1 Corinthians 12:1-11
I have a gallon of water here. Does anyone want to see how much it weighs? It’s kind of heavy. Who wants to guess how many glasses of water we can get from this gallon? You can get 16 cups out of a gallon.
Today we heard about a wedding feast that Jesus was at. Wedding parties would go on for several days, and they always had wine. It was a big deal if the hosts ran out of food or wine. And that’s what happened at the party Jesus was at. Jesus told the servants to fill up several large jugs with water. The jugs would be made of clay, and they could hold 20-30 of these gallons! Can you imagine trying to carry a jug that big?
They filled six of them all the way to the top. When they took it to the head servant, it had become wine. That’s a lot of wine. And because Jesus made it, it was the best wine anyone had ever had—ever! So, 6 jugs, 20-30 gallons each. Can you figure how many gallons that would be? 120-180 gallons. And 16 cups per gallon—2-3 thousand cups of wine!
God just doesn’t do things small. And each one of you is a creation of God—a miracle—a sign. Each one of you is what God has made for the world. And if God doesn’t do small things with wine, God’s going to do some amazing things with you.
Let’s pray. Thank you God for your amazing and wonderful creations. Help us show your wonder to the whole world. Amen.
It can be awkward being the family’s ‘resident pastor.’ I’m usually the one everyone looks to for prayers. And though I’m over 40 years old, my mom still goes around bragging about me as if I’m 12. Any clerk in this city that she has encountered knows that I’m a pastor. They know where I serve. They probably know who my high school boyfriends were and that one of them is now her dentist. She can’t help but overshare.
So, I feel a little for Jesus at the wedding party. The wine is running out, and his mom just can’t help herself. I don’t know if she knew what to expect, but she turned to him anticipating something. “They have no more wine.” “Ah, mom. Can’t we just be guests? What do you want me to do about it? Why is this my problem?”
But moms being moms, she turns to the servants and says, “You just follow his lead.” And then she probably whispered, “That’s my son, you know.” And Jesus, stuck with the problem, did something. Actually, he did something big. He did something powerful. And if it weren’t for John, nobody would have known.
Actually, that’s not quite true. The servants knew. But that’s the thing with Jesus. First, his power isn’t a matter of showing off. He could have made a huge show of the wine—putting himself on display for the whole party. In fact, he tries not to exercise power. He tries to get out of it. “My hour has not yet come,” he says. This isn’t about me.
That says a lot about this man who could literally do anything he wanted with the power he had. And yet, he resists. When he does finally respond to his mother’s request, he does it quietly. He doesn’t take credit for it. For all anyone knew, the servants could have been responsible for it. But everyone assumes it’s the host of the party saving the best wine for last. It begins with a glass of wine, and only the servants know.
It’s similar to the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke. It’s only the lowly and the outsiders who know what’s going on—shepherds and people from another country and another faith. God’s displays of power are not for God’s benefit. A similar situation happens later, in chapter 9, when Jesus heals the man born blind. He heals him and then walks away. It’s the blind man who recognizes and points to Jesus’ power and authority. Jesus doesn’t need to hear it or be there for the accolades. It’s not about him.
Second, God’s power is always and only for the good of the community—the whole community. We’ll see this again as John tells us of other signs that point to God’s abundant grace. When Jesus feeds the 5,000, it isn’t because he is hungry but because the people are. Again, he uses what he has available and does something unbelievable with it.
Right now, our country is in a logger jam of values as the president and congress face off over the issue of a border wall. And while everyone sits in a stalemate, so many people in this country are stretching paychecks and struggling to make ends meet, wondering when this fight over power will end. Jesus knew that power used for building one’s self up is not power at all. It’s only true power when it is used to build up a community—when abundance and grace overflow. Maybe, if those in Washington put politics aside and had a glass of wine together and just talked, just maybe they’d make some headway for the sake of all of us.
Third, Jesus isn’t afraid to go outside of the system in order to benefit the world. In fact, his very birth and resurrection are evidence of working outside the systems of sin and death and punishment to give us abundant life. In the case of the wedding feast, Jesus uses jars that were supposed to be for ritual and purification. He saw jars set aside for one purpose and imagined them for a whole new purpose. He saw what was there and believed that there could be something new happening in them.
How often do we use our power to maintain the systems that support our power? How often do we say, “We’ve always done it that way” or “It has to be done this way” and limit the possibilities of something new in our midst? Consider all the ways that we are complacent and complicit with the systems in this world that let us keep things as they are for ourselves, knowing full well that it means things won’t change for anyone else? This is what Jesus works against as he reimagines what is possible—and what it might mean for the systems in place.
Raising Lazarus from the dead is not part of the system. Rolling away the stone, even though the dead man ‘stinketh,’ is not how things are done. And it’s the very act that puts the final nail in his own coffin because he has upset the system far too much. The wine at the wedding is only the beginning. Within the next three years, Jesus will have completely thrown the whole world into a tailspin—upending systems, challenging those in power, and showing the world abundance like it has never seen.
The final sign of God’s abundant glory and grace will be displayed on a cross. Once again, Jesus will resist the use of power for his own gain. He will not flaunt it so that everyone will notice how great he is. He will not use it to save his life. He will not wield it in order for his believers to be comforted by a false god—one who chooses not to die.
Instead, he will see it through. His power will be displayed to only a few—to the women who discover an empty tomb—to Mary who will meet him in the garden—to the gathered in Galilee after his resurrection. His power will be used to build up the community of God, the Body of Christ, the life of the world—not to tear it down, to demean, or to get his own way. And finally, his power will defy all of the traditions, expectations, and imaginations of the people. The God of the Universe will die. And the dead will live. And Jesus will have undone the status quo of sin and death and replaced it with abundant life.
All of this, Jesus will do and has done for the sake of you and me and this whole broken creation. And it all begins with a glass of wine.
Pastor Tobi White
Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church