Posted by: skokiecentralchurch | January 20, 2013

2013.01.20 “Is It Time Yet?” John 2: 1 – 11

Central United Methodist Church

Is It Time Yet?

Pastor David L. Haley

John 2: 1 – 11

January 20th, 2013

 

“Three days later there was a wedding in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there. Jesus and his disciples were guests also. When they started running low on wine at the wedding banquet, Jesus’ mother told him, “They’re just about out of wine.”

Jesus said, “Is that any of our business, Mother — yours or mine? This isn’t my time. Don’t push me.”

She went ahead anyway, telling the servants, “Whatever he tells you, do it.”

Six stoneware water pots were there, used by the Jews for ritual washings. Each held twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus ordered the servants, “Fill the pots with water.” And they filled them to the brim.

“Now fill your pitchers and take them to the host,” Jesus said, and they did.

When the host tasted the water that had become wine (he didn’t know what had just happened but the servants, of course, knew), he called out to the bridegroom, “Everybody I know begins with their finest wines and after the guests have had their fill brings in the cheap stuff. But you’ve saved the best till now!”

This act in Cana of Galilee was the first sign Jesus gave, the first glimpse of his glory. And his disciples believed in him.” – John 2: 1 – 11, The Message, by Eugene H. Peterson

 

Let’s go to a wedding!  Today, in the Gospel, we are invited.  At this wedding, there will be things familiar and unfamiliar to us.  By what we experience, let’s see if it will open our eyes to see things in our own time we might not ordinarily see.

Chances are good you have already heard about this wedding, and not in the society pages. If the last wedding you attended was a Christian wedding, you heard about this wedding. Almost every Christian wedding ceremony, every wedding I do, begins with the reminder that “Jesus graced a wedding in Cana of Galilee with his presence and power.  That’s the wedding we’re going to today.

Due to our family habit of being away this weekend, the last time I preached about this wedding was a week before my own wedding to Michele, on January 20, 2001, 11 years ago today. That’s right, today is our anniversary.  I know, the lengths we preachers go to gather good sermon material is ridiculous.

As I said, at this wedding, there are things familiar to us, and things unfamiliar.  One of the familiar things, is that – though you may not always know it – at almost every wedding, something goes wrong. People pass out, clothes don’t fit, rings roll around, things get set on fire. Once I had a wedding where the unity candle would not light, an ominous sign. Sometimes the problems are invisible, but deeper. One woman told me: “Everything about my wedding was perfect; it was a storybook wedding; the only thing wrong was the groom.” I’m sure we could entertain each other quite a while with all the things we’ve seen go wrong at weddings.

It was no different that day in Cana. A wedding in that time and place was a multi-day celebration, as well as (as I suppose it still is) a show of status and hospitality for the host family. As one aspect of that, at that time and place, wine was not just a beverage; it was a sign of joy and gladness, a sign of the very presence of God. So to run out of wine at a wedding before the party was over was an embarrassment.

I know this may sound like an awkward problem to have for us Methodists, a denomination long associated with the Temperance movement. After all, thanks to the Methodist Welch family, we’ve been using grape juice for communion since 1864, right up to today, risking the scorn of our Catholic, Episcopalian, and Lutheran friends. I always think of the story I heard in seminary about the elderly Swedish woman, who when reminded how even Jesus had turned water into wine at the wedding at Cana, said: “Yeah, that’s one thing I don’t like about him.”

For whatever reasons, at this wedding, they began to run out of wine. In what happens next, again, there are signs of recognition and unrecognition.  Jesus’ mother, Mary, sidles up to his elbow and whispers in his ear: “They’re just about out of wine.” And Jesus says, not “Well, what do you expect, it is a wedding and something always goes wrong.“  Rather, he says what we might say, “Not my problem.”  What he says is, “Woman, what is that to you and me?” Or as Eugene Peterson renders it: “Is that any of our business, Mother — yours or mine? This isn’t my time. Don’t push me.”

Ah, what Jesus didn’t know – despite his divinity – was that everything is a mother’s business. I don’t think Jesus was being disrespectful to his mother here – he was supposed to be sinless, after all – there are just some things going on peculiar to that time and place that we do not recognize.

But I can understand where Jesus is coming from, can’t you? More wine at a wedding party that already has drunken guests? For this reason I have come to earth, to be a purveyor of food and wine, a supernatural sommelier? To save people from social disgrace?  Or was it just a matter of timing? “This isn’t my time.” There is a timetable, and we must be patient until it unfolds.

In John’s Gospel, timing is everything. In John’s Gospel, there are two kinds of time. There’s ordinary clock time: it’s a few minutes after 11 o’clock on the 3rd Sunday in January, Inauguration Day. But there’s also God’s time, eternal time, which every now and then breaks into calendar and clock time.  Wherever and whenever that happens, we get a glimpse of God’s glory on earth. What happened at the wedding in Cana would be one of those days.

In his divinity or even in his humanity, Jesus should have known better than to ever say “No” to your mother, but it really didn’t matter, because like most good Jewish mothers or all mothers everywhere, Mary went ahead. “Whatever he tells you to do,” she told the servants, “do it.”

Either Jesus must have said “It’s not my time” with a smile on his face, or maybe he too was still learning what that meant, because he too went ahead, and ordered the servants to fill the six stone waterpots – holding 20 to 30 gallons each – with water. Then he said, “Now fill your pitchers and take them to the host,” which they did. When the host tasted the water-now-wine, tasting how good it was but not knowing its source, he called out, “Everybody I know begins with their finest wines and after the guests have had their fill, brings out the cheap stuff. But you’ve saved the best till now:  this is not Mogen David, this is Chateau Mouton Rothschild Pauillac, and 180 gallons of it at that!” “Mazel Tov!”

What is John trying to tell us? John tells us it was not so much a miracle as a sign, the first sign Jesus did, which happened of all places at a wedding in Cana of Galilee.  It was a sign of what was to come, a sign of the abundance and extravagance of God, a sign of the Wedding Feast of the Lamb breaking into history already, at a wedding in Galilee. No wonder his disciples believed, I’m sure they were thrilled: if they followed Jesus they might lack for a lot of things, but at least wine was not going to be one of them.

Surely, we might wonder, if it was really worth a miracle to keep the party going? Seriously, aren’t there worse problems requiring God’s attention? Perhaps our Catholic friends are right, perhaps Mary is still standing at Jesus’ elbow in heaven, saying, “They have no oil!”  “They have no food!”  “They have no peace!”

Just as the mother of Jesus saw her boy as one who could and should meet human need, so do us, the followers of Jesus.  We see a world in need, and we believe in one who desired to bring abundant life. We live in a world where for many there is not even clean water – let alone fine wine – so what then does it mean to speak of divine extravagance? In a world where mothers say to their children, “We have no food,” why has the hour not yet come? No matter how we understand divine activity, we still want to tug at Jesus’ sleeve and ask:” Why the divine reluctance? Why is God holding out? Why God, do you continue to say: “Not my problem.” (Carol Lakey Hess, Feasting On The Word, Year C, Volume 1, pp. 260-264)

What is the answer? Is it not yet God’s time? Is it that God now relies on human compassion to do the work of God, such that as we wait upon God, God is waiting upon us? Is it that because we believe that God desires abundance and fullness of life for everyone, we now follow the model of Mary, prodding God in our prayers for divine compassion and generosity.  Might it be that without our prayers, like Mary’s plea, it cannot and will not happen?

Yes, there are things recognizable and unrecognizable, clear and not-so-clear in this story. But if we learn nothing else from our experience at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, may it open our eyes to look for God’s time in our time, even in the times and places we least expect it. On a weekday as much as on Sunday, at work or at school, even at a wedding, where something always goes wrong. Wherever we are, may we see God’s time in our time, and know when it is time to act, in the name of God.

On this weekend when we celebrate the 2nd inauguration of America’s first African-American president, by now many of us may take it for granted. But if we remember back to April of 1963 – and some of us can remember – the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday we honor tomorrow, was sitting in a jail in Birmingham, Alabama, as a result of his push for civil rights.

While there, he was the subject of criticism by eight white clergymen, who called his protests and demonstrations “unwise and untimely,” and they told him that he should wait, wait for things to take their course.

In response, Dr. King wrote his Letter from Birmingham Jail, which stands today as one of the great letters in American history.  In that letter Dr. King said:

“Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you go forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness” – then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.”  (Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963)

Because Dr. King was able to see God’s time in his time, even as he sat in that jail, all of us share the fruits of a most just and more perfect society today.

May what we have heard and seen at the wedding in Cana, open our eyes to God’s time in our time, and may God’s work on earth surely be our own.  Amen.

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