Epiphany 2C’19
John 2.1-11
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
North Little Rock, Arkansas
The Rev. Carey Stone

O God of hope, who encourages us by your life-giving Spirit: Grant that we may bring encouragement to those
whose spirits are in need of reminding, of the life-giving plan you have for them, through Christ, your beloved Son.

My daughter is in the 4th grade this year and she has been learning how to play the Recorder in music class. I have to say, for a while it sounded as if a Canadian goose had slipped in through the back door! But she has been practicing hard and is sounding much better! I probably will be ok without hearing “Good King Wenceslas” ever again! The other day a family friend came over. My wife put our daughter on the spot by asking her to play something for our guest. She was resistant and very reluctant, but her mother persisted and got her to play. She did a great job and her Mother knew that she could and would if she would only take the risk of embarrassment!

So, who was it for you? Who was it that was there for you at just the right moment; a moment that you can now look back on and see how crucial it was, and how important they were? These are the believers, the encouragers, the people who watched us, who prayed for us, and who spoke words of affirmation and truth when we needed it most. They believed in us when we were struggling to believe in ourselves.

In the creed that we say each Sunday we are reminded that Jesus was both fully divine and fully human. He was a spiritual being on a human journey and because he was on a human journey, he had the real needs and limitations that is a part of being human.

Today’s gospel provides us with a great window into Jesus’ human journey. He didn’t come out of the womb fully understanding calculous – he had to grow from a baby to maturity. Don’t you wish we could hear some of the stories from the nursery in Nazareth?

There was a meme I saw the other day that had Jesus sitting at the table for the last supper and there were a mess of crumbs all over the floor with a distraught mother Mary standing next to him holding a broom. The caption read: “What’s the matter with you Jesus, were you born in a barn or something?”

The gospel scene is the famous wedding scene at Cana and I think with just a little reading between the lines we can piece together some of what Mary and Jesus’ relationship must have been like. There seems to be at least two threads running through this story. There is the world from Mary’s point of view and there is the world from Jesus’ point of view. There is also a subtext of religious prophecy being fulfilled complete with double meanings – there’s a lot here for us. So, I will try my best to violate everything I heard in homiletics class and attempt to have more than one point to my sermon!

The dilemma is presented when the wine runs out. But notice it is Jesus’ mother who names the dilemma in the first place – out loud! She cuts her eyes at Jesus and perhaps clears her throat and says, “Hunnn-huumm! They have no wine. Jesus, hey, pssst – they have nooooo winne!” Under her breath I can almost hear her saying “Now’s your chance Son! Time to show them what I know you can do – I’ve seen you practicing at home! You’ve got it son – now go boy – show ‘em!”

The language used by Jesus to answer her sounds like there has been some editing: “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me?” Basically he “Shissshed her” and when he called her “woman” I’ll bet he heard about that when they got back home.

His reaction seems to have an element of insecurity. He was definitely being put on the spot and his further answer seems to indicate he doesn’t feel quite ready and fears it might be overplaying his hand to perform a miracle and he says, “My hour has not yet come.” Jesus, like the rest of us had to discern his mission in life and the timing as we know from our own experience can be tricky.

But Mary was not just being a meddlesome mother, she truly believed in Jesus. She had raised him from an infant and had watched him grow and learn, and she said to the servants: “Do whatever he tells you.” I think her tone of voice would have been priceless to hear! Mary believed, Mary was an encourager and her nudge gave him the courage he needed to step out and
he said, “Fill the jars with water.”

It’s fascinating to see how much detail John gives: there are six jars and they hold 20-30 gallons each (approx. 180 gallons) and they weren’t just any water jars they were used for the Jewish rites of purification. The number 6 in the bible is the number that represents humanity and imperfection – (7 being the number of perfection.) There were only about 150 nations in the first century and this water Jesus turns into wine, a symbol of his blood that would one day purify the world of humanity– more than enough to purify all the nations of the world from sin.

From Jesus’ point of view, he was growing in his understanding of his calling and his Mother was there to help him at the crucial moment. Mary saw that her son was at the right place at the right time. Her belief in him gave him the belief in himself and he manifested the glory of God through performing his first miracle.

We are all hungry for purpose and meaning, God has given us all a unique personality, a unique set of gifts, a unique calling that only we can fulfill. At the same time most of us struggle with doubt – ‘God are you sure you’ve got the right person?’

We have here today some of the students from the Iona School who are studying to become priests and deacons. If their experience is anything like mine, they will doubt themselves – they will need faithful lay people and clergy to support them, to say “yes – you can!” May we be voices to them to give them a word of encouragement – to believe them into their ministries.

And all of us will need people to believe in us and support us as we each step out to follow God’s call for our lives. Maybe we feel that we aren’t qualified. Maybe we don’t feel ready. Maybe we need a Mother Mary – a believer – an encourager to give us that one word of encouragement, that one word of faith.

Maybe we are called to be that voice for someone else, who like Mary sees them for who they really are, and for what they can really do, and can give them the nudge with a word. I’d like to close with this poem by David Whyte, entitled “Loaves and Fishes”:

This is not
the age of information.

This is not
the age of information.

Forget the news,
and the radio,
and the blurred screen.

This is the time
of loaves
and fishes.

People are hungry
and one good word is bread
for a thousand.

— David Whyte
from The House of Belonging
©1996 Many Rivers Press