Posts Tagged ‘Wedding at Cana’

I Will Drink to That 1-20-19

In this sermon for the Second Sunday After Epiphany, I explore the miraculous sign of water into wine at the wedding in Cana.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

The Grace and Peace of our Triune God is yours, now and forever. Amen

I’ve noticed that people have the tendency to collect some odd stuff…though some are stranger than others.  Admittedly, I’ve never really collected anything overly out there…about the only thing that comes to mind was the period when I tried to collect the quarters minted with the different states on them…a collection which eventually ended up getting used to do laundry.

Some others though…they get a little stranger.  I remember one of the older brothers of a good friend of mine…during his college years he started collecting beer bottles of different types that he had sampled…and at some point…he actually ended up with 4 bottles of what I believe was Coors Light…and these 4 bottles were shaped like baseball bats…I’m not making this up…you can find them on google.

Now the really odd part of this whole deal…while the rest of his bottle collection were all empty…these baseball bat bottles of Coors Light were still sealed…and they sat on that shelf for a long time…probably a decade or longer…until one day, my friend’s mom insisted that the collection get cleaned out…and since a batch of us were all sitting there…it didn’t take long for one of us to ask the inevitable question…Should we drink it? (pause)

We learned something that day…10 year old beer is NOT something you want to drink…and I think its also safe to say that a bottle of beer is not intended to be a collectable…its meant to be enjoyed…but I got to thinking along those lines…and I think there are some who might disagree with me…if…the beverage in question is wine instead of beer.

There are some people out there who are wine collectors…and their wine cellars are truly something to behold…with hundreds of bottles just sitting there…and some will spend unbelievable amounts of money for the right bottle of wine…The most expensive bottle of white wine…$117,000…bottled in 1811…and on the red side…the 4 most expensive bottles…a 1787 worth $225,000…an 1869 at $230,000…a 1907 worth $275,000…and the most expensive bottle ever…a 1947 worth $304,375.

Can you imagine that? Paying that much for a bottle of wine…I’ve got to admit…just thinking about that raises the question “is it worth it?” And you know what…those people, who clearly have money to burn…will probably never know…because to pay THAT much for a bottle…that’s an investment…meant to be put on display…and never ever…to be opened. If they did…that wine better be good…it better be downright heavenly with an angelic choir singing behind you when you take that first sip.  But they’ll never know…and those ungodly expensive bottles will just sit there, year after year…never to be enjoyed. Might as well be a paperweight.  (pause)
Now I’m guessing you know where I’m going with this…it probably isn’t difficult to make the jump between super expensive wine and our gospel lesson for today…the first of Jesus’ signs at the wedding in Cana.

Now this story is interesting to be sure…wildly different that what we’ve already been encountering through the past couple weeks here in the season of Epiphany…as Jesus continues to be revealed to the world in different ways.

2 weeks ago we heard about the magi and their visit to the baby Jesus out of Matthew’s gospel…and we heard about how the very rumor of that baby’s eventual fate was enough to drive those in power crazy.

Last week we jumped into Luke’s gospel for the baptism of Jesus…and surprisingly, found Jesus to be pretty secondary…totally silent…and pretty passive in the action going on as the Heaven’s rip open, the Holy Spirit starts flying around and the big booming voice of God the father announces to the crowds that THIS IS MY SON.

And now…here we are in John…and for the first time this season…we see Jesus begin to take some ownership in the big reveal…but…even now…it seems like he needs a little coaxing doesn’t he? (pause)
On the 3 day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee…and Mary was there…and Jesus was there too…and he brought his entourage of ragtag followers with him…and for whatever reason…part way through the week-long celebration…the wine jars run empty…its worth noting that this is a HUGE blunder on the part of the hosts…it was expected that you would provide for this long celebration in its entirety…apparently open bars were all the rage back in 1st century Palestine…but somehow they’ve misjudged and the servants who go back in the kitchen looking for another pitcher to top off everyone’s glass…they come out empty handed.

At this point…for reasons that escape us…Mary…the mother of Jesus…jumps in…but she doesn’t run off to the store for a new barrel…no…she walks over to her son…and tells him “they have no wine.”  I can’t help but think that Jesus is a little snarky in his comeback as he pretty much says “so what? That’s not our problem?”

Now it would seem that Mary knows something no one else does because she turns back to the servants and says “If he tells you anything…do it.” And then I imagine she turned and looked at Jesus with an expression that says “Your up sparky…wha ‘cha gonna do now?”

We know how the rest goes don’t we…Jesus spots the 6 HUGE jars of water…simply there for the Jewish participants in this whole celebration to ceremonially wash up when needed…and he says…fill ‘em up with water…and when they do, he tells them to pull some out and take it to the steward…and somehow…someway…that water turns into wine…and not just any wine…the best wine…and not only that…but SO MUCH of it…those jars were enormous…like 4 or 5 feet high and wide…we can estimate that Jesus was producing somewhere in the neighborhood of 1000 bottles-worth of this mind-blowingly good wine.

Its so good that when the steward gets a sip he can’t believe his taste buds and he runs off to the groom…who by the way is utterly oblivious to this whole deal…and the steward…who is also oblivious to just what’s happening…spouts off about how a normal wedding would be serving nasty old swill by this point…but that this is the BEST wine.

That’s the story…and the only other thing we get is a bit of narration about how Jesus performed this sign…revealing his glory…and his disciples believed in him. (pause)

That’s the story…and it’s a great one…but admittedly, as I think about it…it raises way more questions than it answers.  Why did Mary get involved? (shrug)  Why did Jesus spout off like he did, talking about his hour not being here? (shrug)  Why water? Why not just miraculously refill all the wine containers? (shrug)  Why not tell the steward or the groom and the guests for that matter what happened? (shrug) Why so much wine? And why here…and why now? (shrug)

Admittedly…there are times when we take a look at scripture and the individual stories within and we can begin to notice things…and often times these things start to reveal a big picture…maybe an underlying point that the author of the gospel wants to make…and as I was working with the text in preparation for today I was trying really hard to find something like this…that subtle point that brings it all together…and I was getting nowhere…and this went on to the point where I reached out to one of my old professors, who’s PhD was actually on John’s gospel…and I bounced some theories off her before she finally asked me a pretty simple but important question.

What if the only thing going on here is Jesus making wine? (pause) Yes, there is a lot of stuff happening behind the scenes…questions that it raises of who or how or why?  But what do we know…Jesus was present at a wedding celebration…and that joyful celebration among people who must have loved being in one another’s company was in danger of ending prematurely…and so Jesus…who is God made flesh…who is the literal voice that spoke creation into being…acted in order to allow that celebration to continue.

Maybe that’s all that matters…and as Jesus reveals his glory in this way…maybe he’s simply showing us that in all of the divine glory of God, which goes far beyond our ability to comprehend…God desires that we enjoy the simple moments of being found in community with one another…in relationship with one another…and that God will act in a way to continue to make that possible.

Within the initial statement of hesitation…Jesus says “my hour has not yet come.” But do you know when his hour has come?  He tells us…and its right before his arrest and torture and death…which is a really strange way to think about Jesus being glorified…and yet we know what comes next…because he came back.

We profess that the life and the death and the resurrection of Jesus was God’s way of making ultimate moments of relationship and community possible…especially the relationship between God and humanity…and that his divine favor rests upon each of us…that perfect favor…which I can only describe as being “the best.” (pause)

Apparently there are some really expensive bottles of wine out there…just taking up space…collecting dust in a cellar…might as well be a paperweight for all the good its doing…but you know what…a few days back I opened a bottle of Apothic Red…you can get it for about $12 bucks at Hy-vee.  I opened that bottle and poured a glass…which I sipped on while talking with my wife about her day.

I can’t tell you exactly what that wine tasted like…beyond the inkling that it was pretty good…but I can tell you how much I loved that moment…because of the time I spent with someone I love…we might go as far as to call that moment….glorious.

And we have a God who makes the conscious choice to reveal himself in a way that makes moments like that one possible…and maybe, just maybe…this is all that’s really going on in this mind blowing, miraculous moment when Jesus turned water into wine. I’ll drink to that.  Amen

An Abundance of the Best 1-17-16

In this sermon, taken from John 2:1-11, I explore the story of Jesus turning water into wine. This is the first of Jesus’ miraculous signs in John, and shows us that God desires an abundant life for us.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

Its very likely that I’ve mentioned this before, but I am a big fan of weddings. They are a lot of fun, and I have enjoyed a multitude of them. Several stick out in my memory as significant, but the first wedding that I really remember loving was my sister’s wedding, which happened the summer after I graduated high school.

Probably the reason that I enjoyed that wedding so much was the dance. It was a blast and I danced up a storm…so much so, that I was hot and sweaty pretty much the whole time…and at one point, I remember needing to take a breather, so I plopped down at a table next to one of my mom’s cousins…who shall remain nameless.

She took one look at me and asked “Having fun out there?” To which I replied “Sure am, but man am I thirsty.” And without skipping a beat, she grabbed an empty glass on the table in front of us and poured me a healthy swig of beer. “Here you go, and don’t worry, you parent’s aren’t’ looking.”

So I took that swig of beer and for the first time ever…I thought beer was delicious. It was ice cold and I was so thirsty…it really hit the spot…(pause) And now many of you are aware that I’m a fan of beer…but at that point I wasn’t…not to mention, I was underage anyway…but I’ll cop to it. That moment represented the first time that I thought beer…even cheap American Light beer…was good. (pause)
Now don’t get me wrong…I’m certainly not advocating for underage drinking here…but rather making a connection with a mighty fine tasting beverage…in the setting of a wedding. (pause) Seems fitting with today’s story right?

For in today’s story we see something…kinda similar. An amazing tasting beverage at a wedding. The obvious difference of course…the source of said beverage. (pause) The wedding at Cana…the first of Jesus’ signs here in John’s gospel…the first time he publically performs something miraculous in public causing different individuals to believe in him. Fitting that we have this story here during the season of epiphany as Jesus continues to be revealed to the world. (pause)

Now the nature of this whole story is a little odd. We’ve got Jesus and his disciples crashing a local wedding…Mary’s there…and for whatever reason…the hosts have committed the ultimate wedding faux pa, and have failed to stock enough provisions to last throughout the entirety of the celebration…7 days worth…which I can only imagine represents a pretty healthy stockpile of quality vintage.

Though that being said…the enormous quantity required for that much time would explain the common custom that the steward mentions…starting off with the good stuff and moving into the low quality swill when people got a little too tipsy to tell the difference.

But all that aside…this really was a big deal…and for the hosts to run out of wine part way through…that would have been a huge stain on their reputation…it was simply something that you did not do…if you’ve heard the old saying “its better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it” Well that’s certainly in effect in this situation…and yet…as we see…that’s exactly what happens.

And when it happens…for whatever reason…the individual to step and take charge…is Mary, the mother of Jesus. We have no idea why…but she certainly seems to have a plan, even if Jesus is less than keen about.

PSST…JESUS…SON, Come here…What Mom? They’re out of wine. Yah? So? (pause) At first glance that seems to the be the end of it as Jesus rather bluntly tells Mary off…or does he? Maybe all he needs is this little push. Maybe, Mary knows exactly what she’s doing…or maybe she has a gut feeling that Jesus, this amazing Son of God that she has born and raised…could do something about it…and so she steps aside to the servants with the bold statement “If he tells you to do something…do it.”

And of course…as we know…whether Jesus really wanted to or not…whether it was the proper hour or not…Jesus…for the first time here in John’s gospel…Jesus…takes divine action.

You see those jars…those big ones over there…Fill ‘em up…Fill them with what Jesus? We’re out of wine. Yah, I know…fill them with water. So they do….Now what Jesus? Draw some back out…and take it to the steward…Let him taste it.

And low and behold…somehow…someway that water has turned into wine…and not just any wine…but the best wine…and the steward, as we hear…is amazed. At this point in the celebration, he’s expecting…Arbor Mist…but he gets Crystal…he’s expecting a Natty Light…and gets the most pristine Craft Beer available…And he is amazed…and so he runs of the groom to congratulate him on this amazing development…and I can only imagine the groom to be utterly clueless to just what the steward is talking about. (pause)

Funny…how many different individuals there are that are involved in this whole situation…different individuals, who show a wide variety of understanding about just what is really happening.

We’ve got Jesus…and of course he’s aware…We’ve got Mary, who may or may not know the result. We’ve got the steward who completely misunderstands the situation and misses the miracle itself and the groom…and who knows what he’s thinking. In fact…other than Jesus himself…the only ones who really witness the sign from start to finish are the servants.

But regardless of everyone’s level of understanding…everyone benefits don’t they? The guests can continue the celebration…the servants can keep doing their work…Mary’s request if fulfilled…and the host saves face…even if they don’t fully grasp what’s going on.

Because isn’t that often the case when Jesus does something miraculous…when he performs some amazing sign? There are many of them in scripture…and 7 here in John’s gospel…this is only the first…and one of them…the feeding of the 5000 bears a lot of similarity…when Jesus takes almost nothing…and through his divine power…he is able to provide for everyone…and not just enough…but in abundance.

And we see the same sort of thing here…especially when we begin to consider just how much water was in those big jars in the first place. 6 jars, each one holding 20-30 gallons…and with a little bit of math, we see that Jesus has created anywhere from 600-1000 bottles of wine…WAY more than the party would ever require….and as we heard it was the BEST wine.

Because when God does something…when God choses to provide something…God doesn’t go half way…God does just allow things to squeak by…no, we have a God who provides an abundance…and not only that…but an abundance of that which is best for us.

I’ve often heard this passage explained as something called grace upon grace…and it speaks to this very train of thought…that God gives far over and beyond what is necessary…and often times in ways that we fail to grasp or understand…God’s glory is shown through his grace for us…and not only that God forgives our sins…but that God desires an abundant life for us, both in the eternity of the resurrection, but also in the here and now.

Jesus provided the wine to allow that simply celebration to continue…so that those present could continue to experience the joy of the day…the joy of the celebration…and the joy of community with one another…and likewise God desires that we experience the same…both in our day to day lives as well as our eternal relationship with him, made possible through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

That’s what the signs of Christ point towards…a life of abundance…and that’s what Christ’s entire existence was geared towards…even if he seemed a little hesitant to show it that day…Admittedly I’ve always found Jesus’ response to Mary a little odd…why should I care…my hour has not yet come.

Well Jesus…when will your hour come? Because we hear this statement from him countless times throughout the gospel…but, we also get an answer to that question…For when Jesus finally reveals that his hour has come…its at the last supper…just before he is betrayed…and tortured…and killed. And that, THAT, is where God’s glory and God’s intention for us is truly revealed…when God shows us that there is no length he will not go to in order for us to have life and to have it abundantly…God is willing to die for it…and talk about something that makes no sense…something that we fail to grasp. God dies? (pause) You bet he does…and he does it for each and every one of you, regardless of if you think you’re worthy or not…because that’s grace…that’s a free gift…one that’s given beyond our ability to understand or comprehend. (pause)
And so now I ask, what will you do with this gift? With this abundant life that God has given you? (pause) I cannot answer that question for you, because the gifts of God given to us through the Holy Spirit are individual gifts, but together when we start using those gifts, then the body of Christ is strengthened…and when we take those gifts outside these walls into the world out there…that’s when the world will experience the abundance that God continues to grant us…all made possible simply because Jesus, God in human form chose to give us and abundance of that which is best. Amen.