Sermon: Extravagant Sign

I enjoy weddings. Last year I had the honor of officiating at more than 20 weddings. There is something special about being present to witness the covenant relationship between two people; it is a sacred, intimate moment that can also be rather amusing. I could stand here and share a hundred stories about incidents that have taken place during weddings, but we would be here all day. Let’s just say, although I have not seen it all, I have come close to seeing it all.

In the Gospel passage from John we heard read this morning, we find Jesus, and his mother Mary, at a wedding in the City of Cana in Galilee. In the first century, Palestine weddings were quite a social affair. They would usually last seven days and be filled with great food, wine, music, and all the rest. The very fact that the wine was running out was not a good thing, in fact, it was a social mistake that the family probably would not recover from.

The Steward comes to Mary, so obviously, the wedding was for a close family member and informs her that the wine is running out.  She turns to Jesus for help, and he asks, “what does this have to do with us?” Ignoring the remark, Mary tells the steward to do whatever Jesus tells him. Then the miracle takes place.

I have said before, there is always more to a story than what we see on the surface. We tend to focus on the miracle of the story but miss the true meaning because we are dazzled by magic rather than what is spiritually going on in the background.

There were six stone water pots available to Jesus. According to Jewish tradition, seven is the number which is complete and perfect; and six is the number that is unfinished and imperfect. In this story, the six water pots stand for all of the imperfections in the Jewish law. Jesus came to do away with the imperfections of the law and put in their place the new wine of the gospel of his grace. Jesus turned the imperfections of the law into the perfection of grace.

But we can go deeper into this passage.

The six waterpots held between twenty and thirty gallons of water each; Jesus turned that water into wine. That would provide up to one hundred and eighty gallons of wine! This is an example of why we do not take every passage of scripture literally. What John is saying here is that when the grace if Jesus comes to us, there is enough to spare for all. No wedding party on earth would be able to drink one hundred and eighty gallons of wine. No need on earth can exhaust the grace of Jesus Christ because there is a glorious superabundance in it.

What John is telling us is that in Jesus, imperfections have become perfection, and the grace has become illimitable, sufficient, and more than enough for every need. Whenever Jesus comes into our lives, there comes a new quality which is like turning water into wine.

What I like about this story is that it is about abundance, an abundance of grace and abundance of love. In Christ, all of our imperfections are removed through his grace and love for us, and then we can be filled with an abundance that we can then share with others.