Sermon for Sunday January 16, 2022

New Life

John 2:1-11


Often there is not a lot of positive news to hear, but on December 25 the James Webb Telescope was launched into space. This represented years of effort to create this instrument. After being launched it had to go through a long series of steps to be deployed, and now finally it is being sent 1.5 million kilometers away from Earth to a location that will give it a secure orbit and there will be months of aligning the many mirrors it uses. If all goes as planned the James Webb Telescope will give us a view of our universe at a greater depth than we have ever seen. It is really remarkable, and quite an achievement.

We live in an age that we may see someone traveling to Mars by the mid 2030’s. Life is born with the opportunity to experience it in new ways. If a person is 80 years old, one would have been born in 1942. From then until now such a person has lived into the atomic age, the space age, the computer age, the internet age, and perhaps now more than before we are venturing into the age of space travel. We have sent probes to the sun, all the planets in our solar system and many of the moons. The voyager probe has traveled beyond the boundaries of our solar system, and yet we are just scratching the surface of this exploration. What will tomorrow bring? Life never gets old, because it is always changing, and bring something fresh and new into our lives. Should we not ultimately live with an anticipation of what may come? With a joy for what may yet be?

I believe that this is God’s intention for life and for us. God wants us to live on the new side of life. Jesus came into this world not to just experience the same old thing, but to bring new life. Everything about our Bible story tells us this. It begins with a wedding, a grand effervescent and joyful celebration –the creation of a new relationship. We are not told who was getting married, and it does occur to me that sometimes these details may have been left out for a purpose. As such the wedding becomes a generic image. It could be anyone’s wedding. It could be a wedding yet to be. The image is powerfully latent with meaning when you think about it. Aren’t weddings images of new life. The beginning of an intended journey that is supposed to last a lifetime. Do you remember your wedding? I bet you could tell me some stories.

    A while back I related a story about my own wedding, and how my brother filled up my car with balloons. Jane and I eventually did escape. At first, we didn’t go too far away. We stayed at the Oglebay Park Resort for a couple of days and then flew down to Florida for the rest of our honeymoon. I did this because the cost of the air flight was less on the weekdays. We woke up on Monday amidst a light snow and travel to the warm beaches of Florida. I think that is the best time to go to Florida.

In many ways weddings are the essence of new life. They are filled with the unpredictable and the sublime; the high expectations of what a couple wants and the fears of what is likely to go wrong. You just never know what the day will bring, but the two getting married know that it is the beginning of something new — The breath and hope of a shared life and family.

In Jesus time the wedding was a long affair. It was without a doubt a community happening. The couple had been betrothed; which lasted about one year. Their union was already agreed upon and now the wedding plans had been made, the food had been prepared, the wine had been stocked up and made ready, and the wedding feast was announced –come and join in the wedding.

One website states, “At the beginning of the wedding feast, in the evening, the bridegroom, accompanied by his friends, went to fetch his betrothed from her father’s house. The groom’s party and the bride’s party met amidst songs and rejoicing. The bride was then carried in a litter and in procession. She was beautifully dressed and along the way people sang wedding songs, “Who is this coming up from the wilderness like a column of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and incense made from all the spices of the merchant?” (Song of Songs 3:6) The celebration carried on into the evening.

The next day was the wedding feast. After the couple was fully united in marriage, toward the end of the day, a meal was shared. Later on that evening the couple left together.  They were married, but the celebrations often went on for several more days. The couple did not go on a “honeymoon,” but remained in the area for the rest of the celebration, sharing in the merriment, the songs, and the dancing under the star-strewn sky.” It was a life time event.

Now in our text it was during this most joyous of celebrations that the wine ran out. Wine was more than just an alcoholic libation. In Jesus day it was a principally safe drink. Water wasn’t always the best, but wine was historically a part of Jewish culture for hundreds of years. This was a social disaster for the wedding. The host family may have been ridiculed for such a lapse.

Mary wanted Jesus to do something. Jesus response doesn’t really translate well into English. He sounds rather curt with his mom, but I don’t think he was. Perhaps the better translation of the text comes the New Living Translation of John 2:4: It reads, 4  “Dear woman, that’s not our problem,” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.” Maybe one could translate Jesus address to his Mom as “My Lady.” Probably closer to the context of the moment.

Jesus then turns water into wine. He fills 6 large jugs full; with 20 to 30 gallons of water each. As much as 180 gallons, and when the water is sampled a finer wine is discovered. Basically, Jesus saved this joyous celebration from becoming an embarrassment for the happy couple and their families. I wonder what the groom thought when he heard about his extra supply of good wine. In the midst of all the activity, did he realize that something unexplainable had just intersected his life and joyfully, even whimsically, breathed something new into the moments of his days. When people left saying that was the best wedding we ever attended, did he know Jesus made the difference.

Within this story is the image of the new life that we find within Christ. The flat and common water used to provide ritual cleanliness and purification within the Jewish religion was replaced by something rich in taste and spirit. The water is now wine. Wine that reminds us of the cup that becomes his blood in which we find forgiveness of our sins and everlasting life. The story points us toward an understanding that within Jesus is the new way for our purification from sin and the manner in which we are made clean. Because of Jesus we are filled with new life and power today. The miracle is more than just water becoming wine, it is the revelation of what Jesus life and purpose are about. What they mean to us.

With every turn in this story we encounter God’s word that leads us to life, joy, and celebration in God’s presence. This wedding image becomes an enduring image of who God is to us. The wedding image is the promise of what shall become of our lives. In Christ the wedding is our story of our relationship with God.

This image of a man and woman in marriage runs from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation where the Bible speaks of Jesus returning to gather to himself the church as a groom comes for his bride. That story is about us. We are the ones called to share in that joyful, life giving relationship with God. Jesus is the groom for whom the wedding celebration will not be hampered, because his own blood has been poured out that we might rejoice.

So how shall we consider life, and our presence and practice within our church? Should we not be joyful. Should we not rejoice? Presently we are waiting with the expectation that the party is just getting ready to begin. Jesus used this image in other places, and he told us to trim our lamps, stay awake for the groom’s arrival, be prepared to enter into the wedding feast lest you find yourself on the wrong side of the door when the real party starts. Even now the moment has arrived to celebrate.

We have reason to not let ourselves be heavily weighed down with the trials and difficulties of life. We have reason to lift up our voices and sing. For it is God who has called us in Christ to newness of life, joy, and celebration. Amen.

Published by Rev. Russell

Pastor at the Lake City United Methodist Church in Lake City, Michigan.

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