Welcome to worship for this 2nd Sunday after the Ephipany, January 16, 2022! We are back to streaming directly onto YouTube in hopes that the video and sound quality will be restored to how it used to be.
The worship bulletin for the service can be found here. In it you’ll find the order and words of the liturgy, the hymn and page numbers out of the ELW, and the full sermon manuscript. The sermon can also be found on this page after the video feed.
For a fuller at-home worship experience, you can have a candle lit for the duration of the service until the closing hymn, and something small to eat and drink for communion. These are not required for worship, but please do whatever is most helpful for you throughout this time.
May God’s love and care be seen and felt in and around your lives, now and always!
Gracious God, by your abundant blessing, quicken our understanding that we are able to receive the testimony of your Spirit and recognise the signs that reveal you present in our lives, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
You know, there are some passages in scripture that make even in a pastor confused. Even after all the training and study, we sometimes have to just scratch our heads when we come across something that is just so completely baffling. Although we might seem like we have it all completely put together, there are actually times when we are, or at very least, I am, at a loss.
And to be honest, this is one of those times. This story that we get out of our gospel lesson today has always made me scratch my head a bit as I never really understood it. But perhaps not why you think, I mean I’m not like some people who might be trying to figure out who was getting married and why Jesus’ mom cared so much about their wine situation. I’m not baffled by this story like some of the more conservative bible readers who try to rationalize it by saying that it was actually non-alcoholic wine or some sort of grape juice that Jesus produced and that he wasn’t actually promoting any kind of drunkenness whatsoever. I’m not even trying to figure out like how probably most people might, how Jesus pulled off changing water into wine so maybe I could try it out for myself, you know, for science…
But the reason why this story makes me scratch my head is that I never understood why Jesus even bothered with this miracle in the first place. Like I said, we don’t know who was getting married even and why this couple is so special. We don’t know why they ran out of wine, as in if they just had poor planning and didn’t order enough, or they invited the wrong people and they drank way too much, or maybe they even hired the wrong help and all the wine was accidentally spilled. And we really don’t know, and this is what baffles me, why Mary and Jesus even cared so much in the first place. I mean when Mary tells Jesus that the party has run dry, he’s just sort of like, “ok cool story, bro” and was about to go on his business, because his time hasn’t come yet. But somehow Mary must have given him a look or something that got him to rethink that initial reaction, because he went and did what he did.
So it’s weird, I’ve always been confused by this. I mean they ran out of wine, big deal.
I know, some of you might have gasped or shuddered at just the thought of running out of wine at a wedding, or a party, or maybe even during a weekend. And I know that some of you might realise that running out of wine at a wedding in those days was a huge cause of shame and embarrassment. Like that kind of thing would go on your permanent record and you’d be blacklisted for life. But still, who cares? It’s just wine. Doesn’t this seem like a waste of power for Jesus? There are people hungry and sick who weren’t invited to the wedding. There are people dying probably as they speak. And let’s not forget that they’re still in occupied Israel and have been waiting somewhat patiently for a Messiah to save them for like half a century by now. Maybe use some of that power to save the people that you’re here to save, Jesus? How’s that for a thought? But water into wine? Really?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Jesus shouldn’t have done this nor am I going to dissect the whole “Jesus is advocating drunkenness” thing. I’m just wondering as to why Jesus would do such a thing when there are probably a lot bigger and more important things out there that deserve his time and attention. John even says that this is Jesus’ first sign, which is John’s word for “miracle.” So this was Jesus’ first? This is what is breaking his miracle seal? This act is what brings him out of his “hour has not yet come” mentality? I don’t know, I just would think that for his actual first miracle or sign, that maybe it should be something more grand, something with more meaning, maybe something that would really knock their socks off, displaying once and for all that Jesus is the Messiah.
But the thing with this first miracle though, the author of this particular gospel account tells us that this sign actually did reveal Jesus’ glory, and the disciples then believed in him as a direct result.
So… mission accomplished? I don’t know, it still seems weird. Well, maybe it still seems weird until we go back to that word that John uses: sign. I mean, what is a sign anyway? Sure, it is equated with miracles in this gospel, but maybe that is intentional because a sign is something that informs us of certain information that we need to know in our particular context. Be it how fast we should be driving on the road to how to exit a building in case of fire or to which is the appropriate washroom we could use. Signs give us pertinent information that we need in order to operate and live in society. They act as reminders perhaps of things that we already know and ensure that we will keep on knowing it. They point us in the right direction if we lose our way. They are authoritative in what they tell us, and what they tell us is usually just automatically trusted.
And so what is this miracle of changing water into wine a sign of? What could this action of allowing the marriage party to carry on be pointing us toward? What can the continued celebration after a near catastrophic failure remind us of?
Well, maybe it’s exactly that, that the celebration continues. Maybe it is pointing us to the fact that Jesus cares about even the seemingly frivolous things in our lives. Maybe it is a sign that God’s blessing for us is so very abundant, so much so that it can bring joy through something like 180 gallons, over 800 litres, roughly 200-230 jugs of milk (just to put it in perspective), of water at a party. That is a lot.
It might be more than what was already consumed. It might be more than they could ever consume now. It’s enough to last my family at least about 4 years of hydration. Can you even imagine? I mean, now it’s a party, am I right?
But this abundance isn’t for nothing. This 4-5 bathtub’s worth of liquid wasn’t just to avoid the catastrophe of poor hospitality. All this wine wasn’t even for endless drunkenness. But this sign was done to show us that God cares about the ordinary. God is concerned with the things in our lives that might seem nonsensical to others. God is present with us even in the drab and mundane, and turns it into a celebration.
So even in my confusion as to why Jesus cares, I am reminded that Jesus just does care, deeply. In my bewilderment of why Jesus would even bother, I can see that his actions were out of grace and compassion as they always are. In my head scratching thoughts around how something like this could be Jesus’ first sign, I am pointed to God’s love that surrounds us all, giving us identity as God’s own children, and lifted up and told that we, no matter how small or insignificant or confused we might feel, matter.
And so what are the areas in our own lives where we might feel perhaps small and unnoticed? Where do we find ourselves feeling the most alone and perhaps unwanted? Where does it seem like we are living the most mundane and drab? I wonder if in that we can see God present, we can see God’s abundant blessing, we can see a sign reminding us of God’s love flowing throughout lives, caring for us where we are, and bringing us up into the joy of community and the celebration of our salvation.
In this season after the Epiphany, let us always be aware of the signs in and around our lives that point us to God’s grace and love, that we might always live in the joy of God with us always. Thanks be to God. Amen.