Series: It’s All About Jesus!
Sermon: Water into Wine
Pastor Diane Gordon
Mt Pleasant FUMC
January 22, 2017
Scriptures: Isaiah 9:1-4 NRSV and John 2:1-11 NRSV
We continue with the Gospel-writer John’s telling of the work and life of Jesus. Today’s story is only shared in the Gospel of John, not Matthew, Mark or Luke. Those three synoptic gospels followed the same source, but John’s telling is more independent, sharing more private moments between Jesus and his disciples. John uses this story of Jesus turning the water into fine wine as the starting point for all of Jesus’ miracles.
We surmise that this was the wedding of a relative of Mary, taking place in Cana, a city a little over 8 miles from Nazareth. That would explain Mary’s presence and Jesus and his disciples being invited to the wedding. It would also explain Mary’s concern when they ran out of wine. Weddings in those days were a multi-day event and the groom was responsible for providing for his guests for the entire time of celebration. To run out of wine when the celebration is only half over would have caused major embarrassment to the groom and his family. Mary’s concern would be warranted, for the sake of her family; perhaps a nephew being married, for instance.
Meanwhile, Jesus has been gathering his followers; finding men (and women) who are open to the work of God’s grace, looking for a leader to bring about an end to the domination and oppression of their people and redemption of their souls. He has only just begun his work, according to John, and when Mary comments to Jesus that “they have no wine” his response is less disrespectful than it is a statement of mission. It’s not time yet for the fulfillment of the prophecies. This is not his big reveal, as we might say today. There needed to be a lot more healing and teaching to take place before his mission is complete. Mary gets this, but is not deterred in her efforts to help her family member’s plight. She simply instructs the servants to “do whatever he tells you.”
Would that we were all as determined as Mary to help our family, our neighbors, and our acquaintances who are in need of what Jesus has to offer. “Do whatever he tells you” speaks to us today as we live in a world that needs the peace of Christ to wash away our warring madness and our desensitization to violence. We see murder so often on television, in movies, in video games and on the news that we no longer feel anguished by it. It has become the norm. If someone gets torqued at the way someone else is driving down the highway, road rage and gun violence have become a thing we must beware. If a black man happens to fumble with his keys as he gets into his car, another person thinks to call the police, who then rough him up and arrest him, when he has done nothing wrong.
“Do whatever [Jesus] tells you” was not the message that phone caller listened to. No, she listened to the bigotry of friends and family who taught her to assume that all black men are dangerous and up to no good. She only realized it too late. Fortunately, this time, the black man, a graduate student at Northwestern University, was not killed for driving black.
Jesus’ mother knew the power of her son. She also knew that everyone, for all time, need to pay attention to what he said and did. In this story, he saved the party by creating about 150 gallons of fine wine; better wine than they were able to afford to start out with. No big announcement was made about what Jesus had just done. Only a select few ever knew they had run out of wine, and only the servants who had lugged 150 gallons of water to fill the stone jars knew that what they had just put in the jars was no longer water. Mary and the disciples who were with Jesus would have known and John wanted the world to know. He used this as the first miracle of Jesus; a pronouncement that Jesus had power to transform. Jesus had, and still has, the power to transform the ordinary into extraordinary. He has the power to transform us as well.
C.S Lewis reflected upon this miracle this way:
“God creates the vine and teaches it to draw up water by its roots and, with the aid of the sun, to turn that water into a juice which will ferment and take on certain qualities. Thus, every year, from Noah’s time till ours, God turns water into wine. That, men fail to see. Either like the Pagans they refer the process to some finite spirit, Bacchus or Dionysus: or else, like the moderns, they attribute real and ultimate causality to the chemical and other material phenomena which are all that our senses can discover in it. But when Christ at Cana makes water into wine, the mask is off. The miracle is only half its effect if it only convinces us that Christ is God: it will have its full effect if whenever we see a vineyard or drink a glass of wine we remember that here works He who sat at the wedding party in Cana.
– from “Miracles,” God in the Dock
We are guilty as well. We experience everyday miracles and fail to recognize the source and power behind them. Mother nature sometimes gets the credit, but our Creator is none other than she who creates, grows, breathes life and nourishes. Jesus acts in our lives on a daily basis, reminding us with every breath just how precious is life. The ordinary is transformed into food and nourishment given the body, thus sustaining life. Caution to us who consume that which is not healthy, to the detriment of our body’s functioning. Woe to those who produce those things we consume that make us sick, fat and entrapped by cravings all so they can gain a profit.
To know the power of God through Jesus and believe in that power which makes all things possible; whether that be a quest to find peace of heart, to lose weight and regain health, or to experience redemption from sin and evil. Jesus is still at work in our world, transforming hearts and lives. All things are possible with Him.
Too often we think will power is the way to success. We are told that if we want it badly enough we can will ourselves better, thinner, stronger, richer, smarter, holier, etc. There is a problem with that logic. Yes, we must have the intention to change, but we all need help. We need the power of God’s grace to redeem our brokenness, our addictions, our lack of whatever, to bring to fruition the potential God has planted in us. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to change us from water to wine. Jesus showed us it is possible, beginning in Cana.
Trust God to work in you, that you may become what God desires for you. Cooperate with the Spirit by staying true to God’s will, praying and asking God’s help daily, and in the good times, too. Don’t wait to hit rock bottom before realizing that something different is possible. There is hope!
God loves us and wants the best for us. Amen.