John’s Gospel is arranged very differently from Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The author of John’s Gospel isn’t as interested in the chronology of Jesus life as he is the meaning of Jesus’ ministry and life. John arranges his Gospel around seven “signs” that Jesus performs that are the marks of Jesus being the Son of God. Each sign reveals a little bit more about Jesus for those who have eyes to see.
The miracle at Canaan, turning the water into wine is the first sign, the one that caused his disciples to first believe in Jesus.
What is it about turning water into wine that does that?
I want you to follow the cup, to watch it in this story.
A cup, one like this one, simple, wooden, in the hands of everyone at the wedding feast.
Everyone’s got a cup, and when the story begins, we are mid-feast. Everyone has been partaking, imbibing, joining in the toasts and the celebration.
Point # 1, The cups in the story aren’t empty, not yet, but they are running low. The wine is giving out, getting low in supply. The party is still going on, but it is threatened, and there is a general sense of dis-ease about what to do, and no one has any good solutions, and so Mary takes it up with Jesus.
We have a misperception about what it means to share our faith. We tend to think that what we are called to do is to share our faith with those poor folks out there who have empty cups. Those whose lives are empty, wanting, and dried up.
But the truth of the matter is that most folks don’t reach the point of empty cups, there is always a “little something” in them.
Reaching people with empty cups is a lot easier, they are eager to receive almost anything.
Reaching people whose cups aren’t quite empty yet, well that’s a bit more complex because one is never quite sure if what you want to top them off with is better than what they already have.
This is a part of the first sign in John’s Gospel.
There is a general sense of dis-ease about how the party is going, where it may be heading, but no one is quite sure what to do about it, and they are standing around looking at what they have in their cups right now.
That’s a pretty accurate description of our world, isn’t it?
How is your cup doing? The cup of your life?
Few of us here today would say that we have empty cups, but we do have a general sense that what’s in there may not be quite enough, or really good stuff.
I wish I had more.
I wish I had more faith. I wish I had a better job. I wish I didn’t have this arthritis in my body. I wish I had made a different choice back there. We are good at looking at the cup of our life and looking for what we don’t have, what we wish we had, what we wish we didn’t have.
We have a general sense of dis-ease about the way things are going, about the economy, about our neighborhoods, about our schools, our politics, our church, our jobs or our relationships but, we’re not really sure what to do about it.
Now, if you’ve ever been to a party where it looks like things are going to give out you know that there are two classic ways that people respond to that situation. Here are your options.
Some will go and grab for all they can before it’s gone. You’ve seen these folks, tapping the keg, tipping the coffee pot to get the last drops, maybe slipping an extra can of soda into their pocket for later. One response to the prospect of the party coming to an abrupt end is to make sure you get in your good time no matter what.
Others, will respond with nursing their drinks. Conserving what they have to make it last as long as they can.
The funny thing about both responses is that neither one will save the party.
It’s interesting, isn’t it, that in our world today, in the party we’re at right now we see both extremes as well. Some who grab for all they can get. Some who nurse along what little they’ve got. Neither one really able to understanding the actions or reasonings of the other, and; neither one able to save the party.
Follow the cup. This is the place where Jesus does his first sign. It’s not to people who are desperately looking for a savior, it’s done in the midst of people trying to decide what to do with their half empty cup.
“Is this all there is?”
“Can I make this last?”
“Do I have enough?”
“Where can I get some more?”
Those are the questions being raised when Mary takes things up with Jesus, when she says, “they have no wine.” The first of Jesus’ signs comes not to people with empty cups, but to people with cups ½ full who are trying to decide what to do next.
Point # 2 – Follow the cup. You know, we say this is the story where Jesus turns the water into wine, but follow the cup. Jesus never lays a finger on anything connected to this miracle. It happens because there are people who are willing to listen to him and to do what he tells them to do.
Follow the cup. He never touches the six stone jars, he tells the servants to fill them with water.
Follow the cup, he doesn’t dip the cup in to take it to the steward of the feast, he has one of the servants who filled the jars do that.
Follow the cup, Jesus doesn’t put the water turned to wine to his own lips, the steward of the feast does that , and it is the steward who compliments, not Jesus, but the bridegroom. “Hey, you have saved the best stuff for last!”
In this story Jesus is nearly invisible, you don’t see him taking center stage at all. The signs that POINT to him, are the actions of those who listen to him, who do what he tells them to do, or who become unaware recipients of Jesus’ blessing.
The Chief Steward doesn’t know where this good stuff came from.
The Bridegroom sure isn’t aware of what Jesus has done for him.
The only folks who know that Jesus is behind all of this are the servants and the disciples. Even Mary doesn’t get the satisfaction of bragging about what her boy has done.
The only sign of what Jesus has done, is that the party keeps going, and that now no one is focusing on their ½ empty cups anymore.
Follow the cup. The first of Jesus’ signs has very little to do with people seeing or recognizing Jesus on their own!
What they see are his servants attending to them.
What they receive are Jesus’ blessings poured out through others hands.
Imagine how this party unfolds now, as the servants begin pouring that abundant new wine into the ½ empty cups of all those present.
Imagine how the party changes, from a sense of dis-ease and tentativeness to a full celebration of life and love and all the blessings found in this world.
Is this the way it is to be for us, as Jesus’ followers? Should our concern first and foremost be to take people’s minds off their ½ empty cups?
What would the party of this world look like if we were to attend to that?
What if, as servants of Jesus we were to say to those who are trying to grab all they can get before it is gone, “Listen, you don’t have to do that, it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom!” God provides, all you need, and abundantly, so there is no need to store up things here on earth or worry about things running out. Open up your hand and share the blessings Jesus has already given to you with your neighbor!
Pour the blessings you have received out to others so that your cup can be re-filled with the good stuff!
What if, as servants of Jesus we were to say to those who are nursing their half empty cups, “You know, there is a lot more to life than this, than trying to protect what little you have, and focusing on how there may not be enough, and comparing what you’ve got to what someone else has.”
Drink deep, and be ready for a refill!
For the God who gives all good gifts has promised that the party of this life will not fail, look at the abundance!
For the servants in this story, it is the stone jars they can point to.
For us, well, just take a look around at what we have here, and what is available in our society, and let me tell you about the guy who made it all possible!
No one at this wedding really knows that Jesus is behind it all. That is for his servants, his disciples to make known as they do the pouring and the celebrating, the sharing with others and the filling of cups.
In our world, in our country, the story is the same.
So few people know seem to know that Jesus is behind it all, that it is God who creates and who gives every blessing. It’s up to us, his servants, to make that known to them as we do the pouring and celebrating in life.
How is your cup doing?
Did you come here today thinking it was ½ full, and with your mind fully set upon that?
Get your mind off your ½ empty cup. Jesus is making something out of nothing every day in our very midst.
Open your eyes to see him at work, and then extend that cup of your life to receive what God longs to pour into it.