Extravagent Grace

Epiphany 2, 2016, Bunker Hill, John 2:1-11

It’s been a busy week for Jesus.  John proclaimed him, “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”  The next day one of John’s disciple’s Andrew, told his brother Simon Peter, “We have found the Christ.” The following day Jesus gained two more disciples Philip and Nathanael.  Nathanael proclaimed Jesus, “The Son of God…the King of Israel.”  Those are some weighty titles, Lamb of God, Christ, Son of God and King of Israel.  Jesus was all those things, but lambs get sacrificed for sins.   At the foot of the cross, Roman soldier identifies him as Son of God.  A piece of paper flaps above Jesus head in the breeze notifying spectators he is, “The king of the Jews.” But of course his kingdom was not of this world. However, all of that is in Jesus’ future and our future.

Today, we are at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus, his mother and those four disciples are at a wedding.  Now when you invite Jesus to any kind of event, you have to be ready for almost anything to happen.  The same goes for answering his call to “come, see, stay and follow me.”  At the pool of Siloam Jesus told an Invalid to get up pick up his bed and walk. The man gets in trouble for carrying his bed on the Sabbath. And don’t sin anymore.   A Samaritan woman who has several failed marriage meets him at a well and hears of the water of life.  She becomes the village evangelist.  A man blind from birth receives his sight and discovers he doesn’t have the support of either his parents or the religious leaders.  We need to keep that in mind when we invite Jesus to “be our guest” at a meal because sometimes Jesus shows up as the least of his brethren.  Or he might show up in the middle of a storm and tell us not to fear, simply because he is present.  Or ask us to help him feed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish and then pick up the left overs.  Jesus went against the advice of his disciples when they warned him not to go to Bethany and see his friend Lazarus.  He went anyway and told the now deceased Lazarus, “I’m telling you, come out.”  That was the last straw for Jesus opponents.  When you are around Jesus, things happen.

We need to keep those things in mind if we are going to accompany Jesus to this wedding in Cana, a place that nobody is sure where it was located; yet Cana is well known today because Jesus chose this little village to first show his glory. At an unknown location, at a wedding of an unnamed couple, he performs his first sign turning water to wine.

There’s an old saying about what a bride should wear, “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.”  A pastor, veteran of numerous wedding, added to that old adage, “Something goes wrong, something is askew.”  Something was certainly askew at the wedding in Cana.  The cups of the guests lounging on the couches were empty.  They ran out of wine.  Out of the blue, Jesus mother said to him, “They have no wine.”

Mary’s been thinking, wondering, and pondering about her son for thirty years.  Mary told the catering crew, “Do whatever he tells you.”  Knowing what I now know about Jesus, I’d have been a little apprehensive at that point.  What’s he going to tell me to do?  You see, soon after the wedding he goes up to Jerusalem. He ties some cords together into a whip and chased a bunch of people out of the temple.   These people were just trying to make a living while providing a service to worshipers. What could be wrong with having some oxen, sheep and pigeons available for the convenience of worshippers who needed to make a sacrifice?  Thirty years before, Joseph and Mary probably bought a pair of turtle doves from these vendors when they presented their son Jesus to the Lord. Maybe the mooing, bleating and cooing was distracting to some and of course the smell and mess. After all they were providing these animals so that people could keep the Lord’s own laws.  That scares me a bit.  That makes me look around at the church and wonder what Jesus would tell us to get rid of.

Well, back in Cana Jesus instructs the catering crew to fill six pots with water.  And they do what Jesus tells them. Then Jesus said to take some of the water to the wedding planner.  When the wedding planner tastes the water it’s not water at all, it has become wine.  Not just any wine.  But the best wine. It was more than just enough wine. It was enough wine to fill a wine cellar and last for years. Someone figured out it was equivalent to a thousand bottles of wine take about a ton of grapes. This was grace.  This was not just enough grace.  But abundant grace. Extravagant grace. Unrestrained grace. Undeserved grace. This was grace upon grace coming from Jesus who is the fullness of God. This was a fulfillment of the prophet Amos, “The mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it.”  Imagine a waterfall of wine, or a river of grace. Last time I was here Cahokia Creek was about to overrun 159 and 143.  Imagine that being grace. Isaiah says, “The Lord of hosts will make for all people a feast of rich food a feast of well-aged-wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.”  At the wedding feast in Cana that wine, that grace was poured into the cups of all those who attended the wedding at Cana.  And like the feeding of the 5,000 there would have been more than enough and plenty left over.

Because that’s what grace is, more than enough.  Grace is a gift of God.  It frees us from having to try harder.  It frees us from working longer, paying more, or any kind of effort on our part that involves giving more or being more than we are. John has already tipped us off about the glory and grace of God.  In the Old Testament God’s glory was seen in the storm and earthquake on Mt. Sinai, and in the pillar of fire at night and the cloud during the day as God led Israel through the wilderness.  But now since God became one of us in Jesus, since the word has become flesh and lived among us, we see God’s glory in Jesus who is full of grace and truth and out of his fullness we all have received grace upon grace.   Jesus just doesn’t tell us about his grace, he shows it to us.

This morning we will not only hear his grace in the forgiveness of our sins and in the word of scripture, but we will come forward and we will see it in the cup, and taste it and smell it and swallow it and take in our hands. His grace will enter our bodies and be digested and be carried by our blood to all the parts of our body from head to foot.  Jesus turned water into wine.  In Holy Communion he turns wine into his blood and bread into his body.

And so the wedding at Cana was but the first of his signs which pointed toward the one great sign, when his hour had finally come, at a place called “The Skull” when he drank the sour wine, and said “It is finished,” bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Because of his bitter suffering death and resurrection, the words of our introit ring true, “The Lord has brought us to his banqueting house and his banner over us is love.”  May we follow the response of the disciples when they saw Jesus glory at Cana.  “And his disciples believed in him.”





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