Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Gift from Cana

John 2: 1-11
Of all of the things that can and do go wrong at a wedding, running out of libations is one that is a no-no. In fact, outside of the bride or groom getting cold feet and not showing up, running out of wine or scotch or whatever your preferred drink might be would be tragic for some. It runs a very close second to cold feet. 

Guests have a reasonable expectation that when they are invited to a joyful occasion such as a wedding that three things will happen: the couple will blissfully be joined together in matrimony; they will be treated to some sort of gourmet meal with little mounds of food artfully piled a mile high on their plate with a few sprigs of rosemary sprinkled on the plate; and that the alcohol will be free flowing all night.  It is the culture in which we live.

I’ve married two of my children and the third one will be next year, God willin’ so I now know the incredible effort that it takes to pull off such a happy event where you hope and pray that nothing goes wrong to produce disgruntled guests. 

Even though, things still go wrong.  I can remember at my own wedding, when we got to the reception one of the waitresses headed my mother off at the pass.  The baker, she said, forgot to put something on top of the wedding cake.  My mother was livid!  I was saddened.  She called the bakery but they had closed for the day.  The bride and groom cake topper that was to preside over my cake was the very same couple that stood proudly on top of my parent’s wedding cake in 1938.  We came to find out after the wedding that the baker had simply forgotten about it.  Wedding disappointments and disasters happen all of the time in all proportions.

Let us now hear about one such wedding disaster from the Gospel of John in the second chapter.

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. 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 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.”

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

Wedding Bells in Cana
It was very unfortunate for the happy couple in Cana when the wine ran out and even more disconcerting and shameful, I’m sure, for the father of the bride.  Hospitality was of prime import back then, we see it over and over again in the New Testament.  We know this to be true of the Greco-Roman world in Late Antiquity.  Hospitality matters. 

After Jesus begins his ministry he would teach about welcoming strangers.  How many times have we seen him sit at table in the company of all sorts of people?  Even today in the Middle East hospitality is crucial to how one receives a friend or stranger.  Not one bowl of olives will be set out but three different kinds of olives with a side bowl of hummus, some pita and several different sorts of cheese.  Hospitality was an imperative part of being a decent human being.  Running out of wine should not have happened.  Someone didn’t estimate correctly the number of guests and the barrels of wine that were needed and on hand.

This is one of the few times that we get a glimpse of Jesus kicking back and having some fun.  Weddings lasted for days as they still do.  There are men’s parties, women’s parties, the final reception and Jesus and his disciples and Mary were all part of the festivities.  It’s an interesting exchange between mother and son that parents can appreciate.  Mary gets wind that the vino has run out and says to Jesus, “They have no more wine!”  Jesus says back to her, “What concern is that to you and to me?”  In other words, Jesus says to his mother, “So, what?” 

Divine reluctance rears its ugly head.  So what, who cares?  That is such an insensitive thing to pop out of Jesus’ mouth.   True, on the scale or continuum of miracles if you compare refilling wine jars to healing a blind man or a woman who had been hemoragghing for most of her life…making more wine appear is really not that important.  Someone’s life was not dependent upon the wine supply.  But Jesus must be true to his own inner calling not accountable to any human authority so he says, ‘so what, my time has not come.’

Yet after some discussion, that it seems we are not privy to, he grants her request and performs his first miracle.  He fills the jars with the best wine, and lots of it. If you do the math 6 jars times let’s say 25 gallons a piece….thats a lot of wine.  The party continues, the host saves face, and Jesus’ power and divinity is slowly seeping out into the world.  It is yet another epiphany of his true identity.  “He revealed his glory, and his disciples believed him.”

Three things happen in this scripture that are of value for our consideration: 1) Jesus recognizes that he must be true to his calling from God, 2) he or God gives in abundance-150 gallons of wine, and 3) his glory is revealed.  The Gift from Cana that I’d like to focus on this morning is being true to your calling.  

So often we get lost in life and heed the call that someone else issues for your life.  My mother wanted me to major in education in college so that ‘I’d have something to fall back on’, meaning that if I didn’t marry or something happened I could always be a teacher.  Well that was in the 70’s when women were still emerging in the workplace and it was not a slam against education because my family held education in very high regard.  It’s just that she wanted me to be a teacher and I didn’t want to be a teacher.  So I became an art major instead following my own heart with a little defiance added in for good measure.

It’s so important to remain true blue to who you are.  When you are being the best expression of yourself that you can be the world is a much better place and you are at peace in your inner soul.  Is it hard?  Well sure it is because we listen to those influential voices in our lives that lovingly tell us who we should be, how we should dress, what we should do.  They mean well.  They do.  But to be your best you need to heed your call, talents and spiritual gifts honestly.

You see we all have gifts to share, we all have been called by God for a specific purpose on this earth.  And these gifts, issued by the Holy Spirit, share in the betterment of humanity and God’s kingdom.  And the real beauty of it is is that the variety and diversity are endless.  Let me share with you a passage from 1Corinthians, the twelfth chapter the Contemporary English Version…..

My friends, you asked me about spiritual gifts. I want you to remember that before you became followers of the Lord, you were led in all the wrong ways by idols that cannot even talk. Now I want you to know that if you are led by God’s Spirit, you will say that Jesus is Lord, and you will never curse Jesus.

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but they all come from the same Spirit. There are different ways to serve the same Lord, and we can each do different things. Yet the same God works in all of us and helps us in everything we do.

The Spirit has given each of us a special way of serving others. Some of us can speak with wisdom, while others can speak with knowledge, but these gifts come from the same Spirit. To others the Spirit has given great faith or the power to heal the sick or the power to work mighty miracles. Some of us are prophets, and some of us recognize when God’s Spirit is present. Others can speak different kinds of languages, and still others can tell what these languages mean. But it is the Spirit who does all this and decides which gifts to give to each of us.

It is the Spirit who gives to each of us special gifts.  Now you might ask just what is the difference between natural talents and spiritual gifts.  There is a difference; natural talents come to us by way of genetics, context and training, whereas spiritual gifts are a result of the Holy Spirit.  Natural talents can be possessed by anyone, whereas spiritual gifts are possessed by Christians, and natural talents are used for non-spiritual purposes, whereas spiritual gifts are used to God’s glory and uplifting of ministry within the Church.  There is a difference. 

It was against Jesus’ intuition to perform that miracle at Cana but he did, he discerned that the gift of changing water into wine would reveal, lift up, begin his ministry as the son of God revealed.    Being true to your calling from God will magnify and utilize your spiritual gifts.  And as scripture tells us, “The spirit has given each of us a special way of serving others.” 

And so we must roll up our sleeves and use those spiritual gifts in the here and now.  Think about it this week.  What gifts have you been given that could lift up the church hence revealing the Christ among us?  If you’re confused, come talk to me, talk to one another.  That’s how new ministries are born, by identifying a need, identifying your gifts and then putting the two together. 

The wedding at Cana was just not a miracle story involving water, wine and a party that we listen to each year.  It holds the key to unlock the mystery of our faith in Jesus Christ and the glorious gifts that the Spirit has given to each of us.


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