Good morning, Friends!
This is some kind of a winter we’re having. Last week it was summer, and now it’s winter again. Seems like we got it backwards! I’ve got flowers coming up. I’ve seen birds coming back. Then this week it’s going back into the low 20’s at night. The is the most warmed-up, didn’t happen, backwards month of January I’ve ever seen.
Makes me think of one our relatives, used to live down in Texas. She was from up north. Loved to see her tulips come up in the spring. Well, turns out tulips won’t grow without cold weather. So Aunt Virginia came up with a solution.
Every fall, she’d dig up all her tulip bulbs. Hundreds of tulip bulbs. Sacks full of them. And out in her garage, she bought a big upright freezer. She’d dig up her tulip bulbs, and put them in her special freezer for a few months. Then, come February, she’d go out into her garden and plant them again.
She did this every year, and it worked. She was the only person in Houston that ever had tulips. Nobody else could grow them, because nobody else was crazy enough to dig them up every year and put them in a freezer out in the garage.
Anyway, one year Aunt Virginia was getting all set to plant her tulips again in February. She took the sacks out of the freezer and put them in the garage to thaw. Her husband come along, saw the sacks, picked them up, and took them down to the street and they got hauled away.
Aunt Virginia was so mad! She said, “What did you think you were doing?”
He said, “Cleaning out the garage, just like you always want me to.”
She said, “Didn’t you even look into those sacks? You just threw out hundreds of dollars of my tulips!”
I don’t know what he said then, but I think he ate his supper out in the garage that night all by himself. She was mad as a wet hen.
Well, this month and next month we’re going to be looking at some stories in the gospel of John. Today we’re going to be looking at a story about a wedding.
I love weddings. Especially when I’m just a guest, and not the host. We married off both our kids since we moved here to Springfield, and each time, I thought I was going to lose my mind. Not to mention all my savings. Weddings are happy, they’re crazy, nothing ever happens just the way you think it will, but somehow, it all works out.
I know a couple not a hundred miles from this room, who planned their wedding at an outdoor venue. Day of the wedding, there was a hurricane. They had to pack up all their wedding stuff, come here and get married in the church instead. But it all worked out. They’re a beautiful couple, and now we’re praying for a healthy mom and a healthy baby.
Isn’t that right? You just always want to have a Plan B up your sleeve at a wedding, in case things don’t work out just the way you planned them.
I remember a wedding my wife and I were involved with, first year after we got married. We were living in Boston. The bride wanted to economize, and she decided she and all the bridesmaids were going to make their own dresses. Said they’d all save a lot of money if they bought fabric, and made the dresses themselves.
I don’t remember what went wrong – the pattern had to be altered, the bride didn’t buy enough fabric, something or other. All the bridesmaids finally gave up and brought their dresses to a seamstress to get them made. Seamstress worked around the clock to get them all ready. Always have a plan B!
That same wedding, I got asked at the last minute to drive the bride and all the bridesmaids to the church, which was 5 or 6 blocks away. I knew right where it was, no problem. Day of the wedding, we got started, and they had the street blocked off with construction. I was just like, two blocks away, and the cop waved me down a side street.
Well, I took the turn, and before I knew what happened, we were right in the middle of the red light district in Boston. You can imagine the scene — the horrible signs, the merchandise in all the windows. The bride was crying, all the bridesmaids were yelling, the bride in her big fluffy dress was trying to hide under the dashboard.
I got to the next corner and I could see the church. It was right down at the end of the block, but it was a one-way street going the wrong way. There was a mounted policeman at the intersection, directing traffic. He looked down at me, with this carload of crying, yelling women wearing wedding clothes. He took in the whole situation, and then – a miracle took place!
Without saying a thing, the mounted policeman slowly and deliberately turned his horse and looked away from me. I went the wrong way down the one-way street, which was empty because of the construction. I took off, practically burned rubber, and we came right up to the front door of the church seconds later.
Weddings just don’t always work out the way you planned them to. But miracles do happen, and somehow it works out all right. Today’s scripture is about another wedding. A wedding where things didn’t work out as planned. But Jesus was there, and everything was better than OK.
A wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”
“Lady, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”
His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”
They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.
Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”
What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.John 2:1-11
Now, I have been through two weddings recently in our family. And I can tell you, one thing you don’t want to happen, is for anything to run out at the reception. It may not be the family’s worst nightmare, but it’s just not something you want.
The wedding in today’s story was in a little town, three or four miles from where Jesus was staying. Naturally, Jesus and his friends were invited. Back then, a wedding lasted for several days, with fresh guests from out of town arriving, every day.
Having anything run out wasn’t just socially embarrassing. People thought it was a bad omen for the future of the couple. Probably meant they were going to have bad luck or be poor for the rest of their lives.
One of the things to remember about this story is that Jesus was there to enjoy the wedding, just like everyone else. He wasn’t invited to come and perform a miracle. He was just another guest.
There’s also no hint that Jesus disapproved of people getting married. Jesus never said people should be celibate, which is an idea that some Christians adopted later on. That idea has caused endless problems down through the years. No, Jesus was there to bless the wedding and to bless the couple by being there.
There’s no hint that Jesus didn’t enjoy the food at the reception. It never says that Jesus was tight-lipped or reserved about it. It never says things were quiet down at Jesus’ end of the table. Jesus was probably dancing along with everyone else.
But then, the unthinkable happened. The wine ran out. Before anybody could get all excited, Jesus mother stepped in. (Mothers are really good at this.)
She told Jesus, “There’s no more wine!”
Hesus said, “What am I supposed to do about it? It’s not my time to let people see me.”
Jesus’ mother was from North Carolina. She said, “Don’t you sass me, son! I know you can deal with this!” (One of the first rules in the Bible is, “Always do what your mother tells you.” I think it’s one of the Ten Commandments.)
Then she turned to the caterer and said, “Do whatever he tells you!”
Talk about being on the spot. Even though Jesus hadn’t planned anything special that day, even though it wasn’t time for his big reveal yet, he had to do what his momma expected.
So, Jesus takes a little stroll outside, scopes things out, and tells the catering people to fill up the big water barrels that were standing there by the door. Six of them. Each one as big as a bathtub.
Tells the catering people to fill them up, right to the brim. Then he goes back inside. Doesn’t say anything to anyone.
Five minutes later, the caterer walks up to the bridegroom, says, “Problem solved!” The caterer never even gave credit to Jesus for anything. End of story. Nobody ever knew that Jesus had fixed it.
Now, there are a number of lessons we can draw from today’s reading. First lesson is, always invite Jesus to your party.
That’s actually not a joke. Any time we celebrate, Jesus is already here. He’s the invisible guest. He’s the secret presence. Jesus is with us all the time. But he’s especially present, when we celebrate.
It doesn’t have to be a wedding. It can be a shower, or a birthday, or a holiday, or a picnic. Jesus loves it, when people get together, and celebrate their love for each other.
Didn’t Jesus provide for people, that time a big crowd came to listen to him teach, and all the food they had was two loaves of bread and five fish? Jesus blessed the meal, and there was plenty for everyone.
Welcome Jesus to your next meal, and there will always be enough. That’s the second lesson. There is something about the presence of Jesus, which makes a little into a lot. When we thank Jesus for being here, there is always plenty to go around.
And it was good wine. That’s the third point to take home. It was the best wine that anybody had ever tasted. It’s not just that Jesus is bread to the hungry and drink to the thirsty. In today’s story, once again we’re reminded that Jesus is the best!
That’s bottom line in today’s Scripture. The wine ran out. The party was about to be a disaster. But Jesus was there. And because he was there, the wine was overflowing, and it turned out to be the best party anyone could remember.
Everything was better, because Jesus was there. No one wanted to go home, because they felt in their hearts that this was the party of a lifetime. People sent for their friends to come and join them, because it was a great celebration.
When Jesus is here, the party will only get better. The church will grow. And the party will never end.
Most of us have actually heard this story before, about the time when Jesus turned water into wine. What we don’t realize, is it’s about something ordinary turning into something extraordinary, because Jesus is here.
Over and over in the Christian life, we experience the reality of today’s story. Something ordinary becomes amazing, and we realize that Jesus was right here with us, all along. An everyday get-together gets transformed into a wedding party, whenever Jesus joins us. Food becomes a feast, and a bust becomes a blast.
Moments like this happen, and they happen more than we realize. Part of what we need to do as Christians, is to be awake to those special moments when Jesus turns things around, and we’re here, and we’re seeing it, and it’s amazing!
If our eyes are open, we see those moments taking place all around us, all the time. God is throwing parties where we least expect it. And we could be having so much more fun if we just opened our eyes a little more.
The gospel is filled with stories about how the ordinary becomes extraordinary, because Jesus is there. A hungry crowd on a hillside turned into a banquet.
Or do you remember the story about the day after Easter, when a couple of guys were walking down the road, feeling sad, meet a stranger who walks beside them. They stop for supper, sit down to eat, and it’s Jesus, right there with them.
Or how about the time when a woman came up to a well in the village to get some water, starts to fill her bucket, a stranger sits down by the well, and Jesus talks to her about living water, and says if she drinks it, she’ll never be thirsty again. Jesus says, “The water that I give you will be like a spring of living water, flowing up in you forever.”
Last example: does anybody remember the first meal that Jesus had with all his friends after the Resurrection? Do you know what that meal was? It was a fish fry. I’m just saying.*
One of our biggest problems is that we don’t look to see more of these water-into-wine moments happening. We don’t welcome Jesus to our party, when all the time Jesus is wanting to welcome us to his party.
When people finally went home at the end of today’s story, for weeks, maybe for the rest of their lives, they were saying, “Wow! What a wedding!”
We need to be saying that, too. Because when Jesus invites us to his party, the celebration never ends.
*Note: the 27th Annual Fish Fry at Springfield Friends will be next Saturday, January 25th, from 4:30 to 7:00.