Rev. Eric Dillenbeck
January 20, 2013

Scripture: John 2:1-11 & Psalm 36:5-10

Psalm 36:5-10

5Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.

6Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your judgments are like the great deep; you save humans and animals alike, O Lord.

7How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

8They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.

9For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.

10O continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your salvation to the upright of heart!

John 2:1-11

1On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him,

“They have no wine.” 4And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.”

5His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

6Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. 9When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew),

the steward called the bridegroom 10and said to him,

“Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

The Word of the Lord Thanks be to God.

“Do Whatever He Tells You”

Weddings are so fun. I usually love doing wedding because the day is normally so joyous. Yes, the couple is usually stressed, but by the time the reception begins they are happily married and have drifted beyond all the details into that sweet “whatever will happen, will happen” kind of mindset.

What do they care, they are married and are kissing every time someone clinks a glass. The wedding planner, whether paid of some really organized friend, on the other hand still has other things to worry about as the reception unfolds. How’s the food going to turn out? Will the servers circulate or just stand around? Will the DJ get the first song correct? Will everyone be able to hear the toasts? When should they cut the cake? No, the wedding planner doesn’t relax until well after the happy-couple depart for the honeymoon. You couldn’t pay me to be a wedding planner.

Every time I read this story I get the feeling that Jesus’ mother, notice that this Gospel writer never calls her Mary, was the wedding planner. She seems to be very concerned about the details of this party.

According to the prevailing custom during Jesus’ time, the wedding festivities began on the third day of the week and lasted seven days. Can you imagine? We spend crazy amounts of time and money on a celebration that lasts 3 hours. Can you imagine, 7 DAYS!

At this wedding celebration in Cana, the guests would have been eating on floor mats and, in the course of the 7 day celebration they would consume large quantities of food and wine. There would have been rhythmic music and lively dancing. People really made the most out of these celebrations and if anything cut the festivities short everyone would have been very disappointed.

This is where we enter the story unfolding at this wedding in Cana. It sounds to me like Jesus was attending one crazy wedding. The text tells us it is the third day, which means the FIRST day of the wedding celebration.

The music has started, the dancing has begun, guests are spread out on the floors enjoying the food and evidently really enjoying the beverages.

Something has gone horribly wrong. Either too many family members and guests showed up or else someone really overestimated the contents of their wine rack. Somehow it is Jesus’ mother who discovers that, in the course of the festivities, the hosts have run out of wine.

She knows this will cause the happy couple considerable embarrassment. She knows it will be the thing that haunts them at every family gathering for the foreseeable future; she knows it will become a running punch line at every wedding. It will be the thing that will never go away. It breaks her heart for this young, newly married couple. What a way to start a life together, with shame hanging over their heads. She just cannot stand the idea of it. Knowing a thing or two about rumor mills and young brides she has to do something to spare this couple the experience.

Just then Jesus and his new disciples come walking off the dance floor looking for something to drink.

“They have no wine,” she says. They are her first words in the Gospel of John and they are obviously said as only a mother with an adult son can. There is a tone in her voice that clearly communicates, “And what are you going to do about this?” He protests, but he knows and she knows he has already lost this argument. “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.”

Un-phased by his reaction she just turns to the servants and says, “Do whatever he tells you.”

I will admit it, I love this moment: even Jesus can’t say no to his mother.

We love this story for so many reasons. I think most Presbyterians are familiar with Jesus’ experience at this wedding in Cana. I say this because whenever I see someone at the Tavern Company or at the Colony I often hear them say “well Jesus turned water into wine, right?”

It’s a good chuckle, I know, but the author of John uses this story to introduce Jesus, the living Word of God, to his readers. In the Gospel of John, there is no birth narrative to give us a back story. It begins with a deep theological conversation and Jesus baptism. And then he goes to a wedding.

In this story, Jesus doesn’t seem ready to start his ministry, but his mother knows better. She knows from where he came and for what he was sent. She knows and like all good mothers she prods her child to finally live up to his potential.

His first miracle, or sign as John calls them, is not an act of physical healing, it isn’t a stroll on top of a lake, he turns water intended for cleansing into ALOT of wine, and not the cheap stuff, but the best stuff there is. In this act he reveals the abundance of God’s grace and in so doing reveals his glory to those who will see and his disciples believed in him.

This happens because, as Nancy Rockwell points out, “the mother of Jesus cannot stand by and watch an injustice, she will not watch the groom and his bride be disgraced; she does not want their marriage celebration to have a lasting shame as its memory. And in response to her compassion for them Jesus does what Mary asks .”

Jesus was able to work out the ABUNDANT grace of God in that moment because someone else helped him to see it was time. Sometimes we all need someone else to help us see it is time to do our part, to be an agent of God’s grace at work in the world.

“Based on her need to stand against humiliation, the interchange between Mary and Jesus resembles the interchange between Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr, on an ordinary day in Montgomery. By refusing to give up her seat on the bus, or give in to one more instance of the humiliation of her people, Parks provoked a moment in history, and she provoked King’s entry into that moment… ”

She helped him see that it was time for him to work in a more organized way towards God’s vision for humanity.

Sometimes we all need someone else to help us see it is time to be God’s agent of ABUNDANT grace in the world.

The trick I find about preaching on Martin Luther King Jr., or any transformational figure is that it is too easy for us to say to ourselves, “Wait, I’m not MLK! I’m not Rosa Parks! I can’t do the things they did. I’m just Eric Dillenbeck, or Bob Moncrief or Betsy Wooster or…(fill in your own name). I am just a normal person.

Well, let me tell you about the power of a “normal” person. Yesterday, I had the honor of officiating at the memorial service for Dutch Harley. In preparation for that service I feel like I finally got to know the quiet, modest, normal man who occupied our back pew for so many years, the man whose life was marked by a deep love that motivated him to action. Dutch did not turn water into wine, but never the less he worked out miracles in our midst. As busy as he was, and he was a busy man, he did not look past someone else’s humiliation or need, but rather offered the valuable gift of his time and talents to change other’s people’s lives.

I don’t pretend to be speaking for Dutch, because he would be so embarrassed that I am talking about him right now, but as the Fairmount community stands here, on the cusp of something new, waiting for the next phase of our history to begin I feel like I can see Dutch getting up to do something. He wasn’t one to sit around, he saw a need and he filled it.

Sometimes WE need someone else to show us it is time to be God’s agent of ABUNDANT grace in the world.

We are being called my friends.

Just as the mother of Jesus looked at him and said, “They have no wine,” Christ is looking to us, saying to us, “IT’S TIME! Get to work.” The needs are many. The disparity is great and the world is crying out for the ABUNDANT grace of God, who will work through the humble offerings of our TIME and TALENT to provide the BEST thing that is needed.

Sometimes, we just need someone to tell us it’s time.

It’s time my friends. It’s time.