January 19, 2020
A wedding celebration – a day filled with hope and excitement. A day rooted in love and flowing with anticipation. A day when the two become one, taking on a new identity as husband and wife.
What’s the best wedding you’ve attended? Maybe it was your own, or that of your kids, or of a good friend. Weddings are filled with hope and expectations, with happiness and joy, and also some tears. They are sentimental days, as life transitions are. But overall, weddings are among the most joyful of celebrations.
Since they are such special occasions, people want them to be as perfect as they can be. They want the guests to have a good experience. Wedding couples and their families generally spend a significant amount of time and money to provide good food and drink for their guests. Having had a daughter get married a couple of years ago, I know how expensive it can be to host a wedding. But you do what you can to make it memorable and special.
As we think about the wedding at Cana described in our scripture for today, it was a joyful celebration that went on for several days. It is at the wedding at Cana that Jesus turns water into wine. At his mother’s prompting, Jesus does this gracious act so that the wedding couple and their families won’t be embarrassed by the lack of wine and so that the party can go on. He did what he could so that this couple’s special day would be as perfect as possible.
It is noteworthy that when Jesus’ mother, Mary, brings the concern to Jesus saying, “They have no wine,” she didn’t tell Jesus what to do. She didn’t ask him to turn water into wine. She just raised the concern and trusted that Jesus would do whatever is best. Mary was a wise woman. As we approach Jesus with our concerns, too often we try to tell him how to solve the situation. But, we might do well to follow Mary’s example and simply bring our concerns to Jesus and trust that he will do whatever is best.
Turning water into wine might seem like an unexpected way for Jesus to begin his ministry. He could have healed someone or done something dramatic like walking on water. But instead he blessed this wedding reception with bountiful wine. In doing so, he revealed something about himself. To those who had eyes to see, he gave a glimpse into his identity as the Son of God.
This is the first “sign” in a series of seven signs, Jesus performs in the gospel of John. We might call this a “miracle,” but John calls it a “sign.” Signs signify something; they point to something other than themselves, that have meaning. In this case, this sign points to Jesus’ divinity.
This season of Epiphany is about revelation. Throughout Epiphany we get glimpses of the glory of God revealed in human form in the person of Jesus Christ.
Last week we reflected on the Wise Men. Their eyes were open to something special happening by the sign they saw in the heavens. They followed that star for many miles to meet the infant king. And when they saw him, they recognized that they were in the presence of the holy and fell down and worshipped him.
Throughout his ministry, Jesus’ ongoing task involves revealing his divine nature as the Son of God. People’s task is to recognize the holiness of the Son of God, to believe it, and to let it shape our lives.
Jesus did this sign behind the scenes, out of the view of most of the guests. The vast majority of the people who drank that wine had no clue they were drinking the fruits of Jesus’ first miraculous sign. But the servants knew what had happened and Jesus’ disciples knew. John writes: “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). Ah, his disciples believed in him! What a gift it was for the disciples to have that “sign!”
In our gospel, just prior to the story, Jesus had called his first disciples – Peter, Andrew, Nathanial and Philip. These disciples were with Jesus at the wedding at Cana. What a gift for the disciples to witness Jesus’ miraculous power! What a blessing for them to experience God at work through Jesus. After witnessing Jesus’ divine power, just imagine how much easier it would be for them to trust in Jesus, to recognize him as holy, and to tell others about what they had seen.
Jesus’ identity is revealed through this and other signs. Signs are there for those who open their eyes to notice them. Jesus did many signs for the disciples. Jesus gives us many glimpses into his glory – if we have the eyes to see.
Toward the end of John’s gospel, he writes:
“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”(John 20:30-31)
The life of faith involves recognizing God’s signs, believing them, and then witnessing to them. The life of faith is a process of noticing who Jesus is and living as Jesus would have us live, so that we might have abundant life.
As Jesus’ modern-day disciples, it is up to us to notice what God is up to in and around us and to live as God would have us live. When we do, our lives and those of the people around us overflow with God’s love and grace.
The wine steward commented about his surprise that they saved the best wine for last. The life of faith is like that. As we grow in faith, we come to trust God more and more. As we live as God’s people, we are shaped by the Holy Spirit and our lives exhibit the Fruits of the Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5: 22-23). Ultimately, we come to share in that great wedding feast at the holy banqueting table as we dwell in the house of the Lord, forever. For us, the best is yet to come.
Tomorrow our nation celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day. For many it is a day off from school. For some it is a day off from work. But for all of us it is a time to reflect on the legacy of this man and what it means for our nation and our lives.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a pastor first and a Civil Rights leader second. The values he fought for and died for are rooted in his Christian faith. Values like recognizing that all people are created in God’s image as beloved children. Values like loving your neighbor and praying for those who persecute you. Values of nonviolence – turning the other cheek.
As we think about the life of faith, the messages Jesus preached, and the way we respond, Martin Luther King Jr. provides a powerful example of living your faith.
Under King’s leadership, our nation made great strides in the 1960s. We ended Jim Crow segregation laws and supported voting rights for all people. The Civil Rights movement raised the consciousness of our nation to more faithfully live into our founding values as written by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence:
“All men are createdequal and we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, and among them are the right life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
These are values we need to be reminded of today. These are values we still need live into. As Christians, it is our duty to love one another with Christ-like love and to speak words of love, and to act with deeds of love, not hate. As Christians we will be judged by how we treat one another and especially how we treat those who are oppressed or in need. As we welcome “the least of these,” we welcome Jesus, and as we fail to care for “the least of these,” so too, we reject Jesus, and will be judged accordingly (Matthew 25:31-46).
Martin Luther King reminds us: “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”
This Third Sunday of Epiphany and this Martin Luther King holiday weekend both challenge us to look with new eyes. In our scripture for today Jesus revealed who he was. Jesus gave his disciples, and those who had eyes to see, a glimpse of God’s glory. Do we have the eyes to see? Do we notice God’s signs? Do we recognize God at work in the world and join him in his mission of love and salvation?
Our task is to see Jesus for who he is, the Son of God, and recognize what a difference that makes. Our calling is to let Jesus’ love shape our lives so that, like those disciples at Cana, we see and believe.
We can trust the as we live as Gods’ people, and God is at work in our lives God saves the best for last, and we look forward to that feast to come.
May God richly bless you in your life and in your faith. May your heart and your eyes be open to God’s loving presence in and around you, so that you might have eyes to see and a heart to believe.