Scripture Passage: John 2:1-11
Including Jesus in Our Celebrations!
Good morning! I think today’s gospel story is a somewhat unusual one because it focuses on a mostly happy event. Most of the other gospel stories focus on a disturbing event, and they show how Jesus handles the event and leads everyone successfully out of the event with God’s grace and love. However, today we have a very happy event: a wedding! I think it was great that John included a happy event, for Jesus’ presence, because I think that it is quite common for us, as human beings, to forget about Jesus and God and the Spirit, when we’re sailing through the happy times of our lives. When I served at the Liberal church, I got a really funny reaction from one of my elders, when I suggested during a bible study, that we are to give thanks and praise to God at all times, not just pray when we’re in trouble. It seemed as if this was the very first time that she had heard anyone say this! If we read the Psalms and all the scriptures closely, they all say consistently, that we are to rejoice and give God thanks, during the good times, as well as the bad. The Apostle Paul was persecuted for his faith and ministries, harshly, yet he was one of the apostles, who was most focused on joy and giving God praise at all times. This, I think, is one of the most important lessons in this story of Jesus making wine at the wedding. A few years ago, my mentor, Rev. Dr. Don McKim preached on this story, with the same focus, of including Jesus and God and the Spirit, in our celebrations. In the past, Presbyterians have been sarcastically referred to as “The Frozen Chosen,” but gospel writer, John, Don and I would argue the opposite, and not just for Presbyterians but for all Christians. As Presbyterians and Christians, we have a hearty interest in having wholesome, family-like parties!
Speaking of family-like parties, I think that the New Year party at my house 2 weeks ago was one of the best family-like parties I’ve ever experienced! I had fun experiences, hosting Christmas parties for my church in Liberal, Kansas, too, but I felt that the depth of the stories, and the close bonding, which you all shared at the party, made it an even more wonderful, heart-warming experience. It reminded me of a reunion of an extended family. The only difference is that the extended family was actually the Knox congregation, in this case! So, in the wedding story, it’s an overall happy event, but one disruptive thing happens: the wine unexpectedly runs out! That, as we can imagine, would be an embarrassing, stressful situation, which might evoke compassion in some of the guests to help resolve the problem. Well, thanks be to God, we never ran out of food or drinks at my party, but one unfortunate thing which happened, which can always happen, is that not everyone could make it. There were people who could not make it due to their health, the fact that it was in the evening, they forgot, or they got caught at meetings, which went longer than expected.
Unfortunately, at the wedding in Cana, something more stressful than people not being able to make it happened: the hosts ran out of wine! Yikes, I can’t imagine how embarrassed I would have felt if I had run out of refreshments, like food, tea or coffee at my party! So, Jesus’ mother, proposes that he be the one, to show compassion for the embarrassed hosts and help resolve the problem. Jesus appears to respond rudely to his mother by saying that this is not really his duty, to save the party. However, I liked one commentator’s interpretation, that Jesus was not intending to be disrespectful to his mother; actually, the way Jesus responded to his mother’s request was meant to disengage himself from the duty and distance himself a bit from his mother in the mother-son relationship. That is really all Jesus intended. Jesus was making a point that he did not sense that God had called him to be the guest at this party, to save the party. Jesus was trying to make the point that it was more important for him to listen to God’s calling to him, than that from his mother or earthly parent. This goes along with what Jesus did as the 12-year-old-boy in the Temple a few weeks ago, when he felt God called him to stay behind in the Temple, having theological discussions with the rabbis and priests, instead of returning to Nazareth with his parents. This is a good lesson for each of us, that we need to differentiate between the priorities, which our parents and families put on us, and those which come from a higher ground, from God, through the scriptures. There is a constant tension, which we experience throughout our lives, with how we are informed by our families and cultures, and what God, the scriptures and wise theologians actually have to say. Another important lesson here, is that though Jesus states that he did not sense God called him to be the one to save the party, he takes his mother’s request into consideration and responds with compassion to the hosts. We can draw a parallel from this to our prayer life; though God may not have planned for the course of events to happen in a certain way, God’s mind and heart might actually be open to our requests in our heart-felt prayers, and God’s actions might be influenced by what we place at the Throne of Grace through our prayers. I think that our prayers have powerful influence on God and the outcome of every situation in our lives and world!
So, Jesus decides to compassionately respond to his mother’s request, and he performs his first miracle in John: creating wine from water. I think it’s important to note, that Jesus created not just cheap or mediocre wine, but the best stuff! Also, most hosts in that culture would only serve the good wine at the start of the party, but never at the middle or end of the party; they figured that their guests would be so drunk by then, that it wouldn’t make any difference! However, the point here, is that Jesus is so generous and gracious, that he creates the best stuff even in the middle of the party for all these drunk guests! Jesus’ concern for the guests is authentic, and he provides them with the best wine, though he knows that they will not be able to appreciate it. Here is another profound theological lesson for us: how many times does Jesus or God or the Spirit lavish the “best stuff” on us, but we neglect to recognize this, or to realize that the “best stuff” is always coming from God? Jesus not only genuinely cares for the wedding guests with the “best stuff”, but he also provides them with an abundance of wine. The text says that Jesus made 120-180 gallons of wine! Again, we have a reassuring promise here, that Jesus intends to provide for us with abundant blessings! Jesus not only wants to provide us with the “best stuff” but he also provides us with an abundance. Sometimes, in our world of a challenging economy and so much poverty, it is hard for us to relate to these lessons. However, I think that if we have enough faith, through God’s grace, and we believe the lessons, which Jesus is trying to teach us in today’s story, we can begin to experience Jesus’ abundance and all the “best stuff” that he has in store for us.
I know that we had an abundance of good quality tea, coffee and food at my party! We had loose leaf green, Jasmine and black tea. We had French Roast Columbian coffee from Starbucks. We had spaghetti and all kinds of delicious treats. The good tea and coffee and good food kept coming after the start of the party and never ran out! Like Jesus in today’s story, I wanted each of you to feel that you were genuinely cared for, with an abundance of quality food. I know it seemed odd to some of you, to not have to do anything other than enjoy yourself, but I wanted the party to be my turn to serve you. I hope that each of you were reminded of the “best stuff” and abundance, which Jesus wants to provide for you at this party.
We are also focusing on the coming celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day this week, and I think this story of Jesus creating wine is appropriate for this, too. I think that Martin Luther King, Jr. hoped that we all would create the ‘wine’ of reconciliation and inclusive love for people from all categories, out of the troubled waters of racism and all other ‘isms’. I think that Knox Presbyterian Church should feel very grateful and happy, that it has a history of creating this wine of reconciliation and inclusive love, by being an open and affirming congregation, where all are literally welcome: all races and ethnicities, women, men, young, old, people with disabilities, and people of all sexual orientations. Everyone is welcome at Knox, no exceptions whatever! This congregation literally puts into practice the dream of Martin Luther King, Jr. that one day, people would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. As African-American theologian, Howard Thurman said, the Knox members have given each other a most meaningful gift, of being reconciled with someone, with whom they experienced a ruptured relationship, restoring peace and harmony.
May each of us pause to recognize all the “best stuff” and abundance of blessings, which Jesus gives us, especially in the way of reconciled relationships and peace. May we share this “best stuff” and abundance of blessings, and promote reconciliation, with others. Amen.