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
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
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
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
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.