Extraordinary, Extravagant, Transforming Grace 

Sunday, January 23, 2022
Pastor Arne Bergland

John 2:1-11

 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.  When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”  And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.”  His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”  Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.  He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So, they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom  and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.”  Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

Have you ever heard of couples who took a creative way to offering a marriage proposal?  Maybe you have seen a proposal made on the scoreboard of a football game.  Maybe a wedding ring is hidden a cupcake. Then there is the guy who sent his partner on a scavenger hunt only to find a wedding ring offered on bended knee.  Recently there has been a creative wedding proposal and I will tell you about it in a little bit.  But first I want to talk about the famous story of another wedding, the wedding at Cana.

In telling the story of Jesus the Gospel of John announces the beginning of the public ministry of Christ at the end of our reading from last week.  Jesus tells his disciple Nathaniel, “Truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”  Jesus begins his ministry on earth proclaiming himself to be the bridge between heaven and earth, he is the Word made flesh

Jesus heads out to  the town of Cana.  There we see his first sign, the first of six that the Gospel recalls. It is that remarkable event where Jesus rescues a wedding celebration that has run out of wine. Somewhere during the seven-day celebration they run out of wine.  He turns what today would be 1000 bottles of wine into the best wine ever.  Now the Gospel of John moves from Cana of Galilee and goes to Jerusalem then to Samaria, and finally returns to Cana where he heals the royal official’s son who is about to die. Along the way he ministers to people in need and amazes people with his teaching and proclamation.  At the heart of it all is the promise of new life in Christ.

I am curious about  both of these Cana stories, in part because.  In both of these  it seems that Jesus acts rather rudely.  He seems to be telling his mother to leave him alone while he is at party. Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.”    When the official with the dying son asks for help Jesus seems to dismiss him by saying, “Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe.”

When I was very much younger I couldn’t wait till noon so I could watch “Lunch with Casey” on Channel 11.  Casey was my hero.  One day, when I was a first grader,  he announced that he was going to have a pancake breakfast in Faribault. That is where I lived!  I was so excited!  My Dad and I went to the breakfast. Casey was surrounded by kids wanting an autograph.  I waited till the line had disappeared before I approached my hero.  He was facing away from me, I tugged on his railroad jacket and said, “Mr. Casey, can I have an autograph?”  he turned around and with his sneer he said, “Get lost kid.”  I was crushed.  I have come to believe that he had had it with kids that day and I understand how that can be, but I was snubbed none the less.

Jesus’ mother made a request.  She had every reason to make the request. In failing to provide for their guests the family who hosted the wedding would be shamed by their community.  The official was desperate, his son was dying.  He had nowhere else to turn. Jesus’ response to these two questions was puzzling.  Yet, let’s not get to distracted by this. Let’s also not get too distracted by the idea that Jesus’ mother seems to be something of a  meddling parent. Both are true, and yet  Jesus went ahead and turned water into wine to save the day.  And yet the official’s dying boy was saved. What might we make of these two stories?

It is that time of year when people with green thumbs have amaryllis and narcissus and paper whites blooming in their house.  Forcing bulbs to bloom in the dead of winter is a practice that takes a lot of faith. It’s hard to imagine anything that looks less promising than a dormant flower bulb. Too hard to be an onion, its papery skin sloughing off like it has some disease, there’s nothing to suggest that new life and rare beauty lurk just beneath the surface of a bulb, nothing to suggest that the  bulb is brimming with new life. Gardeners can see beyond a dead bulb to the beauty of a winter flower.

Jesus’ mother had this kind of extraordinary, remarkable faith in Jesus. She trusted that Jesus could transform the water into wine. Jesus’ mother trusted that Jesus’ actions and words would fit the needs of the situation. She did not know what he would do or how he would do it. But still she had the confidence to order the servants to “do whatever he tells you.”

Jesus’ budding ministry was all about transformation. Everything Jesus did throughout the course of his time on earth was a variation on this same theme of transformation: turning water into wine, turning the lame into walkers, turning the blind into see-ers, turning haters into lovers, and doubters into believers.  Jesus’ mothers’ faith opens the door for us to see the transformation that Jesus can provide.

At the wedding the glory of God stands alongside the humanity of Christ.  Jesus comes to bring life and joy and fulfilment.  In his humanity Christ allows us to move beyond ourselves.  Just as the water is transformed into wine we may be transformed by this God-made-flesh to see the Glory of God that is Gods last word for us all.

There has been a marriage proposal.  This congregation has proposed as they asked Pastor Jason to be your new pastor. Pastor Jason has said yes to the proposal.  This is life changing and transformative for this congregation as well as Pastor Jason and his family.

What might the wedding at Cana have to say to us on such an occasion? The wedding at Cana was about relationship, transforming faith and extravagant grace.  Grace upon grace as the Gospel of John says earlier. I believe God has graced you with a new relationship by which you will be blessed, nurtured  in faith and  transformed by God’s love.  The wedding at Cana teaches us that as it invites us to live into the celebration of God’s extravagant goodness.

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