Sorry so late! Been a crazy couple of days – after church on Sunday, Bruce and I headed out to Hartford to see Cinderella at the Bushnell Theater! My dad is doing Cinderella this year so he treated us all to tickets as “field research”. It was AMAZING! I cannot wait to see what he does with it in March!
Here is my sermon … turning water into wine!
Rehoboth Congregational Church
January 17, 2016
Our Stories Are Still Being Written
Weddings have a tendency to bring out the – um, how shall I put this nicely – stressed-out side of people, particularly the women who are involved in the planning side of things.
Honestly, I do not want to promote gender stereotypes or anything, but I work with a lot of brides (and was, myself, a bride once) and sometimes even with the best of sane intentions someone ends up sobbing hysterically in the church parking lot three hours before the rehearsal.
Not that I am speaking from experience, or anything.
Anyway, my point is this: Weddings are kind of a big familial and social affair. They are now and they were back when the wedding in this morning’s scripture took place. People come from near and far to be part of the occasion and there are a lot of logistical details that need to be worked out in order for things to run smoothly. Obviously, in the case of this wedding in Cana, one important detail had been overlooked – the quantity of wine that would be needed.
Running out of wine probably would not go over well at a wedding today, but back then it was even more of a social faux pas, because weddings were a much longer ordeal. In those days, weddings were not just a one-day party; the bride and groom celebrated their marriage with a wedding feast at the groom’s house that lasted seven days. The hosts probably would have wanted to practice hospitality as they welcomed people into their homes; they would have worked hard to ensure that their guests had everything that they needed. They would not, I assume, want to run out of wine.
So Mary, who was referred to in this story as, “the mother of Jesus,” saw the problem at hand and immediately jumped into crisis-management mode. She said to Jesus, “They have no wine.” (John 2:3, NRSV) And Jesus, in a typical male, let’s-not-get-worked-up-over-something-that-can-be-easily-fixed fashion, responds, essentially, by saying, “Why is this our problem?”
And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” (John 2:4, NRSV)
Here is the thing that I find really intriguing about what Jesus said here: While perhaps he did kind of downplay the seriousness of the fact that they had run out of wine, he also said something that indicated that the problem was kind of already being taken care of, that the story was not necessarily over yet.
My hour has not yet come.
As people reading this text 2,000 years later, we know that the story was not over. We know that Jesus instructed the servants to fill the jars holding water for the purification ritual to the brim with water. We know that when they did this and drew the liquid out of the jars that it had, in fact, turned into wine. We know that God did a miraculous thing through this story, that God took something ordinary and turned it into something extraordinary. We know that God’s work was not over when the people realized they were out of wine. We know that God took something that was lacking and changed it into something rich. We know that God transformed a moment of crisis into a moment of grace.
But here is something that we do not know: We do not know how our own stories will end. In our own moments of crisis (ones more serious than running out of wine), we do not know what is going to happen next. When we face our own challenges, we do not know what we are supposed to do. When our own world seems dark, we do not have enough light to know which direction to turn. When something heartbreaking and devastating shakes the foundation of our lives, we do not know how to go on.
All of us have moments in our lives where we are overtaken by the frightening power of the unknown and in those moments, we need someone to tell us that it is not over yet. We, too, need to hear Jesus’ voice saying, “My hour has not yet come.” We need to believe in our hearts that God has started something amazing in our lives and that God’s work is not done yet, no matter what trial we might be facing.
This story reminds us that when all seems lost, there is always hope. In the same way that hope can be found in stone jars filled to the brim with water, hope can also be found in the pieces of our lives.
This is God’s promise to us as people living on this side of the resurrection.
My hour has not yet come.
Jesus’ words remind of the miraculous power of the resurrection; a resurrection that – for 2,000 years – has proven to us that even in death, Jesus’ story was not over yet.
Which is why I can say with confidence and hope in my heart that – in the end – God will always have the final word.
Realistically speaking, running out of wine is not the end of the world; but this story shows, in a bold and tangible way, the transformative power of God’s presence in our lives. God has the ability to take something that is broken and make those pieces whole again. God has the ability to take something that is dried up and fill it to the brim so that it is overflowing. God has the ability to take something insignificant and turn it into something abundant.
But we have to believe that God is still at work in our lives. We have to believe that God is not finished with us yet.
When things in our lives are not going right or not going the way that we planned or how we envisioned they might go, we have to hold onto the bold and radical truth that God’s work is not done yet. Our stories are not over; they are still being written.
This is a story about miracles. This is a story about abundance. This is a story about second chances. This is a story about transformation. This is a story about a faith that is still very much alive and at work in the world and in our lives. This is a story that reminds us that we should not give up, no matter how bad things look.
Because God’s glory can and will be revealed even in the most desperate of situations.
We just have to hold on to the belief that this will happen.
This story comes at the very beginning of the Gospel of John. It is the first of Jesus’ many signs throughout this book; these signs were the miracles that revealed God’s glory in very real and tangible ways in the world. As we read and remember this story today, I think it is important for us to think about the ways that God’s glory is still being revealed today.
I know that, for many of you, this may not always be an easy thing to cling onto. The truth is that there are people in our lives and in this very community who are hurting in real and heartbreaking ways. Week after week, we lift to God in prayer those who we name and those prayers that are still just too raw to be spoken out loud. Sometimes it is hard to believe that God’s glory is going to be revealed in our lives because we are just barely holding ourselves together.
But remember what happened in Cana: In a moment of need, God provided. In a moment of darkness, God’s light shone brightly. In a moment of emptiness, God’s grace overflowed.
We have to believe that this will happen in our lives.
The last line of this passage gives us something strong to hold onto:
Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. (John 2:11, NRSV)
The disciples believed in him. They believed; even if they did not fully understand what was going on, they believed. They believed in what Jesus could do and they believed in God’s power in the world.
Perhaps this line of scripture is not just a historical account of what happened after Jesus performed this miracle in Cana. Perhaps this is also a call for us to believe; to believe that a miracle will happen in our lives, to believe that God is working within us, to believe that our stories are still being written and to believe that God’s glory can and will be revealed in our world.
We have to believe.
There will be moments in our lives when our tears and anxieties come from something far more tragic and desperate than empty wine barrels or being a stressed out bride.
And these are the moments when we have to believe. We have to believe that grace will intercede in our lives when we need it most. We have to believe that our stories are not over yet.
So take heart – even in the midst of your struggles. God is doing something amazing in your life, even if it is damn near impossible to see right now. Do not give up. Let God’s glory be revealed through you for all the world to see.
Thanks be to God!