St. John's, Centreville
January 20, 2019
2 Epiphany C
God of new beginnings, meet us where we are on our journey, imperfect as we are, and use us in ways we cannot imagine to make a difference in the world for you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Years ago, when Johnny Carson was the host of "The Tonight Show", he interviewed an eight year old boy. The child was asked to appear because he had rescued two friends from a coal mine outside his hometown in West Virginia. As Carson questioned the boy, it became apparent to him and the audience that the child was a Christian. So Carson asked him if he attended Sunday School. When the boy said he did, Carson asked, "What are you learning in Sunday School?"
"Last week," he said, "our lesson was about when Jesus went to a wedding and turned water into wine." The audience roared, but Carson tried to keep a straight face. Then Carson asked him, "And what did you learn from that story?" The boy squirmed in his chair. It was apparent that he hadn't thought about this. But then he lifted up his face and answered, "If you're going to have a wedding, make sure you invite Jesus!" **
If you are going to have a wedding, make sure you invite Jesus. Out of the mouths of babes. In our gospel lesson this morning, Jesus is at a wedding in Cana, and his mother is there as well. We are not told whose wedding it is, maybe a relative or a family friend. Now weddings at this time were grand affairs and often lasted a week or two. So we can understand why the party may have run out of wine. And that would have been a great embarrassment to the host.
Mary seems to have been one of the first to notice the problem and she tells Jesus that the wine has run out. He replies, "Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come." That seems to be a rather harsh rebuke of his mother, until we realize that that is how Jesus and the men of his day addressed women. Jesus also seems to be telling his mother that it is not yet time for him to reveal to others who he really is - the Son of God.
We don't know what period of time passed between Mary telling Jesus that they had run out of wine and the time that Jesus performed this first miracle. Obviously, Jesus must have felt that now was the time to start revealing to his disciples and others who he really is. So Jesus takes six stone jars, which had been filled with water for the rites of purification. Jesus has the steward fill the stone jars with water and he changes it into wine, not just okay wine, but very good wine.
Wine is a symbol of joy, of happiness, of hope. By transforming ordinary water into wine, Jesus shows them that new life can be found through him, just as we find new life in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, with bread and with wine. The wine represents new life in Christ, a better way than just fulfilling the letter of the Old Testament laws.
These six stone jars filled with water are turned into about 120 to 150 gallons of wine. By giving the wedding guests more wine than they could possibly drink is a symbol of the abundance of God's love for us, a symbol of God's generosity. God gives us so much more than we can ask or imagine.
This story is only found in the gospel of John. The gospel of John is not an historical book with hard evidence and supporting details. That is not to say that what is recorded in John did not happen, but the writer may have added details to support the point that he is making.
The author of John's gospel is an evangelist, writing at a later time, when Christians were being expelled from the Jewish synagogues. He wants people to understand who Jesus is - the Son of God, fully human and fully divine. John's gospel includes seven signs to illustrate that Jesus is the Son of God. John sees the actions of God in Christ as a series of signs so that all the world "may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing may have life in his name." (20:31)
I think this story is about transformation, of changing water into wine, of changing the ordinary into the extraordinary. Throughout the gospels, Jesus uses ordinary things in extraordinary ways. He transforms five loaves and two fish to feed five thousand people. He uses ordinary mud to open the eyes of the blind man. He uses an ordinary touch for extraordinary healing.
God uses us ordinary people for extraordinary things. In Paul's letter to the Corinthians, Paul explains that all God's people are given gifts to build up the body of Christ. All the gifts that we have come from God and we are to discern what they are and use them, not just for ourselves, but for the common good. God's gifts given to us are not to be used only for our personal satisfaction. They are to be used for the greater good.
What if some of our famous artists, like Van Gogh or Picasso or Rembrandt kept their artwork to themselves and did not allow the rest of us to enjoy them? What if musicians, like Brahms and Beethoven kept their music to themselves and did not share it with the world? What if doctors keep their skills to themselves, or authors kept all their writings to themselves? The world would have lost out on great beauty and healing skills.
Jesus says not to hide your lamp under a bushel. In other words, don't ignore your God-given gifts. God gives them to us as members of the body of Christ to build up each other, for God's greater glory. Look at The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who we honor tomorrow. He used his God-given gifts of preaching, leadership and inspiration to combat injustice, racism and inequality in the United States, and it cost him his life.
At the wedding in Cana, Jesus used the ordinary to change it into the extraordinary. Jesus calls us ordinary people, with ordinary abilities and skills, to use our gifts for the extraordinary. Now we might not see what we do as extraordinary or miraculous, such as helping others, but when we allow God to work in us and through us, amazing things can happen. But we have to look through the lens of our faith in order to see it.
When we can identify our God given gifts and share them with others, isn't that a miracle? When we look at this world and all that is in it, isn't it a miracle? When people recover from serious illnesses or use their illness to help others, isn't that a miracle? When we feel the peace of God in our hearts and minds in this violent world, isn't that a miracle?
Jesus began showing signs of who he was - the Son of God. How do we show others who we are - the beloved children of God? By the miracle of loving others as God loves us and seeing God's hand at work in the world around us. Amen.
Synthesis, January 20, 2019