I’m going to make an assumption here, that most of you have had the opportunity to go to a wedding. I have. Actually, in my line of work, I go to a lot of weddings. Since becoming a pastor, I’ve had the joy and the honor of marrying well over a hundred different couples. That’s basically a small town.
And I think that in my career, I’ve seen just about everything:
- I’ve seen the best man hand me the two rings together, and the brides ring got stuck inside the groom’s ring, and we had to pry them apart, just before they placed them on each other’s finger.
- I’ve seen the two young sons of the groom, who were standing up for their father’s second marriage, get into an argument over which one got to stand next to Dad, and start wrestling…on the chancel…during the service.
- I’ve seen ring bears and flower girls just stop in their tracks, or take off the wrong direction, or just decide to sit down in the middle of the aisle and watch from there.
- I’ve seen the attempt at using the beloved family dog as a ring bearer. That didn’t go well.
I’ve seen, and I’ve learned. I’ve learned that there is this mythical image of what a perfect wedding is…and that while we almost never nail it completely, people will go to almost any length to try and achieve it, because they love, and they want the very best for the groom, and the bride.
So, when Jesus’ mother tapped on his shoulder when they were celebrating at a wedding reception and said “the couple has run out of wine!” Jesus whispers back to her: “What concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” I envision that Mary just gave Jesus “the look.” (You all know “the Mom look,” don’t you?)
You see, Mary knew what Jesus was capable of. And Jesus knew that she knew. And he’s saying “Mom, that isn’t really our problem…and besides, I’m not ready to go public with who I am yet.”
It’s interesting to me that Jesus was resisting what seemed like a small favor…interesting that he wanted to hold back. The exact phrase he used was “My hour has not yet come.”
But in the world during Jesus’ time, running out of wine, especially at a wedding, was not a small problem. It was a disaster! Wine was the only option besides water. There was no red punch…no Coca-Cola…no Sprite Cranberry. Wine was also an important wedding symbol. Wine was seen as a sign of God’s great abundance and blessing for the couple. For a wedding party to run out of wine would have been considered a bad omen for the newly married.
Now, I don’t have any evidence of this, but in my mind’s eye, I’m pretty certain that Mary kind of rolled her eyes at Jesus, and then looked over at the nearest servant and said “Just do whatever he tells you to do.”
“Really Mom? Fine.” And so, Jesus points to six large stone water containers. Each could hold up to 30 gallons. “Fill these to the brim with water.” And they did. “Now take one to the steward and have him draw some out.” When the steward dipped his ladle in to the jar, wine…good wine…the very best wine…came out.
Six big 30-gallon jars. A total of 180 gallons of fine wine. That measures out, by the way, to close to 1,000 bottles of wine.
“Fine Mom, you want wine? You’ve got wine. And now, it’s all public. Everybody knows.”
This wasn’t a part of Jesus’ original plan. And Jesus’ words tell us that he had some kind of plan…some kind of idea for how he would reveal himself to the world…a world that he knew was going to have a hard time accepting him for who he was. Jesus had things that he wanted people to know…to learn…to understand. But in his timeframe. Jesus wanted to be strategic.
For Jesus, opportunities for his people to learn had always been an important part of his mission. He was, long before this first public miracle, a Rabbi. And Rabbi literally means “teacher.” Jesus was a teacher of the Jewish faith.
But this became Jesus’ first opportunity to reveal that he was more than simply a rabbi. His teaching would be different…and it was critical. It was about who he was, and what he was about. This would be the most important lesson he had taught to date and Jesus wanted to be very intentional with how he shared it. He knew that he was about to take the people’s faith and turn it on its ear.
Jesus had much to teach…and God’s people had much to learn.
We still do.
This is why the word “Learn” has a prominent place in Trinity’s mission statement. Let’s take a look at it. It’s right on the front of your bulleting. Pull it out, and let’s read it out loud together: “Through Jesus’ love, we welcome, connect, learn and serve.” Ok, let’s do it again…(this time, try to not look at it): “Through Jesus’ love, we welcome, connect, learn and serve.”
When God created humans, we were wired to be learners. Humans have a natural curiosity. Have you ever watched an infant? Maybe one who has just learned how to crawl? They motor around the house grabbing and picking up anything they can, and where does it go? Right into their mouth? They do this because they are exploring and learning, and that’s the only way they know how. When our boys hit that stage, life became much more of a footrace. “No, not that!”
We are all instinctive learners, and that instinct stays with us…it’s an unconscious instinct. But at some point, the rational side of our mind takes over and we decide that at least about some areas of life or faith, we’ve learned what we need and we can stop now.
We all forget that we’re never done learning; never done growing in our faith. I think we assume that once we were confirmed, it was like bread popping out of a toaster. “We’re done!”
But Jesus reminds us today that we all have much to learn. The forming of our faith is a life-long process. And we need to embrace our natural curiosity about the way that God works in the world. We need to stop, look around and discover why God does what God does. We need to continue learning.
So what was the very first thing that Jesus wanted his people to learn? What was his highest priority? What was he being so strategic about?
Jesus’ first miracle is to provide more wine, more joy, and more blessings than this couple, or any couple, could possibly have imagined or deserved. Eight, or maybe 10 bottles of wine probably would have done the trick. But Jesus provides 1000 bottles, symbols of God’s goodness…symbols of God’s abundance…symbols of God’s love.
Jesus is telling us, “This is what God’s grace looks like!” The love of God is so much more than we need…it is overwhelming…it is 1000 bottles to fill an eight-bottle need.
This was the first thing Jesus wanted to reveal, because he knew that grace was the first thing we need to learn. And still, to this day, truth be told, grace can be one of our biggest faith hang ups. It is so hard for us to get our mind around the idea that we do not…cannot…do anything to earn God’s overwhelming, absolute, abundant love.
Grace is the foundational understanding of our faith. It comes from God and there is more than enough…an abundance. And on this idea, everything else we learn about God and the path of discipleship is built.
Jesus reminds us that this is just the beginning. That there is more to learn. That we build off of this grace.
Through Jesus’ love, we welcome, connect, learn and serve. God calls you to be the curious learner that God created you to be. Explore the ways that God’s overabundant gifts of grace work in the world and within your heart.
To learn and have our faith formed is to acknowledge that we aren’t done learning and growing; that faith is a journey, and that there are important truths yet for us to discover. This is what our teacher…our Rabbi Jesus teaches us. And this is our mission.
Thanks be to God!