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The First Miracle

1/17/2016 Second Sunday after Epiphany  The text is  John 2:1-11.

Grace and peace to you from God, our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

What is a miracle?  I think most of us would classify a miracle as something unexpected happening that is good – like having the winning numbers in the 1.6 billion dollar Powerball drawing this past week.  It is more likely for us to be struck by lightning twice than win that one.  I have witnessed miracles – a person surviving an burst aneurism, another walking away from a car accident in which the car was totaled, and yet another recovering from stage 4 cancer.  But, most miracles are not that dramatic.  The birth of a healthy child, the passing of the bar examination, rain rather than snow from a winter nor’easter, a car breaking down at just the right time and place, the landing of a job, the entrance into the school you always wanted to attend can all be seen as miracles.  Miracles do happen every day whether we acknowledge them or not.

One day a skeptic was heckling a pastor about his views on miracles. “Give me one concrete example of a miracle,” the skeptic taunted, “One concrete example.” Whereupon the pastor hauled off and kicked the skeptic furiously on the shin. The skeptic couldn’t believe it! The pastor asked, “Did you feel that?” “Yes,” the man said as he nursed his sore leg. “If you had not,” said the pastor, “it would have been a miracle!” (King Duncan, Collected Sermons, sermons.com)

Miracles are something unexpected, something out of the norm.  They may come quietly as the result of the right set of circumstances, or as something grand done by the hand of God. They may come as the right people are at the right place at the right time or suddenly, without much warning.  But to John, miracles have a broader meaning and purpose.  Miracles are signs pointing to God and to Jesus in particular, much in the way that the sign we have on the front lawn points people to this church.

In John, the first sign of Jesus’ true identity, the first miracle, takes place at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. Now, in those days, there was greater importance attached to a wedding than there is today.  It was more than a brief ceremony, attended by the invited few.  It was an experience shared by the entire community.  Unlike today’s receptions, the typical wedding feast could last up to seven days. The ceremony would begin on Tuesday at midnight. After the wedding the father of the bride would take his daughter to every house so that everyone might congratulate her.

At this particular wedding in Cana, Jesus, his mother and his disciples are in attendance at the feast when a problem develops. There is a shortage of wine. Not only is that a social embarrassment, it is thought to be a symbol. For a wedding to run out of wine is an omen that there is little chance of this particular marriage reaching its full potential, and lasting joy is not meant for this couple. So when the wine runs out, Mary goes to Jesus and asks him to do something to save the marriage feast.

The passage never says that Mary knows her son as God.  Yet, she realizes that Jesus is able to help in only the way God can help. For, men can fill the water jars, but it takes a miracle that only God can perform to turn water into wine! And a miracle is what happens.

In spite of a less than stellar reaction from Jesus to his mother’s request, as Jesus did not feel the timing was right for him to give a sign of his identity, Jesus did an extraordinary thing.  Men can do the ordinary, the commonplace, the normal activity, but Jesus touches it, and brings it to life and gives it flavor, fragrance and effect. This is the meaning of this sign: it is an indication of what the ministry of Jesus is going to be like whenever he touches a human life, not only during his lifetime on earth, but also through all the running centuries to come, whenever his ministry is present in the world.

Now, we may not fully comprehend the significance of turning water to wine.  After all, we tend to be skeptics.  But, an eight year old boy, interviewed by Johnny Carson years ago, understood the significance of the event as only an eight year old can.  When he was asked about his Sunday school lesson, he said, it “was about when Jesus went to a wedding and turned water into wine.” The audience roared, but Johnny tried to keep a straight face. Then he said, “And what did you learn from that story?” The boy squirmed in his chair. It was apparent he hadn’t thought about this. But then he lifted up his face and said, “If you’re going to have a wedding, make sure you invite Jesus!” (Excerpt from sermon titled “Saving the Best Till Last,” sermons.com)

Make sure you invite Jesus into your life!  Make sure you invite Jesus into all your relationships!  Is there anything more profound than that?

This past year, I experienced many special moments as people united as husband and wife.  Of course, everyone had a choice between getting married in front of a JP or me, a pastor in the church of God.  There are times when I grouse about the fact that the commonwealth makes religious leaders agents of the state when it comes to weddings, but when I think of it, the little boy was on to something. Weddings are time of joy and Christ should be invited into the marriage.

So, why do we bring Jesus into the wedding ceremony? Are we looking for him to perform some kind of miracle?  And what does that tell us about the relationship in the first place if it needs a miracle to get it off on the right foot?  And yet, little miracles are what we need to remain bonded to one another as two become one flesh. So, Jesus is invited to the special occasion so we can have better marriages and greater joy.

A few years back psychologist Dr. Joyce Brothers was quoted as saying that for about half of all American couples, marriage is a “quiet hell.” Many other marriages have degenerated into a “tired friendship,” as someone put it. This is a tragedy, and it’s not what a marriage is supposed to be.  Sure, every day isn’t full of joy.  Marriage is a lot of work.  But if we take the traditional marriage rite seriously and invite Christ to be a guest at our weddings, he will be there for us when things get tough.

So have a little wine!  Invite Jesus into your marriage and into all your relationships, to touch it with God’s grace.  Call upon him in time of need.  Rejoice and be glad.  And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.




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