Let us pray.
Fill us up, O Lord,
That the water of our lives
Might overflow with the wine of your love
For us, and for the world.
I gotta tell y’all:
Jesus’s first miracle is weird.
As Anglicans, we have always placed an outsized importance on it.
It features in that exquisite opening prayer offered at weddings,
“Which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence,
And first miracle that he wrought,
In Cana of Galilee.”
But it’s weird, right?
As I was serving as author-in-residence
For the daily devotional website d365 this week,
I really struggled with what to say about this miracle –
Especially on a site intended for teens!
What could I say to teenagers
About God’s abundance
Expressed through the miraculous creation of wine out of water
That would be appropriate for them?
But that’s not the only element of Christ’s first miracle
According to John at least, he’s the only one who tells us this story,
That’s a bit odd.
Jesus, his mom, and his disciples,
Whom he has just called,
It just happened,
Are at a wedding.
We don’t know, it’s not important.
Why is it Jesus’s mom’s job
To make sure they have enough wine?
Why is Mary making this her problem?
And Jesus actually declines to perform the miracle at first!
He agrees: this isn’t his (or Mary’s) problem.
But nevertheless, Mary persisted,
And Jesus, like most of us, ends up taking his mom’s advice.
He looks around and sees large jars standing nearby.
Now, the purpose of these jars is to hold water
To be used for the Jewish rites of purification,
But what I didn’t notice until reading it again this week,
Is that the jars were empty
At the time Jesus noticed them.
Jesus didn’t look around and find water that was to hand;
Jesus called for jars that were empty
To be filled.
He invited human beings,
Human beings who might not often be noticed,
Into participation in this first miracle.
And then, Jesus tells them to take the water from the jars
Out to the steward,
So that he could see the results.
There’s no hand-waving or magic words.
Jesus doesn’t even use spit,
Like he so often does,
Or lay his hands on anything.
He tells them to go out,
And in faith,
It is a great sadness to many Christians, I think,
That it appears we no longer live in an age of miracles.
While some, including me,
Would dispute the assertion that no miracles occur
In this modern age,
They certainly seem to be thinner on the ground
Than they were in Bible days.
And so I think there is a great deal of comfort to draw
From this story of Jesus’s first,
From Jesus’s reluctance to perform it
Perhaps we can learn that miracles
Are not his preferred way to work.
From Mary’s insistence
Perhaps we can learn that
Love, and relationship,
Are the ingredients that make miracles possible.
And I think there’s something to be learned from those empty stone jars as well.
Jesus doesn’t choose just any water for this miracle.
He chooses water
To be used for the rites of purification,
Rites that he decries in other gospels.
Seriously! He tells the Pharisees to quit worrying
About the ritual washing of hands
And focus on making sure that their deeds are actuallypure.
But here, he embraces those rites.
He makes use of water that prepares hearts and minds,
And honestly, bodies
To show forth his abundance.
And he makes use of people, too.
It’s not that Jesus couldn’t make the necessary wine
Without these servants’ help,
It’s that so often
In the Gospels,
Jesus chooses not to act alone.
Jesus chooses to build a community of disciples around him.
Jesus chooses to ask those who come to him
If they wish to be healed.
Jesus chooses to ask these servants
To bring him the supplies he will use
To manifest his glory.
And it seems to me that Jesus still chooses
To make miracles
Through that which is brought to him
By human beings.
My friends: it is our turn to act.
We are the ones
Whom Jesus is calling
To bring forth the water.
That water can look like the donations we offer
To the food bank every month.
That water can look like supporting our Green, Growing Sundays
By inviting children and youth you know to participate,
And by serving as an adult mentor.
It can look like opening our building to our neighbours.
It can look like serving on the cemetery team.
There are a lot of different ways to bring forth the water
Jesus will turn into wine,
But they all involve effort.
And while I can’t speak for everyone,
I think many of us would say that we’re a bit pressed for time,
And a bit exhausted by the idea of effort.
It’s tempting to ask Jesus
To not only turn the water into wine
But to get the water himself.
I wish I could tell you it worked that way, guys,
I really do.
But the biblical witness is that it doesn’t.
If we want to receive the Spirit’s gifts,
If we want to see the miracle,
Then we have got to show up.
Our efforts may appear paltry,
As water does to wine,
But it’s not about how good our offering is.
God will transform it into that which is needed,
For the sake of his kingdom.
We still have to offer it, though.
It is Jesus’s time.
He is ready to perform the miracle.
All that remains in the water.
Will we provide it?
Will we make possible
God’s mighty power
To serve the banquet?
May it be so.