Faithlife Sermons

Serendipitous Glory

RCL - Epiphany Season  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  16:45
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This sermon is based on the Gospel reading (John 2:1-11) of the Church of England. It explores the tension between the abundant life Jesus invites us into, which stands in contrast to the world of scarcity in which we live. The miracle reveals the extravagent love of the Father for us in the person of Jesus and invites into a posture of looking for Jesus in the places of our lives where we least expect Him.

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Tension in Our Day-to-Day Struggle

As you know, we are in the season of Epiphany, a word that means “appearance” or “act of appearing.” During this season we reflect on the significance of Jesus becoming human and dwelling among us. But more than that, it is a reminder that Jesus still dwells among us through the Spirit.
We readily affirm God is with us, but do any of you ever feel a certain dissatisfaction with how things actually are day-to-day?
In John’s Gospel, Jesus promises his followers things like:
“Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it” (John 14:11–14).
Most of us regularly stare down daily fears, unknowns, challenges and hurts that we aren’t at a place to even consider doing greater works than Jesus.
We need someone to work on our behalf!
Can you relate with this tension at all?
Do you ever wonder if Jesus even cares to meet us in our day-to-day needs?
What would it even look like for him to meet you in your daily monotony?
The funny thing about Jesus becoming human is that without the appearance of angels, the magi, the spirit descending on him at his baptism, his miracles, and so on, no one would have thought of him as anything special.
Jesus, the son of Joseph, the carpenter.
We are much like the people Jesus lived and ministered among. We are caught up in surviving and fail to recognize the glory of the one in our midst.

The Surprise Miracle at Cana

This miracle at the wedding in Cana is surprising because it flips our typical expectations on its head and reveals the extravagance of the Father’s love for us in the person of Jesus.
So, I want to look at three ways this miracle is surprising.

It was for completely frivolous reasons.

Jesus is a mere guest at the wedding. The wine had run out and judging from the comments of the “chief steward” everyone had plenty to drink up until this point.
The miracle was excessive.
No one was sick, no one had died, and no one was in dire need. This miracle didn’t deliver anyone from Satan’s grasp, it simply staved off social embarrassment.
Would you agree that this doesn’t meet the basic criteria for miracles?
But why do we think that God doesn’t care about these “little things”?
Why are we so quick to limit what God should do? And, where do we come up with the basic criteria for miracles anyway?

Deeper Message

There is of course a much deeper meaning to the miracle for John. He opens the Gospel explaining how Jesus is the pre-incarnate word, the active agent in creation. Now, Jesus the creator becomes creation.
Moreover, if one counts from the day of his baptism until the wedding day, this wedding occurs on the “sixth day,” which also brings to mind the six days of creation. What did God do on the sixth day? He creates man and woman, and the institution of marriage. And here we are at a wedding.
But more than this, perfect creation was lush and flourishing. Sin ruined this. So, noting that this miracle is frivolous and excessive reveals the fact that we have grown accustomed to scarcity. We are accustomed to the consequences of sin. This is readily apparent in our current government shut down.
As John ends this passage, he notes that Jesus began his signs with this miracle, that through it he revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him. What’s going on here? Since the abundance of wine was anticipated at the eschatological, messianic banquet, and given the context of the wedding, John is likely highlighting Jesus’s identity as Messiah.
This miracle is a foretaste of the abundant life Jesus offers. Can you release your expectation of scarcity and receive the extravagance of the Father’s love for us in the person of Jesus? Can you receive that this morning?

A second remarkable thing about this miracle is that no one was looking for it!

There is no indication that Mary knew her son was a miracle worker and she offers no specific request. She simply says, “they’re out of wine,” which is sort like saying, “it’s cold in here,” and expecting someone to shut the window or turn up the heat.
She obviously implies that Jesus should do something. One commentator suggested dryly,
"The presence of Jesus and his disciples may have contributed to the shortage [of wine], prompting Mary's suggestion that Jesus do something about the problem.”
A friend of mine rephrased it more accurately,
“Look Jesus, if you and your buddies are gonna be mooching wedding crashers—you’re gonna have to manifest a miracle!” 

Jesus’s Response

Jesus’s response is reasonably troubling for some. There is no intonation in the text, so depending on how you read it, one might be inclined to think that Mary is on the bossier side. “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me?”
In discussing this option with some friends last night, we decided the main point of this text is probably something like “Have faith like a boss! Git-r done Jesus!"
I’m less inclined to find bossiness here as it is very easy to misread the modes of communication of other cultures.
One time in Congo, as I was riding up to the airstrip with my Congolese co-worker, Kanga, I saw two guys shouting and flailing their arms at one another. I was so startled and worried they were going to break into a fight that I asked Kanga, what they were arguing about. He said, oh, they aren’t arguing they are just catching up with each other.
Alternatively, Jesus might be on the ruder side. The address “woman” seems odd for his mother, but on the cross in a context that certainly has no tension, Jesus says to Mary, “Woman, here is your son.” Perhaps John wants to emphasize that Jesus is more than just her son, but this is uncertain.
I think he is just stating the obvious… “why is that our business? We are not responsible for this wedding.”
There’s another dimension to Jesus’s response, however, that explains his hesitation. Jesus says, “My hour has not yet come.” In John’s Gospel, this phrase occurs around 15 times and it refers to his passion. In fact, the first phase of this chapter, “on the third day,” brings to mind the resurrection.
As Keener explains it, “Once I begin doing miracles, I begin the road to the cross.”

Cost of Miracles

I’ve never noticed this connection between Jesus’s miracles and what it cost him.
As another commentator put it, “this difficult verse has left us with a beautiful Johannine irony: although his mother wanted the wedding to reach its end without embarrassment, Jesus, thinking of a much grander wedding feast, knew that embarrassment (the cross) is required for it to reach its ultimate conclusion.”
So, Mary tells the servants, “do whatever he says.” Not only was the miracle itself was Jesus’s idea, but it isn’t even described by John, the pots are filled and the head steward drinks. No one was looking for a miracle.
We are not only accustomed to scarcity, but we are are also accustomed to going it on our own. We don’t expect Jesus to surprise us. John wants to change that.

A final striking thing about the miracle is that only certain people noticed it.

If you were doing a miracle, wouldn’t you make certain that everyone knew who to credit?
As John recounts the miracle, only Mary, the servants, and the disciples knew about the miracle. Here is another significant irony—Jesus becomes the chief steward, who was responsible for distributing the wine, and the bridegroom, who was responsible for providing the wine.
When the chief steward tastes the wine, he is shocked. The NRSV says, he “called the bridegroom.” This is far to mild. One of the definitions for the Greek term used here is “to produce a voiced sound/tone, freq. w. ref. to intensity of tone.” This is a scholarly way of saying, he shouted out across the party, “hey bridegroom… what gives? Why did you save the best wine for last?”
When it’s all said and done, the bridegroom is credited with the miracle that no one knew about and social embarrassment is unexpectedly avoided!

Conclusion

I’m not exactly sure what it would or should look like for us to do greater miracles than Jesus.
I don’t totally grasp what Jesus means when he said, “If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”
I do know that Jesus desires to reveal his glory in your life and mine. As you come to the table to will you, like Mary, invite him to consider whatever problems you are facing now?
Will you abandon your acceptance of scarcity and look for Jesus to surprise you with his glory?
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