The Wedding Planners Worst Nightmare / Second Sunday after the Epiphany

John 2:1-11

This, the first of His signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested His glory. And His disciples believed in Him.

If you were to make a list of jobs that require the ability to think on your feet and handle extreme levels of stress, which jobs would make your list? Fighter pilots, police officers, kindergarten teachers, maybe? They’d belong on that list, right?

What about wedding planners? Really? But think about it. Wedding planners juggle hundreds of tiny details while also managing the emotions of the wedding party. Their job is to create the perfect day for the bride and groom. That’s a huge responsibility!

When issues arise at the last minute, the wedding planner has to do whatever it takes to fix the problem. For example, the DJ doesn’t show up for the reception. What do you do? One wedding planner hooked up her iPhone to a laptop and served as DJ so the wedding party could go on as planned.

Another wedding planner discovered at the last minute that the church had scheduled a funeral at the same time as the wedding. She needed to keep the wedding guests out of the church for about an hour. Fortunately, she spotted an ice cream truck down the block and convinced the owner to park the truck at the church and serve ice cream to the waiting guests. Everyone assumed this was part of the wedding entertainment. The guests had a great time, and no one guessed that they were being distracted from a scheduling mistake.

Our Scripture this morning is about a wedding planner faced with a crisis. Jesus and His disciples and His mother are attending a wedding in Cana. In that culture, wedding parties lasted for days. At some point during the festivities, the hosting family ran out of wine. Jesus lived in a culture that valued hospitality and community. No more wine meant no more wedding celebration, which would be humiliating for the bride and groom’s families. Jesus’ mother, Mary, must’ve heard whispers about the lack of wine, so she took the problem to Jesus. They have no more wine, she said.

Jesus answered, Woman, why do you involve Me? My hour has not yet come. His mother said to the servants, do whatever He tells you. This passage is a great example of what I would call mom-power. Mothers have that unique power to talk their kids into doing their bidding. Mary didn’t ask Jesus directly to do anything. She didn’t demand. She just presented the problem to Him in such a way that He couldn’t say no. That’s mom-power.

Remember Jesus has the power to do miracles. He could’ve produced gallons of wine in the blink of an eye. But that’s not how He did it. He involved others. This situation reminds me of a story that appeared on CNN last year.

In March 2020, a small Italian town experienced a seeming miracle. A local winery in the town had a valve fail on its bottling line. The pressure created by the leaky valve forced wine into the area water pipes, causing red wine to flow out of the water taps in about 20 homes surrounding the winery. The red wine flowed for about three hours, until workmen were able to fix the leaky valve. The manager at the winery said the malfunction was appreciated by many of their customers. In fact, some of them were bottling some of the wine for later use.

Can you imagine wine pouring out of your kitchen faucet? I’m sure some of you will be checking your house when you get home. Jesus could’ve provided wine for every household in town. But if you read through the Bible, God often asks ordinary people to assist in His work. God partners with us to do miracles. And God chooses those who trust Him. It always requires an attitude of trust, an act of faith, to partner with God in doing His work.

So, Jesus asks the servants to fill the ceremonial water jars to the very brim. Then He says, Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet. The master of the banquet was essentially the wedding planner. He was facing public humiliation and loss of his job if he didn’t come through fast. So those servants showed some tremendous trust when they obeyed Jesus and took the host a dipper full of wine.

Imagine the master of the banquet’s surprise when he tasted the wine! He didn’t even know Jesus had performed a miracle. He called the bridegroom aside and said, everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you’ve saved the best till now.

It’s easy to look at Jesus’ first miracle and think it’s just an impressive party trick. We might as well end this passage with the words, and they lived happily ever after. The End. But the last line of our Bible passage reads, what Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which He revealed His glory; and His disciples believed in Him. What? This miracle revealed His glory and caused His disciples to believe in Him? I call that an important miracle.

A young man was raised in a very strict Christian home. His parents absolutely forbad the use of alcohol in their home. When he asked his parents to explain Jesus’ first miracle, the transformation of water into wine, his dad replied, well, if He had known how many problems alcohol would cause, He never would have done that. Some of us agree with his dad, by the way.

This miracle is a little hard to explain, and not just because many churches in the U.S. have traditionally taken a hard stance against alcohol. But it’s not about the wedding. It’s not even about the wine. God isn’t a showman. He isn’t desperate for our attention. So, the miracles we read about in the Bible aren’t just special effects to impress us. Miracles are meant to show us the nature and priorities of God. Every time you read about a miracle in the Bible, ask yourself, what does this tell me about the nature and priorities of God?

The first thing this story tells us about God is that in Jesus, God is doing a new thing. Notice in the Bible that every time God speaks to a person, it’s a challenging event. Because God is always calling people to a new life. A new identity. A new challenge. Read through the Bible. What happened in the lives of Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Moses, Joshua, Ruth, Esther, Joseph, David? Each one of them was called away from a comfortable life and predictable future to follow God to new lands, to take on new challenges. And God expects the people who follow Him to grow, to change, to rise to new challenges, to sacrifice their comforts for His calling.

Speaking of challenges, the COVID-19 pandemic presented all of us with some challenges that we would just as soon forget. We added some new terms to our vocabulary such as “social distancing.” And some new ways for going about our work. Businesses sent their employee’s home. Restaurants, stores and schools closed their doors. Soon, some of us were all getting quite depressed looking at the same four walls every day. That’s one way you can deal with a challenging situation, by the way: get down in the dumps and be resentful. Or maybe you can find a better way to deal with your situation.

The second thing we learn from this miracle is that in Jesus, God is doing an abundant thing. Why is it important to understand that our God is a God of abundance? It’s certainly not to justify a prosperity gospel, the health-and-wealth idol worship found in many American churches. In Jesus, we see that God’s generosity flows from His love for us. God’s abundant love frees us to live fearlessly, expectantly and generously. That last one is the most important. Here’s another area where God calls us into partnership with Him. We receive God’s blessings so that we can be a blessing to others.

When we give generously to the needs of others: we pay it forward and emulate our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Jesus is God in the flesh, so His miracles point to the nature and priorities of God. In this Bible passage, we learn that God is doing a new thing and God is doing an abundant thing. And the last thing we learn from this miracle is that in Jesus, God is doing a grace thing.

Grace, unconditional, unearned love, is hidden all throughout this Bible passage. And it is particularly on display in the miracle of the turning of water into wine.

Wine often symbolizes God’s provision and blessings and security in the Bible. But it also represents so much more. You see, Jesus’ first miracle and His last meal have something in common. Just before Jesus was arrested and crucified, He had a final meal with His disciples. After the meal, He picked up some leftover bread, gave thanks to God and broke it. He gave it to His disciples and said, “This is My body given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” Then He picked up the cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is poured out for you.”

God in the flesh didn’t come here to save a wedding party from disaster. He came to give His life on the cross to save us from our sins and restore us to himself.

Jesus’ first miracle wasn’t for show. It was to show us that in His coming, in His life and His death for our sake, God was doing a new thing, an abundant thing, and a grace thing. His broken body and the wine of the LORD’s Supper are constant reminders of Christ’s courageous love for us.