The Message, January 16, 2022, "Serving the Good Stuff"

The Message, January 16, 2022, "Serving the Good Stuff"

Author: Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
January 18, 2022

 

“Serving the Good Stuff”
John 2:1-11
A Message by Rev. Scott W. Cousineau

            Over the course of my ministry, I have performed a LOT of weddings. I have lost track at this point, but well over two hundred. I may even be closing in on three hundred. Now, I have not attended all of the receptions … some, I was not invited, and others I was not able to attend … but of those that I did attend, I cannot ever recall an occasion when they ran out of wine.

            In today’s day and age, most couples spend a lot more time planning the reception that they do planning the wedding ceremony. They have to find the venue, book the caterer, the DJ, and the photographer. They have to taste the cake and pick out their flowers, and then there is the guest list and the seating arrangements. I often tell couples that if they can navigate planning their reception, they can do just about anything!

            Of course, as extravagant as today’s weddings and receptions can be, they do not hold a candle to the wedding celebrations in ancient Israel! Those were week-long occasions! The day began with a banquet before the ceremony, and then the ceremony itself. After the ceremony, the couple was escorted home … paraded through the streets by their guests, taking the long route so that they could greet as many people as possible. They were dressed as kings and queens for the parade, and then were treated as such for the following week!

            And, as one might expect, weddings were community events. The whole village was invited, and possibly folks from neighboring villages. People that lived simple lives and ate as sparingly as possible enjoyed a banquet of abundance as they celebrated the young couple.

            So … imagine what it would be like to run out of wine! Catastrophe! Actually … worse than catastrophe … humiliation and shame! Running out of wine would have brought tremendous shame upon the family. Shame that they would have carried with them for years. Wine was essential for Jewish feasts and festivals. It was not that they were drunkards. In fact, public drunkenness was a sin. But the ancient rabbis said, “Without wine there is no joy!”

            That is the situation into which we enter this morning. Not just a party turned sour by modern standards, but with a potentially humiliating episode that would have brought shame to a young couple and their families.

            Jesus and the disciples came onto the scene and his mom said, “Jesus, Jesus, we have run out of wine!” (Clearly Mary was involved with the planning of the event and was in a position of responsibility.)

            Now, we know very little about Jesus when he was growing up. Did he perform acts of power? Did he do little miracles around the house? We do not know for sure, but obviously Mary knew that there was something that Jesus could do about the problem. She did not need to specify what needed to be done. She knew that Jesus knew what to do.

            And Jesus replied, “Yes, mother, I will take care of it!”

            Or … “Woman, what concern is that to you and me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”

            I do want to pause for this aside, because historically, people have been troubled by this exchange. They feel that Jesus was rude and disrespectful, or dismissive of his mother, and that was not the case at all.

“Woman” was a common form of address. It was actually a title of respect or courtesy. Jesus used it frequently when he addressed women. The trouble is that we do not have an English equivalent for the term and its meaning.

And then, “What concern is it for me?” was a common pattern of response. The phrase in that context means something more like: “Do not worry. Leave it to me. I will take care of it.”

Which makes sense, because the words that Mary spoke immediately after that exchange were to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you to do.”

Even though he had said that his time had not yet come, Jesus did not withhold his power. Jesus performed the first miracle of his ministry. He turned the water into wine.

The setting was intimate … a home in a little village not to far from his hometown. The act brought joy and merriment and it prevented a family from suffering shame and humiliation. And Jesus offered his disciples the first clue … the first sign … as to his true nature.

You may recall my brilliant impersonation of Inspector Columbo that I offered a few months ago. “Just one more thing …” The Gospel of John is very clear in its intent. John is going to offer us clues, or signs, so that we can discover for ourselves the true nature of Jesus Christ.

John was not simply telling us about something that Jesus did one day in Palestine. He is giving us the big picture and telling us of the things that he has done throughout history and continues to do today.

This gospel is all about transformation. What does it mean when Jesus enters into our lives? Let us follow the clues.

We will start with those water jugs. Why did John give us so much detail about them? Six stone jugs that hold twenty to thirty gallons each. Hmmm …

Stone water jogs as opposed to clay. The stone was not porous like clay which meant that they did not have to go through the same Levitical purification requirement.

Six of them holding twenty to thirty gallons each … the water to be used for the ritual washing of hands and feet before the banquet and between each course. From this we can deduce that this was a large gathering and because they were empty means that the celebration was well underway.

Jesus said to fill ALL of them to the brim. That is a LOT of wine. No wedding celebration, even one that lasted a week would consume one hundred and twenty or one hundred and fifty GALLONS of wine! Especially since they typically mixed the wine with some water.

So, what are we to make of that?

It is about the abundance. The power and grace of Jesus Christ is extravagant. He could have simply estimated how much wine would be needed and then transformed just enough water, but he did not. He transformed it all! He offers superabundance. We think of the words in the Twenty-third Psalm, “my cup overflows.” With the benefit of hindsight, we think of the Feeding of the 5000. Jesus offers abundance. His grace and mercy overflow.

Jesus said, “My hour has not yet come,” but then he performed an act of power, his first miracle.

The wedding was a moment that existed at the edge of two ages. The old eon and the new danced together in that moment. It was the hour that was yet to come giving way to that which will be … the glorification of Jesus Christ.

That moment was one of what we call “Thin Places” where heaven and earth come together. It was the fulfillment of something that Jesus said to Nathaniel just two days earlier: “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” (John 1:51) In that ‘thin place’ moment, heaven opened and blessed those on earth.

And then there were Mary’s instructions to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you to do.”

They are the same words that Pharaoh told the builders in Egypt referring to Joseph. “Do whatever he tells you to do” and we will rebuild this kingdom, we will save our people. Mary offers the same instruction to all of those who would follow. Those were important words then and they are important words for us today.

Let us synthesize all of this information … all of the clues.

John began his Gospel with this clue: “In the beginning was the Word, … and the Word became flesh.”

And then the hour that had not yet come … came.

And then the water became wine.

The message of the story is about transformation. It is about newness and new life. It is the story of the love and the life of God.

It is about superabundance and extravagance.

But … is it about us? And if so, what does it mean for us?

Someone once said that “Every [person] is a dream and an idea of God.” Created
in the image of God, by the love of God, we nurtured and inspired by God. We are the vessels, the stone jars filled by God.

            In that age and in every age, water is precious … water is life. Then Jesus took that which was already precious and offered a wondrous gift … new life! The miracle was not the rejection of, or the replacement of, that which was before, but rather the creation of something new!

            New life! Life within life!

            The Word of God transforms us. The Way of Christ transforms us. Our lives are made new. The question remains … what will we do with that life? How will we respond?

            Jesus Christ offers superabundance to all. Will we do the same?

            Amen.


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