Sunday Sermon 16th January - The First Miracle
The First Miracle
Introit : Heaven on earth https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACNseBlpHJQ
Hymn 771: If you believe https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SUopVtrKSno
Hymn 157: Sing of the Lord’s goodness https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzTXl_jA-XQ
Reading John 2: 1-12
Hymn: In Cana at a wedding feast
Hymn 132: Immortal, invisible https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NacT-XxQcp0
Welcome to our time of reflection for Sunday 16th January.
Today we celebrate the first recorded miracle of Jesus in the Bible, which happened at a wedding at Cana.
It is not an easy passage.
I used to joke that they ran out of alcohol and there was a big family bust up, so that is proof that it was a Glasgow wedding.
But it is a weird situation. This is the first miracle of Jesus, and yet no one apart from a few people even knows it has happened.
So if why are we then told about it?
I will reflect on this after Margaret leads us in our prayer and reading today
When the wine had given out, Jesus’ mother said to his ‘They have no wine left.’
‘You must not tell me what to do,’ Jesus replied.
I have heard so many sermons on this passage. And sometimes when you hear a passage over and over you think to yourself, ‘You’ll be struggling to get something new out of this.’
But with this one I am often left with, ‘Really, is that what you think.’
Nothing seems quite right about it.
If Jesus is adamant that it is not the right time to do a miracle, then why does he do a miracle?
Why does Mary even think that Jesus can do anything at this point?
If this really is the first miracle that Jesus has done, why would she be expecting Jesus to be able to do anything?
And then there is the whole, why are we even told of this miracle?
Something amazing happens, and no one of importance knows it or acknowledges it.
So what is the point of it?
The only reason we are told this parable is so that we get a message out of it, because the people there didn’t get a message out of it, they didn’t even know it had happened.
As I was trying to work it out I thought to myself, well what do I know?
So this is what I know.
This wasn’t just a wedding, this was a community event.
I know that because all wedding then were community events.
It would be an arranged marriage because all marriages in those days were arranged marriages.
So it was a coming together of two families.
Cana would not have been a big place, a small village of a few families. So nearly everyone in the village would be there because nearly everyone in the village would be related to the couple. If the groom was from a neighbouring village then it would be a huge affair because nearly everyone from two villages would be there because nearly everyone in the two villages would be related to the couple.
Weddings today are important events, and there is the feeling that you want everything to go right; that if it is a disaster it is a terrible start to the marriage. That would be even more so in a wedding in those days. A wedding was not just a marriage service, it was a weeklong event that spoke of the honour and generosity and character of the families involved. It would take a long time to prepare for the wedding. You couldn’t get caterers in, you had to butcher the cattle yourself on the day of the wedding, you had to prepare it and cook it. It was probably the same with the wine. That would have to be prepared before hand as there were no local supermarkets that you could nip down to increase your stock.
If things ran out it was a sign that the families were unprepared. If you were unprepared for something like a wedding which was a very planned event, what did that say about the prospects of a marriage which is a lifetime of unprepared events suddenly happening?
If your support network couldn’t cope with a wedding, what chance did the couple have of surviving a marriage when their support network of families was so rubbish at coping with the basics of life’s problems?
It would not look good.
So a lot of planning would go into the wedding.
And then comes Jesus, and not just Jesus, twelve disciples. Twelve extra mouths to feed over this week long event.
In that context I think everyone is looking at Mary.
Mary is part of this small community, and as everyone is watching these twelve men eat their way through food everyone is looking at Mary as if she is part of the problem. It was her son that brought these men along, how could she do that to her neighbours and friends?
And what is she going to do about it?
Mary is feeling this social pressure.
So of course she goes to the one she blames...Jesus.
I don’t think she is expecting Jesus to perform a miracle.
I think she is just mad at Jesus of putting her in this situation.
She sees Jesus as part of the problem, not part of the solution, and she wants that to change, and sharpish.
‘There’s no wine left.’
We read that in the Bible as if it is a simple statement of fact.
We read it neutrally as if Mary is just passing on a piece of information.
My mother never once just neutrally passed on a piece of information.
There was always a whole agenda behind everything that she told me; especially when that piece of information concerns me.
Perfect example...my sister visited me recently and she gave a statement. ‘Your new grandchild is wonderful Jim. I’m not a grandmother.’
A complete statement of fact; but that second part was never meant to be for me. That second part was meant to be heard by my nephew, her son.
‘I am not a grandmother...because you, my son, have not made me a grandmother yet. Jim has lots of grandchildren. He has lots of grandchildren because his children are having children. WHY AREN’T YOU?’
I think, and I agree that it is only supposition, that Mary wasn’t just stating a fact.
‘There is no wine left.’
‘There’s no wine left....You know why there’s no wine left, because those men, that YOU brought along have been drinking it all. What were you thinking bringing them along? More importantly, what are YOU going to do about it?’
So Jesus does something and it is all sorted and everyone is happy.
But I go back to the point I made earlier; as far as everyone at the event knows nothing happened, everything went smoothly. There is no indication that even Mary knows what happened, just that Jesus sorted out the problem that he created.
So if we know of this happening, it is because John, the writer of this Gospel, wants us to pick up something about what happened. There is a truth that he wants us to pick up on.
And I am wondering if it is this...
God is involved with our life.
We may not be aware of it, but just because we are not aware of it doesn’t mean it isn’t true.
The wedding guests were completely unaware that a miracle was taking place in their midst, but that didn’t mean that a miracle was not taking place in their midst.
How often are we missing God’s presence because we aren’t looking very hard?
We are so preoccupied with the problems in front of us that we don’t see the God of love coming along side us and helping us.
And what is more, the spiritual part of our life is the add-on. When we have dealt with the all the other things that we need to deal with, then we will deal with the religious stuff, the spiritual stuff.
Like in this incident.
They have six jars the same size of wheelie bins for the purification water; the water that they use to clean stuff with. It is a religious ritual. They probably felt of as a pain in the neck, something that has to be done because it has to be done. It was an inconvenience; it took up valuable time and effort because these jars would have to have been filled by hand from a well, prepared beforehand with great diligence. They would need so much and so many huge jars because they were dealing with the spiritual needs of two villages for a week.
It was a religious obligation, but also important to make sure no one went down with food poisoning.
But also a big effort when you also need to deal with all the alcohol needing to be fermented and all the food needing to be prepared.
To be honest it was part of the problem rather than part of the solution.
And yet, and yet Jesus is using that spiritual stuff to be part of the solution, the central part of the solution.
Right at the start of John’s Gospel here is John saying to us,
‘We think of the spiritual stuff as the bit we tag on at the end if we have time left; more often than not an obligation, a problem, an inconvenience that we just have to do.
But what if the spiritual part of our life is the solution to how we live our life with joy and wonder?
What if God has always been working away in the background and all we need to do is look a bit closer and we would see him in our lives.
More importantly, what would our lives be like if we lived as if we knew God was always there, seen and unseen, known and unknown, always working away?’
So maybe that’s the thought that I want to leave you with as you leave the church.
The next time you’re struggling, the next time you think your facing life alone, maybe the first thought that can come into our head it this, ‘Just because I can’t see God working in my life, doesn’t mean that he’s not working away in my life.’
And if we can think that thought, maybe our life will be better.
How much of the good in our life is because of your influence that we never see?
Scientists inspired by the wellbeing of others to create cures for illnesses.
Doctors and social workers and councillors all seeking the good of others because of kindness inspired by you.
Politicians that seek to changes the laws to make life fairer for all in society.
Teachers that seek to give their pupils the best chance of progressing their life by insights and learnt experiences.
The volunteers of all kinds that give of their time because they see the well being of others as a priority in their life.
May we, also, be inspired by your spirit. May we understand how much you are a part of our life, and the gifts, the blessings that we have in our life all have their source in you. May that inspire us to be a blessing and an inspiration to others.