The Federated Church of Marlborough
Marlborough, New Hampshire

Sermon  January 17, 2016
Scripture Reading: John 2:1-11

The Rev. Robert Vodra


     My Brother in law is our family wine person.  When he and my sister were first married, he started to buy wine.  Now this was not running to the store to get a bottle or two before dinner, this was driving to a certain store to buy a certain case of a certain wine.  When they moved into their house, about 18 years ago, they had a large unfinished basement and Jeff decided that he wanted to build a wine cellar down there.  I was unemployed for a few months, so went over to help build that, and do a few other things around his house. 

     To fully understand this wine cellar, you have to understand that my brother in law used to work for Pratt and Whitney as an engineer.  I guess part of his job was taking an engine that had been built, and putting sensors all over it, and then they would run it.  They wanted to track the exact temperature of every spot on the engine, vibration levels, amount of thrust, and many other factors.  Then they would take apart that engine and examine it for any cracks, warping or something else that would show any parts that needed to be redesigned. 

     So after work one day, they had taken all these temperature sensors off the engine and thrown them in the trash.  When he was leaving he thought about his wine cellar.  If it is 62 degrees at the ceiling, it might be only 58 degrees at the floor.  According to him, this 4-degree temperature difference is very important.  So he brought home all these sensors so that he could track these slight differences throughout the room.  Wines that aged better at 58 degrees should go near the floor, those that aged better at 62 degrees should go up high.  And there might be difference even within the room, perhaps it is warmer near the door where people are opening and closing the door and cooler back in the corner where that warm air does not get into.

     Despite his best intentions, I don’t know anything about wine.  We did, occasionally, have wine growing up.  It was sporadic, growing up I would see my parents drink wine with dinner for a week or two, and then maybe a few months or a year later, for another few weeks.  After I went to college, and reached legal drinking age, they would offer me wine with dinner, if they were having it.  Depending on what they were using at that time, the wine came out of a gallon jug, or a cardboard box.  Now, when I go back to Connecticut, we have a wine that is properly paired with the dinner, supplied by my brother in law.  Acidity, undertones, all that stuff matter to some people.  Some of us just don’t get it.

     If I were at this wedding in Cana, I probably would not have noticed what wine they were serving first.  But the custom in that day is to serve the best wine first, and then once your guests have tipped back a few, you can break out the lower quality stuff.  And by the time this event happens, it is the third day of a wedding party.  Yes, weddings normally lasted a week, so by day 3 the guests have already tipped back quite a few.  But what horrible timing.  There were still several days of partying left, and you are out of wine.  Back in these days, you could not simply send your friend to the wine store to grab some more.  Wine was a sign of an abundant harvest, a sign of God’s blessing, and you just poured the last cup. 

     Lucky for us Jesus is there.  I mentioned a few weeks ago that Matthew, Mark and Luke are the synoptic gospels, all tell the story from the same view.  John tells Jesus story from a different point of view.  And these gospels were written for different audiences.  Of course there is not 100% certainty about any of the theories about who wrote different parts of the Bible, but John was probably the last gospel written and tends to focus on the divinity of Jesus as shown through signs and miracles.
     And this story happens very early in the Gospel of John.  In John 1 we have John the Baptist proclaiming that the messiah is coming and saying that he saw the spirit of God descend upon Jesus, and then Jesus calling his first disciples.  No birth story of Jesus, no stars, no angles, no shepherds, just an adult Jesus, probably about 30, going to a wedding with his mother.
     And I love how Jesus responds to his mother’s request.  Can’t you just hear them.  “Jesus, they are out of wine.”  And Jesus does not respond like most of us would.  Mom, what I am supposed to do, there is no wine store open at this hour in Cana.”  No he addresses his mother as “Woman.”  Guys, word of advice, calling your mother “Woman” or your wife “Woman” or really any single female person you know as “Woman” is not a good thing.  And then Jesus goes on “This is not your concern or mine, my hour has not come yet.”  There is no pleading or bargaining.  “Come on Jesus, just this once…”  Nope, she turns to the servants and simply says “Do what he tells you.”
     Of course the servants do what Jesus tells them, fills up six 20 or 30 gallon jugs with water.  And then there is no dramatic prayers or blessing of the water we hear about, they just bring some of this water, now turned to wine to the chief steward, and it is good wine.  And with at least 120 gallons, plenty to last a few more days. 

     This is reported to be Jesus’ first miracle, but I do have to wonder.  How did Mary know her son would be able to save the day?  The only story we have between Jesus birth and his baptism is the one when he was apparently left in Jerusalem, his parents go back and find him in the temple and he says “I was in my father’s house.” 

     But what made Mary know this about Jesus?  We do hear in other gospels about the angel coming to Mary before his birth.  If you believe in the immaculate conception, then yes there was something special about Jesus.  But if you non-biblical read stories from that time, immaculate conception was not uncommon.  And there are so many stories about Jesus birth and shortly after that it is not exactly clear what happened.  Even if we put together all the good parts of those stories, big star, shepherds coming to worship the newborn King, Wise men coming from the East bringing gifts, Jesus escaping Herod by going to Egypt, then making his way back home when the danger had passed… still that was all about 30 years before this wedding.

     I can buy into Jesus not doing anything as a young child, but children did have to grow up faster in those days.  If he was following in his father’s footsteps becoming a carpenter, he would probably start at least by
age 16, and probably before that.  Children didn’t have the luxury of going to school until they were 18, then taking 4 or 5 years in college, taking a year or two in that time to find themselves.  By at least age 20 he would be expected to be providing for others, at the very least providing for the house he was living in.  And at age 20 could have been married, had children, we just don’t know.

     This makes me think that although this was the first miracle recorded in the book of John, it was not the first miracle Jesus did.  Mary knew that her son could do this, there was no pleading or begging, just a mother telling her son to do something, and the son objects a little, but does it anyway. 

     Perhaps Mary had a better sense of time than Jesus did.  Jesus objects that his hour has not come yet.  But when did this happen, on the third way of the wedding celebration.  When was Jesus raised from the tomb, on the third day.  Maybe there is something special about this third day, or maybe Mary knows the difference between ordinary time and God’s time.

     We tend to get caught up in the ordinary time.  We get up at 7:00 in the morning, go to work at 8:30, eat lunch at 12:30, and clock out at 5:00.  There are meetings to go to, kids to get to activities, our favorite TV show comes on at 9:00 on some night of the week.  But I would like to suggest that there is another time,
God’s time. 

     Last Tuesday night I stayed in the parsonage.  I watched the state of the union address and went to bed.  I slept a bit later than I normally did, but was prepared and had set up the coffee maker to brew my coffee before I got out of bed.  I went out in the morning, microwaved an egg, sausage and cheese breakfast sandwich, poured a cup of coffee and sat down at the table.  Looking out the sliding glass door, you really can see a lot of the town.  We are really up on quite a hill, so you look over part of the town and can see the mountains in the distance.  They were all covered in light snow, there were a few light clouds, but everything was a really pretty white, gray and blue.   

     Of course in my mind I was thinking that I had to get a shower, get dressed, wanted to get over to the church office, but for a moment everything could wait.  For just a few moments I sensed God’s time.  Now most of the time I live by the same schedules that everyone else does, but from time to time, I catch a glimpse of moment in which time does not matter. 

     Often in the summer I go out and look up.  On a clear night, with a sliver of the moon and no street lights, as your eyes adjust to the darkness you can make out the milky way, our galaxy with so many stars that you cannot make out all the individual ones, just see a blur.  And I know that at least a few of those thing that look like a single star are really are galaxies with as many starts as are in our galaxy.  But the light we are seeing is millions of years old.  Some of those stars may have burned out, exploded or do whatever stars do.  We are catching a moment of time, seeing the light from our star, reflected on our moon only a few minutes old, reflections from planets a few hours old, light from distant stars the light of which has been traveling for thousands or even millions of years.  

     And then I wonder what was before.  When you read science books, you will hear how the earth was drawn together cosmic dust, perhaps collided with a different planet causing current earth and moon, and then cooling.  Eventually water collecting, an atmosphere, and after a long time life.  After dinosaurs, several periods of time, ice ages and warm times, huge shifts in the continents, we eventually get humans.  If you put it onto a 24 hour clock, humans have been around for just the very end of that time, about 1 minute and 22 seconds out of that 24 hours. 

     And how long will we be around?  On an individual level, maybe 100 years if we are lucky.  Just a blink of an eye on the history of the earth.  As humans on earth in the time line of the universe, not even a blink.  In God’s time, both a blink and so very slow. 

     You see, our God has the ability to see all of this, knows what was here before the big bang, and how long that was there, and everything that has happened since and yet, is able to listen to my prayers.  With millions of stars, and who know how many planets, perhaps some with life, God cared enough about us to come as Jesus to live with us. 

     I don’t know for sure what happened that day.  A simple disagreement between a mother and a son.  Water turned to wine.  Maybe it is pointing us to look at God’s time.  God was saying at that moment God’s time has not come yet, God was not ready to reveal himself in Jesus.  Of course we know that Jesus did realize that in God’s time, Jesus’ time to start his ministry on earth had come. 

     What does this mean for us, this morning?  Perhaps God is reminding us that just was Jesus didn’t think it was his hour, we don’t know when we are going to be called into a new ministry.  It is comfortable to sit back and think “not yet, not my time yet” but ministry is not always comfortable.  God calls us to action, and God calls us all into the ministry of the church.  God calls us in God’s time, which does not always work out so well when we try to live within our human created time lines.  Be open to God’s movements, and perhaps you will also experience God turning your water into the best wine.

     I don’t think I will ever gain an appreciation for really good wine.  Honestly cannot tell much difference the cardboard box variety and the fancy wines that my brother in law keeps trying to teach me to appreciate.  But I do hope that I continue to see glimpses of God’s time within my time, and be open to God’s spirit moving among us all.