I go back and forth on whether I should post my sermons online. Part of me feels that because I borrow so heavily from so many sources without showing where I shouldn’t do it. Part of me feels like a bad sermon opens me up to a lot of criticism. They are also extremely unedited because I fill in the gaps when I speak it aloud.
Despite those concerns I have decided that it wouldn’t kill me to share of my sermons online. I will normally post the texts a excerpt, and the rest will appear after the jump.
Texts: Isaiah 62:1-5, Psalm 36:5-10, 1 Corinthians 12:1-11, John 2:1-11
What we have here is a God who messes with our expectations. His glory comes in his touch and it can be denied. His signs are not logical precise images but rather precarious moments that not every body sees. A God who bridges the gap between the historical sense of time and divine in way that we don’t quite understand. A God who takes our purification water and makes into a 100 gallons of glorious wine for all to drink so that we have nowhere to wash our hands. This is God who doesn’t function from a economy of lack or need but of great abundance, and it is abundance that makes us uncomfortable.
Texts: Isaiah 62:1-5, Psalm 36:5-10, 1 Corinthians 12:1-11, John 2:1-11
Today’s text, the bane of Baptist everywhere (wait Jesus turned water into grape juice not wine) and nagging mothers. It’s funny because just two weeks ago Kelli shared this story in Children’s church and the resource took out the dialogue between Jesus and his mother. The message seemed to be that if children are going to learn to talk back to their mothers it won’t be at church. You could just imagine what would happen if they heard the story. Mothers would tell their children to clean their room and they would respond “Women why do you involve me? My hour has not yet come.” But I think they are missing a good opportunity because Jesus does what she tells him to.
But most of have heard this story enough to hardly have register on our radars today. It’s kind of like the verse Jesus wept in that it is pat answer to bible trivia. “Quick, What was Jesus first miracle?” And somebody yells out he turns water into wine. If we hear a sustained reflection on it at all it is typically at wedding where the pastor reminds us that the good wine in marriage comes later in life.
But today as we approach this story I want to do what I can to have us hear it again with fresh ears. To do this I want to focus on the final section of the text. One of the final lines of the story says:
What did Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples put their faith in him.
In the pivotal verse of John draws out two particular themes that demand our attention as we read not just this story but the entire of the gospel. Those two themes are signs and glory. If you have time to can read through the gospel of John and the first part of it centers very clearly around seven signs that Jesus preforms so that we might believe. As he it says near the end of the book of John:
Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Signs are at the heart of John’s gospel. However for John signs are not irrefutable evidence that Jesus really is who he says he is. We would wish that things were that way and John took the time to iron out all of issues so that you would have to believe after reading the gospel. But signs don’t function that. One of the later signs the raising of Lazarus teaches us exactly this. After raising Lazarus we see a similar statement by John:
Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.
Signs in John’s gospel are just as likely to create doubt and opposition as they are faith. After someone is raised from the dead people are caused to belief and opposition. But what John is attempting to convince of us that seeing is not believing (and this becomes even clearer in the story of Thomas) but that believing is seeing. But this isn’t some call to just believe and you will see it but a notice to us that we must be transformed the same way the water is into wine before we can declare Jesus Lord. The gospels aren’t historical, philosophical, or scientific proofs for the nature of God but rather are written so that we believe in this one who came into world from without and transformed the very nature of what we see and respond too.
What the disciples saw here is clearly illustrated through the Old Testament. Wedding imagery and wine are signs of the final days when God will restore Israel glory. And here John’s gospel is turning the notion of glory on its head. Even today we often think of God’s glory as sunset or giant blaze but in John’s gospel God’s glory is reveal in Jesus miraculous touch and signs. And it is done ways that are deniable as we notice with signs. This glory isn’t a glory that overpowers. It often turns out that we are like the master of banquet who is oblivious to what happens and pulls the bridegroom aside to thank him. When we see the work of the lord we are more likely to look for someone else to thank some other explanation than radical revelation of Jesus Christ, the revelation of glory. So we rush out some explanation in the face of this miracle.
And this is a problem for us. We want glory to be overpowering. If in John’s gospel this is his inauguration day we want a grand one. It should be like the one we saw last January where all the eyes of the world were turned on nations capital. Likewise we want our signs to be clear as day. We want them in sky writing and recorded with utmost concern for historical facts and science so that they can be verified. We want to show the atheist or the doubter specially and clearly how these signs are performed, rather than insist with John that is through believing we begin to be able to gain out sight to see.
This becomes more interesting with the story of the Corinthians that Giane read. The Corinthians wanted a hierarchy to their gifts. If some of them preformed signs they wanted them to be their signs and the glory to be used for the building up of themselves, But Paul is clear with them, “No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit. There are different kinds of gifts but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service but same Lord. There are different kinds of working but in all of them and in every it is the same God at work…All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one just as he determines.”
Even our gifts are the product of one Lord and Spirit. We can make claim even our own confession of Jesus because they don’t belong to us but the one Spirit.
But today we are considered weak to have a Lord that even our working is not ours by God at work. But what Paul proclaims is that true freedom comes in this abundant Lordship. There is no boasting in the Spirit.
What we have here is a God who messes with our expectations. His glory comes in his touch and it can be denied. His signs are not logical precise images but rather precarious moments that not every body sees. A God who bridges the gap between the historical sense of time and divine in way that we don’t quite understand. A God who takes our purification water and makes into a 100 gallons of glorious wine for all to drink so that we have nowhere to wash our hands. This is God who doesn’t function of a economy of lack or need but of great abundance, and it is abundance that makes us uncomfortable.
And as final image it is God that takes empty jars like ourselves, fills them Spirit to proclaim his Lordship over our entire lives, and to perform all sorts of signs and works, not so that we may receive the glory due to us but to point to his radical coming amongst us and revealing the nature of a God who is active and alive in our admits. And it is through gift and the one Spirit that we can claim “Jesus as Lord.”
How do we hear this sermon when we will go home and hear about what happened in Haiti this week? How can we speak of banquet wine in abundance when we see desperate people queuing for survival-water in Haiti? How can we speak of divine intervention…when nature has been allowed once again to utterly ravage the lives of tens of thousands of poor people, men, women, and as we see daily, little children?…This is not the story of a once upon a time magic trick.
This is about what Jesus’ coming to earth means at its deepest level. It means the whole game has changed…. [W]hen we hear his words…we respond with the same extravagance to the hurting, bleeding people around us. But not because it is us acting, but thought one Spirit so of us have been given to the gift to act as Jesus asked to provide a plentiful sign that says this is not how God acts, this is not the face of God, this is not the glory of God. But through the one Spirit we can take the abundances of the gifts of God we have been given and share them with those who have empty jars.