The Faith of Mary

Meditation on John 2:1-11

The Presbyterian Church, Coshocton, OH

Pastor Karen Crawford

Jan. 16, 2022

Link to livestream of the service and my meditation: https://fb.watch/aAhHszOnjW/

Downloadable bulletin:

It wasn’t the week that I expected.

A couple days before I left for my week for my first intensive class with Austin Seminary’s D.Min. program, we received an email that our in-person class was cancelled because of COVID. Suddenly, we were switching gears—canceling our flights and preparing for a week of online, Zoom classes.

  All of us had to get over that disappointment of not meeting after all the anticipation of the trip. We would not have the opportunity to be together, not just during class, but before and after, sharing meals, talking and laughing, and worshiping together in the beautiful chapel.

    All of us felt dry and parched after nearly two years of ministry during the pandemic. We were thirsty for companionship with our pastoral colleagues. We came not just to learn about God and how to be better ministers and church leaders. We came to drink from the well that never runs dry!

   All of us were longing for God to fill our spiritual cups!

***

     Have you ever noticed that the wedding of Cana in John comes right after the calling of the first disciples? In John, Jesus doesn’t call the disciples from the seashore; and there’s no mention of fishing.

     Jesus decides to go to Galilee, finds Philip, and says, “Follow me.” Then Philip goes and finds his friend Nathaniel. The short discussion ends with Philip inviting him to meet Jesus, “Come and see.”

      There’s mystery and wonder with those invitations. “Follow me. Come and see.”

     Nathaniel is impressed by Jesus, though not so impressed by his hometown of Nazareth—but especially that Jesus seems to know him before they ever met.

     Other people in John’s gospel will have that experience with Jesus—the feeling that he knows them before they have met. That feeling of being known and understood will lead to their believing in him. I am thinking of the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. Before they engage in a long theological discussion, Jesus will ask for a drink of water, to which she responds, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” Soon, he will offer her, “living water” so she may never thirst again. She will leave her water jar at the well that day and run back to the city to tell everyone she meets, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” Many Samaritans will believe in Jesus that day because of the woman’s testimony.

      Now back to John 2—the wedding at Cana. Whose wedding is it? We don’t know. What is Jesus’ relationship to the bride and groom? We don’t know. Only that Jesus and the disciples have been invited—and they actually attend. There’s something wonderfully domestic and ordinary in imagining Jesus and his disciples, dancing, eating, and drinking at a wedding. Jesus taking time to celebrate a wedding—and having this account in one of our gospels—speaks of a God who comes to us truly as one of us, a God who cares about human relationships, growing families and the rituals and rites of passage that are meaningful to us. Wedding celebrations in Jesus’ time could go on for a week, and the whole community would be invited. The expectation would be that the food and drink would hold out for the entire celebration or else this would reflect badly on the hosting families, especially the bridegroom.

    Who else is there at the wedding? The mother of Jesus—not “Mary” in John’s gospel, just simply “the mother of Jesus.” She will play an important role in the miracle at Cana. You might even say, without Mary, there would only be, well, jars of water.

    Mary sees that the wine has given out and turns to her son, Jesus, for help. Who would ultimately be blamed and disciplined for this disaster? The ones responsible for monitoring the supply of food and drink and providing the wine are the servants.

      What’s interesting is that the Greek word used for the servants who are providing food and drink are diakonoi, where we get our word “deacon.” These diakonoi may also be slaves, as was the chief steward managing the feast. All would be concerned about keeping their jobs and avoiding punishment.

    So, it is easy to understand why Mary is concerned about the well-being of the slaves and avoiding the crisis that would have inevitably come HAD they actually run out of wine. What’s a little harder to understand is why Jesus doesn’t seem to care when Mary tells him, “They have no wine.” And I stress “ doesn’t seem” to care.

    Jesus says, “Woman (he doesn’t even call her mother!) what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.”  Meaning, it’s not yet time for the glory of the Lord to be revealed to the world.

       Mary thinks differently. Jesus, the dutiful son, will obey. She tells the servants to do what he says—unquestionably believing that Jesus can and will do this miracle.

      He doesn’t do it alone. It really takes a village for this miracle—each working together, doing their part. But it starts with Mary’s faith, which puts in action the servants who gather the rainwater or running water in special, carved limestone jars that are used strictly for purification rituals—up to now. The people would wash themselves in this water so they would be spiritually clean or holy, according to the requirements of Leviticus 11:36 and 15:13. Then the servants draw out the water (now wine) and take it to the chief steward. He tastes the wine before serving it to the guests, without knowing where the wine has come from.

    He responds in wonder, without knowing the true miracle.  For this is what happens when we experience the abundance of God. For the wine that was only water is a finer wine than what was served at first. This stirs the chief steward to remark to the bridegroom, “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.”

    This miracle, at the time, isn’t made known beyond Mary, the disciples, and the servants—who are never going to tell what really happened, for fear of being punished for letting the wine run out. But this miracle serves its true purpose. It reveals Christ’s glory to those whom he had first invited to “Follow me” and “Come and see.” And they immediately believe.

    This miracle continues to serve a divine purpose—in revealing the glory to God to everyone who listens, who has ears to hear. It is a reminder to all of us in the abundant life promised to those who respond joyfully, faithfully, fearlessly, to Christ’s invitation to “Follow me.” And, “Come and see.”

    And the miracle all started with the faith of Mary.

***

   Friends, I need to tell you what happened at the end of my first intensive week of classes. Those of us who were dry and parched, longing for our thirst for spiritual nourishment to be quenched, were in for a big surprise.

   It was on Zoom, after all. Aren’t we all weary of virtual classes, visits, and committee or Session meetings? So what good can happen in a Zoom meeting, right?

    On Friday afternoon, one of the students, a pastor, was presenting his part of the reading. We had just worshiped together for 90 minutes with the written and sung liturgy of the Easter Vigil, written by our professor. The Easter Vigil is held on Holy Saturday. It is the Second Day, the day before Easter, when Jesus is still in the tomb.

    The one who was leading the discussion asked us what keeps us connected to the Lord during times of grief and struggle. We hadn’t talked about the difficulties of ministry during the pandemic up to then. And suddenly the floodgates opened wide. Out poured the pent up grief and pain, disappointment and loss.

   At that moment, we were caught up in an indescribable wave of love. It was so powerful. It was like a Pentecost—a mighty wind rushed through us and the flames lit on each of us, stirring us to tears that were, for me, an ever-flowing stream. We were each moved to share how God had reached down to us, through our pain, and helped us weather the storms. For me, I remembered how gardening in the spring and summer of 2020—planting flowers and shrubs, digging with my shovel in the soil while the church was closed to in-person worship—was what saved me from utter desolation! My neighbor kept bringing me flowers from her yard for me to plant in my yard—and this is what brought me joy and strengthened me to carry on.     

     The one regret I have from last week is that I felt any anxiety leading up to the class. I regret that I fretted over getting the reading, papers, and project done, and could only hope for a blessing of a cup of water for my dry, parched spirit.

    If only I had hoped for what we DID receive. If only I had believed in the abundance God had planned for His weary servants, seeking him with all our heart, soul, mind and might, seeking to serve Him more and more with our lives.

      If only we had believed in God’s abundance, rather than settling for dwelling on human scarcities. Because that’s what we do as human beings. We always worry we won’t have enough. And what do we do when we are worried we might run out? We cling to what we have. We hoard it!

    Friends, there’s oh so much more of everything we will ever need. For with God, nothing is impossible, Amen??????

     What did worry or hoarding ever do for us?

     What a blessing to open up our hands and hearts, and give generously of all that God has made us and given us.

   Sisters and brothers, our cups are overflowing with an abundance of fine wine! May we all have eyes to see the abundance of the Kingdom, breaking in right now!

    We are no longer people of scarcity. That is the past! That’s history. We are they who live in freedom! We are they who have been redeemed by the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. We are they who say “yes” to Christ’s invitation, “Follow me!” and “Come and see!”

    But if only we had the faith of Mary!

Let us pray.

Divine Love, Lamb of God, Creator and Redeemer, thank you for your abundance, shown in the miracle at the wedding at Cana in Galilee. You turned water meant for purification rites into fine wine, better than the first wine that was served. Help us to believe, dear Lord, in your abundance. Help us to live as if we are the people of abundance and not dwell in scarcity, fear and envy. Strengthen us, those who have said yes to Christ’s invitation, “Follow me” and “Come and see,” to have the faith of Mary. In the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit we pray. Amen.

Published by karenpts

I am the pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Smithtown, New York on Long Island. Come and visit! We want to share God’s love and grace with you and encourage you on your journey of faith. I have served Presbyterian congregations in Minnesota, Florida and Ohio since my ordination in 2011. I am a 2010 graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary and am working on a doctor of ministry degree with Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. I am married to Jim and we have 5 grown children and two grandchildren in our blended family. We are parents to fur babies, Liam, an orange tabby cat, and Rory, a standard poodle.

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