John 2:1-11 (CEB)
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They don’t have any wine.”
Jesus replied, “Woman, what does that have to do with me? My time hasn’t come yet.”
His mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Nearby were six stone water jars used for the Jewish cleansing ritual, each able to hold about twenty or thirty gallons.
Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water,” and they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some from them and take it to the headwaiter,” and they did. The headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine. He didn’t know where it came from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.
The headwaiter called the groom and said, “Everyone serves the good wine first. They bring out the second-rate wine only when the guests are drinking freely. You kept the good wine until now.” This was the first miraculous sign that Jesus did in Cana of Galilee. He revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him.
March 4-5, 2017
First Weekend in Lent: Parables of Hope
“Hope In Cana”
Our theme for this Lenten season is Parables of Hope, and we will be focusing on the stories of Jesus in the Gospel of John.
John’s Gospel is different in many ways from Matthew, Mark and Luke when it comes to the stories of Jesus. In this Gospel, there is no birth story of Jesus; there are no angels; there is not even the Magi following a star in the sky and bearing gifts for the newborn king.
Instead, this Gospel opens with the declaration that says, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” And then the proclamation that says, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us…”
The Gospel then jumps right into the story of John the Baptist; then to an adult Jesus calling his first disciples. Then we move right into our story for today, which is the first of Jesus’ signs or miracles. The scene is a wedding celebration at Cana in Galilee where Jesus changes water into wine.
Depending on your experience with weddings, you may or may not agree when I quote one writer who said, “Weddings are accidents waiting to happen.”
As a pastor, I have the opportunity to have a variety of wedding experiences and I would say there is a lot of truth to that statement. Weddings are prime occasions for mishaps both big and small to happen.
When I came to Sun Prairie United Methodist, I was pleased to find out that we have two wedding coordinators whose main ministry is to help the big day run smoothly and to trouble-shoot situations or glitches before they become accidents.
The wedding coordinators have a variety of tools to help avert just about every wedding disaster. Their tool box includes everything from breath mints to lint rollers; safety pins to needles and thread; duct tape to tissues; and hair supplies to buttons and beads.
Wedding coordinators are a gift of hospitality to the wedding party and families, and from my perspective as a pastor, are a true blessing!
At a previous church, I remember the day I realized the need for a wedding coordinator. The situation was a wedding day where tensions were running high because dozens of little things were happening, like the corsages showing up with no pins, and beads falling off the bride’s gown, and the cuffs of the groomsmen’s pants falling out.
As each little thing happened, someone from the wedding party would run into the church office, saying they needed this or that. After a number of these panicky office visits and about 20 minutes before the ceremony, one young groomsman came dashing into my office to announce that BOTH cuffs on his pant legs had fallen out.
This close to the wedding start time, I was getting a bit anxious and thought to myself, “Where is your mother!” And without thinking how it sounded, I blurted out, “Give me your pants!”…of course, what I meant to say was, “Go change your pants and bring them to me and I will fix them.”
It was when I saw this young man’s eyes get as big as saucers after the pastor’s bold statement that I said to myself, “We really need a wedding coordinator!”
I wonder if in our story, Jesus was thinking, this wedding party really needs a coordinator or better planner.
In a first-century Jewish wedding, it was the groom, not the bride that was the prominent figure and the wedding ceremony actually took place at the front door of the groom’s house. To misjudge how much wine would be needed for the wedding celebration would have been a major disgrace to the wedding host and the groom’s family. And the stigma of that disgrace could extend through a family for generations to come.
Then the wedding celebration and festivities would go on for days with the newlywed couple keeping open house or going from house to house in the community for as long as a week.
I like today’s story in the Gospel of John because it provides us an opportunity to think Jewish. Most of us Christians come out of the Western tradition that wants to know ‘how’ Jesus performed the miracle of turning water into wine. We live in a modern world where all mystery is researched, defined, explained and therefore narrowed.
The Jewish faith comes out of the Eastern tradition that asks ‘why?’ Why did Jesus turn the water into wine?
It is important to remember that Jesus did not perform miracles to amaze and dazzle the crowds.
Miracles are an announcement that God was and is present with us in the midst of all things. Miracles let us know that God has stopped in on our lives. So the question is…are we paying attention to notice and receive God?
Jesus’ miracles always produce questions and most of the answers remain a mystery. But what is not mysterious is Jesus’ generosity and abundance and hospitality and grace in meeting genuine, ordinary needs.
Jesus turned the water into wine to help point us to God and help us better understand the nature of God, which is to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. God’s nature is to go beyond what is expected…to extend grace…to pay attention to details…to offer the best…and that gives hope.
In writing about this wedding in Cana, one author calls this extension of grace, “Cana Grace.” And couldn’t we all use some ‘Cana grace?’
This story of Jesus offering the kind of abundant grace and hope that turns water into wine comes at the right time for a weary world and for our weary lives. It seems that for many, the wine has run out, so to speak.
The statement in our story that, “They have no wine,” could describe much of the fear, anxiety, sorrow and suffering we see and hear about in life.
We only need to hear the news on any particular day to know the stories of those caught in the grip of violence and war; or victimized by hatred and fear; or spinning out of control in the cycle of poverty or poor choices or addiction or grief, to know where it seems they have no wine.
So many, including us at times, have run low on hope, and could use a miracle or a sign of God’s presence.
We don’t necessarily want magic, but we do want something…something that will transform our lives…Something that will transform the water of disappointment into new possibilities; transform fear into courage; transform divisive and fear-filled speech into words of civility and unity; transform acts of hatred and vandalism into opportunities for learning about difference; and transform dead ends into new beginnings.
And when we experience something that is transformative, the result will be as it is in our Gospel story…we get a glimpse of God and a glimmer of hope in the midst of real, ordinary life.
When we can be the ones to extend ‘Cana grace,’ we make inroads to offering Christ and sharing hospitality…And that can keep people filled up with hope.
I appreciate when I go to a restaurant or diner and the waiter or waitress or designated person is attentive to refilling the water glasses at the table. I think it’s wonderful when that happens before I need to ask for more water…it means the waitperson is being attentive.
Sometimes, though, it almost becomes a game…is it at the halfway-empty point that the waitperson comes to refill the glass…or the three-quarters-empty point? And sometimes it seems that they just keep coming to refill those water glasses until it feels like you could float away!
But that is what ‘Cana grace’ does…fills us back up before we run too low…too low on strength or compassion or promise or hope.
And as a result of this kind of grace and hope at Cana, the Scripture tells us that Jesus’ disciples believed in him…they had been given ‘Cana grace’ and caught a glimpse of God in the midst of real, ordinary life and they believed.
So, what do we do when the wine runs out in our lives or in the lives of others? What do we do when it seems the hope is gone? Who do we look to when we need to know that ‘Cana grace’ still exists?
Mary, the mother of Jesus, shows us by example in our Gospel story. She confidently tells the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Simple, yet sound advice…do whatever Jesus tells you.
And throughout the gospels, Jesus tells us plenty:
He tells us, “Follow me” (Jn. 1:43).
He tells us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mine, and strength (Mk. 12:28).
He tells us to love our neighbor.
He tells us to feed the hungry, cloth the naked, visit the sick and the imprisoned (Mt. 25:42).
He tells us to go into all the world and proclaim the good news of God’s love to the whole creation (Mk. 16:14).
He tells us, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow” (Mt. 6:34).
He tells us, “You give them something to eat” (Mt. 6:37).
He tells us, “Do not be afraid” (Mt. 14:27).
Like the wine at the wedding in Cana…God’s grace never runs out…God’s hope never runs out. In fact, according to our Gospel story, the best is yet to come. What God needs are servants who will do whatever Jesus tells them.
As we move through these weeks of Lent, it is a good time to reflect on what kind of servants we are and how we can witness to the hope we see in Cana.
May it be so for each of us.
Thanks be to God.