Summary: This sermon on the second Sunday of Epiphany focuses on Jesus’ first miracle of changing the water to wine at a wedding in Cana.
"If You’re Going to Have a Wedding..."
Sermon on John 2:1-11
January 18, 2009
The Rev. J. Curtis Goforth, O.S.L.
Badin United Methodist Church
It seems that at every wedding, something is bound to go wrong. No matter how much planning has gone into it, no matter how much attention to detail there has been, something always seems to go wrong at a wedding.
I helped do a wedding not too long ago for a long-time family friend who has also been my father’s business partner for many years. They weren’t exactly church-going people. The groom was a former member of the Outlaw biker gang who’s covered from head to toe with tattoos and the bride was a former “exotic dancer.” Needless to say, I had some reservations about this marriage ceremony.
I initially told them I couldn’t take part in the service. I knew this couple didn’t go to church regularly, and I thought I would just take the moral high road and tell them that I wasn’t in the wedding industry. I was going to tell them something along the lines that my bishop wouldn’t allow me to marry anybody that wasn’t a member of my church. But then I was reading through the gospels and I noticed immediately that Jesus was always with “unreligious” people like these two. Jesus was more frequently found with the bikers and strippers of his day than with church folks. So, I told them I would do the wedding if they did my premarital counseling sessions.
So, the wedding was set to happen on a Saturday at 2:00 pm. And the day of the wedding at 2:00 pm, we were missing the bride, two groomsmen, and three bridesmaids. I always knew that something would go wrong at every wedding, but I had not planned on something going this wrong! As I was standing at the back of the church waiting for the wedding party to get there, I overheard one of the bride’s brothers say, “This thing better go off without a hitch, cause I had to buy a brand new pair of blue jeans just for this thing.” Well, much to my surprise and the delight of the bride’s brother with his new pair of blue jeans, the wedding party all got there (except one bridesmaid) and everything went off without a hitch, if forty-five minutes late.
Something always goes wrong at a wedding. In our Gospel lesson this morning from John, something even went wrong at a wedding Jesus had been invited to. Presumably, nothing really went wrong with the wedding service, but it did at the reception afterward. They ran out of wine.
And that was a terrible thing to happen at a Jewish wedding in the first century. It would have been viewed as a bad luck omen on the new couple. It would have been terribly shameful to the families involved for this sort of thing to happen. The wedding festivities went on for about a week in their tradition at that time, and running out of wine would be worse than not having a wedding cake.
So Mary tells Jesus that they are running out of wine and that he should do something about it. Jesus tells his mother that it is not his time or place. But nonetheless, Jesus tells the servants to fill some stone jars with water. This is no simple task, because there were six jars each holding 20-30 gallons of water, and 180 gallons of water is a little bit heavy. But the servants do as they are told and Jesus tells them to take some of the contents of the jars to the chief steward. We are told in no grand way that this water had somehow become wine, and good wine at that. The steward is taken aback because this wine is even better than the wine they served first.
Every time I read this story, every time I read all the stories in the Bible for that matter, something new jumps out at me that I’ve never really noticed before. I never really noticed just how un-miraculous this miracle is. Jesus doesn’t stand over the water jars and make a big show of transforming the water into wine. Jesus doesn’t draw attention to himself in any way. In fact, the only people that even know this miracle has happened are the servants that carried all that water, and presumably Jesus’ disciples. Most of the people at the wedding don’t even realize a miracle has happened. They just go on eating, drinking, and being merry. Not much has changed in the world. Many people still fail to see the miracles in life.
But another thing jumped out at me this time as well. Not only is this miracle done largely in secret, but it wouldn’t have happened without the help of those servants. If you’ll notice, the jars were empty. The servants had a hand in this miracle. The servants still have a hand in God’s miracles. You and I have been called to be the servants that work with Jesus to bring about a miraculous transformation of the world. It may have seemed like a mundane task to those servants to carry all that heavy water and fill up a stone jar. Had I been one of them, I would have been complaining that our time would be better spent going to the grocery store. But Jesus can take mundane, everyday things and transform them—water into wine, servant into miracle worker, sinner into saint.