Anyone here ever have a mom? I sure do, God bless her. But there was a time in my life, perhaps much like many of you, where my relationship with my mom just wasn’t the greatest. I think it was during that short period of my life before I was a parent myself. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all bad, it was just that… well… my mom used to nag me… like a lot. I’m sure that is a unique experience to just me and my mom and that no other mom ever in the history of mom’s has ever been a bit on the naggy side.
And now you’re probably thinking that my mom nagged me because I deserved it, right? You probably think that she had to nag because I didn’t ever listen, or clean up after myself, or remember to do the things she told me to do. And to that I say just because I don’t listen, clean up after myself, or remember to do the things I’m supposed to do now, it doesn’t mean that I was always like that. Those were kind of learned habits for me later in life (according to my wife). So she didn’t actually nag me for that, at least not that I can remember, it’s possible that I just wasn’t listening. My mom actually would nag a lot about other things like make sure I sleep early enough, or drink enough water, and always wear my dorky looking winter jacket when it was cold out.
Now you see what I mean? Nag nag nag.
Things are different now though, God bless her. Now when it’s cold, she just asks me why I’m not wearing my jacket. She doesn’t actually tell me to go wear it.
You know, it almost sounds like Jesus’ mother is a bit of a nag too. So she’d be like the only other nagging mom in all of history. But we know this story, the wedding at Cana, we know it as Jesus’ first miracle, or sign as John puts it. As we know, Jesus was just hanging out with his buddies at some wedding, and you know, maybe doing that wedding thing where you just hang out at the bar and you don’t drink so much but just try to get everyone else drunk just so you can laugh at their drunken foolishness? Know what I mean?
Anyway, Jesus was just hanging out and then these rumours start floating around that the bar went dry. If I were there, at this point I’d be high fiving my friends because mission accomplished. But in those days, running out of wine prematurely was shameful and embarrassing. Actually even still maybe I would be high fiving my friends…
This is where Jesus’ mom comes in. She’s all like, hey… so… they’re out of wine. Ok, that’s nice. I imagine that it would have been a bit intruding on Jesus’ “me” time with his friends. So I wonder how young Jesus would have reacted to this conundrum, I don’t know, if I were to just take a stab in the dark, I’d think he’d say something like, “woman, what concern is that to you and to me?” Not my wedding, not my problem, probably should mind your own business. And much like every time I talk back to my mom when she nags me, Jesus’ words did absolutely nothing to change Mary’s mind. She just assumes that Jesus is going to do something about this wine situation and tells the servants to listen to Jesus.
All we really know about this story is what we read here in the text. It seems like Mary has some kind of authority to actually do something about the situation. She is somehow involved enough to care when the wedding celebration catches a snag, and she is known enough that the people don’t just dismiss her as “woman”, and she is important enough that they listen to what she has to say, and what she says matters.
And we all know what happens next. Jesus goes and changes 20-30 gallons of water into wine. And not just any old wine, but actual good stuff. The best, apparently. And the wedding couple’s wine problem was solved and they lived happily ever after.
So it is a nice feel good story. One that kicks off Jesus’ ministry as a miracle-worker and problem-solver. One that introduces us to who Jesus is. One that makes God with us more clear and known and apparent in many surprising areas of life.
Because really, who would think that God would be revealed in several large vats of wine? Well, maybe more than a few of us would hope to find God at the bottom of a bottle, but that isn’t how it always works. But here it is, clear as the words on the page that God is revealed and people saw and believed. We read here of Jesus first of many signs, pointing people to God, and he did it by helping them get drunk.
Suddenly, I can hear my mom nagging me again.
I can hear my mom telling me that I’m not listening. I may be hearing, but I’m not listening. I’m not understanding. I, like Jesus did, am not fully grasping what is being said to me and seeing that it is actually for my own good. And sometimes… actually most of the time… when I perceive that I’m being nagged at, I tend to close up more and listen even less.
But if I were to do that as I’ve done many times in the past, if I were to decidedly chalk up what is being said to me as nagging, if I were to just ignore what is being communicated to me, what is trying to be instilled in my life, what I am called to do, then I might miss what is good for me like staying warm when it’s cold out, I might misunderstand the message that I need to hear like my mom loves me enough to make sure I’m warm enough when it’s cold out, I might miss seeing Jesus in my life in the warmth of my dorky looking but functional jacket.
See, Jesus changed water into wine yes, but he did it to aid the celebration of love, to help in community building, and to show how much God actually cares about these things. Mary’s nagging Jesus to help wasn’t just a “here, see what my talented son can do” kind of thing, but it was a kickstart to Jesus’ ministry, surprising the chief steward, surprising Jesus’ disciples and others who witnessed and believed, and perhaps even surprised Jesus as well, as he said it wasn’t his time yet.
But through Mary’s prodding, through the needs around him rising, and through God’s calling and blessing with gifts, Jesus began his journey of love, compassion, and service. Now, I’m not saying that if it weren’t for Mary then Jesus wouldn’t have went and saved the world, I’m not saying that if Jesus didn’t listen to Mary here then his life would have gone in a completely different trajectory and history would have been totally different, I’m not even saying that it was Mary’s nagging that made Jesus, Jesus. What I’m saying is that sometimes if we dismiss things too quickly, when we look for the easy answers like “not my problem”, or when we just decide not to listen, we might miss seeing what God is doing in our communities and in our world, lifting us up for and calling us to right relationship and service, and revealing to all God’s promises of grace and mercy.
Because really, God is often surprising. In places where we wouldn’t expect, by ways we wouldn’t imagine, through people we wouldn’t ever even fathom, God is present, blessing us with love and peace, and gifting us with gifts for service to God and neighbour, increasing in us our sense of compassion and community for the sake of the world.
And again, this isn’t to say that if we don’t listen that we’d definitely miss everything, but we just might not catch all the beauty, all the blessing, all the signs of God with us, here in our midst, living and breathing through the water, bread, and wine, and showing us all how we are regarded as God’s own beloved children.
Our second reading for today tells us of the gifts that God gives us, but they aren’t gifts for the sake of gifts, but they are there to help us in our communities, in our relationships, and in our service to each other. Some people, especially in the more charismatic contexts, feel that the gifts are the only signs of the Spirit among us. While I do believe that these gifts are signs of the Spirit, I don’t believe that they are the only ones, nor do I believe that the absence of these exact ones mean that the Spirit isn’t among us.
But the Spirit, as I understand it, is what moves through us, among us, and unites us, not that we can point out the shortcomings we see in each other but that we can uplift each other in spite of them, that we can be united even though we are vastly different in worldview and even in theology, and we can see how each one of us, however much we disagree or don’t even like each other, are dearly beloved children of God.
And so for those times when we hear that gentle prodding in our lives, or those times that feels like an incessant nagging, I pray that we stop to hear, take the time to listen, and open our eyes to see and recognize God working in and through us, gifting us with skills and talents for the community, and lifting us up with grace upon grace.
I know this sounds timely when we are in the process of looking for new council members and volunteers to help out with the many things needed to do around here. And perhaps it sounds like I’m nagging you to look for ways to contribute and serve. Honestly, maybe I am a bit. But it isn’t for the sake of just our church and community here at Grace, but it is in the hope that God’s calling in your lives is heard, that God’s voice in your life be more clear, that God’s hand at work within you in your heart be apparent, giving you gifts to minister to others, revealing in you God’s promise of love, grace and mercy.
This season after the Epiphany, may we see more fully God’s face, hear more clearly God’s voice, and heed more readily to God’s seemed nagging, that we might feel more deeply God’s love and believe more streadfastly in God’s blessing. Thanks be to God. Amen.