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  • Rev. Diane Curtis

The Right Time

John 2:1-11

New Revised Standard Version

2 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. 9 When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

We all can relate a story from a wedding. Some are touching – tears of joy as the groom looks into the eyes of his soon to be wife, the smile on the bride’s face as she walks down the aisle to her waiting fiancée, the kiss on the cheek from the bride’s father as he gives his daughter away.

Others are funny, at least to the guests – the flower girl dumping her basket of petals in a pile, the ring bearer tossing his pillow in the air at the end of his bouncing walk down the aisle, the groomsman who forgot his shoes so is in stocking feet, Aunt Ida’s loud commentary throughout the ceremony, the DJ introduces the couple by the wrong name. These are the social disasters that the bride had hoped to avoid.

Weddings gather people together as witnesses to a marriage between two loving people. That marriage is the central event of the celebration. Much planning and preparation go into the event, both for the ceremony itself and the party afterwards. We rarely know the backstories connected to the complicated preparation – the arguments over flower or cake choices, deciding on a menu that provides options for guests with various food requirements, creating and recreating the invitation list, the financial stress, and more. Getting married is complicated.

In Jesus’ day, marriage was an arranged joining of two families, often for the benefit of one or both. The ceremony itself involved little of the elaboration seen in today’s wedding service. The party, though, was a jovial time of celebration that the entire village was invited to. These celebrations were a weeklong feast held at the groom’s home. Image how much food and wine were required!

Here, in John 2, we read of one backstory that played out at a wedding in Cana, about 8 miles from Nazareth. Because of the distance, it is assumed that Jesus and his mother were most likely relatives of one of the families.

About halfway through the festivities, a crisis arises – the wine supply is dwindling. It would be an incredible social disaster for the groom and his family if the wine bottles were empty before the party was over. A story that no one wanted told as a memory of the wedding.

The servants, who may have been hired for the occasion, were at wits end. How would they approach the chief steward with this potential disaster? What would the steward tell the host? Finding more wine at that point would be almost impossible.

Fortunately, Jesus’ mother’s keen eye noticed the predicament. She knew that it was imperative to rectify the situation so the celebration could continue through the rest of the week. And she knew who could make that happen.

Jesus’ reluctance to help wasn’t because he was busy celebrating or didn’t want to help. His response to his mother’s request was that it was not yet time. He hadn’t begun his teaching ministry. It was not the time to reveal his authority and power to perform miracles.

His mother believed otherwise. She knew him, raised him, and remembered what she had been told about him even before he was born. She recognized that time, God’s time, was measured differently than human time. In God’s realm, time was no longer ordinary. This was God’s time.

Jesus did what his mother directed. He performed his first recorded miracle – turning large cleansing jars filled with water into overflowing pots of wine of the best vintage imaginable.

Turning water into wine – certainly, a miracle. However, John doesn’t describe it as such. He calls this the first of Jesus’ signs. A sign, not a miracle. A sign that points to a road that Jesus will travel over the next three years, all the way to his death and resurrection.

But let’s not travel too far down that road today. There will be time enough for that journey in the months to come. Rather, let’s stay in Cana, at the signpost for the time to come.

Time is grounded with the wedding – a date, a place, and a celebration for family and guests. Although we don’t know these details, they designate the kind of time we measure in minutes, hours, and days. The time within which we live. The time within which we expect God to live and act as well.

God’s time, the time Jesus refers to is quite different. God’s time is not measured in increments. God’s time is a time of revelation – of God’s grace and abundance.

Imagine the reaction of the chief steward upon tasting this new wine. He was in a desperate situation. He needed wine and he needed it immediately. Not unlike our own expectations in a time of need. The chief steward doesn’t question where this wine bursting with flavor came from. He just knows his problem is solved.

Jesus’ first sign, changing water into wine, isn’t the type of world changing miracle we have come to expect from reading the gospel stories. This sign is simple and straightforward – a party continues while the bridegroom and chief steward avoid the embarrassment of not planning appropriately for the number of guests expected.

Here, John tells us that not every act of God shakes up the world as people know it. John suggests that Jesus’ very presence validates the meaningful and enjoyable things in life – sharing food around a table, warm hospitality, family bonds, and celebrations that bring people together. A reminder that simply resting in God’s presence, reveling in God’s grace for a time is all that is needed.

This sign also points us in another direction. Not a different road, but a different understanding of God’s presence in the world. The extravagance, the abundance of God is in play here – there is always more than enough, and it is always God’s best. The wine that is presented to the chief steward would have filled about 600 bottles, almost 180 gallons of the best wine.

Abundance is a hallmark of Jesus’ ministry. 12 baskets are leftover after the 5000 plus are fed lunch. The disciples catch so many fish that their nets can barely hold them. Lazarus and a little girl are raised from the dead. Those who are deemed unworthy or who are cast off by society are accepted and loved.

The servants who were working behind the scenes doing the menial tasks required – setting tables, folding napkins, serving food and drink, and cleaning up – were the ones who saw and experienced the miracle. Not the host or the guests or the chief steward, but the servants were there at that time and place when God chose act, to reveal himself through Jesus. These every day, often unnoticed, seemingly least important people were the first to see a glimpse of God’s glory. They were the ones chosen to be witnesses for the first of Jesus’ signs.

We may see ourselves in much the same way others saw those servants. Unimportant and unnoticed people who go through life day by day, week by week following a schedule grounded in minutes and hours. We wonder if God will answer our prayers let alone do something significant in our lives. We ache for a glimpse of God’s glory. Something to let us know that the God we can’t see, or touch is within reach. We want to see Jesus and experience the abundance John describes.

I wonder if we are looking for the big interruption of God. The abundance of food Jesus creates from a small lunch. The miraculous healing of a loved one when healing doesn’t seem to be on the horizon. The invitation to God’s party.

God’s extravagance, God’s abundance often shows itself in smaller, simpler ways. The servants saw the water that was changed into wine – they were the only ones who saw what God can do. The person sitting on the grass who received lunch when they hadn’t brought anything to eat. The private hug of a father whose child was no longer sick. These are glimpses of God’s glory and overflowing, extravagant love.

The overflowing shelves of donated food at the pantry and the bagful of that food a woman carries out the door. The man in line for lunch at the soup kitchen who flashes a smile when he is handed a plate. The person who is tired from walking and gratefully sits on a bench in front of a church. The shut-in who receives a call from someone who just wants to talk with them for a while. The person sitting alone in a pew is greeted and acknowledged. These, too, are glimpses of God’s glory and overflowing, extravagant love.

Jesus is the epitome of God’s glory and overflowing, extravagant love. At Cana, the glimpse was simple and seen only by a few. In other places at other times, hundreds and thousands experienced a glimpse through Jesus. We might say that those were at the right place at the right time. Possibly.

God’s time isn’t random. We don’t see a glimpse of God because we happen to be at the right place at the right time. We see God’s glory, experience God’s overflowing, extravagant love when God’s time intersects our time and when our eyes and hearts are open and ready.


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