1/20/2019 4:31:57 PM
First Things [Sermon Manuscript]
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
Pastor Marc's sermon for 2nd Sunday after Epiphnay (January 120, 2019) on John 2:1-11. Listen to the recording here or read my manuscript below.
One of my favorite verses in all of scripture comes at the very end of the gospel according to John. It reads: “But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” It’s a verse that, on its surface, makes sense. No one book could possibly contain all the actions, thoughts, and experiences that happen in any one person’s life. The best we can do is point to a few moments that highlight who we are. Yet, that’s not why I like this verse. I like it because it’s completely over the top. John wasn’t saying that we needed one, four, or even ten books to describe everything Jesus did. John wrote that world itself couldn’t contain every story coming out of Jesus’ few years of public ministry. Now, according to some estimates, we currently know of around 135 million unique books that have been written throughout history. If we assume each of these books could be published as a 6” by 9” paperback, and if we placed those 135 million unique books end-to-end, they would stretch out over 19,000 miles. That’s only ¾ of the way around the earth so we would need an additional 40 million books to circle the earth one time. That’s a lot of books. And the author of John wrote that even these 175 million books couldn’t contain everything Jesus did. That’s an incredible number and if we take it at face value, then the author of the gospel according to John had a lot of material to work with. They could, with the help of the Holy Spirit, pick and choose from all those different stories to come up with their definitive word. So after looking at everything Jesus did and after examining everything he taught and said, it’s sort of amazing that the first thing John highlighted was Jesus’ party trick. John didn’t start with Jesus casting out a demon or teaching or even preaching. Instead, John’s version of Jesus’ public ministry began at a wedding where the big problem was that the party had run out of wine.
Now that actually was a big problem because weddings in Jesus’ day lasted an entire week long. The bridegroom provided all the food and beverages needed to keep everyone in a celebratory state of mind. A bridegroom who ran out of wine after only three days would spend the rest of their lives being known as the one who couldn’t provide. The society around Jesus expected an abundant wedding feast and if the bridegroom couldn’t provide, they would be shamed. Jesus’ act of turning water into wine rescued the bridegroom from this fate. And Jesus does all of this almost secretly. Only a few people, at first, knew what he did. Jesus chose to not seek out credit or acknowledgement for his actions. Instead, Jesus stayed in the background. He let others be the center of the story. Jesus was a guest at someone else’s wedding and even after providing the equivalent of 1000 bottles of high quality wine, Jesus let someone else’s story take the lead. Jesus’ first act of public ministry wasn’t designed to show off how amazing he was. His first act was to extend a celebration and let that kind of life, and joy, keep going.
Which is an odd way to start the story of Jesus’ public ministry. If we were compiling the gospel according to John, we might want to start with something a little more interesting, like Jesus having some kind of fight with demonic forces or with Jesus being super dramatic while challenging the status-quo. It feels a bit underwhelming for the Son of God’s first public act to be hidden in someone else’s story. Jesus wasn’t even the host of the party; he was merely a guest. Yet it’s as a guest when God’s abundance, through Jesus, first flows.
By the time the third day of the wedding rolled around, Jesus had probably already gotten to know many of the people at the party. He might have swapped stories of the bridegroom’s younger days with the newly minted mother-in-law and he probably tore up the dance floor by grooving to Ancient Israel’s version of “The Cha-Cha Slide.” Jesus was already at the party before he turn water into wine. And that, I think, is how Jesus introduces us to what an everyday life with God looks like. A life with God doesn’t mean that we’ll receive 1000 bottles of our favorite celebratory beverage every third day. A life with God means that we already have a guest with us who is present in every part of our story. This guest is sometimes a silent partner as we go through the uneventful days of our lives. But sometimes they’re a bit more like the mother of Jesus, prodding us to action. We might, during a crisis, be like the servants and catch a glimpse of God at work in our lives. And there are still other moments when we’ll be like the bridegroom and take credit for something God had already done. A life with God is a life that’s lived and a life that’s lived needs a God who knows what our lives are like. Each of us, through our baptism and through our faith, are united with a guest who does more than just understand the human story. He’s lived all parts of it, from the joy of a good wedding party through even the terrors of death on the Cross. You, as you are, are not left to travel the days of this life alone. You have with you a guest who is with you every step of the way. This gift, this Jesus, was given to you not because you had perfected and prepared everything you’d need for a life of faith and goodness. This gift was given to you because Jesus loves you and he loves you abundantly. That’s why, I think, the gospel according to John started Jesus’ public ministry with a wedding party at Cana. It’s in the very middle of our story when God’s abundant care, support, and mercy shows up. Jesus comes to us, as we are, so that we can become exactly who God knows we can be. This act of abundance is an act of grace; and this grace knows no bounds or limits. Grace upon grace is how God acts and this act can never be fully described no matter how books we write about it. Instead, this grace can only be lived out - which is why we live with Jesus and why Jesus lives with us. The more time we spend with Jesus, the more we realize how we can be changed from vessels of water into vessels of love and grace. And Jesus does that by being a part of who we are, a guest in our lives who promises to never let us go. Jesus gives us grace and we carry his grace into the world so that the world, through us, can be a little more joyous, a little more loving, a little more like a wedding party where God’s abundance always flows.