1On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. 9 When 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 10 and 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.” 11 Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
Back in the fall, it was decided to switch from the standard 4-reading lectionary called the Revised Common Lectionary and adopt the less familiar 1-reading lectionary called the Narrative Lectionary. This lectionary was devised by professors up at Luther Seminary back in 2010 as a way of highlighting key stories and key characters in the Bible that do a good job of telling the overall story. Anyone who’s ever tried reading the Bible front to back, from Genesis to Revelation, knows that it jumps around a lot, repeats itself, and has a variety of writing styles. Unlike a typical book, the Bible is hard to follow. We know God is revealed in its pages but only in bursts and the 4-reading lectionary is similar. Service planners long ago decided that we need a little sample of God revealed in the Old Testament, a little sample from the Psalms, a little sample from the New Testament, and a little sample from the Gospels. The four readings were vaguely tied together by a theme and worshippers were left struggling to figure out that theme and how God is reveled in it. There are clear stories with clear characters, like Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden or Abraham and Isaac on the mountain or Jacob and Esau. These stories are clear, memorable, and revealing. String enough of these stories together and you get a pretty clear picture of who God is as shown in the Bible, or so those seminary professors believed.
We focused primarily on key stories from the Old Testament in the fall before taking a break during Advent and returning to the 4-reading Revised Common Lectionary. Last week we returned to the 1-reading Narrative Lectionary in celebrating Jesus’ baptism at the river Jordon and we’ll stick with this lectionary for the remainder of the year. For the next several weeks we’ll focus on God’s revelation in the gospel book of John. The four gospels each provide unique insights into the life and ministry of Jesus but John’s narrative is especially unique because it focuses less on where Jesus went, who he met with, and what he did and focuses more on what he said. Jesus did a lot of amazing things but John was more interested in the amazing things Jesus said. But this story about the wedding at Cana is a rare instance when John focused instead on an amazing thing Jesus did. Jesus turns 180 gallons of water into wine! And not just cruddy wine but good wine! For the first time, according to John, Jesus uses his supernatural abilities to amaze people with an impossible party trick. Sure, he’s not curing people who have incurable diseases but he’s doing something that not everyone can do…and he’s making a lot of friends doing it. He’s getting people’s attentions by enabling them to keep the party going! Who wouldn’t want a guest like Jesus?! Jesus enabled the guests to keep on drinking for hours if not days. Pretty neat little trick!
We can’t help but believe that God must really like to party or at least likes it when we party. But I think we’re missing other key elements to the story that are just as revealing if not more. God may or may not like to party, God may or may not like it when we party, but there is one thing for certain—God provides in our times of need. And God not only provides but He provides abundantly…and with the good stuff! God knows what we need and when we need it. God created us to be with needs. None of us is without needs. We each have our own needs and we go through life in this world either satisfying or denying those needs and when we deny our needs we invariably suffer. Denying our needs causes us to die in one or another. God doesn’t want us to deny our needs. God wants us to live and flourish.
Of course, the extended consumption of alcohol isn’t really a need…it’s a want. The guests at the wedding party no doubt want to keep on drinking. But distinguishing our ‘wants’ from our ‘needs’ is important in understanding the will of God. God provides for our needs, not necessarily for our wants. So why did He provide for the “want” of more alcohol? Perhaps there were needs being satisfied beneath the wants. Perhaps the wedding guests needed the extended socializing. Perhaps they needed the extended joy and gladness. Perhaps they needed an extended excuse not to deal with life! There are any number of needs that God might have been satisfying by providing such an abundance of wine and only God knows why He did what He did. We rejoice in his providing for our needs regardless of his reasoning.
God provides, God provides abundantly, but He also provides to some degree at personal expense. There’s a reason why Jesus rebukes his mother for bringing the issue to him in the first place: “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” Even before his ministry went public, he knew where it would lead him—to the cross. He knew that his life, ministry, and death was determined by the Father’s timing, not his own, let alone his mother’s. His public ministry would begin when the Father told him it would begin, not when his mother told him. Or so he believed! For some unknown reason, Jesus changes his mind and performs the miracle and his public ministry begins. Judging by how he so quickly responds to his mother, Jesus isn’t too happy about it but he does the miracle nonetheless. God sets about providing knowing full well the cost it would incur—the sacrifice of the Son.
Our God is a providing God. Our God is a generous God. Our God is a giving God. Why? Why does He pull his son out of obscurity and sets him down the path destruction? Why does He enable the wedding party to continue its drunken revelry? Why does He provide in our times of need? Because of love. God loved everyone at that wedding party. God loves each one of us. God loves the Son. God’s love is so deep, so vast, so unconditional that He can’t help but provide abundantly and at personal expense. God’s love is so forgiving that He’ll provide even when He doesn’t want to provide. God loves us so very much! God wants nothing but the best for us! God will do anything for us! We have a loving Father! This story of the wedding at Cana reveals God’s love for us. Let us rejoice in his love and share his love with each other just as He shared with the wedding guests.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.