John 2:1-11 After Epiphany
Elizabeth M. Deibert 17 January 2016
Did you hear the story of the old Scottish preacher way up in the Highlands. He said, “Jesus he chynge th’ water intay wine. Ah dunnai why he nay chynge it intay whiskay so aebody ma’ve a wee dram.”
As humans we are one of a few species that laughs and we laugh from the time we are babies. Our laughter spans age, gender, language and culture. As humans we make each other laugh and we emotionally respond to laughter in others. It goes without saying that our laughing is contagious. People are 30 times more likely to laugh in social situations than alone. (Suzanne Phillips http://www.pbs.org/thisemotionallife/blogs/laughter-powerful-and-inexhaustible-resource)
We now have scientific evidence that what we suspected is true – laughter is physically, psychologically, and interpersonally powerful stuff. Laughter has been said to be like jogging for the internal organs. That’s how good it is for you. Do you know there’s even a word for the study of laughter. Anybody know the word? Gelotology. Sounds like Jello. Think about how funny it is to watch jello jiggle and then you can remember the word. And guess what? April of this year will mark the 40th anniversary of National Humor Month. I think we should celebrate, don’t you? Did or do you ever get the giggles in church and you cannot stop? Well, maybe that was the Holy Spirit stirring up joy in you.
Because as the saying goes, “Laughter is the best ______(medicine). That phrase originates in the Bible. It comes from the Proverbs 17: A merry heart does good like medicine.” And then there was the 1800’s humorist Josh Billings, who said, “There ain’t much fun in medicine, but there’s a heck of a lot of medicine in fun!”
Some people say Jesus turned the water into wine to prevent embarrassment of the host of the wedding event. But I say, “Hey, Jesus must have wanted us to laugh.” The psalmist praises God for bringing forth food from the earth and “wine to gladden the human heart.” Of course, we must also remember Proverbs 20 which teaches us, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise. (NRS) We must be wise, and being wise with alcohol requires maturity and discipline. And for some it is impossible, so staying away from it is the only healthy action. The real issue here, at the heart of the matter is joy. It is pure delight in life and in God’s love.
But let’s read now our Old Testament lesson, which speaks of God’s delighting in the people. As we said last week, God rejoices in the wonder that is you!
For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch. 2 The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give. 3 You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. 4 You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married. 5 For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your builder marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you. (NRS)
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." 4 And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come." 5 His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." 6 Now standing there were six stone water jars 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 chief steward." So they took it. 9 When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, "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." 11 Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. (Joh 2:1 NRS)
Jesus’ mother knew how to handle things. She did not try to convince him or nag him. She said, “Pay attention to my son.” And she left her adult son to make his decision.
If you’ve ever been in my office you might have notice this image of Christ hanging near my desk to remind the Elizabeth who sometimes takes herself too seriously to laugh with Jesus. If you’ve ever been to our house, you might have seen this other image hanging in the front entrance. The laughing Christ. Yes, I do think that following Christ is challenging but a joy-filled existence.
Jesus’ first recorded sign in John’s Gospel – turning water into wine. So the party could continue. By this act, of turning what was ordinary into what was extraordinary, Jesus revealed his power and glory, and his disciples believed in him. Clearly his mother already understood his authority and power. She let the servants know to listen to him. Have you ever wondered the origin of the phrase, “Save the best for last.” Here it is. Jesus making it seem as if they saved the best for last. Really they had served all they had. When need arose for Jesus’ providence, the last was given and it was best.
I like to think that when I’m running out, soon to get embarrassed, when I am most desperately in need of Jesus’ help, he does provide. There have been many weeks when I did not have enough time or what seemed enough energy or inspiration to compose a decent sermon. But on those weeks, when I pray my more desperate prayers. Merciful God, please use this scrap of a sermon that I am offering, and it’s often on those days, that people come up to me and say, “Wow, the Spirit really spoke through you today.” And I say, “I’m glad to hear that.” And inside I am saying, “Whew! Thank you Jesus! That was some good wine they were drinking. Cause the wine I had, it was one of those $5 bottles.”
As I was working on this sermon, I was thinking of the Easter hymn written to the tune Ode to Joy. The third versesays: Christ is risen! Raise your spirits from the caverns of despair. Walk with gladness in the morning. See what love can do or dare. Drink the wine of resurrection. Not a servant but a friend. Jesus is our strong companion. Joy and peace shall never end.” We drink the wine of resurrection each Sunday at this communion celebration.
We come as guests to his table, we are all welcome here, to find the joy and peace that never ends. You don’t need wine to have joy and peace that never ends. You need the one who turns ordinary into extraordinary – you need Jesus. Get drunk on that love.
I don’t know who got married that day. But it’s good they invited Jesus to the party. We should invite Jesus to every party and every ordinary event of every ordinary day, and ask for his help every time we need something. For we also will find him providing amazing grace, spilling joy and peace into our lives, especially when we think we’re running on empty. Here in this place, where Jesus always precedes us, new light is streaming and all the darkness is vanished away. And we see that we can relax and trust, eat and drink, laugh a little and know that with Jesus the party’s never over.