Believe and Live Abundantly!

 

Meditation on John 2:1-11

Jan. 20, 2019

Coshocton Presbyterian Church

          “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.”

 

I am honored and blessed to be sharing a message from God’s Word with you today. I can’t believe we have had to cancel worship when it would be my first time leading worship at Coshocton Presbyterian Church!

But I want you to know that  I am happy to be sharing my life with you in a small town, where ministry truly means building relationships, loving God and neighbor. And, like the USA cable network slogan, where “Characters (are) welcome.” In a small town, you are accepted as you are, and honesty, simplicity, hard work, kindness and generosity are valued.

I confess that I am a character, if you haven’t noticed. (Folks at MIPC and Ebenezer, I am a character, right?!) And I have the feeling—I have had this since the first time I visited—that I belong here with you. Is anyone else here a character? Please say yes. But this doesn’t mean I am not anxious, because I am. For many things are new and different for me. I have much to learn. And I want to be a good pastor for you! With my first week of ministry under my belt, the learning has just begun.

The growth that is coming is part of a necessary transformation. And change is rarely comfortable. God is working in my heart and mind—and when our hearts and minds begin to change, so do our lives.

It sounds like a cliché, but I am relying on God’s grace for every day. I am relying on His mercies that are new every morning. Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!

The good news is that God’s grace is really enough! It is sufficient for you—and for me. Grace and power flow from the Throne, the Fountain of Life—not so that our lives will be easy, predictable and pain and stress free. They flow down to us so that we might be transformed and live a new way, in and through Christ. Jesus says in John 10:10, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

I was thinking about God’s grace on Friday, while I waited at Dr. John the chiropractor’s office. (I am doing OK. The move just aggravated the same neck issue I have had for a while.) That’s when I realized I have become my mother. Has that ever happened to you—that you realize you have become one of your parents? My mom never met a stranger; everyone was and is a friend. At the grocery store, library, bank and beauty parlor in the small town in which I grew up, she would talk to everyone. And everyone talked to her!

All I did was sit down in Dr. John’s office and say something about the weather. Soon I knew the long-range forecast and the status of bread and chicken soup flying off Walmart’s shelves. I learned a recipe for chili, a recommendation of a hair stylist, and I heard a miracle story. A woman shared how she was able to stop smoking when she realized the reason she started as a teenager; she was mad at her father. Years later, her daughter urged her to repent and ask for forgiveness from the Lord and to forgive her father, too.

“Because I want God’s grace,” she said with a smile and a twinkle in her eye. “I want to be forgiven. So, I need to forgive others.”

Her openness to talk about her faith with a stranger—she didn’t know, yet, that I was a pastor—made me think that I am not in just any small town. We have come to a special place. And I am truly blessed!

As she was speaking, the medical assistant politely interrupted her to tell her that it was time for her to see the doctor.

“Not yet,” my new friend said with a laugh and a wave of her hand. “I’m not finished my story.”

Characters are welcome in this small town, a special place. Where miracles happen, and we want to talk about them. Miracles that flow with God’s grace from the Fountain of Life. Miracles that reveal the glory of the Lord, so that we, like his first disciples, will come to believe and live abundantly.

***

Studying our gospel, I am reminded that Jesus is a small-town guy. He might not have been born in a small town, like the John Mellencamp song, cause Bethlehem wasn’t teeny tiny. But he was certainly raised in a small town—Nazareth. Poor, simple folk lived there – people like Joseph, his earthly father, whose job was more of a laborer or construction worker, rather than the higher status we hold for “carpenters” today.

Remember Nathaniel’s comment about Nazareth in the first chapter of John? His friend, Philip, wanted to introduce him to “Jesus of Nazareth, the one of whom Moses and the prophets wrote.” And Nathaniel said, “Nazareth?! Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

When Jesus meets Nathaniel after that, he compliments him on his honesty and takes no offense. “Here is truly an Israelite,” Jesus says, “in whom there is no deceit!”

Nathaniel, amazed that Jesus knows him so well when they have just met, declares, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” His declarations of belief are a perfect segue to the first of Christ’s miracles or “signs” in Nathaniel’s hometown of Cana—when Jesus turns water into wine.

      Mary’s role in the wedding at Cana is intriguing. She is a strong, compassionate leader with a servant’s heart. When she sees the crisis brewing behind the scenes, she tells Jesus, “They have no wine.” Her few words speak volumes, revealing her intimate relationship as the “mother of Jesus”—something John tells us twice in this passage, without saying her name. His response shows his close relationship with her, though he calls her “woman,” and not “mom.” “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me?” (You can say anything to your mom; she will always love you, right?) He wonders why she is worried; the bride and groom are not immediate family or else Jesus and his disciples wouldn’t have just “been invited,” as Scripture says, and Mary wouldn’t just happen to be there. Even though she doesn’t say it, Jesus knows she wants him to fix the problem. She believes he CAN and should do something. For it would be a scandal, especially for the bridegroom’s family, for it is the bridegroom’s job to provide the wine. The servants would be punished, for it is their job to serve it. And it would be a huge disappointment to the community counting on the wine flowing throughout what was, back then, a weeklong celebration. Without wine, the celebration could come to a screeching halt.

Mary ignores her son’s protests and tells the servants to do whatever Jesus says. (Again, exercising her leadership gifts.) They promptly obey.

Jesus doesn’t argue with Mary after this. I wish scripture would tell us what is going through his mind! I can think of two possibilities. One, he has come to believe that this is God’s will and God’s timing, after all. Or two, he knows all along what will happen—and what he must do—and is only testing Mary’s faith.

What’s clear is that Mary believes in Him. The angels and shepherds, Elizabeth, Simeon and Anna, and the wise men have all told Mary who Jesus would be. She has watched him grow up, pondering all these things in her heart. She is certain that now is the time for his public ministry to begin.

wise-men.jpg

But this doesn’t explain why Jesus does more than what is needed, and why he chooses such a surprising source for the blessing. He doesn’t just make wine appear in empty jars. He transforms ordinary water in jars used for Jewish purification rites into fine wine. This must be significant. And not just enough. He produces the equivalent of 600 to 900 bottles of fine wine! Like the miracle feeding of the multitude that will come later, there is more than enough for everyone. (I was going to say that there is plenty left over, but if it is the finest wine, perhaps not!)

The wedding could have been a disaster. Instead, it is remembered as an above-average wedding, with the bridegroom getting the credit for saving the best wine for last. Nobody does that!

The miracle happens on the “third day”—a shadow of what is to come—Christ’s resurrection, his triumph over sin and death. This first miracle serves as a sign to Mary and the disciples—and to all who hear John’s Gospel—that Jesus is God’s Son, the Beloved, and, as John testifies in chapter 1, “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

The miracle also foreshadows the joyous heavenly banquet, when the Bride of Christ will be gathered around the table and finally see her Bridegroom, face to face!

 

***

 

Thank you for accepting me, just as I am, and encouraging me to use my gifts here with you and beyond our church walls. I am blessed to be in a place where characters are welcome, where we seek to love everyone as God’s beloved. And where we know our need for the Lord’s help, strength and wisdom for every day.

Christ choosing to transform ordinary water into fine wine spoke a different message to me this week than it has before. Maybe we are like the ordinary water, friends, being transformed into fine wine, something wonderful that God will use for His good purposes. If you feel anxious–like I do sometimes–remember God’s grace is enough! We can count on his new mercies every morning. Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!

This is a place where miracles happen, miracles of grace that flow from the Fountain of Life and reveal the glory of the Lord, so that we, like his first disciples, will come to believe. And live abundantly!

 

Let us pray.

 

Holy One, we praise you for being with us always, dwelling in our midst, leading us on this journey of faith. We surrender ourselves—all that we have, all that we are—to you, knowing that you will change us—our hearts and minds and lives. Teach us to be content, joyful, and hopeful in all circumstances and grateful for your many gifts, ready to share with a hurting world. But also move us to boldly ask you to meet our needs, trusting in your everlasting love and lavish grace that is all that we need. Give us the strength and courage of Mary so that we will truly believe and live as though we believe—abundantly. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

7 responses to “Believe and Live Abundantly!

  1. I’m a 56 year member of the church. This was an insightful and excellent opening sermon. Welcome to Coshocton and if you ever need anything, I am the City Service Director so might be able to help. Prayers for a long successful stay in our community.

    Like

  2. Such a beautiful and inspiring message my dear friend! You will forever be my favorite Pastor and best friend! I look forward to seeing your sermons on YouTube every week! Coschocton is so lucky and blessed to have you! Love you 💜

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s