Scripture | Psalm 36:5-9 | John 2:1-11
I was recently thumbing through my wedding photo album, reminiscing over memories I have. already forgotten, even though my wedding was only 3 years ago. when I came across a picture from the week before our wedding that provoked a really funny memory for me.
The wedding was a week out, the guest list was mostly finalized to around 180 people, the food had been ordered and Brittany and I set out in our little red Honda fit to buy the drinks for the rehearsal dinner and reception.
We arrived to the store, and told the manager why we had come, what kind of drinks we wanted, how long the parties were planned for, and how many people were coming and were amazed when he took us to the back of the store… where they sold not by the bottle, or the case, but by the pallet!
The picture in our wedding album was of our little red Honda Fit after we had left the store and filled it to the roof with soda, champagne, wine, and beer.
And more specifically we took the picture because our car had become so overloaded that our tires just barely had enough clearance to drive!
We did not not want the party and the celebrating to stop, so we did what almost everyone does for a wedding. We prepared as much as we could beforehand to prevent a disaster from taking place, we overbought things, we made our to-do lists, we rehearsed, and did whatever we could to make sure nothing would prevent us from celebrating our marriage to the fullest!
I’m sure almost everyone here who has been involved with a marriage is familiar with this. Weddings are one of those events where every last detail is planned, checked, and re-checked.
People prepare and prepare, and this wouldn’t have been any different for the bride and groom who were getting married in today’s gospel story.
In fact, their wedding would have likely been more complex and complicated! At the time of this story weddings were a seven day celebration that took place in the groom’s family’s house.
Can you imagine preparing for a celebration that lasted a week?! Can you imagine the menu planning? How overloaded the tires would have been on their carts after they bought enough drinks and supplies to to ensure the party kept going on?
Now imagine that after all of that planning and organizing, the celebrations finally begin! And despite your preparation the inevitable catastrophe happens as it always does!
You get three days into your wedding week… Three days into this seven day celebration, and the wine runs out… and your epic party comes to a screeching halt.
Jesus’ mother names it outright, and you can imagine her saying it quietly out of the corner of her mouth “they have no wine”
“They have no wine” is really code for, this party is dying. The celebration is ending and all of the joy and fun, and abundance that came with this party is exiting the building.
All of the sudden you start to hear, the echoes filtering throughout the crowd of people saying “well this really has been fun, and congratulations you two… but I’ve really got to get going, I’ve just remembered I have to get to work early in the morning”
If you ask me… A party ending earlier than its supposed to is at best a mild bummer.
It puts a damper on the night but to me, it definitely wouldn’t qualify as a situation that’s in need of a miracle. Especially when you look at the other miracles that would happen later in Jesus’ life. Huge crowds of hungry people are fed and there is more than enough, the blind are made able to see, the disabled are made able to walk, the dead are brought back to life!
So I get where Jesus is coming from when he at first wonders if this is really any of his business. He asks if this is his hour? Is this really what he was called here to do? So what if a party runs out of wine?! Aren’t there bigger things he should be worry about? Just look out at our world, look at the suffering, look at the corruption, look at the brokenness.. And you want me to worry about this party?
I like to imagine the scene going on behind this interaction between Jesus and his mother… with all of the wait staff scrambling to keep the party alive after they realized the wine has run out.
All of these people frantically rushing to tables to give folks extra hors d’oeuvres, going over the top to emphasize customer service, and doing whatever they can to keep the party afloat. But Jesus doesn’t leave them hanging too long.
Something causes him to change his heart, maybe its his mother making the call for him and telling the servants to “do whatever he tells you” despite him not wanting to act. Maybe this is what forces his hand.
Whatever it is, Jesus starts at it. He starts to save the party. He begins to tell the waiters what they need to do. He tells them to fill these six enormous 20 gallon clay jugs with water, and to fill them up to overflowing.
And then he tells them to pour some out to take to the head waiter. And Voila, not only does the water become wine, but it became a highly rated grand cru with an intense nose and notes of sage and hazelnut! Jesus turns water into fine wine, and not only that but 120 gallons of it that could last them at least four more days and then some!
Where there was once a celebration ending, Jesus helped to create a reason to stay and keep celebrating. Where there was absence, Jesus helped create abundance overflowing that was far better than anyone could expect.
There are a number of ways that people traditionally read miracle stories. Some of you may read a story like this and see it at surface value, that it is this incredible story about something even more incredible that took place, Jesus performed a miracle at the wedding and he continues to create miraculous things today!
Some of you may read a story like this and find in it some deeper meaning. You read it and see all of the literary devices the author is using in this story. You imagine John is using metaphor in this miracle to describe God’s restoration of abundance.
He uses symbols like wine to talk about overflowing grace, weddings, celebration and party to talk about why Christ came! This story is a sign to describe what Christ is doing in his life and resurrection, to restore God’s kingdom of grace to a place of abundance and joy!
And some of you may read this story of Jesus miracle and come at it from a place of disbelief. You may ask questions of the text and think, yeah right… how could this have happened?!
You wonder if this story took place exactly as the text says, and in your doubt you attempt to wrestle some sort of truth out of it.
I would say all of these are great ways to start reading stories of Jesus’ miracles, but for some reason, today, as I am reading this text, I am drawn to a very simple meaning in it.
John describes this miracle of Jesus as the first of his signs in his gospel, its a sign that reveals his glory. A sign that let’s people in on what God is accomplishing in Jesus’ life.
And I am profoundly moved that of all of the miracles Jesus could have performed first, of all the lives he could have changed, he uses his first miracle, this first “sign” of God’s glory shown to us in Christ is to keep a party going and to help people celebrate!
I am so moved that his first miracle is to create simple, unadulterated joy for people.
Jesus’ first instinct in ministry is to bring people to a place where they can celebrate.
That Jesus wants to meet people where they are, in their messes, in their parties without wine, and bring them to a place where they want to jump back on the dance floor and continue the party, His instinct is to bring people to a place where they can be brought back to joy, and laughter, and dancing.
And as simple as this reading of the text is, I think it sets the tone for the rest of Jesus’ ministry. All of the miracles that would follow, all of his teachings, all of the meals he shared have this same tone of a creating a celebration of God’s love, of spreading of joy.
As I start to read the gospels with this understanding does a funny thing for me.
I used to imagine someone being healed by Jesus and finding themselves so deeply moved that they walk away stunned.
Reading it from the context of the wedding at Cana, now I envision the leper getting up from his mat and dancing away, tapping his toes and whistling a tune.
In the context of the joy of the wedding at Cana, I imagine the feeding of the 5,000 breaking out into a full on party that lasted through the night, where not only everyone ate their fill, but the loaves were artisanal bread, and the fishes are fresh caught and perfectly seasoned, and everyone left this party and for years remembered how much fun that night was!
This story of the Cana wedding, tells me that God sent Jesus to bring joy back into our living. That this is what his life, his ministry, and his resurrection are all about! God doesn’t redeem us into dull lives but God redeems us to live exuberant and delicious lives!
Robert Hotchkins, a theologian at University of Chicago was once quoted by saying “Christians ought to be celebrating constantly. We ought to be preoccupied with parties, banquets, feasts, and merriment. We ought to give ourselves over to veritable (orgies) all night blow-outs of joy because we have been liberated from the fear of life and the fear of death! We ought to attract people to the church quite literally by the fun there is in being a Christian!”
To me this is what this miracle story of the wedding at Cana is all about. This is what God’s grace as revealed to us in Christ is all about, bringing people to such a restored place that their lives are a celebration! That they are so moved with joy that they want to invite others to the party!
What if we saw any church community gathering as a party. What if our committee meetings, and youth groups, and potlucks, and worship were seen as a full on blow out wedding reception?!
In reflecting on this passage one pastor remarked:
“Even now God wants for the community of faith to be a celebration of people. Brothers and sisters in Christ eating barbecue on their back porch and laughing until the sun goes down; Christian women turning the church gym into a festive tea party as they share gospel and good food together; a new member’s dinner at someone’s home that ends with folks hugging one another and giving thanks to God for the welcome they’ve received at church”
This is who we are called to be as followers of Christ! We are a called to a vibrant faith, and as a community we are called to discover the miracle of that joy here in one another.
May you discover God’s call to get up on the dance floor, and join the party!