Sermon for Sunday, 16 January 2022
Isaiah 62:1–5 and John 2: 1–11
By Revd George Mwaura
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all of hearts be acceptable to you our God and redeemer.
During Jesus’ short ministry on earth, he did many miracles. But John chose only seven miracles to include in his Gospel. He called them signs because they demonstrated Jesus’ nature and divine power. At the end of his Gospel, John wrote, And Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written, that you might believe that he is the Son of God; and that by believing you might have life through his name. This story begins with the words, ‘On the third day …’ that is to say, just three days after John the Baptist had identified him as the Lamb of God, he went to Cana and performed his first recorded miracle.
John repeatedly makes use of the idea of the third day. For example, the raising of Lazarus on the third day, this wedding at Canna, and Jesus own resurrection after three days. The third day matters for John because it ties all the major miracles to God raising Jesus from the dead. People often say, ‘You never know what tomorrow may bring.’ If that is true of tomorrow, how much more is that true of the day after tomorrow, which is the third day? And if we are people of the third day, what does this tell us about our hope in God? The occasion of this first miracle was a village wedding feast to which Jesus and his mother had been invited. I find it fascinating that the earthly ministry of Jesus began at a wedding and all of human history will end with a wedding as we read in Revelation 19. Listen: Then the angel said to me, ‘Write this down: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’
I have no doubt you have heard the phrase, ‘All in God’s good time.’ Yes? It is not always that easy, is it? We do not want to wait for things to come to us in Gods own time, do we? We want them now! You know how the slogan goes: ‘What do we want?’ ‘—’, ‘When do we want it?’ ‘Now!’ That is the modern culture we live in. We want things to change now. If a family member is unwell, we want them to be healed now. If it is a house-buying process or that perfect job – we want it now!
However, during the last two years, when we were in the middle of lockdowns, all of that stopped. We could no longer just get in the car and drive to see family and friends whenever we wanted, unless of course, you happened to be Dominic Cummings. We could not go on holiday at the drop of a hat. Celebrations, weddings and special occasions could not take place or if they did, it was in a very limited capacity. We held the wedding of our daughter here in the church and only fifteen people were allowed, and even then we were not allowed food or drink. So you can imagine how miffed we were to learn that Downing Street observed no such protocols! In fairness though, the restriction was more painful on some people than others. Being unable to attend a funeral of a loved one or visit a sick relative at the hospital or shielding for almost two years without much human contact is definitely much, much harder than missing out on a party!
Yet, despite the undeniable difficulties and challenges, and without wanting in any way to play down the harmful effects of the lockdown, the forced opportunity to stop and slow down the ‘now’ culture was certainly very welcome. The air pollution in most major cities cleared, the greenhouse-gas emissions were reduced drastically and one could distinctly hear the dawn chorus of the birds. Yes, for a brief moment we were almost in rhythm with nature.
The restrictions meant we had to find other ways to celebrate. Some of us mastered technology and shared birthdays via computer and phone screens. Others joined in keep-fit classes and remote choirs or orchestras. We even started meeting online as a Bible study group. For many, going outside became much more important. We celebrated the sunrises and sunsets, starlit skies, waves crashing on a beach, a walk in the park, the first snowdrop or even the first daffodil blooming. Whatever it was for each of us, little things became important and we celebrated them. We had to look for the extraordinary in the ordinary, and appreciate the smaller things in life, that we never noticed before in all our aimless rushing around.
In the wedding at Cana, Jesus turned a regular wedding celebration into something extraordinary. For most of us, however, it may not have been the transformation of water into wine, but we had to, and did, find moments of real joy, surprise and even miracles in everyday life. Collectively, we came to appreciate the things we had always taken for granted. I wonder; do you look for the extraordinary in the ordinary or are you just content with the ordinary?
What is Mary’s role in this story? Would the miracle have taken place if it were not for her telling Jesus that the wine had run out? Often Mary’s input is overlooked in this narrative, especially by the Protestants, but her quiet presence is important in making sure this first miracle took place. She saw a problem and identified a solution. She spoke words that were authoritative and effective. She knew Jesus could do something extraordinary; such was her faith.
Do we have faith like this? Do we believe in the transformation of the ordinary? In the film Salmon fishing in Yemen, adopted from a book of the same title by Paul Toarday, a wealthy Arab sheik dreams of bringing salmon fly-fishing to Yemen: a desert nation located on the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula infamous for an ongoing civil war. A fisheries scientist thinks it is a ridiculous idea and at first refuses to be involved. However, as time goes on, he becomes more excited by the possibility that he previously thought impossible. When the project was up and running, it initiated an upstream journey of faith that made the impossible possible; it transformed the community.
Our passage today may be a story about a wedding, but it prompts questions about transformation, both in our lives and in our communities. Where do we see God doing extraordinary things and bringing transformation in our communities? I pray that God will slow you down long enough and open your spiritual and physical eyes wide enough to see the miracles all around you.