”A New Day” John 2:1-11
Delivered to Church for the Highlands
Second Sunday after the Epiphany, January 20, 2013
If you could have anyone show up at your next birthday party, who would it be? That’s a fun question to consider, but just an exercise in daydreaming for most of us. For some, however, it is not outside the realm of possibility. In an article written by Jay MacDonald from Bankrate.com, he reports on the popularity of celebrities at parties,
Outrageous as it sounds, renting a celebrity today might turn out to be well within your budget. . .Thanks to the explosion of cable programming, viral videos and reality TV shows such as “American Idol,” “The Bachelor,” “Survivor” and “Jersey Shore,” there are more “celebrities” than ever before — all anxious to schmooze at your fundraiser, croon at your wedding or shout “Mazel tov!” at your bar or bat mitzvah. ”There is a celebrity for every budget,” says Mike Esterman, a celebrity booking agent based in Washington, D.C., who places stars at public and private events around the world. “Anybody can buy a celebrity host or appearance for anything.” . . . if you want to hire Lady Gaga, make sure to have a couple million in cash handy, Esterman says. On Esterman’s roster, Lady Gaga tops the list at $2 million, Metallica will blow down your walls for $1.5 million, and Pitbull ($300,000) and Ne-Yo ($200,000) would give a teen nothing to kvetch about at his bar mitzvah.[i]
There are people who are willing to pay any price to have something exciting happen at what would otherwise be their normal and lame parties. I mean, there’s just no way anyone would ever forget what would happen if Lady Gaga showed up in her meat dress or egg at your next birthday party.
Our Scripture this morning, on this Second Sunday after the Epiphany, is about a celebrity of sorts showing up at a wedding party in Cana. While we aren’t sure who invited him, we do have a little insight from John that it might have had something to do with Jesus’ mother. However he was invited, his presence there did not disappoint. In fact, his being there to party was fortuitous when the host ran out of wine. When Jesus turned water into wine, he not only solved what would have been an embarrassing social faux pas, but he also demonstrated how he and his ministry were signs that a new day had dawned. And, how they needed a new day, for the wine they enjoyed for so long was no longer enough and couldn’t meet the demand of the people. They had gone from a full bouquet of flavor to two buck chuck to none at all.
This was the moment Mary must have been waiting for when she made sure Jesus got the invitation to the party. She knew Jesus was special and had treasured all of the things said about him for all this time. No more wine? No problem. My son will know what to do. Let me have a talk with Jesus.” And sure enough, Jesus was a guest who did not disappoint. For those who saw what he did and how he did it, a new day dawned before their eyes as Jesus took control of the problem, taking what was present and bland and transforming it into something unique and robust. What John helps us understand here in this account is how Jesus was not just some spiritual sommelier. He was the wine itself. He was the new thing God was doing in the world, becoming what was lacking in the old wine. And he was being served to everyone, all those willing to taste and see.
An article in Christian Reader had a story that reminds that wine is what we really want.
In our church kitchen, whoever drinks the last cup of coffee often fails to replenish the pot for the next person. Trying to motivate the staff to be more responsible, the secretary taped a neatly-typed plea to the pot: “If Jesus drank the last cup of coffee, what would he have done? Go thou and do likewise.”
The next morning she found this scrawled response: “Jesus would have turned the water into wine instead of coffee.”[ii]
How can we get some of this new wine? How can we imbibe what will change our lives forever, giving us a fresh taste in life and a life full of life? Like with the disciples and servers that day, it is vital that we be where Jesus is. John noted that “the disciples were with Jesus” at the party. You get the idea that they were not just tag alongs, but that Jesus wanted them to be there; that they wanted to be anywhere Jesus was. It was because they were with Jesus that day that they experienced the reality of a new day. Imagine what their lives would have been like had they been too busy to hang out with Jesus, or if they had been too caught up in the worries of life to go on a new adventure.
The new day that comes from the new wine of Jesus flows into our lives as we make sure to be with Jesus, wherever he is. What a great opportunity for each of us as we begin this New Year, getting to go with Jesus where he goes in it. Just think what you will see, taste, encounter, and experience as you go along with him. Think of how you will feel and how you will be perceived when people see that you are with the guy who can take that which is ordinary and expected and turn it into that which is extraordinary and unexpected. And realize what you will miss in this next year if you become too busy, even doing really good things, to go wherever Jesus goes and is. Remind yourself in times of anxiety and worry of this next year that those things hold you down and keep you from getting to where Jesus has gone. If you are willing to let those things go, you will find Jesus in the celebration and festivities of life, in the call to action, in the people who gather here with you on Sunday mornings, in the people you scatter with from here to serve throughout the week. You will see him and be with him in the mindless tasks of your job, in the unpredictable of the predictable of your life. And you will be with him when you are alone with yourself, finding Jesus in you as you find yourself in him.
Another way you and I can have a new day throughout this new year is by doing what Jesus said to the servers at the wedding feast, Now draw some out . . . Jesus involved the servers in the greatest table waiting miracle they would ever experience. There’s no doubt that serving wine at a wedding party would never be the same ever again. The look of satisfaction and fulfillment on people’s faces as they drank that wine was priceless for those who were serving it that day. The chatter about saving the best for last was something the servers wouldn’t hear again as they would find that no one else could come up with such a heavenly mixture of ingredients. All of this was a result of what Jesus did that day, as they had the occasion to participate with God in doing the miraculous. They drew some out, serving to the world around them.
To “draw some out”, though, involves a commitment. It involves submission to Jesus’ way of doing things. It requires risk and the potential of humiliation. It goes beyond showing up and being where Jesus is to making a decision to act on what Jesus asks you to do. What does it mean for you today to “draw some out”? In other words, what thing before you has been transformed by the power of God and is just awaiting your action? What action from you is required to provide the supply of God’s new wine to people around you? Drawing some out means that you get to taste what it is like for yourself, for your own thirst. There is more than enough left over to share with other people, especially those who have had enough of the old stuff and want to savor Jesus’ new flavor for the world.
During this weekend of inauguration and national holiday for Martin Luther King, Jr., our news contains images of the past, how individuals stepped forward to make a difference in their nation. One of the quotes I read and have used before is from Dr. King, Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.[iii] I know you have heard it before, but it does us good as we talk about faith to think of how Dr. King and other brave souls were willing to take that first step that would change the nation. King could not see the whole pathway ahead and was keenly aware of the danger that would come from putting Jesus’ words in action. He stepped ahead to “draw some out”
What happens at the end of this account is really what can happen for anyone–belief. As John noted, Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. They believed in him. One way to read this is to conclude that the disciples really didn’t believe in Jesus before this happened. Yes, they followed him, hung out with him in other places like at Cana that day, and even clung to his every word of teaching. But, belief, that’s a whole different thing. This day, in this wine, they would see God’s glory revealed not in the wine but in the one who made it. You get the idea from this text that this belief wasn’t complete yet, but had now been birthed inside of them and would continue to ferment in them for years to come.
As we hear the need to be with Jesus where he is, to take steps of action and “draw some out,” we still find that we have a choice to make. Some people get to that point and choose not to believe, but all of us have opportunity to see the glory of God in His Son and respond in one way or another. Have you made that choice in your life? Have you placed your belief in Jesus or are you comfortable being with Jesus, drawing out what he provides, without ever believing in him? That’s where the real difference is made, as we believe that he is the one who has come to transform us and make something entirely new.
[ii] Mae H. Fortson, Black Mountain, North Carolina. Christian Reader, “Lite Fare.”