January 17, 2016: "Has Your Hour Come?"
“Has Your Hour Come?”
A sermon by Andrew Philip Long
The First Presbyterian Church of Enid, OK
January 17, 2016
1 Corinthians 12:1-11 & John 2:1-11
Has your hour come? At the wedding in Cana, Jesus would have answered, “No.” In fact, he did say ‘no.’ At some point, in the midst of the partying and joy of the wedding, the wine ran out. Thinking quickly on her feet, Mary approaches her son and says plainly, “They have no wine.” Jesus brushes her off: “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come’—essentially: come on, Mom, really? We can identify with his response, right? Picture yourself at a wedding party or 50th anniversary party and a member of your family, maybe even your mom, breaks into your conversation and basically says that you have do something about a clogged toilet or that uncle who is having a little bit too much fun. Its inconvenient, even a little bit embarrassing. “Come on, Mom, we’re all having a good time. Find someone else.”
But we need to remember something: in this time and place, in the cultural and social setting of Jesus, running out of wine isn’t just a social faux pas—it is a disaster! Wine in the world of Jesus was so much more than a social lubricant; it is a sign of the harvest, of God’s abundance, of joy and gladness and hospitality. When the wine runs out in Cana, so too does the joy, the gladness, the host’s ability to show hospitality to their guests. If an abundance of wine is a sign of God, of God’s abundance and blessing, what message is sent to the guests when the host runs out?
Inconvenient? Yes. Embarrassing? Yes. But you better believe Mary knew what empty wine bottles could do to the wedding feast. She goes to her son. Jesus is a full-grown man by now, but Mary remembers. Mary remembers the angel who came to her in the night and said that the child in her womb would be the son of God. Mary remembers visiting her sister Elizabeth, who was pregnant at the same time, and she remembers that when she greeted Elizabeth, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb jumped for joy. Mary remembers the angels and shepherds who crowed in that tight barn to have a look at the baby in the manger. Mary remembers when she and Joseph presented Jesus in the temple and Pastor Simeon told them that this child was destined for the rising and falling of many. Mary remembers that her son is not just some ordinary man, that he can most likely do something so that the host of the wedding won’t be crushed in the rumor mill.
Even though Jesus brushes his mother off at first, he eventually responds to her push. In the corner of the reception hall are six stone water jars, each of which are able to hold twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus tells the servants to fill the jars with water and dip a cup of the liquid to take to the chief steward. When the steward tasted the water, it was not water at all…it was wine! Much to the surprise of the steward, the water-turned-into-wine was not anything cheap, but of far better quality than what they had been serving all night. Jesus had not only provided the party with an additional thousand bottles of wine, he had given to them the best they ever tasted. The tragedy, the disaster, was averted, the host was sparred the shame, and, according to John, this first miracle of Jesus caused the disciples to believe in him even more.
This first miracle of Jesus is astounding in and of itself. The very act of turning water into wine should make us sit back and think about the absolute and unbridged power that Jesus has within him. It should do to us exactly what it did to the disciples: push us to a deeper and more tangible faith in Christ. This first miracle of Jesus should also make us think in gratitude of all the people, inconvenient and embarrassing mothers included, who pushed us to do something amazing even when we didn’t want to do it. Above and beyond these things, though, this miracle calls us to recognize that in that moment, by turning water into wine, Jesus took on his God-given vocation that would, in three short years, lead him to a cross and resurrection. At the wedding in Cana, Jesus began his ministry that would radically change the world forever.
I used a word just now that you may or may not be familiar with: vocation. It is a ‘churchy’ word, but it is used outside the church as well. It comes from a Latin word that means ‘bidding,’ ‘invitation,’ or ‘calling.’ When we speak of vocation in the church, we are speaking of a belief that God has a specific idea and purpose in mind for every person. This idea or purpose is a way of life, a set of skills, and a direction that, when followed, will result in the abundant life that Christ promises to us all. More than that, when someone hears and answers the call from God, when they live into their vocation, the world around this person will also experience Christ’s abundant life.
Turning water into wine was the moment that Christ’s vocation as Messiah begins, and the result is abundant life for him and the revelers at the party. Remember that wine in the first century was not just a beverage, it was a symbol. The more wine a host could provide to their guests, the more they saw and felt the deep blessings of God. And Jesus’ vocation does not end with wine. Reading further into John’s gospel, Jesus goes from the wedding at Cana to the temple in Jerusalem where he turns over tables and cleanses it from a place of commerce back to a place of prayer and worship. Then Jesus takes up residence in Jerusalem and is visited by a top religious leader in the middle of the night; it is here that he speaks the most ancient creed of the Christian faith: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believe in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
Then Jesus travels into the dangerous territory between Jerusalem and Samaria where he meets a woman by a water well. The woman knows that this is not some ordinary man, because, in the course of their conversation, Jesus learns the scandal of her dark past without her even saying a word about it. But instead of harping on her sins, or condemning her for the life she has lived, Jesus sets her free with forgiveness and grace. And the hits keep coming, one right after another as Jesus lives out his vocation: healing, teaching, preaching, opening blind eyes, restoring broken limbs, showing grace and offering forgiveness. The world around him changes, irreversibly, into a more peaceful, a more loving, a more Eden-like place. And the life of Jesus changes, too: he gains a group of followers and friends, he knows for certain that God is by his side, and when the time comes, he will be able to face his enemies with courage and love.
Not everyone is called to be the Messiah. Actually, only one person had that calling and vocation and he did it so well that we don’t have to concern ourselves with that weighty task. But while only one person was called to be the Messiah, everyone—you and me included—has a vocation from God, some calling that will bring about life in an abundant way personally and communally.
I was reminded in a conversation this week about the first four people to become disciples of Jesus. Matthew's gospel tells us that Jesus was walking by the sea of Galilee one day when he saw two brothers fishing. He said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” The two brothers, Peter and Andrew, immediately dropped their nets on the beach and followed Jesus. As the three were walking along the beach further, they saw two other brothers, James and John. These brothers were out on the sea in their boat, and when Jesus said the same thing to them—“Follow me, and I will make you fish for people”—the two left their boat and followed him. Matthew, the next to follow Jesus, was sitting in a tax collectors booth when Jesus spoke two words to him: “Follow me.” And Matthew got up and followed him. We see a few things going on here.
First, we see confirmation that God calls to each person and has some specific way of life in mind for them. For Andrew and Peter, James and John, Matthew and the other disciples, their vocation was to follow Jesus, to be his disciples, to help him and support him in sharing the good news of God’s love. It is hard to say whether or not their lives were better for following Jesus—times got tough at the end. But they were changed, and so too was the world around them. Each experienced in a different way what Jesus experienced in his vocation: friendship, the certainty of God’s love, and courage in the face of enemies. Their world got a good dose of the same.
The second thing we see in the calling of Jesus’ disciples is that a person’s vocation may or may not be what they are currently doing or what will support their living. Just like the wine at the wedding was more than just something to drink, the life of a fisherman for James and John and Peter and Andrew was more than a hobby. It was their livelihood. It is how they were able to provide for themselves and their families. It was a vital and necessary part of the commerce for their city. To leave was to take a huge risk. To stay would have been to ignore the Lord, to ignore the vocation God had set for each of them. They took the risk and were the kindling of the Jesus movement that is still burning strong today. What would have happened if they had stayed on the beach, in the boats, and not followed Jesus?
I took us on this side trip of thinking about the first disciples because in thinking about them, the whole idea of vocation and calling becomes real for us today. Their weren't the Messiah and neither are we: that is not our vocation. Instead, the life of the disciples is the pattern for the ways in which we live our faith in Christ and answer God’s calling. Just like those first twelve, each of us has been called to lay down our nets, get out of the boat, and follow the Lord Jesus. In our baptisms Jesus lovingly spoke to us, “Follow me.” At various times and in various places throughout life, Jesus speaks these same words over and over, because our primary vocation as Christians is to follow him, to help him and support him in sharing the good news of God’s love with all people. How we go about doing that will be different for each person.
The Apostle Paul reminds us today that each of us will live out our God-given vocation in a different way. Some will speak with wisdom, who live out their vocation as, legislators, judges, and community leaders. Others will have the gift of knowledge, who live out their vocation as teachers, preachers, tutors, and writers. Some will have the gift of faith, who live out their vocation by having faith in the face of fear, or by caring the faith of others when they cannot carry it themselves. There will be healers who heal the mind and the body; miracle workers who dissect, tear down and build up, create; there will be prophets who speak the truth when it is and when it is not comfortable or convenient; some will speak in tongues and others will be able to understand them. Each of these gifts, each of these unique ways of life, are activated by the Spirit of God so that God’s people can and will do what God calls us each to do and have life abundantly.
The good news of the gospel today is that you and I have a calling from God, a unique and specific life that God had in mind from the moment we took our first breath. This is good news because if we are willing to take the risk, to follow Jesus and use the gifts we are given, we will have life. If you are willing to use your gift of wisdom, you can work for a more just and peaceful world. If you are willing to use your gift of knowledge, you can strive to open and fill the minds of God’s beloved children. If you have the gift of faith, we need you, and we need your faith right now. If you can heal, with your hands or with your words or with your open ears, reach out to the broken and hurting and sick. If you are one of those miracle workers who can design and build, take apart and analyze, create and imagine, our world is just yearning for something outside of the box. If you have the gift of prophecy, speak up, and speak loudly. If you can speak in tongues, I’ll try to find someone who can understand them because I know you have a great blessing to share. And if you can turn water into wine, we need to talk.
Ask yourself today whether or not what you are doing with your life is the vocation God called you to from the very beginning. If it is, if what you are doing is bringing the abundant life of Christ to you and your world, continue to race, continue to run, continue to strive for the goal of your heavenly calling in Christ. If what you are doing is not bringing the abundant life of Christ to you and your world, there is no better time than now to stop and reorient; remember, Abraham was in his mid-seventies when he answered God’s call and did something completely different. It will not be easy and it may not be comfortable. Change has been the favorite thing of exactly none of the characters in the Bible, or anyone after. But you will have life. That is the promise of our faith. That is the promise of Jesus. Remember the skills and gifts that you have, then look around for how they can be used to lift the brokenhearted, to wipe away tears, to give shelter and protection, to feed the hungry or mentor a lost soul. You have a purpose and you have a calling; the Spirit will help you find it.
Has your hour come? Has my hour come? It is has. The hour has come for all of us to once again claim the promises of our faith, live into the gifts we have been given from heaven, and enter boldly into the world as those who truly have a message of love that will change all things. The hour has come for us grasp onto the abundant life we have been promised by Christ, and to allow God to work through us so that the abundance will be shared with all. The hour has come to heal the sick, to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to shelter the widow and orphan, to open the eyes of the blind, to piece together that which has been broken, and maybe even turn water into wine. After all, with God, all things are possible. Amen.