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Wine In Time

Text: John 2:1-11 

By: Rev. Garry E. McCaffery 

          I love weddings!  How about you?  Weddings are wonderful and special occasions and, in years past, as I haven’t had the privilege of officiating a wedding since I’ve reentered ministry, they have been one of my favorite pastoral responsibilities.  The reason for that is, you get to unite two people in marriage who are so full of love, passion, hope, and promise.  It is a time of great joy and a cause for much celebration and excitement.

          Oh my goodness, on the day of the wedding, everyone looks spectacular.  The bride and bridesmaids in their gowns and dresses, hair all done up, make up and jewelry and flowers.  The groom and groomsmen, all dressed in their best, quite often an occasion for tuxedos.  They, too, have their hair looking good and big smiles on their faces.  Everything is set to be as perfect as possible.

          Makes me think of my wedding a little over three years ago now.  Watching Karen walk into the sanctuary with her beautiful dress, and her hair so perfect, bouquet of flowers in her hand, big smile on her face, and I know from the pictures I had a smile going from ear to ear.  It was a moment that felt frozen in time, and yet, here we are today, still rejoicing in that moment.

          Once the couple is standing at the altar everything is all set for the ceremony to take place.  The exchange of vows.  The promise of commitment to one another for a life-time.  The giving and receiving of rings.  The symbol that you belong, not just to yourself, but to another.  Then, the pronunciation that the two you have joined in the eyes of God and those who have come to be part of the day, are truly husband and wife.

          Then the celebration of the covenant relationship of husband and wife continues as the bride and groom and their guests gather at the reception.  I feel privileged because, not only have I had the opportunity to officiate at many weddings over my career, I have been invited to many of the receptions as well.  It is a joy to be part of the continued celebration.  And, just like the wedding ceremony itself, the receptions are meticulously planned.  Everything has to be “just right.”  All the guests are well prepared for and taken care of.  You want to make sure your guests are well fed, that they have plenty to drink, that there’s music they can dance to.  You don’t want there to be any “social fouls”.  Imagine how embarrassing it would be if you ran out of food or beverage for your guests before the wedding reception ended.  Imagine there was no coffee available after dinner.

          People work hard to plan for any possible contingencies when it comes to their special day.  The same was true of the wedding in Cana of Galilee that Jesus attended.  Everything had been wonderfully prepared.  All the details had been laid out and every contingency prepared for.  Or so it was thought.

          Wedding receptions today might last 4 – 6 hours.  Weddings in Jesus’ day, the reception lasted six to seven days.  Can you imagine?  When couples got married, they CELEBRATED!

          Jesus’ presence at this wedding is not really a big surprise.  His public ministry had not started yet, so he was in town.  It is likely that one of the people getting married was a relative or friend of the family so he, and the disciples he had gathered up to this point, were invited.  Jesus’ mother was there too.

          It was a great occasion.  Jesus undoubtedly enjoyed himself in the midst of the guests.  He likely had conversations with many of them.  He may have even danced, yes, even in Jesus’ day people danced in celebration.

          As the festivities wore on into the third or fourth day it was discovered that the wine supply was getting low.  This would have caused concern because if the wine ran out, what would the family tell the guests?  It would have been extremely embarrassing to run out of wine.  After all, this is a celebration, and to run out of wine would be a great social faux pas.

          Mary, the mother of Jesus, must have been quite close to the bride and groom’s family in some way for she became aware of the problem.  Once she became aware of the wine shortage she took the problem to one who could handle it quickly and discreetly.  Who did Mary go to?  JESUS!

          When I first read this, I wondered, why is Mary bugging Jesus about this?  If there is a shortage of wine send the servants to the wine and spirit store in town and get some more.  Why bother Jesus with such a simple, human problem?  After all, why would Jesus care if the wine was running out?

          Nevertheless, Mary went to Jesus.  At first glance, Jesus, from my perspective looked annoyed, or at least concerned, that she was coming to him.  “Woman, what does your concern have to do with me?  My hour has not yet come.”  (John 2:4).  I want to address quickly here, Jesus was not being rude to his mother by addressing her as “woman.”  He addressed her the same way from the cross (John 19:26).  What Jesus is saying to his mother is, the time for him to publicly reveal who he is has not yet come.

          In spite of this, Mary turned to the servants and said, “Whatever he says to you, do it.”  “Whatever he says to you, do it.”  What a huge statement of faith!  Mary had no idea what Jesus would do but, she had confidence in him and she demonstrated that with her directions to the servants.

          Jesus, seeing Mary’s trust and faith, and the look of expectation on the servant’s faces, took it upon himself to help the family of the bride and groom.  He told the servants to fill the 6 stone water jars that were available, to the brim, to the very top.  Each of these stone water jars could hold up to 20 or 30 gallons each.  Doing a little math: 6 stone water jars at 20 gallons each would be 120 gallons.  At 30 gallons each it would be 180 gallons.  Think about that.

          Once the water jars had been filled Jesus had the servants take some of the water from the jars and take it to the master of the banquet, in our terms, the head waiter or maître d.  The head waiter tasted it and could not believe his taste buds.  He quickly went to the bridegroom to congratulate his generosity to everyone since most people saved the “not so good” wine for this time in the banquet as people had already had their fill to drink.  But, in this case, he had saved the best wine for that time.  Somehow the water had changed to wine.

          Jesus did this without a big show or demonstration of power.  Jesus did not shout and say, “Hey, everybody, watch this!  I hereby change this water to wine!  Tada!”  Jesus merely caused it to be so.  Jesus took a potentially embarrassing situation and turned it into a time of continued joy and festivity.  Jesus, the invited guest to a very common and ordinary wedding, was called upon to help out in a situation that did not require divine intervention.  It was a simple dilemma to resolve and yet, Jesus was called upon to help.  What did Jesus do?  He helped.

          So, what does all this mean for us?  What this miracle means for us, and what this passage means for us is, Jesus is interested in all of our problems no matter how small we think they might be.  We all have problems or dilemmas that we think are “too” small for God.  They are not “God” sized problems so, we are reluctant to pray about them.  I’ve felt that way before.  Several months ago, I had misplaced a file on my desk.  I had no idea where it went to.  So, I looked and I looked and I looked some more, but could not find the file.  I began to get a little frustrated and annoyed, honest moment here, when I say a “little”, I mean steam was rolling out of my ears.  I got frustrated enough that I finally decided to give up looking for it.  I then took a deep breath and prayed, “God, I can’t believe I’m coming to you with this, it seems so ridiculous but, I can’t find where I moved that file to.”  A few minutes later a thought came to me about where to look…and I found it, right where I had placed it.  This was not a “God” sized problem, this was something I really didn’t need to go to God about, but what I learned from this passage, and from my own experience, is God cares about every aspect of our life.

          Jesus cared enough about a family to be present at their wedding festivities.  When the wine ran out, Jesus cared and provided.  He took care of their situation with grace, love, and compassion.

          There is no situation too small occurring in our life for Jesus not to care.  All we need to do is be willing to ask and Jesus will provide us with wine in time.  The “wine” being His answer to our need at the right time.  All we need to do is ask.  Amen.

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