This sermon was prepared for January 20, 2019 but due to weather worship was cancelled and I preached it on January 27.
Sermon for January 20, 2019 Second of Epiphany “The First Miracle”
In my childhood church life, I was taught from an early age that it was a place of solemnity, prayer and quiet. When we sat down, we were to sit with eyes forward, no fidgeting, poking my sisters and certainly no laughing. The men wore three-piece suits, the women wore dresses and hats, and there was certainly an air of reverence in the church.
When I look back at the history of attitudes in church, the 70’s and 80’s were considerably more liberal than the latter 19th and early 20th century. That era took stoic and serious to the extreme. Yet for the past 2000 years or so we have used the same teachings of Jesus. In church today, I am constantly rethinking how we live and behave in our shared worship time. For example, a few years ago I teased you in a sort of serious way about cell phones. I said something like ‘if they beep or chirp then you owe money’ in an attempt to silence the phones. After all, there is a time and place for all things and phones ringing in church is barely tolerated. With some new understanding, I am more tolerant and even accepting. What if it is a call that a loved one is in distress or even better that you are getting a text from a child or grandchild just to say ‘thinking of you, love you’. Is this not the best place to be surrounded by care when we get distressing news or to celebrate the good news of love?
The miracle story today reminds us that it is time to unleash the fun Jesus. The Jesus that turned 150 gallons of water into the very best wine. The Jesus who said ‘I have come to give life in abundance’. The Jesus who healed, restored, welcomed and forgave thereby paving the way for abundant living. Time to let that Jesus out of the box and for the followers of Jesus to get into the habit of having a fun, abundant life and to do that in such a way that it happens all the time and not just in the confines of this or any other church building.
In his commentary on John, Robert Brearley writes “Sometimes the church has forgotten that our Lord once attended a wedding feast and said yes to gladness and joy. Prompted by his earthly mother, Jesus turned water into wine to point us to his heavenly Father, a God who loves to hear the laughter of people celebrating people. Sometimes the church has forgotten to live the joy of such revelation.”
Yes indeed, we need to take our fun selves out every now and again but like many stories of Jesus there are layers. In this case the issue is the very real issue of hospitality. The groom’s family would face unbearable shame if food and drink ran out. Mary knew this, Jesus knew this, everyone knew this. The miracle is also about hospitality. The grooms family is applauded for saving the best wine to the end. The family is happy and the community is happy. It is only a few who knew what happened that evening, and I expect that Jesus smiled.
Another layer of the story is that the guests are treated to grace and they do not even know it. There is just this expectation that the wine will not run out so there is no awareness of their role in the miracle story. How true is that in our day. We live with such expectations that we are numb to the miracles that are happening right in front of us. For the guests, I expect it takes some days for the story to break and spread and to realize that they shared in the abundant grace of a miracle.
Jesus teachings beckon us to open our eyes and ears and hearts to what is right in front of us and there witness miracle. Our 21st century challenge is that miracles have to be grand, huge super-extraordinary before our media saturated minds can take notice. Jesus points us to the ordinary, daily events and says there is the miracle. Perhaps the first miracle is that we see, witness or are part of a miracle at all. Open your eyes and ears, see and witness the miracles surrounding you, they may seem tiny or even a bit ridiculous to us but they are huge to our life loving, fun giving God.