A Sign Early on the Journey
By the Rt. Rev. Chris Giesler
- Isaiah 62:1-5
- I Corinthians 12:1-11
- John 2:1-11
You know that first impressions are always important. If you introduce a friend to others, you will do your best to lift up their most endearing qualities and help them make the best first impression possible. Think back to when you last tried to play match-maker and get two of your friends who have not met each other to go on a blind date. You are confident that they will be good for each other, so in trying to convince your friends that this date is worth their time, you share how nice, how generous, and perhaps how good-looking this other person is.
While hardly a romantic endeavor, each of the four gospels (John included) presents to us the story of Jesus’ life so that we might establish a transformative relationship with him. Our reading from John’s Gospel gives us what we understand as Jesus’ first miracle. It seems odd that the first story that John shares with us about what Jesus can do is not some great act of compassion in alleviating someone’s suffering. Had I been John, I might have chosen one of Jesus’ healings to catch folks’ attention. But here, early in John’s Gospel, we get a story about a crisis at a wedding reception; the caterer is running out of wine, which will not reflect well on the host family. At the moment, a crisis indeed, but hardly, like somebody on their death bed receiving new life.
Many scholars list this event as one of the seven signs that John’s Gospel gives us of just who Jesus is. Here they are:
- Changing water into wine at the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11);
- Healing the royal official’s son (John 4:46-54);
- Healing the paralyzed man at the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem (Jonn 5:1-15);
- Feeding the 5,000 (John 6:5-14);
- Walking on water (John 6:16-21);
- Healing the man born blind (John 9:1-7); and
- Raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-45).
I would have put any of them before the wine-sign, but not John. What is the message? What is John telling us?
Let’s take a closer look at what is going on here. Jesus, his mother, and his disciples are in Cana and have been invited to a wedding feast. Things seem to be going well, but behind the scenes, there is concern that not enough wine was ordered and it is about to run out. Jesus’ mother gets word of this potential social embarrassment and approaches Jesus to take care of the situation by some miraculous means. At first, Jesus brushes the request a side letting her know, and I quote: “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” Jesus’ hour is the one that comes at the end of the Gospel, his death and then his resurrection. What is wine, after all, when held against the means of salvation? But Mary does not give up and instructs the caterer to do what Jesus tells them to do. And as they say, the rest is history; the water is turned into the very best wine possible.
Again, what is the message here? Why is John talking Jesus up by selecting this event to share first? Maybe the message is we take ourselves too seriously at first. When we ponder our mission as Christians, perhaps we have visions of sharing the Gospel in such a compelling way that we bring people to a saving faith with just a few words. Perhaps we envision great acts of compassion such as providing funding for a Doctor in a part of the world where there is limited availability to a practicing physician. Maybe these grand dreams, as wonderful as they are, intimidate us so that they keep us from doing anything.
Perhaps John is telling us that our first step should be far less spectacular and far more ordinary. I doubt that any of us could turn vats of water into fine wine, but perhaps we could share a meal. Maybe we could knock on the door of a new neighbor and welcome them into the community with a gift card to your favorite grocery store or ice cream shop. Perhaps after we help meet some of someone’s more practical needs, we can invite them to participate in the life of your congregation.
The sign here is that on the journey of life, we have ample opportunities to be the love and grace of God to others. Our job is to keep our eyes, ears, and hearts open to those possibilities and then act in Jesus’ name to help make our world a better place.
This past Christmas Day in the village of Hopedale on the northern coast of Labrador a feast happened. McKinley and Darlene Winters, candidates for the ministry in the Moravian Church decided to make a Christmas Dinner for the village. They also managed to find funding to purchase a Bible and a 2022 Moravian Daily Text for each of the 242 homes in town. Here is how brother McKinley tells the story:
When we opened our hearts to Jesus, our hearts began to open up to others. We felt the need to serve and share with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. It began with God’s word; it changed our lives. As someone once said I won’t just tell you I changed, I will show you. We wanted to put the message of Jesus into action- to serve and to love. Reading the Moravian Daily Text, early in our walk, gave us a chance to read the Bible slowly. The Bible can seem like a huge book and can feel a little overwhelming, not knowing where to start. The Moravian Daily Text gave us direction and having other people reading it also, gave us a chance to ask questions and learn from each other. We thought that everyone should have a chance to experience the Bible (like we did).