(John 2:1-11) 1 On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; 2 Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with his disciples. 3 When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Now six stone jars were standing there, for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast.” So they took it. 9 When the steward of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,
I know today’s story seems like an impossibility because, let’s be honest, there is not a wedding that would run out of wine. Because wedding guests and wedding lists are very tightly controlled. I have had a bride ask me if I was free for a July 17th wedding and I said sure but that is a Friday morning and she responded I am sorry July 17th of next year! Right. If you are planning your wedding 18 months ahead you are going to have enough wine. We have guest lists and we give people a +1 option. The average wedding is a known quantity. You know who will be there and how many guests ordered the chicken and how many ordered the pork. Running out of wine would be almost inconceivable at a modern wedding.
Yet we do have a very similar event that would seem closer to what we hear about today. That is the modern funeral reception. I have yet to have anyone plan their funeral 18 months in advance. There are no RSVP cards sent out. You don’t have to let the family know how many people will be in attendance. When someone dies you gather up all the family and friends and move forward with the service and luncheon. Amid the loss and pain that you are going through over the funeral you are asked the question of “how many people should we prepare for the funeral luncheon.” It is an almost impossible question because the answer depends on the weather, on the day, what people have going on at their job, if they are feeling well enough to travel, and so many other items that no one could possibly calculate. So we take our best stab at it. Sometimes we get the answer right on and the crowd we are expecting is roughly the same size as the crowd that shows up. I remember one funeral where we prepared for 175 and there was a snow storm so we had maybe 75 with more sandwiches and cakes then we knew what to do with. On the other hand the opposite also happens. We have planned for 75 and all of a sudden there are 200 people at the service. Now I have never been in the kitchen for this, but I imagine the panic that occurs when we don’t have enough buns and cake downstairs is the same type of panic that they felt in the wedding of Cana that day. There is not enough, and when it is discovered there will be embarrassment and shame. It will reflect badly on us as a church—how could they not have prepared enough, and it will reflect badly on the family, “so they didn’t think we would all come.”
Now I have to say we have never run out; thanks to the serving groups and the grace of God, we have always had just enough buns…maybe one or two left over. I remember a couple of times when I was approached as I came down downstairs to the fellowship hall after the funeral service and I was told, “Pastor, don’t eat any buns or cake until we give you the word, because we might not make it today!” So I held off until the line went through and the hungriest had gone for seconds. Yet I am pleased to say I have always been told, well, you could have one bun. Now I do think that this echoes the story today with regard to the panic and fear that goes on behind the scenes of a party where things are running short. To me those funeral luncheons are another time when the God of abundance shows that there is enough. Now I will also of course give credit to the serving groups because they sometimes have someone run up to the Marketplace to buy buns as quickly as they can, and at times they cut the meat in half so there will be enough. However I give credit to God also because by his grace there is always enough to be shared.
This gets to the problem of too many people. Having too many people is a great problem to have but it is still a problem. The wine at the wedding of Cana was giving out and it is because so many people had shown up to celebrate with this couple! Isn’t that a great thing, but isn’t it also a horrible because there would not be enough. Some have argued that part of the problem is that Jesus has brought an extra 12 guests instead of just coming himself. In a smaller wedding you could see how 12 extra men, especially ones who had voluntarily taken a vow of poverty (well not vow so much as given up work to follow Jesus and learn from him) might take from the overall abundance of the party. In other words some have argued the party was in danger because of Jesus’ disciples being there. Whether that is the case or not, it is certain that they are too many people and not enough supplies. Since in that day and age the wine and food would be supplied by the family and close friends, it would mean if you ran out of wine you didn’t have enough, or good enough friends and family. They might have said, “Hey, it is just Tim’s wedding just send one bottle,” as opposed to sending more for a better friend’s wedding celebration.
If we are honest we as people, and even as a church, send out similar signals when our plates are full and we have enough. Have you recently heard yourself saying, “I would love to but I am just too busy.” Or “We’ll have to find time…how is your (flipping through your calendar) May looking?!” These are signs that you are full, you cannot fit more in. In the same way sometimes we signal as a church that we have about everyone we can fit in.
—People who study church growth tell us that if the pews are 70 percent full people will come in, look around and say, I guess they are full and then find reasons not to come back.
—If the Pastor is so busy after service that guests aren’t greeted, people figure that the church is full.
—The events are all taken care of and there is not a need for others to do things.
—There aren’t invitations to join committees and ministries. People come in and say…that looks like a complete picture without me.
Which is why we as people and as a church always have to be thinking of how to open ourselves and our church up to more people so that they might know there is room for them, and indeed we need them here in the mission of God that we share.
Christ’s first miracle in John is the message of abundance—of having enough for all the guests who show up to the party. The message is sent through 120-180 gallons of the best wine you have ever tasted. Now I am going to bet that you have never been to a party with 120-180 gallons of wine. That is an immense amount. We buy communion wine in these 2.5 gallon containers and they last for months, but can you imagine 60 of these? That would be way too much. And that is the point, right?!
In God’s kingdom there is not only enough, there is too much! There is enough at God’s party for you and all of your cousins and your friends. John here today is giving us a prefiguring of Communion, and the Steward (John 2, verse 9) says it the best, the best wine is at the end. So Jesus is telling us that at his great celebration of life there is more than enough wine for everyone and it is the best wine you have ever had. It is in fact the very blood of Jesus Christ that is offered for you. This celebration we have on Christ’s tab, if you will, is the biggest there ever will be and it is better than any you have ever been to. So we are told to go and invite everyone to God’s table, where God’s glory and mercy show through forever. Amen.