Living Into Abundance 1/17/10

John 2:1-11 

Wedding at Cana 

 Weddings have been on my mind a lot recently.  After going several years without attending a wedding, it seems that there are now a whole slew of weddings on the horizon.  Now, I don’t want to make weddings into a big deal – but they kind of become a big deal all by themselves.  Even if a couple plans on a low-key kind of celebration, there is always some difficulty or drama that seems built into the wedding planning process.  And then there’s the theme of hospitality to consider as well.  Really, a wedding is a couple’s first opportunity to establish how they are going to approach being hosts and how they are going to behave socially with their friends and family. 

This wedding introduces some main concepts for us.  One of the most distinguishing characteristics of the gospel of John is the writer’s emphasis on the sacraments.  Jesus is referred to as the Bread of Life, Living Water, and more.  As we consider the life and ministry of Christ, Jesus’ first miracle in John includes water and wine … the Alpha and Omega of our faith.  We are brought into the faith through our baptism in water and we are fed on our journey with Christ by the wine at the table of the Lord’s Supper.  Miracles, in the Bible, share with us the story of God and of the holy breaking into the ordinary.  On a normal afternoon at what was supposed to be a wonderful time of celebration, Jesus stepped out of the normal life he had been living and stepped into the person that he was born to be. 

This story has all of those elements and themes and more, but in the end, this story is a story of call, of living into one’s identity and trusting God to help us abundantly with that process. 

Miracles and the holy breaking into the ordinary 

Wedding feasts at this time in history were the responsibility of the groom’s family and lasted for seven days.  “However much we appreciate hospitality today, the people of Jesus’ time and culture practiced it as a survival skill, a way of looking after one another … and an assurance of being looked after in turn.”[1]  The mother of Jesus notices the catastrophe that is about to happen if the wine runs out and so she tells her son to do something to help the situation.  Jesus’ response is one that any parent of a teenager has heard before.  Essentially, Jesus says “Yeah, so?”  “Why should I care?”  But then he says the solemn, “My hour has not yet come.”  This story is the very beginning of his ministry, he has not yet made himself known.  And Jesus seems to waver just a little before he plunges into his ministry. 

Jesus’ hesitation brings to mind all sorts of questions about God’s actions in the world.  Particularly on weeks like this when natural disasters ravage an already poor country in Haiti.  We are forced to ask ourselves when does God appear.  When, in our lives, do we encounter the divine?  One of the answers this story gives us that the divine is there with us in the ordinary times of our lives.  The days that we get to hang out and relax with close friends and family, God is there.  And if God is present with us in the every day, God is most certainly with us in our most difficult and terrifying situations.  

Changing water into wine.  

Perhaps Jesus falters, and, in fact, he does change his mind in this story.  Christ is moved by his mother’s nudge. Christ is moved by the needs of people. Some of the commentators call his hesitation ‘divine reluctance,’ but I think it’s just that second breath all of us take when we accept a big change in our life course.  Jesus’ hesitation might have been a questioning of his call.  Perhaps in that one line response to his mother, we see Jesus’ poised to begin ministry, but not quite “ready.”  Like us, Jesus had a desire to have things stay the same. 

Jesus takes that second breath, and then he works a miracle.  Jesus changes water into wine.  The celebration is saved, the host of the party saves face and everybody has a good time.  Jesus, himself, probably enjoyed the fruits of his labor and hopefully enjoyed a relaxing afternoon of friends and family. 

Wedding at Cana in haiku

Lukewarm and tepid
Our faith wanes in wintertime
Jesus speaks; Spring comes.

Pushed to use his gifts
Mary sees the beginning
Does she see the end?

 Water into wine
Alpha and omega, Christ
We see, we believe.

I am thirsty, God
Baptize me in the water
Change me into wine

Abundantly given
The host pours out the best wine
Come to the water

What does this miracle have to do with us today? 

As 1 Corinthians 12 and our call to worship states, there are a variety of gifts but the same spirit that gives them.  We are all on very different and personal faith journeys, but there is one thing that unites … our baptism in Christ.  Some of us are teachers, some of us are leaders.  Some of us sing in the choir, others of us take food to the needy.  Some of us work with youth while others of us care for the aged.  All of us have been claimed by God.   The water is what brings us together … just like water brought that wedding party together in Jesus’ time. 

If you will allow me to mix several biblical metaphors … we are all vessels, jars of clay, shaped at the potter’s wheel.  We have been brought into the faith, baptized by water.  We have been filled with God’s love for  … but what have we done with our water?  How is your faith life?  What is the status of your baptismal water?  Has it grown lukewarm and stale?  Has your faith become watered down, distilled into easy answers that don’t really get to the core of who you are and what  you hunger for in life?  Soren Kierkegaard said, “Christ turned water into wine, but the church has succeeded in doing something even more difficult: it has turned wine into water.”  The central question that I have found in this text is this: Are we willing to be the material that God is working with in the world – water?  Are we willing to submit ourselves to God’s mysterious miracles and change?  Will you allow Christ to turn you from water into wine? 

Vocation and claiming your identity 

          I have joined a learning cohort at presbytery that meets once a month in New Philadelphia.  It is group of 8 ministers to small congregation.  The aim of our first year in study together is to connect with our passions as a pastor and so find our strengths and work from those strengths to find success.  It is a very personal kind of study that was not able to be the focus of seminary, but I find it very helpful for me in this first year of my ministry.  We are reading a book written by Parker Palmer[2] and he relates a Hasidic tale that illustrates the tendency to want to be someone else and the ultimate importance of being oneself.  Rabbi Zusya, when he was an old man, said “In the coming world, they will not ask me ‘Why were you not Moses?’ They will ask me ‘Why were you not Zusya?’” 

          Jesus, at this wedding, stood at a very important moment in his life.  Surely his mother, who had pondered and treasured things in her heart, knew what her son might be capable of; although, we might certainly wonder if she knew all that would come about as a result of her son’s life, death, and ministry.  Timing is a very important thing to Jesus in this story, but he lays aside that concern for timing and decides that the time to truly be himself is now.  He accepts that the gifts he has are not for him alone.  Indeed, the gifts that all of us have (be they talking, caring, understanding, etc.) do not exist for our personal benefit.  We have been given gifts and asked to use them in Christian community so that all our gifts might work together to glorify God.  May we all find the courage that Jesus found to be the person God created us to be, and may we be bold enough to allow Christ to take the tepid water of our faith and change it into abundant wine so that we may celebrate Christ’s presence with us. 

Let us pray, God of water and wine, move in our hearts.  Reveal to us what gifts we have that we should be using today.  Change us and help us to be fully alive and fully aware of your presence in the ordinary.  In Christ’s name. Amen. 


[1] Kate Huey, Weekly Seeds.  http://www.ucc.org/worship/samuel/january-17-2010.html  

[2] Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak, 11.

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