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John 2: 1-11

FCC, Farmville

January 16, 2022

            In many ways this miracle is problematic for us.  We like to think of Jesus as a miracle worker, but we like it when his miracles are more serious.  Healing the sick, making the lame to walk, even raising the dead are the kind of miracles that we readily accept as being fully compatible with our ideas about who Jesus is.  But this is not one of those.  This miracle seems a bit out of character, a bit extravagant for the Son of God.  I mean, how much wine does one family need to properly celebrate a wedding? 

            So, we tend to pass over this miracle.  We think that maybe there is a rational explanation for it.  Perhaps Jesus just happened to know where the good wine was being kept and seized the opportunity to perform a little opportunistic slight-of-hand.  We know from experience with modern magicians that there are any number of people living in the world today that could perform magic tricks every bit as impressive as this one. 

            It may be, however, that we should not take such a dismissive attitude regarding the wedding at Cana.  In fact, what John is attempting to say to us is not something frivolous at all, but something deadly serious.  There is something extravagant about this miracle and that is exactly the point.  These were not small jars of water, but rather were 20- or 30-gallon jars and there were six of them.  In addition to that, the reaction of the wine steward is one of amazement: “Everyone serves the good wine first … but you have kept the good wine until now.”  It is for John’s audience an exclamation point. 

As Gail O’Day writes in The New Interpreter’s Bible commentary, “This is a miracle of abundance, of transformation, and new possibilities.  The grace the miracle offers and the glimpse of Jesus’ glory it provides run outside conventional expectations.”[1]  John does not want us to try and make this miracle make sense, but rather he wants us to see it for the lavish, exorbitant, excessive act that it is – because this is an indicator of the character of God.  The gifts that Jesus offers us are not adequate, or sufficient, or ordinary, or puny.   

I think that it is no accident that in this first miracle of Jesus’ ministry he turns water to wine; and in his last Passover meal with his disciples, he sits at table and lifts a cup of wine and speaks to them about its significance regarding his impending death.  This wine has rich and deep meaning for those who would follow Jesus.  The extravagance here is not so much about the wine as it is about the love.  This extravagant gift of God in Jesus Christ is so extreme in its power that it will enable Jesus to lay down his life for others.

            In 1889 Jane Adams purchased a building in a dirty, inner-city neighborhood of Chicago.  At the time the building contained a saloon, an office, storage space and small rooms for lodgers.  Within a small radius of her newly acquired house, there lived Italians, Germans, Polish and Russian Jews, and thousands of Irish immigrants. Conditions were appalling – dirty streets, un-enforced sanitary laws, hundreds of houses unconnected to the street sewers, no fire escapes, and inadequate water supply.

Eventually, Jane Adams and two friends turned Hull House into a social center for the neighborhood.  She worked tirelessly for children and adults, minding children, nursing the sick, washing babies, and even preparing the dead for burial.  Over the course of time, she and an enlarged staff worked to influence legislation and to provide more and better social services for the poor.  With vision and hard work Jane Adams put into motion the events that would provide this entire country with what we know today as Departments of Social Services.  In 1931 she was a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.  God had taken water and turned it into wine.

            It was not so long ago that Rosa Parks made her now historic decision to keep her seat at the front of the bus.  In and of itself it was nothing out of the ordinary – a tired woman showing a stubborn streak.  But as it turned out, that one single act, perhaps as much as, if not more than any other of its day, influenced the direction of the battle for civil rights in this country.  Prior to that, many good, God-fearing people had accepted the state of things as the way things always had been and always would be.  But through the actions of an unlikely person, God took water and made it into wine.  

So, perhaps what is important for us today is to see this miracle for what it is.  Maybe what John is trying to tell us is that this was a miracle of turning the weaker into the stronger, the common into the precious, the despised into the excellent, the everyday into the extraordinary.  It was not merely the increase and multiplication of something already made, like the feeding of the five thousand with the five loaves.  It was taking so common and cheap a thing as water and raising it to the higher uses and excellences of wine – changing and exalting it and giving it new strength and new pleasantness.  And is not this the way in which Christ deals with those who put themselves into His hands?  God makes the water into wine. 

            Changing water to wine is no cheap trick.  Yet, it is no more difficult than changing you and me into disciples of Christ.  Thanks be to God.

Rev. Morgan Daughety

[1] The New Interpreter’s Bible.  Nashville: Abingdon Press.  Vol. IX, p. 540. 

Lectionary for Sunday, Jan 16 2022

Isaiah 62:1-5
62:1 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch.

62:2 The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give.

62:3 You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

62:4 You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married.

62:5 For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your builder marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.

Psalm 36:5-10
36:5 Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.

36:6 Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your judgments are like the great deep; you save humans and animals alike, O LORD.

36:7 How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

36:8 They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.

36:9 For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.

36:10 O continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your salvation to the upright of heart!

1 Corinthians 12:1-11
12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed.

12:2 You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak.

12:3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Let Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.

12:4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;

12:5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord;

12:6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.

12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

12:8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit,

12:9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,

12:10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.

12:11 All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

John 2:1-11
2:1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.

2:2 Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.

2:3 When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”

2:4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.”

2:5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

2:6 Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.

2:7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.

2:8 He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it.

2:9 When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom

2:10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.”

2:11 Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

More listening opportunites at Barton College Center for Religious Studies