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Cana-Grace

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2 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and 2 Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. 3 When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They don’t have any wine.”

4 Jesus replied, “Woman, what does that have to do with me? My time hasn’t come yet.”

5 His mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Nearby were six stone water jars used for the Jewish cleansing ritual, each able to hold about twenty or thirty gallons.

7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water,” and they filled them to the brim. 8 Then he told them, “Now draw some from them and take it to the headwaiter,” and they did. 9 The headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine. He didn’t know where it came from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.

The headwaiter called the groom 10 and said, “Everyone serves the good wine first. They bring out the second-rate wine only when the guests are drinking freely. You kept the good wine until now.” 11 This was the first miraculous sign that Jesus did in Cana of Galilee. He revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him.

Introduction:

Wedding Fails

I’ve lost track of how many weddings I’ve done in my career.
But one of the funniest things to me about a wedding is how for the couple it’s the biggest day of their lives, and yet I frequently spend the morning before a wedding mowing the lawn or doing my laundry or something like that.
Still, it is a big day for the couple, so I try to limit my mistakes.
But there have been a few doozies...

Bridesmaid Forgot the Boquet

This was actually at the last wedding I did.
The maid of honor forgot the Bride’s bouquet.
They sent the best man to go get it, which ultimately resulted in us starting the ceremony about 20 minutes late.
No one really seemed to mind!

I like to move it move it-Unity Candle

In the wedding ceremony that the Presbyerian Church recommends, the declaration of marriage, including the classic “you may kiss the bride” happens right before the lighting of the unity candle.
In the movies it’s almost always the last thing that happens in the wedding.
So at one particular wedding, our DJ got a bit confused and as the couple was solemly lighting their unity candles, we were all serenaded by this:
<Play Video>

The perplexing case of the missing vows

By far my best blunder though came when I was performing the wedding of a former youth group kid.
Minutes before the wedding, the bride asked if I could hold on to her vows as her dress didn’t come with pockets.
(Side note: Ladies, I am now officially of the opinon that every article of clothing should come with pockets, and I hear I’m not alone in that.)
I WARNED HER that my robe’s pockets are kind of goofy with the cincure rope here, but sure I’ll hold on to them.
When the time came to read the vows that the couple had put together, I reached in to my pocket and felt…nothing!
Here’s a picture of the exact moment:
Now, what followed was amazing. She made up her vows on the spot, and absolutely blew everybody away.
Later, I found that the vows had slipped through the microphone pass through of my robe, and were resting comfortably on the rope right here.
Good times!

Weddings are joyous spaces!

Even when things go horribly wrong, weddings are times of incredible joy!
How interesting then that Jesus would choose this setting for his very first miracle!

Bible Breakdown

Third Day- Foreshadowing

This is a text that is DRIPPING with meaning behind meanings.
For starters, John tells us that this story happens on the third day.
There is no context in the stories that proceed this for that phrase to show up.
This is an eye wink to something that’s going to come later in his gospel, something else that happens on the third day.
Of course I mean Jesus’ resurrection.
So John wants us to connect those two stories in our mind, which is interesting.

Jesus’ Mom- What does it mean to ask God for something?

Mary (who is actually never mentioned by name in John’s gospel) asks Jesus to intervene.
Maybe it’s just a wedding, but there’s a lot that we can understand about this situation:
There is a need.
Jesus (who Mary understands to be God in flesh) could do something to meet the need.
And so essentially Mary prays.
She goes to Jesus and says “why don’t you step in and do something about this?”
And Jesus…hesitates.
He’s got a reason that we may or may not understand at all.
It’s not time yet.
But still, this feels like an odd response from Jesus doesn’t it?
And in fact, it feels like an odd response that we get from God from time to time.
Why does God hesitate to intervene in our loved ones cancer diagnosis?
Why has God continued to put us through this endless and insufferable pandemic?
Why won’t God provide justice where we feel like it’s lacking?
The reality is that we may never get an answer to why these seemingly odd responses come back from God.
But maybe even more odd is Mary’s response:
“Do whatever he says.”
Essentially, in spite of an unanswered prayer, Mary steps back and says
I know my son.
I trust my son.
It might not look like I thought it would, but something amazing is coming.

Empty Ritual Jars

So Jesus tells the servants to fill up these ritual cleansing jars, each able to hold about twenty or thirty gallons of water.
I had a friend post for those of us who are all preaching on this gospel lesson this week: this is what that looks like:
But that begs another set of questions?
Why are there ritual washing jars here at a wedding?
This would be about as odd as walking in to a reception hall for a wedding and seeing a baptizmal font.
Was the wedding at a temple?
Were the bride and groom particularly religious?
If so, why were they empty?
Were these leftover from another event?
Were people even paying attention to this any more?
Or are these just empty remnants of an empty religion to these folks?
Either way, Jesus takes these empty religious symbols, and fills them with more meaning.
These jars, which are meant for cleansing, are now filled with wine.
We would do well to remember other ways that Jesus is going to use wine in this story later on down the line.
He’s going to use it as a stand in for his own blood, which has the ability to wash us all clean.

Good Wine While Everyone’s Drunk!

And apparently this is some pretty good wine!
The master of ceremonies pulls the groom aside and makes a comment about the economy of hospitality.
Usually the good wine comes first, and then when everyone’s too drunk to know the difference they switch over to the cheap boxed stuff.
Two things this brings to mind in this story, and we’re going to tie it all together soon:
Everyone’s pretty drunk at this point in the story.
And it shows that this wasn’t some cheap parlor trick.
Jesus really did it, and did this first sign in a way that everyone took notice of and showed his mastery over creation.

The First Sign

John actually starts numbering Jesus signs, and specifically notes 7 of them, or 8 if you include the resurrection.
Those numbers are important, but that’s a sermon for another time.
But it’s interesting that in John’s gospel, the word he uses is sign, and not miracle.

The difference between miracles and signs

A miracle
Can seem pretty random.
Can be experienced by anyone.
Is really left open to interpretation.
What I think is a miracle might be seen as just a coincidence by someone else.
A sign
Is a miraculous, other worldly event just like a miracle.
But in scripture, when a writer refers to a sign, it’s specifically something that is pointing to or revealing something about the nature of God.

What is this sign pointing to?

Obviously this has some pretty big overtones of the resurrection
John starts the story with “on the third day.”
And these ritual cleaning jars get filled with the wine that is later going to be filling the communion cups at the last supper.
It also shows that Jesus has a mastery over creation
Try as I might, if I pour water in to the baptismal font, it’s never ever going to be wine.
Jesus can do things with the physical world that we mere mortals cannot.
And the only one who has mastery over creation is the one who created it.
This sign is pointing us to the reality that Jesus is God in the flesh.
But one that I think folks miss out on a lot in this story is this: Jesus was a pretty joyous guy.
I don’t think it’s meant to be overlooked that this first sign takes place at a wedding.
I don’t think it’s meant to be overlooked that this first sign was to keep the party going.
I don’t think it’s meant to be that almost every image we have of Jesus is serious and stern.
I think Jesus would have demanded the DJ drop the needle every now and again.
One of the commentators I read this week called this Cana-Grace, that the Christian life ought to be marked by joy, and celebration, and fellowship, and enjoyment.
Those aren’t bad things we dip in to every now and again before we dip back in our church life.
They are in fact a grace of Jesus Christ that we are called to live in to.

His disciples believe in him

While it starts small, this is a sign ultimately about revealing who he is.
The guests don’t know what happened.
The servants probably don’t totally grasp what’s going on.
The headwaiter doesn’t know what’s going on.
The bride and groom are probably oblivious.
But the disciples, they believe in him.
They see what Jesus is is capable of, and they start to carry some awareness of what they’ve signed up for.
To be sure, they will lose their way from time to time.
But they see God’s glory in Jesus, and they start to place their faith in who he is.

Application

Christianity is supposed to be fun!

Youth Ministry

I come from the world of youth ministry, and youth ministry is all about fun.
Just this last week in fact, I have been told that I am some sort of game guru.
I take that as a compliment.
I have spent actual, on the clock, they’re paying me for this work time to master my dodgeball throw.
I once ordered a banana milkshake at Chick-Fil-A dressed as a banana.
And when the youth pastor does this, no one bats an eye.
One day I was walking down the halls of my previous church dressed up as a nerd (it wasn’t much of a costume) while my friend was dressed up as a hunchback (long story) and we passed our (admittedly) very straight laced and serious boss.
My friend and partner in crime said “Why do you always see us when we’re like this?”
Our boss, without blinking, said “Because you’re always like this.”

Youth Minister turned Pastor

I wonder if the church could be more like that?
No, I’m not suggesting moments before our congregational meeting that we have a round of dodgeball in the sanctuary.
But I wonder if there are ways that we could be tapping more in to Christ-honoring fun?
What events do we have on our calendar that are simply to enjoy time together?
What about our worship service stirs us to celebrate who Jesus is and reveals himself to be?
What is our reputation in the community?
Are we the stayed and stoic Christian community?
Or are we the fun ones, people who are legitimately worth being around?
To be sure, we’re a pretty fun group.
But as always, I wonder how we could lean even more in to that celebration mode of our faith in Jesus, the one who turned water in to wine to keep the party going?

Jesus can be moved to act!

I don’t know why there is reluctance, then or now.

Lots of theologians will try to spend time trying to figure out why there’s that pause with some of our prayers and petitions to God.
Like I said before, we don’t know exactly what to make of the cancer patient who doesn’t get better.
We don’t know what to do with the children around the world who will go to bed hungry tonight.
And we don’t know what to do with this pandemic that just…won’t…end.
And to be honest, any time I’ve heard a pastor or a theologian try to address that, the answer is never satisfying.

But I do know that prayer is powerful and important.

What I do know is that Jesus will always listen.
What I do know is that Jesus never shames anyone for asking what they need.
What I do know is that sometimes the quite, voiceless prayers where I’m just alone with my savior are some of the most precious moments of my life.
And maybe we don’t get the answer we were looking for.
I mean, maybe Mary was just wondering if Jesus could run down to the state store and pick something up...
But I know Jesus listens. And I know that Jesus acts. And I know that Jesus desires the best for each and every one of us in here.

Do we believe in who Jesus is?

Do we believe in a Jesus who would make himself known…at a party?

Do we believe in a Jesus who longs to celebrate our redemptive status with us?

Do we believe in a Jesus who wants to reveal himself to us on a regular basis?

I hope you’ll join me as we live in to our calling as a people of redemption, of Cana-Grace, and especially people of celebration.
In fact, maybe we ought to start now...
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