Speaker: Rev. Chris Winterman
Scripture Passage: John 2:1-11
This week’s reading comes from this upcoming weeks essential 100 readings about Jesus. It is John’s Gospel. Chapter two verses one through 11. Can we hear the words of the gospel together?
The next day there was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus his mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. The wine supply ran out during the festivities. So Jesus’s mother told him they have no more wine. Dear woman, that’s not our problem, Jesus replied. My time has not yet come. But his mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Standing nearby were six stone water jars used for Jewish ceremonial washing. Each could hold 20 to 30 gallons. Jesus told the servants, fill the jars with water. when the jars have been filled, he said. Now dip some out and take it to the master of ceremonies. So the servants followed his instructions. When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from, though, of course, the servants knew. He called the bridegroom over. A host always serves the best wine first, he said. Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now. This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed His glory, and His disciples believed in him.
Would you pray with me again?
God, we hear your words now. Holy Spirit, we ask you for the wisdom to understand them. Amen.
So a man decided he was going to go to a local miracle prayer service that was being put on by a traveling evangelist. He went there for the evening service. At the end of the service, the evangelist said, anyone who needs prayer, you need God to perform a miracle in your life, Come forward. The man comes forward. When it’s his turn, the evangelist says, what can I pray for you about? The man says, I need you to pray for my hearing. The evangelist immediately puts his hands over the man’s ears, prays a mighty prayer that God would fully restore the man’s hearing. Took his hands off and said, how is your hearing? The man said, I don’t know. It’s not scheduled until next Thursday, but I’ll let you know how it goes.
You know, we tend. Yeah, it took you a second, Somebody. We tend to discount the presence of miracles in our lives. You know, we read about them in the Bible. And we say, Yeah, okay, I believe that happened. But that’s a different place. That’s a different time. Jesus was actually there. God kind of did things differently. and we quickly dismiss, too quickly, the idea of miracles, I think. but as we read the Gospels, the way God revealed himself, the way Jesus showed people I am, who I say I am, was through miracles. And interestingly, the first miracle that Jesus performed, the first way He revealed who He was wasn’t healing a leper. It wasn’t calming a storm with just a word. It wasn’t calling a dead man out from the grave. It was changing water to wine in order to keep a wedding feast going, in order for a party to continue. That’s the way God chose to say, Here I am, from changing water into wine.
Now, we may look at that and we may think it’s trivial, isn’t it? I mean, again, compared to all the problems in the world, compared to all the things that are happening, all the things that you’ve come to do, Jesus, this is where your energy goes in the beginning? water to wine? But if you look more closely and if we see a little bit of the background here, we’re going to find that this miracle is incredibly close to the heart of the message of the Gospels. Changing water into wine in order for celebration to take place is exactly what God wants to say to us. All right. A little background so Jesus is at this wedding with his mother, with the disciples. And look, I’ve been out to White Oaks to some great wedding celebrations, some great receptions. I’ve officiated a lot of weddings. I officiated a wedding in in another city in Louisiana. And I am not exaggerating, I think the grandparents of the bride spent at least $750,000 on this wedding. So I’ve seen yeah, they had like they had like a custom-made dance floor brought in out in their yard with the bride and groom’s name on it. They hired at like a 12-piece band with horns from Atlanta. They had busses to go back and forth from this place to other cities were big. I mean it was a to do right. They had, they had really, really fancy black tie people walking around with trays of all you can eat like shrimp and lamb kebabs and that was delicious. So I officiate weddings I love doing it. So if you’re having that kind of wedding, please have me officiate.
So we think weddings are a big deal. in that culture, at that time, a wedding celebration lasted for seven days. And it was an event that the whole town was going to come to, and it was actually an event that you, as the host family, were honor bound by the way they did things to provide festivities for everyone and to run out of anything, especially something like wine was a bad deal. and in an honor, shame culture, running out of wine set a bad precedent for this young couple going forward.
So this is a thing, and it matters. and Jesus is here at this wedding, and he sees that the wine runs out. Now, as Doug pointed out last week, we have this knack for reading the Bible in a negative light. In other words, we read judgment, we read negative, we read what you can’t do. But really, the heart of the Bible is not judgment. The heart of the Bible is not condemnation. The heart of the Bible is not what you can’t do. The heart of the Bible is found in John 15 from Jesus’s own words. When you obey my commandments, so there we go, we here obey commandments. We think, all right, either do it or God’s going to get you right. That’s how it’s preached. That’s how it’s taught. But listen to what he says. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love. Just as I obey my father’s commandments and remain in his love. Now, here’s the crux of it. I’ve told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy, not filled with fear of punishment. Not I’ve told you these things. So you’ll get it right. And God doesn’t have to be mad anymore. I’ve told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow. That’s what the gospel is about. That’s what life in Christ is about. Jesus is saying. It’s about joy and it’s about joy that overflows.
So again, as Doug mentioned last week, he really set this one up for me. Now, it’s like he tossed it up there. Now I’m going to hopefully don’t swing in, miss. So Jesus was giving a scathing critique of the Jewish system. He was he was saying, look, you have made following God all about rules and regulations. You have stripped away all of the joy that is supposed to be there. However, Jesus was not just talking to that mode of religion. Jesus was talking and showing through his object lesson to all of us. He was showing us what joy is. He was showing us about the miraculous power and presence of God and how that is where we find our joy and how that is what operates in and through us to bring joy to others.
So, with joy. Joy is important. The scriptures tell us it’s the joy of God that is our very strength. So how do we experience this joy? Well, there are spiritual disciplines that are recognized. There are basically 12 spiritual disciplines, practices that people have historically used to draw closer to God. And one of those is the one we overlook because again, we want rules and negativity rather than the positive the discipline that we too often overlook is that of celebration.
Celebration is not only a spiritual discipline. It is the spiritual discipline that opens our hearts and lives to joy. And friends without joy Every other spiritual discipline devolves into legalism. without joy, Fasting sucks. It’s horrible. But with joy, it’s something that opens our life and our heart to Christ in new and powerful ways. Without joy, Giving is a horrible thing. But those of you who have tapped into joy and celebration, you know what a great blessing it is to be able to put your money right in that basket, which if you never see me put it in there, I have mine autographed for my paycheck just because, So I don’t forget. but every single spiritual discipline we could have. Its real power doesn’t lie in us doing it. Its real power lies in us finding the joy within it. And it is the discipline and the practice of celebration that helps us see that joy. And that’s what this miracle is about. It is about celebrating the miracles of God. So how do we work that in? Because we’re not at a wedding banquet. I think there are some lessons here for us. I think there’s some ways from this particular event that we can see how we practice celebration.
First, we have to remember that where we see a problem, God sees a possibility. That’s the first step. Okay. I’m making a confession here. And look some preachers get up and I have to confess. And it’s just good sermon talk, like they don’t really mean it. I really mean this one as I was writing this sermon. I’m serious. That really quiet voice, the Holy Spirit said, Yeah, you need to pay attention because you have a hard time with this. When I see a problem my first thought is not, great, Let’s see what God’s going to do.
My first thought is, oh, this is going to be so hard How am I going to deal with this? What potential difficulties is this going to bring? Here’s just another thing. But throughout the scriptures where God looks down and we have a problem, God sees a possibility, a possibility for a miracle. You know, in our culture, I think part of the reason why we see the problems is we work so hard to avoid pain. We work so hard to eliminate struggle and difficulty that we now don’t know how to find joy in the midst of it. Parents, we don’t let our children struggle sometimes. and that is to their detriment. They need to learn how to find joy in the midst of the struggle. how to see the good and still laugh through the tears, through the pain. And even as people of faith, we operate in this mode too easily. Listen how Richard Foster puts it in celebration of discipline.
Far and away the most important benefit of celebration is that it saves us from taking ourselves too seriously. Boy, we’re good at that, aren’t we? We take ourselves too seriously. We take our jobs too seriously. We take our church sometimes a little too seriously. It’s an occupational hazard. Of devout folk to become stuffy boors. This should not be. of all people We should be the most free, the most alive, the most interesting. Jesus rejoices so fully in life that he was accused of being a wine Bieber and a glutton Many of us lead such sour lives that we cannot possibly be accused of such things.
Being a Christian is about being like Jesus. And I’ll be honest. You want to be like Jesus. Live it up. I’m serious. He was so full of life. He was so celebrated. He was so joyful. It was contagious. And he felt that even through the struggles, even in the pain, even in the difficulty, even in the hard times. where there was a problem, he saw a possibility. And look, that’s not about escapism. Again, it’s about finding joy right where you are. God’s desire for us is not for us to circumvent or bypass misery and suffering. God’s desire is to transform it and us in the midst of it. even if you’re in the midst of a season where you are weeping, there is still joy that can be found because of the goodness of God.
So, look, Jesus, his mother saw this opportunity. She saw at the wedding. They’ve run out of wine, and she said to Jesus, all right, here we go. This is your chance. And even he was like, It’s not my time. She’s like, Yeah, yeah, that’s great, but I’m your mom. So, you’re going to do it. So he tells she tells the servants, do what he says. So go and put the picture up there. There were these there were these stone jars. You guys have a picture that is it up? No. Yes, there it goes. So off the side, there’s these stone jars that they would use for ceremonial washing, and they’re filled with water. These are every day, normal things. The problem is that there’s no more wine. The possibility is that God, Christ, can transform the water into wine. But it doesn’t happen through some burning bush. A cherub doesn’t fly down out of heaven with pitchers full of wine. They go to what’s right there. He uses what is right there and ordinary to perform this incredible miracle. when you see a problem remember that God sees a possibility and those possibilities aren’t going to come from some high and spiritual thing. God’s way of working miracles is usually with what’s right there, with what’s right around you. When you see a problem remember God sees a possibility. So this week to practice celebration, let me encourage you to look at your problems, look at your obstacles, look at your circumstances, and be open to the ways that God may use the everyday normal things to transform something in your life miraculously.
But the only way to experience a miracle of God is through the second point. Miracles happen through obedience. Look at me at Luke. When the woman realized she could not stay hidden, she began to tremble and fell to her knees in front of him. The whole crowd heard her explain why she had touched him and that she had been immediately healed. Now. Watch this. Jesus says to her daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. This is the woman with the issue of internal bleeding. She crawls through this crowd. She touches the hymn of Jesus’s robe, and she’s immediately healed. She didn’t Ask Jesus. She just did it. And Jesus says the reason you experienced healing for me, the conduit through which my healing flowed into your life was one thing. Your faith and friends. What is obedience, if not faith in God Tangibly expressed? we say we trust God. We say we believe. Yet until we are willing to do what God has called us to do, we are not acting in faith.
So again, let’s look at verse five of our text. But this mother told the servants, do whatever he tells you. Jesus didn’t say, hey guys, this is going to be great if you go dip that water out. I’m going to turn it into wine and you’re going to bring it to him and it’s going to be fantastic. All he said was something that wouldn’t have made sense, something that actually bore a little bit of personal risk for them. He said, dip the water, take it to the master of the ceremonies. So imagine they had to go. They had to dip. They’re probably thinking, what in the world? I’m about to get shamed and thrown out of this party because this is not just water. This is where the ceremonial washing was. That’s gross. So they dip the water, and they bring it, and it turns to wine.
I want to pose a question. Had those servants not done that, would we be reading about this miracle right now? Probably not. Probably not. It’s faith expressed through obedience. Do you want to experience God’s miraculous presence in your life? The pathway to that is through obedience. not grudging, putting your nose to the grindstone, obedience, but trusting joyful faith.
you know how when you were little, your dad would pick you up and throw you up in the air. And a good dad doesn’t catch you up here. He, like, waits too. You get right here? Did you ever once think you were actually going to fall? Did you ever once think you’re actually going to hit the ground? It was exhilarating. It was a little scary. But you trusted your father. Is it any coincidence that Jesus said to experience the kingdom of God, you need to have faith like a child? stepping out in faith to do what God has called you to do is never safe, nor should it be. Otherwise, it’s not trusting God. It’s doing what I can do. Some of you sitting here right now, God’s been calling you to do something. It’s time. It’s time. Step out and do it. That is the pathway to experiencing God’s miracles. through obeying the voice of God. There’s nothing better you could do.
Finally, when you do step out and you experience miracles, here’s what happens. You realize that God’s blessings overflow. There’s a real interesting exchange at the end of this passage. They bring the water. It’s now wine. and the master of the ceremonies Tastes it. And he says, Wait a minute. Usually, they bring out the best wine. The best wine would have been the most pure, not diluted, and the most potent. He said usually they bring out the best wine first, and then after everyone has had a lot to drink, they start bringing out the cheap diluted, not potent wine. And you know why they do that? Because the people who have had a lot to drink don’t notice it. So I used to wait tables all through college and the bartenders would practice, in the evenings, late in the evening, they would practice the thing called a short for short pour. when someone had had a few drinks already. So they were going to save the restaurants a little bit of money and just pour a little bit less of what made the drink What it was. and the people wouldn’t notice. Because after you’ve had a few drinks, your faculties are not as sharp. So you’re getting a short pour. So this guy says, Wait a minute, you’re not short poorness. Now you’ve saved the best until now. So Jesus didn’t just turn the water into wine. He turned it into the best, the most pure, the most celebratory. And not only did he turn it into a little, he didn’t turn it into a little bit of wine. Those six jars held a total of between 120 and 180 gallons.
And here’s the lesson. When God pours out blessings, they are not skimpy, and they are not second rate. you say, Well, I just haven’t experienced that. Well, I think there’s a point, if we’re clinging so hard to the little bit we already have, then we are not open to receive the blessings God is trying to give us. I think that’s a really solid biblical principle. You so sparingly, you reap sparingly. you sow generously, you are opening your heart and your life to the blessings of God. When God blesses my friends. It is the best and it is in abundance.
If I’m going to be honest, I look back at my life, every struggle I’ve had, every trial I’ve faced, every crucible that I have endured, God has not only brought me through, God has brought me through with something better than I could have imagined in the first place. But how easily do we forget. Okay, so listen. Of all the spiritual disciplines, celebration is the one that we most easily overlook Yet it’s the one that holds the power to transform all of the others. Celebration is something we don’t preach enough and as the church, we don’t experience enough. We look at the world and we say, Oh, here’s the struggle. Here’s the trial. Here’s the difficulty. And we don’t minimize that. Those are real. But celebration is found even in the midst of it.
So let me give you just a couple pointers for this week. A couple of things you can do for this week and through the rest of Lent to work celebration into your spiritual life to keep it at the forefront of your heart. First, look for the possibilities in your circumstances. when a trial arises Don’t go first to the negative. Try to go to the place of faith that says, Let’s see what God’s going to do now.
Secondly, seek God’s miracles through obedience. You want to experience God’s miraculous presence. You really want to celebrate, step out of faith and follow the voice of the Holy Spirit.
Third, develop a habit of thankfulness. We are grossly, embarrassingly, and abundantly blessed. Once again, for lunch, I get to choose any of these restaurants up and down the street where I want to eat. I get to open my refrigerator and say, I feel like this today and not that. Friends How abundantly blessed are we? Develop a habit, a heart of Thanksgiving. When you thank God for all the blessings you have, you are more open to seeing the blessings to come. And when you’re thankful, when you realize the blessings come from God, you’re also more willing and able to share those with others.
Fourth; Find God’s blessings in the ordinary. You’re not going to see a burning bush. You’re not going to have an angel appear and tell you news of great joy, but you’re going to see God work through ordinary, everyday things. Look for God’s hand in that.
Fifth, I’m going to give you an official preach your prescription. I’m not a medical doctor. I’m not a licensed counselor. But I am a theological professional. Let me tell you what you need to do theologically. And I mean this, this week. Lighten up and laugh. Enjoy yourself, enjoy your life. That is a good and godly thing. Even in the midst of tears. Find time to laugh. Find time to celebrate. God didn’t give you life to be a curmudgeon the whole time. Jesus said, I’ve come that you might have life and life abundantly.
Finally, remember that God’s blessings overflow. Enjoy them and be willing to share them. If you do these things, you’re going to find the heart of this miracle, this water to wine. You’re going to find the way to celebrate and to find the joy of God That will be your strength. Even if you’re in the midst of a difficult season. there is joy to be found because of the miracles of God.
Can we pray together?
Lord Jesus, you lived life to its fullest measure. May we do the same. remove our fears. remove our doubts. help us step out in faith and help us find the joy that you had and the joy that you offer us. Amen.