February 25, 2015
This Lenten season, we’re talking about the miracles of Jesus. And one of the things we’re saying is that the miraculous things Jesus did pointed to who he was. And yet the irony in his story is that there were also those who opposed him. And the more miraculous things he did, the more they opposed him.
And yes, there were many other factors that caused that opposition. But we’re looking at these series of events that became more and more impressive and more controversial, until they led up to the final event, the Raising of Lazarus, which we’ll talk about just before Holy Week.
Our story for this evening comes from John’s Gospel. And according to John this was the first miracle – the first “sign” Jesus did, as John called it. And I love, that it took place in the context of a wedding.
As we think about this story, the first thing I would point out is that this was a community event. And I believe that community was simply a part of Jesus’ life. When I lived in Kansas, the joke was that you never said anything bad about another person, not just because it wasn’t nice, but because the person you were talking to was probably related to the person you were talking about!
I believe that’s what life was like for Jesus. I believe the towns in that day functioned as close-knit communities. Everybody knew everybody, and many were probably related. And celebrations like this one, were often community celebrations. I believe Jesus went to many such events! And I sometimes wonder if he ever figured prominently in those events. Did Jesus ever have a birthday party? Was he ever Bar-Mitzvah-ed? I believe we need to think in such terms when we think of the community life in which Jesus was raised!
And of course, when we think of the importance of community in his world, we can’t forget the importance of religion! Their Jewish religion was their life! It was much more so than ours is for us, I daresay! To be a Jew was to be part of a religious tradition. And the world of Jesus was a very Jewish world! I’ve been thinking a lot about that throughout Advent and Christmas this year.
I think it’s hard for us to understand the dilemma those people faced when they began to see Jesus come into opposition with their Pharisees and Scribes. Those men were prominent leaders in their communities! They looked up to them. And as they began to see Jesus as an important person, it was a puzzle to them to see their leaders oppose him, and vice-versa! And I’m sure they were there that day in Cana! And I’m sure they were concerned about what they saw!
One of the most important parts of this story to me, is that this very first miracle of Jesus, took place in the context of a celebration. As reluctant as he seemed to be about doing this, still I have to picture Jesus “smiling quietly to himself.” It wasn’t a matter of, “Oy! Now I have to make the wine!” No! His reluctance was that “It was not yet his time.” There was always a sense of when he would reveal himself and in what way. And notice, his action that day was kept anonymous! After the steward of the feast proclaimed the greatness of the wine, nobody pointed to Jesus and said, “He did it!” But they knew! And they told about it later!
So again, it was the timing, not the celebration part of this that was in question. The farther along I get in this life, the more I’m convinced that Jesus wants us to celebrate this life. He wants us to enjoy the life he came to bring us. He said, “I have come that you might have life and have it more (what?) abundantly!” Sometimes we forget that, don’t we?
The other day I was on line, and I don’t remember what prompted it, but I wrote this statement. “Life is too short to be stingy with exclamation points!” If you know Facebook, you know people can make comments, and comments on comments. Well, I got a lot of them! And they were all positive, except for one which came from a “punctuation Nazi” friend, who said exclamation points were overused. But she really knew what I meant.
I meant that life should be lived to the fullest. Life is to be enjoyed. My sister has a plaque on her wall that says, “Life is not measured in the number of breaths you take, but in the number of things that take your breath away!” And that’s what I mean. And yes, we need to give thought to preparing for the next life. I believe that! That’s the “business” I’m in! We should give a lot of thought to that! But it doesn’t mean we aren’t to rejoice in this life!
I’m not sure what catechism you guys use, but the first question in ours is “What is the chief end of man?” Do you know that one? It’s older wording, but it means, “What is our purpose in this life?” “Why were we created?” The answer? “To glorify God and study him forever.” Right? No, “To enjoy him forever!”
There are those who let a lot of things get in the way of celebrating this life. Remember the Parable of the Prodigal Son. And by the way, I’ve said for years now that I believe that parable has been mis-named. It should be called “The Parable of the Elder Brother.” Because that’s what it’s about. He was the one who let the mundane, the tedious, the “I’ve worked for you all my life, Father,” get in the way of celebrating the Prodigal’s return. And the parable was told in response to the Pharisees – who were having that same problem! They couldn’t abide that tax collectors and sinners were drawing near to hear Jesus! They were concentrating on obligation. Jesus was concentrating on celebration!
So, what is it that gets in the way of our enjoying life the way God wants for us. Is it the mundane, tedious, drudgery? Is it hard feelings we might have for someone else? Is it grudge we can’t seem to let go of? Is it prejudice? Is it “Theological snobbery?” “Hey, those people don’t believe what we believe!” Is it guilt or the inability to forgive ourselves, even though we believe God has?
Think of that this Lenten season. Jesus did these wonderful things we’ll be talking about. He showed us the glory of God, and the joy of his kingdom! He came that we might life and have it more abundantly! As we think of Easter, let us think about the “celebration” of Easter! It’s not just a “Phew, thank God we’re forgiven.” It’s a “Wow!! Thank God! We’re forgiven!”
Eternal God, we thank you that you sent Jesus to call us back to your kingdom. We thank you that he showed us your glory. We thank you that he showed us the joy of this life in you. Help us to know that joy as we look to the celebration of Easter. For this we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.