There’s so much in these eleven short verses from the Gospel of John. There’s so much we could talk about. Do we want to talk about ancient wedding traditions? Should we cover the appropriate use of wine in celebrations? Do we want to talk about when Jesus realized his own divinity and calling? (May I shamelessly put in a plug for Progressive Pints next Monday on Jesus’ humanity and divinity?)
Perhaps we cover parenting in ancient times? For all the mothers of sons in the congregation, you might read the first few verses again as an act of solidarity with Mary. You probably heard those verses and thought, “Yup, sounds about right. I know what’s best for my son, if only he would listen.” It’s kinda fun, to me, to imagine Jesus rolling his eyes at Mary’s suggestion “ugh, mom, that’s not our problem. It’s not my time.”
And yet...you have to wonder what happened between the imagined eye roll and Jesus essentially doing what his mom told him to. Maybe she used his full name so he knew she was serious. “Jesus, son of Joseph of Nazareth! You do what I tell you right now!” ;)
Maybe Mary especially understood what was at stake...the family’s honor...and that’s what propelled her to propel her son to act. In the culture of that time, a family’s honor or reputation was of extreme importance. Providing amply for wedding guests was a part of that. So, for them to run out of wine would have tarnished their standing in the community.
Whatever happened, whatever was said, whatever thoughts passed by, the end result is the story of a person stepping into their role, recognizing that their time had come to use God-given gifts in order to help others.
A person recognizing the skills they have that can help improve a situation for another.
It’s a simplification of today’s Scripture, I know, yet it’s a lesson and a reminder to each of us that we have skills that can help improve a situation for another. Do we recognize when our time has come to step into that role?
This weekend, as a nation, we remember the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We remember how he recognized the skills he had and stepped into a role as a leader within the civil rights movement. He recognized that his time had come to use his power of words to inspire others to non-violently act against racial inequality, believing that “the time is always right to do what is right.” He acted on the right time.
How do we use our skills to help improve a situation for another?
Many of you may be thinking “This all great, Pastor, but as much as I want to, I can’t turn water into wine and I don’t even like reading Scripture to 100 people, much less speak in front of hundreds and thousands of people.”
Our roles do not have to be as “grand” as Dr. King. When we look back at the story in John, we see that many people took part in bringing about God’s miracle.
In the spirit of Godly Play (a great method in Religious Education for filling out the stories of the Bible), let’s ask who are all the players in this story? Where do we find ourselves?
Other than Jesus, we have Mary...who was the one asking Jesus to do a miraculous act
the disciples....who were simply along for the ride
the servants...who were lugging the heavy containers of liquid around
the wine steward...who discovered the miraculous event
the newlywed couple and wedding guests...who were on the receiving end and probably surprised by Jesus’ action
Kim Beckmann (New Proclamation Year C 2010) shares the responses of Bible study participants who read the text through the eyes of the [servants] who had to lug those giant stone jars full of either water or wine…
One participant says, "When I think about what this means in terms of the heavy lifting of my work, my relationships, and even, frankly, my church life, I'm so blown away by this glimpse of Jesus, and so mindful of how drably dutiful I've felt about such a gift." (Kathryn Matthews, Sermons Seeds, ucc.org)
“Drably dutiful!” I love this reflection on the unnamed servants in this miracle story. How often do any of us get bogged down and “drably dutiful” over the things we do - the heavy lifting - while unnamed or in the background?! Yet, these workers were a part of a larger miraculous story and so are those here whose work is “behind the scenes.”
I think about the disciples and note how they were simply along for the ride, possibly an extreme “plus 1” situation, and then they witnessed Jesus’ first “sign,” according to John. They were already considered Jesus’ disciples, or followers, so they knew he had a special message and movement they wanted to be a part of….but, then! Then, they gained a new level of understanding after this. It makes me think about our lives as Christ-followers and how when we witness a “miracle” (however we define that), we gain a deeper understanding of God and it propels us to want to do more or tell others.
Another participant from Beckmann’s study reflects on Mary's role in the story, and wonders if we have a share in "bringing God's intent for new life to birth" (Matthews). In other words, can we propel God forward to action?
It’s an excellent topic of discussion we’ve had here on occasion - how do our prayers, our requests of God, effect bringing about God’s will on earth?
It shouldn’t be lost on us that all of these roles were at a wedding! A party! A celebration! That alone reminds us that God’s work takes place in some of the most ordinary of life circumstances, a wedding, with some of the most ordinary materials of life, water. It reminds us also that our lives as Christians should have some fun in it!
ALL of these people and these actions bring about God’s work. Likewise, we ALL play a role in bringing about God’s will. Some of us are leaders speaking in front of crowds, like Dr. King; others of us are lugging around huge jugs we think are filled with water, but are actually carrying a miracle. 1 Corinthians 12 reminds us that all have gifts given by the Holy Spirit and that we shouldn’t take any of them lightly.
In John Pavlovitz’s recent book, Hope & Other Superpowers, he encourages the reader to know that we all have a superpower within us - the ability to comfort a child, the ability to organize people to action, the ability to know what’s wrong with a person’s body. Normally, those superpowers are discovered in times of need (when people are hurting or without basic needs), not prosperous times (when everything is going our way). Much like the revealing of Jesus’ divinity, his work as the Son of Man was revealed to people in times of need, not during times of victory.
And so, we look for where there is need around us.
I included the Psalm selection from today to remind us of the goal that we are working toward. How precious is God’s steadfast love that all people may take refuge in it! We want all to know the fountain of life and light that God’s presence brings so that they drink from the river of God’s delights. May God’s righteousness and judgment reach far so that all humans and animals experience God’s steadfast love.
Friends, we have come a long way and we still have a long way to go for all to equally know God’s steadfast love and the wisdom that comes with it.
Draw from those things that give you resiliency and re-energize you so that, together, we can move forward.
What is your superpower?
Scripture: Psalm 36:5-10; John 2:1-11