Feb 10th, 2019

Water Into Wine

John 2:1-12


Weddings are an exciting time in life. We have all attended them, many our own. It is a time of excitement for the bride and groom as the two begin a new life together. a new family is born and children are often to follow. Each person steps away from the single life and begins anew as part of a couple, sharing everything in a bond of marriage.

          Everyone watches as the two make their commitment to one another through the vows of marriage. In this particular wedding we would have a canopy under which the two would stand, called a huppah.  The bride would circle the husband seven times to symbolize the seven days of creation and that the groom is at the center of the bride’s life. The groom puts a ring on the bride’s finger as the Kattubah, or contract is sealed.  Then as the couple finishes, everyone yells out, “Mazel Tov.” Best wishes!!

          Jesus would have watched all of this as the couple walked through the crowd into the reception area. Where people would be waiting with a broom, that would be held sideways at a low level. Once everyone was gathered there, the couple would then jump over the broom together as onlookers cheered them on to their new life together and sweep away their old lives.

          You may have seen Fiddler on the Roof. In it there is a wedding that depicts the all out celebration of the families and guests.

One of the songs sung at that reception was to life to life lechaim, lechaim lechaim to life. And if our good fortune never comes, here’s to whatever comes, drink Le-chaim to life!

          I know this show well because I was one of the dancers in the play. Don’t ask me to repeat any of those moves I did in the bottle dance.

          The energy, the joy, the jubilation expressed! And if you think back to your own wedding, maybe all that energy will come back into your mind and you will feel the excitement of the moment. Or perhaps, someone you loved got married and you were there celebrating the new beginning.

          In our Gospel story today, we see the same enthusiasm, joy and celebration as this unnamed couple and guests celebrate by singing and dancing, eating and drinking. We see in the slides a simulation of what it may have been like.

          The celebration is in full swing and  then the caterers realize they have gone through all of the wine already. They discuss what happened. Did they not order enough? Was the crowd larger than they had anticipated? How could this happen?

          It would be an embarrassment to the couple and put a damper on the celebration. Mary would have thought about this and have seen the potential of it ruining the party.

          There was not enough time to send for more wine at this point; it would take a full day. So Mary had an idea that would solve the problem, an idea that only Jesus’ mother would think of. Create more wine. She didn’t know how, but her son did. And she was counting on him to help out.

          “They don’t have any more wine,” She said to Jesus. His response was translated in a variety of ways, I prefer to read it as, “what concern is this to us? After all, my  work has not yet begun.”

          It was a mild refusal to help. But Mary isn’t buying it. Maybe she gave him that look mothers give their children when they refuse to do something she asks for. [gestures] or maybe she wagged her finger at him? Or some other gesture? “Don’t you sass me look.

          We don’t know, but we do know the next thing that is spoken by her, “Do whatever he tells you.”

          Jesus orders the servants to fill the 6 water jugs along the wall with water. Each of them held around 30 gallons so that would take some time to do. Bring the water from the well in smaller containers and pour it into then, one at a time. That’s around 180 gallons if my math is right.

          Why didn’t Jesus just say a word or wave his hand and make them full of wine. If he had, the servants would have no part in it. In this way, they played a role in the miracle. When Jesus works in our lives, he does so with our involvement or the involvement of others, who testify to his glory.

          The servants then were told to draw some of the water and take it to their boss. John documents what happened as the head waiter and groom taste fine wine that came out of nowhere. The head waiter assumed the groom had saved it for last.

          The wedding celebration could continue on without interruption. Those who were worried, and Mary were breathing a sign of relief. “Thank God!”

          John states that this is Jesus’ first miracle and we have no evidence to prove otherwise. The other three gospels don’t talk about it at all.

          So as we reflect on its meaning for us today, several key points come to the surface.

          Let’s look at the stages of this miracle to see how it applies to us. First, there was a great wedding celebration where family and friends gathered to celebrate, bless and rejoice this new beginning. Life is moving along smoothly and everything is going as planned.

          Then a problem occurs, a problem no one had anticipated and no one could solve. There is a kind of “oh no” moment. When you don’t know what to do. You do the obvious things first, hoping for a solution.

          Everything you do, does not bring a solution. Now comes the helplessness part. The moment when there is a turn toward hopelessness or grace. They could have simply announced that the wine was all gone and dealt with the embarrassment.

          Or they could believe there was a solution they had not seen or could not imagine. Mary believed, in spite of the real situation. She is our example and when we face a situation like this, we too should believe.

          In the hopelessness of that situation a miracle was born. Mary told Jesus the situation. He was reticent to do anything. But she did not relent. When he said, “what concern is it of ours?” she did not give up. When he said, “my ministry has not begun,” she did not relent.

          “Do what he tells you.” She told the servants/waiters.

          When you face an impossible situation and have given up all hope but what comes with faith, do you tell Jesus?

          That’s the first step called for in faith life. We ask for help. But the next step is the one that really tests our faith.  When we hear Jesus say, “why should I be concerned about this?” that’s when the strength of our faith is tested.

          It’s easy to just give up then, Jesus says he’s not interested! It doesn’t concern him. Do you hang your head and accept defeat?

          Or do you, like Mary, keep pursuing Christ’s blessing? Christ is not refusing you. He is testing your faith. If you give up, then what kind of witness are you to the world? He wants to see your belief come to life in his question, “What concern is that of mine?”

          He wants to hear you say why it matters. He wants you to show that you care about those around you who have a hopeless situation. He wants to know that you really care!

          And the way he can tell is if you pursue his grace relentlessly. That you will not take no for an answer from God. That you demand Christ intercede for this person, this situation, this relationship.

          My sister-in-law, Tami called us recently about a concern that she had about her cat. She lives in LA with her three small dogs and cat Esmeralda. Esmeralda is not an indoor cat, so Tami let’s her out to go and explore as cats do.

          Once in awhile, the cat would find the neighbor’s garage door open and she would go in to explore. The owner would shut the door, not knowing Esmeralda was in there. Tami would notice her absence and start to call for her. At night when she went to bed she would hear the cat meowing from inside the garage.

          Tami would then approach the neighbor and ask that she be let out. This went on several times. Then most recently Esmeralda got into the garage, but the neighbor refused to open the garage door and said they had warned her. This was the last time and they were not going to open the garage door.

          First point of helplessness. No more wine. What can she do? So, she called the police who told her it was private property and they could do nothing. She left another note in the door of the neighbor, but noticed it was on the ground when she went to see if they had looked.

          When she came to the door, the retired man would shut it in her face. When she called, he would hang up. Night after night she would go to bed hearing that cat meowing from inside the garage.

          Desperation leads us into uncharted territory. She called us and spilled her guts. We began to pray. She was not a believer but we still believed something would happen to let the cat out.

          On the seventh day, the neighbor continued to be non-responsive. The cat was locked in the garage. Tami had not options left and resigned to let her cat die in the garage. She believed it was her fault.

          But we believed in a miracle and we “did not stop asking when Jesus said, what concern is this of mine?” We told him why he should be concerned and we pressed him to free the cat.

          On the 10th day, Tami’s Facebook post caught fire and several friends gathered around the back of the garage. They devised a way to get it open without damaging the property. As they lifted the garage door they could see Esmeralda perched high up in the rafters, meowing. Then she jumped down and out.

          Tami was cooking dinner when she heard a knock on the door. When she opened it she saw her black Esmeralda in a friend’s arms.

          You can imagine the joy, gratitude, and complete shift of emotions when she saw that cat.

          Tami is moving out of the neighborhood to insure this never happens again. But I hope you are receiving this message from the Lord through this story.

          You and I must pursue Christ even though there appears to be no hope at all. We must because he intends to deliver us and those we love. We don’t know how, but we must believe he will.