2014-01-12 – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato – First Baptist Church Edmonton
GodStory, Act IV: Jesus!
Key Event #19 of 40
Reading: John 2:1-11
Title: “Filled to the Brim: Jesus’ Generosity and Grace”
In the past few weeks we have entered into the “Jesus” chapter in the Godstory, and we preachers have been inviting you to make way for Jesus…in your lives, in your imaginations, in the ordinary places where you live, and move, where you walk and talk and make your way in the world…
In John 1, I preached about how Jesus who was with God in the beginning “became flesh” and moved into the neighbourhood of our lives…and from his fullness we have received GRACE upon GRACE…that passage in John 1 went on to say that “No one has ever seen God. It is GOD THE ONLY SON, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.”
Further into John 1, Tana challenged us to enter into the world of the early disciples…when Jesus saw his early disciples starting to follow he asked “What are you looking for?” Tana asked us to reflect on this question during the season of Christmas… “What are we looking for?”
In the midst of responding to disciples who confessed they were looking for Jesus himself, Jesus made wild and crazy promises… He said things like:
“You will see greater things…you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man” (reminiscent of another character in the OT GodStory??).
And then last week, we took a quick detour out of John and walked with some of most unlikely, outsider-ish folks who should have got in on the Jesus story…magicians and charlatans. And Anne preached the good news to us and told us that if these star-gazin’, astrology-lovin’ gentiles can get in the riches of God’s favour and blessing, then there ought to be hope for you and me…ragtag sinners who are prone to wander and think we are not worthy of God’s reach.
This is the God of the GodStory…surprising us…doing the unthinkable …overwhelming us with grace and great joy and then sending us home on a different path because there is no going back to the old ways and the old roads.
— great truths for us to receive during the season of Christmas! —
Fast-forward 29 years or so and enter the Jesus story again…he’s all grown up now…olive skin, dark beard, he’s not a GQ man by any means but a rugged and strong carpenter’s son…and he’s been invited to a shirt-tail relative’s family wedding in the Galilean countryside. [any 30 year olds in the room, please help us imagine what a 30 year old looks like!]
And he’s with his mother [awwwwww] and perhaps he still lives with his mother [awwww?] …together they find themselves at an outside wedding reception …usually a 4 or 5 day affair and it’s the 3rd day of the celebrations in the late evening. Jesus and his inner circle of disciples are there as well…Andrew, Peter, Philip, Nathanael, John, James…it’s been another great night of celebrating, easy-going banter, and jovial jesting…you know, the kind of stuff that 30 year olds with no kids and no responsibilities like to do! [insert jealous feelings here!]
In the midst of this mood of fun and frolic, Jesus’ mother gets a cue that’s somethings amiss. Murmurs and gasps flit through the crowd. The chief steward, the food and drink host, has realized that something’s going terribly wrong. Someone totally blew it on the drink order and the wine is out. On the 3rd day of a 5-day feast!?!
No more wine! Say it isn’t so!
Jesus’ mom is swept up into the drama and embarrassment of the crisis. She looks at Jesus and his buddies who are caught up in some strange tale…there’s even a posse of women gathered ‘round intrigued by the frivolity of the men’s storytelling…
And right in the middle of a sentence, Jesus’ Mom shoots a zinger at Jesus like only a mother can do…
“Jesus, son of Joseph, did you hear me? The wine’s out!! They have NO WINE!”
Jesus and his friends all look towards his Mom…then they all look back at Jesus…Jesus retorts sharply:
“Woman, what is this matter to you and to me?”
[even been in one of those moments? – – you’re trying to have a good time with your friends/buddies/colleagues…and someone barges in and gives you the glare and says “Isn’t it as obvious to you as it is to me that something needs to be done and all you’re doing is piddling around with your friends as if the end of the world isn’t coming?]
And for a moment…you and all of your groupies go “HUH??”
Jesus isn’t being rude to his mother here…he is simply giving his mother the 30-year old adult “HUH?”
But then he gets a little cosmic…as the Johannine writer is prone to do in the gospel of John….and Jesus says “My hour has not yet come.”
His mother looks at him with that “what in the world do you mean that your hour has not yet come?” And then quickly turns to the servers and catering staff and tells them: “Do whatever he tells you.”
Jesus is up on his feet now, standing face to face with his mother…looking at her with eyes of compassion and care but at the same time a little frustrated with her antics. He smiles…and then looks to a watering trough nearby. He calls to the servants: “Fill the jars with water.”
They fill 6 jars to the brim, 150 gallons of water (imagine 150 gallon bottles in front of us!).
We have no idea what Jesus did between the water and wine do we? It’s doubtful that he waved a magic wand or turned this moment into a big show-y affair …perhaps he quietly whispered a prayer… “Greater things than these, Lord, Greater things than these.”
He motioned to the servants, “Take some drink out, take it to the chief steward.”
Jesus returns to his circle of friends. Jesus’ mother follows the servants…she is witness to the exclamations of the chief steward…
“Fantastic! Fantastic! THE END OF ALL MY STRIFE!! I’ve never drank anything like it, I’ve never drank anything like it…I’ve never drank anything like it in my life!” [a la Dr. Dolittle, 1967]
He fumbles his way through the crowd and exclaims to the bridegroom – – –
“Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have saved the best until now!”
You have saved the best until NOW!!
* * * * * *
On this first Sunday in the season of Epiphany, what are we to do with a story of bounty and generosity like this?
Can we imagine what 150 gallons of wine might look like for us today? At 750 ml’s per bottle, that’s 757 bottles of wine. See this wine box? Imagine 63 boxes of these ready to serve (and enhance) coffee hour downstairs after the service. And it’s not just cheap stuff…imagine the best wine or the best drink you’ve ever tasted
[ask for some extra “beverage examples” here]
….today, in Jubillee hall, it’s available with no end in sight. In fact, there’s so much, we’re going to keep church services going on for 2 or 3 more days so that we can drink it all. And since only 200 of us can only make so much of a dent, we’re going to encourage you to call your friends and family (or we might go to our next door neighbours) so they might help us get through all this fantastic, limited-edition bottling.
It seems extravagant doesn’t it? Over the top?? Shouldn’t we put some of it aside, lock it up somewhere so people don’t get too “jolly” shall we say? Or maybe we should get a committee together and have an order sheet, you can apply to get a bottle or 2 but there’s no promising that you are worthy enough of getting it…
or maybe we should charge for this stuff [impromptu fundraiser!] …Hey everyone…sorry! We told you it was going to be an open bar at this wedding reception but, ahem, we’ve changed our plans. $10/glass everyone….and if you want a 9 oz. glass it’s gonna be $14.50.
Jesus will have none of this hoarding. He’ll have nothing to do with “hiding the good stuff.” And he’ll have absolutely nothing to do with charging a fee (we’ll see more of that attitude next week!).
Because it is all about extravagance. IN JESUS’ ECONOMY, it’s all about being prodigal or even wasteful with the bounty of goodness! It’s about putting on a party that keeps on going until everyone is satisfied….you don’t have to do anything or pay anything to get in on this party. It is free, free, free and the tipping of the wine jar seems endless…
pour, after pour, after pour!
I wonder if any of these merry-makers paused for a little theological reflection at this on-going party to think of Isaiah 55 (Jeremy preached on this text in the middle of Advent)…
Isaiah prophesied of a day when bounty and generosity would reign…
To the downcast and the doubting he proclaimed:
Ho, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and you that have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
3 Incline your ear, and come to me;
listen, so that you may live.
— Come….wine and milk…without money and without price!
Incline your ear and come to me….listen so that you may live.
As we dwell in the world of this gospel story today…as we imagine ourselves amongst friends enjoying the companionship of one another, eating, being merry and drinking the best beverage that we’ve ever tasted…
Will we recognize that this is what it looks like, feels like, even tastes like when the WORD becomes flesh and lives among us?
This is what it means to see God’s glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth (1:14b).
In this new season of Epiphany, the season that we might also call the season of “new awakenings and revelations”…what might God be trying to get us to understand, anew, this year?
And are you in a place and a posture to receive what God might be offering you? Without cost? And without price??
We are not talking about a cosmic, out of this world, distant God who shrugs shoulders of indifference to the human condition….we are talking about a God who shows up in the face, heart and stories of Jesus…a God who banters with family and friends at a wedding reception, a God who looks into his mother’s eyes and listens to the desires of her heart, a God who turns clay pots of water into the finest wine that the world has ever tasted.
May our prayers during this season of epiphany be prayers of expectation.
May we be surprised by the grace, generosity and bounty of Jesus. Not because we want to get rich, or get successful, or bottle it up and put a price tag on it.
But because we believe that Jesus’ grace, generosity and bounty changes us.
May our encounter with this living and loving Saviour make us a people who then reveal this glory and over-flowing goodness to all we meet in the everyday encounters of our ordinary and oft-time unspectacular lives.
John 1:18 — The gospel writer tells us “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only SON, who is close the Father’s heart, who has made him known.”
May we see and sense the presence of God’s only son, and know that if we are truly encountering Jesus, it’s got to have that “filled to the brim” feeling…overflowing with generosity, bounty, and grace, after grace, after grace.
Frederick Buechner captures this image of bounty and our “implication” in being vessels of it…or blockades to it! He reflects on this wedding story in Cana, and writes a prayer that we will close with this morning…
Holy Lord God,
Thine is this fair world in all its splendor,
but ours is the freedom to destroy thy world.
Thine is the beginning and the end of all our lives,
but ours are our lives themselves,
to hoard in misery or to give away in joy.
Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory,
but ours is the ear that is deaf,
the tongue that is mute,
the eye that is blind.
Thine is the Christ, but ours is the cross he died upon.
Have mercy upon us.
Have mercy upon all to whom we ourselves show little mercy
– – the unloving and the unbeautiful,
the bitter and the lonely,
the very slow, the very old.
Have mercy upon those who love
and who in their love are beautiful,
for they too are often forgotten by us,
their joy itself a barrier between
their lives and ours.
O Lord, in sorrow and in joy open
our lives to one another that we
may live. Open our lives to thee
that even in dying we may never die.
(Frederick Buechner, 1969)