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The Second Sunday after the Epiphany
January 20, 2013
The Gospel: John 2: 1-11
Sermon: "Do Whatever He Tells You!"
The Reverend Dr. Richard (Rick) Miles
Watch the complete video of this service on our YouTube Channel
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.
Do Whatever He Tells You!
It’s a very old parable; a so-called parable of life parable. It starts like this: A young man, who had spent his childhood in a secluded valley, became obsessed with climbing ever higher to explore the mountains around him. Little by little, he lengthened his journeys of discovery. He longed for the joy and the peril of the ascent. He longed for the ever widening horizon, which as he rose, seemed to make him the creator of a vaster world. He dreamed day and night of the summits above him, where he would at last be able to stretch his hand and touch the sky. He would be able to open his eyes in the night, and “Behold!” an infinite number of stars would keep him company.
With all the world before him, he set his feet on the rocky path. He looked back at the old home where he had lived, and the fields where people toiled, and the houses in which they loved and lived and suffered and died, and he grew proud with the awareness that he was ascending to a nobler fate. The radiant sky, the widening vision, the glorious freedom from lesser, meaner works and cares thrilled his soul and gave him a consciousness of immortality.
There came a day, finally, when he stood at the point where the clouds gathered about the gateway of the ultimate heights. It was a point of no return; to be forever on the heights, forever one with his noble purpose, forever free. He turned for a last look at the distant valley, so far below from where he stood. From this height it seemed part of a lower world, apart from him, unimportant, small, other.
Yet, as he looked, something out of his childhood seemed to reach out to him. Out of the fields a barely audible murmur arose. Out of the scattered homes came a faint cry he could just hear. As he hung there, waiting and still, the rising sounds seemed to come together, to coalesce into a single voice. He knew that he was hearing the cry of his kind; the appeal of their sorrows, toils, uncertainties, doubts, miseries, and weaknesses. It was the deep, compelling voice of the soul of humanity in the labor of its Earthly life. The cry grew clearer and stronger as he listened, until at last the vast gulf of space seemed to be filled with it. Now, on his heart there fell an infinite sadness; on his face a look of agony. Above him were freedom and mastery. Beneath him were care, sorrow, work, limitation, misunderstanding, disappointment. On the heights there would be achievement in the ascent; though a solitary, alone achievement. In the valley there would be struggle, but also a wisdom found in fellowship and service. He waited, struggled, hesitated, then, his mind resolved, descended.
As a parable of life parable, this story could be interpreted in a myriad of ways. But this morning, as we leave the glories of the Advent/Christmas/Epiphany season, and enter what is called, officially if somewhat mundanely, ordinary time, it reminds us that Jesus descended from the mountaintop of his divinity to become human; indeed, to become the voice for and of our humanity.
In our lesson this morning from the Gospel According to John, we hear that voice calling to us to descend from whatever ambition would isolate us from others, and join him. In our Gospel lesson this morning we hear the one miracle of Jesus that virtually every person on the street knows about. Jesus changes the water into wine. Even Jay Leno’s Jaywalking All-stars know this one. This miracle has been referred to as the frontispiece to the Gospel. That is to say, that it is a dramatic picturing of things to come, as the life of Christ is further revealed: How the Savior identifies with other people’s problems; how he takes on other people’s sufferings as his own; how he keeps on coming down from the mountaintop to carry out his ministry of loving service.
Two immediate thoughts come to mind as we look into this miracle at the wedding feast story this morning. And the first thought is this: Jesus was there! He had been invited. He obviously fit in. His presence represented something other than that of an aloof ascetic, sitting stone-faced at the table. We’ve all had to endure the type; maintaining the awkward silence that makes everyone else uncomfortable. The story suggests that he was very much part of the festivity. Mary, his mother, is circulating well enough to quickly learn of the host’s embarrassment over the wine running out. She does not hesitate to talk to the waiters about it, advising them to follow Jesus’ instructions, after a bit of discussion with her son. “Do whatever he tells you,” she says.
A Rabbi friend of mine has said that this story is the ultimate proof that Jesus and Mary were Jewish: She assumes that she is in charge, and he can’t say “No!” to his mama. She has no doubts that Jesus will do as she asks. Nor does she doubt that Jesus is interested in seeing that the celebration continues. She appeals to him, confidently. The thing most to see here is that Jesus did not hold himself above innocent human joy! He participated in it. As St Teresa of Avila once said, “Lord, Deliver us from frowning saints!”
It is not a frowning Jesus, not a cosmic killjoy, who invites us to come down from our isolation and into the festival of life. It is rather the Jesus of the wedding feast who beckons us to come; who really wants us; who assures us that we also fit in at his feast of life. It is the Jesus of the wedding feast who teaches us how to use our gifts as instruments of peace and healing among our human kindred. It is the Jesus of the wedding feast who teaches us to believe in his miraculous power of transformation that lifts up the dull and the routine to Heavenly heights.
That’s the first thought to grasp in our Gospel lesson of the wedding feast this morning; Jesus was there. He took part in the joy.
Here’s the other thought: Ordinary routine made this miracle happen.
Notice how Jesus draws the servants into his miracle of transformation. For them, the wedding feast means the performance of routine tasks; serving the food, delivering the drinks, picking up after the guests, dull kitchen chores; just another job. Even Jesus’ request to fill the jars with water is just another routine task that the servants are called upon to perform. But, suddenly, they find that they are being drawn into a miraculous event. Jesus has made them his co-workers. Together, with Jesus, they make this wondrous miracle happen.
And that’s how Jesus works with you and me. As we follow the command to “Do whatever he tells you” we can find ourselves caught up in the miraculous; even in the midst of our everyday routine. We can be participants – No! -- Better than that! We can be co-workers with Jesus in transforming lives by the power of God’s love. A transforming miracle doesn’t require an astounding act on our part. It doesn’t require a special event, or a colossal confluence of fateful happenings. It only requires that we, Christ’s servants, do as he tells us, keep faithfully to our service for him, and keep our eyes expectantly open. With Christ, your ordinary, normal routine can make miracles happen. That’s the other thought.
So, remember, wherever you are, whatever you and I are about or doing, Christ is with us in all of it. Join the feast. Do whatever he tells you. And keep your eyes open!