For Brett Stroud and Lydia Plett, July 18, 2015.
Brett and Lydia, this is it. Today, you will be married. After long years of dating, more miles logged in LA traffic than anyone would care to count, dueling grad school schedules, and plenty of conversations about the future, here you are. Look around at all these people who love you… Don’t they look beautiful, everyone?
I love the story of the wedding at Cana. It’s a beautiful drama of provision. What’s more, it’s provision in the nick of time. The wine has run out before the party is over. That looks bad for the hosts, and it’s no fun for the wedding guests. Then out of the blue, Jesus provides wine—really good wine—to keep the party going. I love the story, too, because it’s not too “spiritual.” Jesus simply sees a need and meets it, with a bit of style.
All three of our passages today hover around provision. Needs are uncovered, and the one with the eyes to see the need and the resources to meet it provides what is lacking. Take the story of the first man: As the crown of creation, God creates a human being. He gives him a home in which to dwell, a garden to cultivate. God knows it is not good for Adam to be alone, so he resolves to make “a helper fit for him.” Both of those words matter. Adam needs a “helper,” someone to come alongside him, to assist and comfort and strengthen him. Often enough in the Bible, God himself becomes someone’s helper, and the New Testament names the Spirit of God as the one who comes alongside.
But, and here’s the other word, Adam needs a “fit” helper. He needs someone suitable to help, not just anyone, but him. In what might be the first funny scene of the Bible, God parades all the animals before Adam to see if one of them will do. It’s a nice chance for Adam to begin his work of caring for God’s world—he’s tasked with giving names to the animals—“but for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.”
Then God takes the matter into his own hands. He takes Adam’s rib and turns it into a woman, a fit helper, and brings her to the man. “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
There’s much to say about this story, but today I want to draw our attention to its demonstration of God’s provision. Think about that word—pro-vision, a seeing ahead, an anticipation of a need before it arises. The Lord sees the need of the first human being and runs out to meet it. God is aware of Adam’s need before he is. I wonder whether the comedy of animals trying out for the part of Adam’s helper isn’t designed to expose Adam’s need. Maybe he didn’t even realize what he lacked, until he met animal after animal, none of whom could come alongside him.
I want to make a simple point: Brett and Lydia, you need one another. You need, and you have been given, a helper fit for you. There’s something romantic to this. It’s awfully wonderful to realize that there is one person in the world who is your person, who is devoted to you just because you’re you. Treasure that. Remember this day, when you stood next to one another simply because you delight in one another.
But it’s so much more than romance. It’s dishes, doldrums, dead-ends, and decisions. In these things, in all things, you’ll need one another’s help. “Help” is such a small, unimpressive word, but it covers a multitude of gifts. You will suffer friendly fire at work; help one another. You will get sick—you may stay sick; help one another. You may have kids; help one another. You may be unable to have kids; help one another. The Lord God’s wedding gift to you, just as on that day in Eden, is the gift of a suitable helper.
As you help one another, God will help you. In the passage from Ephesians, Paul seems undecided: He’s addressing husbands and wives, but he keeps wanting to talk about Christ and the church. Wives are instructed to submit to their husbands, and husbands are to love their lives. Then Paul describes what a husband’s love is like. It’s like Jesus loving the church by giving himself up for her, so that, at the end of the day, she might be a beautiful bride, splendid, spotless, holy. Or it’s like Jesus loving his own body, nourishing and cherishing it, not hating it. Brett, that’s a pretty high standard. If I were you, I’d be very nervous… You are to love Lydia like you love your own body—instinctually, constantly, attending to her needs so that she can flourish. This won’t always be easy. Sometimes, who you are will make it a lot harder; sometimes, who she is will make it harder. This goes both ways, of course. Lydia, loving and respecting Brett will come easier on some days than others—just in case you haven’t learned that yet.
On the difficult days, on every day, may two images come to mind: First, may you remember Jesus, who loves the church and gave himself for her, who loves you and gave himself for you. His sacrificial gift cost him everything. He knew what he was doing, and he was convinced it was worth it. Even as you remember Jesus, may you look forward to his wedding day, to the day when his bride will be revealed in all her splendor. Jesus gave himself for the church so that she would be pure, scrubbed clean of shame, gorgeous, a perfect bride. On the difficult days, look ahead with hope, because Jesus is preparing you for that final day.
There’s more to the wedding at Cana. It’s in the strange prodigality of Jesus. Okay, it’s awesome that he does this miracle. And it’s no parlor trick. Jesus doesn’t just execute a little sleight-of-hand and exchange a glass of water for a glass of wine. He instructs people to fill six stone water jars that hold twenty to thirty gallons of water each—and when they dip a cup in, the water has become wine. But the best part is that this is the best wine. The guy in charge is confused: “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.”
Jesus’ provision, in this case, is extravagant, even wasteful. Why waste such good wine late in the day, past the point when anyone can tell the difference, when anyone even cares? It certainly wasn’t necessary. But it was entirely fitting. This is who Jesus is, the breathtakingly generous Son of a breathtakingly generous Father. The kingdom Jesus brings is a kingdom of lavish generosity, of abundance, of more-than-enough.
So much of life feels threatened by scarcity. We feel like we will never have enough, like we are always running on empty. The Jesus who turned water into wine is here to tell you, my friends, that those who seek first God’s kingdom, even in marriage, will have all that they will ever need, will have more than they could ask or think. And today, he rejoices with you.
In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.