Second Sunday after the Epiphany
January 18, 2004
The Gospel: John 2:1-11
Sermon: "The First Miracle is a Sign of God's Grace"
The Rev. William D. Oldland
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, "Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward." So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now." Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
The First Miracle is a Sign of God's Grace
Second Sunday after the Epiphany - January 18, 2004
In 1975, my family was on a trip from South Carolina to New York. I was going to a summer camp in the Adirondacks. A wonderful man by the name of George Jonas had started this camp for adolescents. Originally George wanted to give young men the opportunity to get out of New York and see beyond the suburbs of the city. However, his dream grew to inviting young men from around the country and around the world to this camp. At the camp I was to learn about other people and cultures. Even though George died a few years after I attended the camp, the camp still exists today and has sponsored a sister camp for young women. Shows what a little dreaming can do, doesn't it?
This story, however, is not about the camp. It is about the trip there. Actually, it is about two hours of the trip to New York. The entire family was going on the trip in the family station wagon. Vans were not as popular then. Even though my parents tried to plan the trip well we arrived in Washington, DC at rush hour. Thankfully we were headed in and not out, but still the traffic was very heavy. We had a map and we knew where we wanted to go. We thought this will be simple just follow the signs. I-95 to I-395 and we have got it made. How were we to know that we would see not one sign but three signs for 395 at one time? The traffic was moving quickly and we were trying to read the signs. As I said this large intersection had three signs for 395 at the same time. The three signs gave a destination and lane designation. None of the destinations were familiar to us. We had no idea which road to take because we did not understand the signs.
Not only were the signs confusing but traffic was heavy and we were stuck in the flow of life around Washington at 5:00 in the afternoon. We couldn't change lanes easily. Traffic was flying by and we had no idea how to interpret the signs. As a result we ended up on the wrong road and we spent two hours in Washington trying to figure out where we were with no road map. With no road map street signs are kind of useless. However after two hours and stopping for directions we finally figured out what had happened and resumed our journey.
Signs, however, are very important. They give us information. They give us a sense of direction. They help us determine where we are and what is going on around us. If we see a sign on a building and it says movies, then there is a good chance we are headed towards a theater. It could also be a movie rental store. When we see a sign that says police station, we know what we will find. When we see a sign that says rest stop on the highway we know we can stop for a few minutes for our personal needs and comforts. Signs help us identify and comprehend what is going on around us.
In the Gospel lesson this morning we have an incredible sign. John tells us about Jesus' first miracle. This miracle has something important to tell us. First, it tells us who Jesus is. Second it gives us information about God's grace. Third, it shows us what God has in store for us.
In the story, Jesus and his followers, including his mother, are attending a wedding. The wine for the wedding is running out. The steward is concerned. The steward is like the caterer at today's wedding. He would make sure there was plenty of food and refreshments on the tables as provided by the wedding party. If the food or drink got low it was the wedding party's responsibility to procure more or basically end the party. Somehow, Mary found out about the predicament. She wants Jesus to fix the problem. Evidently, Jesus' identity is no secret to her. Jesus' response clues us in on Jesus' identity. He is not rude to his mother in his response. He is factual. Jesus is looking ahead to what he is to do. His hour has not come. The word hour in John's Gospel always points to fulfillment of the end times. Jesus is the One who has come to fulfill the Word of God, to usher in the kingdom of God. At the right time, the right hour, Jesus will bring in the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God. In just a few short verses we find out Jesus' identity as the Son of God. We haven't even seen the miracle yet.
While Jesus' response to Mary initially sounds negative, he does what she says. This may be a lesson to us all about our parents. The servants fill six stone jars with water. These are large jars and we are talking about a lot of water. After they fill the jars the servants draw out the contents and instead of water it is wine. The wine is excellent. The steward is surprised by the quality of the wine. He knows nothing about Jesus' intervention. He believes the groom has pulled a fast one. At a wedding the best wine was always served first. Then after everyone had plenty, the wine of lesser quality was served. The quality of the wine now presented to the steward is better than the wine he served at first.
In these verses we find out the answers to our two remaining points. We find out that God's grace is abundant. The amount of water turned into wine is a sign for us of the abundance of God's grace. If we stop to figure it out Jesus turned 120 to 180 gallons of water into wine. I don't believe the wedding party was that large. God's grace is abundant. God's desire is for us to receive that grace. The guests received the wine even though they had no idea where it originated. We receive God's grace daily. We open our eyes to a new day that is God's grace. We see people we love and for whom we care. That is God's grace. We have food to eat and a comfortable place to sleep. That is God's grace. We know what Christ did for us on the cross and that we have a place in God's kingdom. That is God's grace.
Not only do we see the abundance of God's grace, we see the quality of God's grace. We see what God has in store for us. The wine is excellent. It is the best wine. God intends the best for us. God's desire is for us to receive the excellence of his grace and respond to the best of our ability. We receive God's excellent grace freely. It is up to us to respond. First, we receive it and then we share it. We share the love God has given us one to another. We share the richness of what he has given us one to another. We take care of one another and support one another. We share the story of Jesus to others. We have just defined stewardship. Good stewardship is in response to recognizing God's grace for us. Let me say that once more, Good stewardship is in response to recognizing God's grace for us.
This first miracle is a sign to us of God's incredible grace through Jesus, the Son. Do we see the sign for what it is? Are we willing to accept the sign and follow Jesus? Are we willing to trust that God only wants the best for us? We have the choice. We can accept God's grace or we can turn away. AMEN.