Our scripture reading today starts by saying “On the third day” — “On the third day there was a wedding in Cana.” Let’s think about Third Day Events here. I suppose John’s suggesting that the first two days occurred in Chapter 1 because we’re just starting Chapter 2. But with John, there’s always more to it: The Third Day is a connection here at the beginning of this book to the resurrection that takes place at the end of this book. Life conquers death. This is what a Third Day Event is.
And we hear that this is the first of Jesus’ signs. There are 7 signs of Jesus in John’s Gospel. This is the first. It’s like those puzzles that reveal a little bit at a time, or a spotlight that shines on just a little part of a greater whole. Not until all the pieces, all the lights are shined will Jesus be fully revealed. But this is the first! And man, this one is exciting!
Unexpected extravagance is almost unacceptable for us.
Have you ever been lavished with goodness and you really have a hard time accepting it? I know you have! I’ve talked to many of you about it! This is a tough text for us Lutherans...who don’t always act like Lutherans! I mean we call ourselves Lutherans but we are often, if we’re honest, reluctant if not totally rejecting of extravagant grace and abundance. “No, no, no,” we say humbly (and even self-less-ly, “I don’t deserve that,” we think to ourselves, “make sure someone else gets the extravagance. Not me.” If you’re resonating with this kind of struggle, this is the text for you!
It’s kind of like struggling to let someone else pay for your meal, or a big meal. Now, not everyone struggles with that. Some are happy to let others pay for their food and drink and this text is for you too (if that describes you).
But how about the ones who always cover themselves — and others too — so graciously and extravagantly? Can you accept another covering you, grace...that comes flowing in such ridiculous amounts of abundance here?
(150 gallons! I personally translate wine images into beer: that’s 10 giant kegs! 1 keg at a wedding is always too much! 10??!!! It’s definitely not needed!)
Wine overflowing: this is our first glimpse of Jesus’ glory. One scholar talked about this miracle as thing of “dissonance." * It’s not only a surprise, it’s actually a little disturbing. There shouldn’t be that much wine, right? That’s scandalous (which literally means a stumbling block)! Exactly. Paul says Christ is a stumbling block. Some simply can’t get past certain things about grace to fully accept this God-with-us, this Word that becomes flesh and dwells among us! It’s hard to hear, it’s dissonant, this much goodness. NO! “You’ve got to earn it, earn it,” our little Western, Protestant-work-ethic brains are crying out. But there’s this part of our hearts, maybe even our whole bodies, that is whispering (maybe shamefully), “Would be fun though…”
See, John’s Gospel again and again challenges the mind, threatens and seeks to annihilate the shameful voices in our heads, the “you’ve gotta earn it”, and instead draws us into extravagance! That’s what grace really is. It’s totally undeserved. We have a hard time with that.
OK, the six 20-30 gallon jars? Let’s talk about that: Everything is symbol in John. Six jars represent the old religion. The old way of doing things, even the old way of celebrating. They’re water jars for religious purification! Did you get that? That’s like taking our holy things here in order to have a party?
Can you imagine grabbing [this chalice] for a wedding you’re going to on Saturday night?
Jesus is consecrating the new by using the old. He’s taking the holy and using it for the everyday, and in that way making the everyday holy.
(Remember I said a few weeks ago that for Jesus in John, everything becomes holy? Everything becomes “a sacrament”?) Jesus is blowing up religious tradition, and by that I don’t mean destroying it: I mean more literally blowing up [wider and wider, bigger and bigger] — YES, this is holy, but so is this and this and this and this!
Walking your dog and picking up her poop in the evening breeze is sacramental. Scrubbing the gunk off of the dinner plates as you listen to a podcast is sacramental. Going to the dentist and talking about about your plans for the MLK holiday is sacramental. Having a drink with a friend, getting a massage, laughing together in a boardroom meeting, reading a bedtime story to a child, flying to San Antonio, shopping for fruits and vegetables...you see? It just goes on and on! Everything is holy now! Grace overflowing, pouring out 150 ridiculous gallons, just more and more!
When you think about when you’ve most felt God’s presence in your life, which we have to ask ourselves often when studying the Gospel of John. [pause] Don’t just think about the toughest of times — when you/your loved one was sick or death at hand, but somehow you knew God’s deep, abiding, very real presence. Don’t just think about the dark times when God was truly there for you. Those are definitely true moments of God’s presence...But today reminds us that God is with us in the absolute overflowing grace-filled, joy-filled, love-filled, laughter-filled, beer-and-wine-filled, food-filled, family-and-friends-filled, glorious-nature-filled highlights —
the very best that this life and this world has to offer, too. Third Day Events.
I think of my brother Tim and Caitriona’s wedding in Ireland in 2009. That was a Third Day Event for me. Wouldn’t have missed it, so glad we did it. Family and friends — new and old — gathered together in an area that seemed like the edge of the world. For days (in the rain — didn’t matter) we too celebrated a wedding, toured around, sat by the fire, laughed and laughed, ate and drank, and danced and sang, and told stories and celebrated life and love, and joy and peace.
And when you experience those things, you want to share them with others. You want others to have Third Day Events too, you long for everyone to be so blessed...you just can’t help yourself from feeling that way...That’s the power of a Third Day Event...
Let me conclude by calling our attention to Jesus’ mother: We should follow her lead and approach to Jesus pleading, “They have no wine.” In other words, we should come to Jesus tell him what to do too: We pray for other people. We don’t just hoard all this goodness and grace for ourselves. We don’t just revel in Jesus’ presence and then go home, forgetting what we’ve experienced. That’s not a Third Day Event. No, we accept this absolute wonder and joy, we swim in it -- laugh and eat and sing and drink and dance. We party with Jesus, and we also, even during the party, like his mom, plead with Jesus, “They have no wine.” Let’s try that now: let us pray...
“Give to others the grace that we have received so abundantly, loving God. Blow open the old ways that come up empty. And fill us and this whole world with newness, with joy and mercy and unity and peace. In your name we pray. AMEN”
*New Interpreters Bible, “John”, Gail O’Day