Lord is your strength.

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