John 2: 1-11 (Sermon 1: “The Man who Wined up Water?”)
(Sermon 2: “Overdoing It”)
1 Corinthians 12: 1-11
Isaiah 62: 1-5
Psalm 36: 5-10
In the name of the generous Christ Jesus, I greet you.
In the name of the bountiful Creator, we greet you.
In the name of the extravagant Spirit, I greet you.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
we greet one another.
Welcome to the house of our bountiful God.
Your steadfast love, O lord, extends to the heavens,
Your faithfulness stretches beyond the clouds.
Welcome in the name of the Christ who does nothing by half measures.
The children of earth take refuge in the shade of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house
and drink from the rivers of your delight.
PRAYER OF APPROACH
Loving God, though most of us come here from comfortable homes, surrounded with many possessions, we still yearn for that holy wealth which nothing can buy. We seek the wealth of your abundant light and love. We need your inflowing Spirit if this time of worship is to rise higher than our shoe laces. Grant us that Spirit we pray, that with rekindled love and awe we may praise and adore you, and so doing, find ourselves wonderfully satisfied
Through Christ Jesus our Saviour.
CONFESSION AND ASSURANCE
Let us confess our sins, repudiating those things that rob us, and those around us, of generosity and joy. Let us pray.
Whenever we have turned our Christianity into dull routines and platitudes, without zest and laughter;
Lord have mercy.
Whenever we have resented the enthusiasm of the new convert or the excitement of the idealistic person;
Christ have mercy.
Whenever we have traded the new wine of the Gospel for the old beverage of religious laws, anxiety; and self-belittling;
Lord have mercy.
O dearest Christ, Brother and Saviour, your super-abundant forgiveness is ready ages before we seek it; your love is enfolding us long before we become aware of it. Fill us, we pray, with the peace that the secular world cannot give us, and with the joy that no doubt, failure or fear can steal from us.
Our God does not deal in half measures. Out of God’s fullness we have received saving grace heaped upon saving grace.
It is Christ who sets us free, therefore we stand free indeed.
Thanks be to God!
PRAYER FOR CHILDREN
Dear God, please help us to change.
There is a selfishness in our hearts that we don’t like.
It sneaks up and grabs us, even when we want to be generous.
Can you fix that, please?
Make us more like Jesus, until we also find the fun
in sharing and giving, helping and forgiving.
Holy Friend, your justice towers above the mountains,
your judgements are deeper than ocean trenches.
Your fidelity reaches far beyond the clouds,
your love extends throughout the galaxies.
Loving God, you save all living things,
ever precious is your mothering love.
In you the children of earth take shelter,
under the warmth of your wings they rest.
They feast on the hospitality of your home,
they drink from the rivers of your happiness.
From you flow the fountains of abundant life,
and in your light we find our light.
Hold tightly in your love those who know you,
and give your healing liberation to the sincere.
B D Prewer Ó 2000
When hopes seem dry as bulldust,
old visions on the wane,
look for that wedding feast
where water is changed into wine.
If you cannot keep faith’s pace,
despair seems it might win,
attend the house at Cana,
where water is turned into wine.
When loves appears to shrink
and joy sags frail and wan,
join the amazed disciples
as water becomes new wine.
If the new age seems late,
your patience tired and worn,
follow the young Nazarene
to water that is the best wine.
© B.D. Prewer 1995
God our prodigal Friend, you have called us to live generously in an era of miserliness, when budget cut backs, diminishing services, yet increased profits to the greedy, dominate the commerce of our nation. In the clear sanity of this house of prayer, so infect us with the Spirit of Christ, that we may go against the national trend and live abundantly, to your glory.
SERMON 1: THE MAN WHO “WINED UP” WATER
John 2: 11
This first great sign of Jesus, was done at Cana in Galilee, displaying his glory; and his disciples put their trust in him. John 2:11
You have heard of the old custom of watering down wine with water, but what about a man who “wined up” water into wine?
1. How about that? Water into wine. Wow! Unless you know something I don’t know, turning water into wine is not a very common miracle. And that must be a one mighty relief to the vine growers of the Barossa and Hunter valleys, and those at Margaret and Piper rivers.
2. But John records such a miracle. In fact , between 500-600 litres of water became wine. What extravagance! Not just ordinary wine either! We are told it is a splendid wine that flowed from the touch of Jesus.
3. This story is unusual, most odd to the post-modern mind, unlike any other in the New Testament. What is more, John has Jesus commencing his public ministry with it. It is a pivotal moment in his Gospel story.
4. Of course, it may not have sounded so odd around the Mediterranean at that time. For the Greeks the god Dionysius turned water into wine. Also the Jewish philosopher Philo wrote of the obscure (Old Testament) priest Melchizedek changing water into wine.
WHY DOES JOHN RECORD THIS STORY?
Important question: Why did John give us this miracle story?
1/. The disciples believed. As a result of this miracle they put their trust in Jesus.
Correction! I have used the word “miracle”. Actually John does not use that word here (in Greek “thauma”) but chooses “sign” (in Greek “semein”) Signs have no intrinsic value, no self importance. They point to something that is very important. (When travelling in the outback and we see a sign: Uluru: 1250 klm, we don’t stop and camp at the sign as if we have arrived; it points to something much greater.)
2/ The “signs” of Jesus point towards the unique power of God breaking in through his words and deeds.
Something new is happening. An old order is being superseded with a radical new order.
3/ Water in stone jars? The old Jewish law and its appropriate ceremonial is superseded by new wine.
Thus the first wine (referred to by the toastmaster)was ordinary, nothing to rave about. The second wine is exciting stuff.
In Christ they encountered something never experienced before. Something that radically altered the old, common stuff of their existence.
IT STILL HAPPENS
Christ is still at it. He “wines up” common (and often stagnant) water into something extra special. Human lives are changed by his Presence. A radical transformation takes place. Today Jesus continues to give startling “signs” that point to the unique power of God at work.
1/ In our denomination of the church, we do not tend to talk up this aspect. We exhibit a far greater modesty than some Christian groups who publish “signs and wonders.”
(Whether this is a healthy or sick modesty in another question!)
But be assured radical transformations are happening among us and within us. The new wine is here, and it is wonderfully more tasty than the old stuff!
2/ Sometimes it happens dramatically, rather like a Northern European springtime, with the ice cracking and the waters flowing, the flowers bursting into life and flocks of birds arriving.
Sometimes it happens slowly and almost imperceptibly, more like seasonal change in Adelaide, some of the first wildflowers blossoming in late June and the last finishing in early November.
Either way, springtime has come! Likewise, the new wine is gloriously among us, pointing to the intimate, beautiful power of God in Christ Jesus
A woman , a stranger to me until that moment, comes to me after public worship and says: “Heh! Something remarkable happened in that church this morning; my whole life which has been a mess, seems to have been turned upside down and I’m filled with happiness like you wouldn’t believe! I want to become a Christian.”
A man, who has been among us for a couple of years, rather hesitantly seeks me out and says: “Look, I don’t know how it happened. But as I was driving home from church last Sunday, I suddenly realised that I was now a Christian. There’s been no big zap from the sky or anything; but my whole life has been changed, almost without me noticing when it happened.”
AND WHAT ABOUT THE REST OF US?
Has water been turned into wine in your lives?
The danger of giving examples, as I have just done, is that some of you will be wondering: “How did I miss out?” Well maybe you have been drinking the new wine for so long that you have forgotten what the old stuff was like. Maybe you have not missed out; merely suffering from a long familiarity that has bred.………maybe not contempt but at least complacency.
The longer a minister lives amongst a congregation as friend and pastor, the more that minister comes to know the achievements and heartbreaks, the virtues and sins, the vulnerability or the resilience, the confusion or the pain, that the people of a congregation experience. My observations lead me to say this
My friends, in your ups and downs I have witnessed how the touch of Christ has created some remarkable wine out of what could have become stagnant, polluted water.
Some of you have known tragedies that could have made you sour or angry characters. But you are not.
Some of you have achieved so much that you might have become stuffed up with self importance. But you are not at all like that.
Some of you have been so bruised or injured by other people, that you could have become cynical and hard as nails. But you have not.
Some could have ended up defeated types, afraid of new challenges, knocking the enthusiasm of others.. But it is not so.
Some might easily have collapsed into faithlessness, mocking the very idea of a loving God. But that is not how it is with you.,
My friends, maybe we take each other for granted in this congregation and miss out on the glory of the new wine that flows freely.
What is more, perhaps we take the wine of our personal , individual lives for granted and severely discount the wondrous sign of God in Christ Jesus is constantly at work in us.
I tell it as it is: From common, stone jars (or clay ones like me) I see with my own eyes the new wine of Christ - that wined up water - overflowing in this congregation.
A WORD TO THE THIRSTY
However, that may not include all of you? Perhaps there are some here today who are still drinking stale water rather than Christ’s new wine. Old fears, old guilt, old values, old pride, old sins, are maybe holding you back?
Have you ever stopped, taken stock and asked the question: “What could I now be if I allowed the hand of Christ to touch my stagnant life and transform it?” Do you dare to imagine it? Be sure of this, my friend: for Christ Jesus, it is never too early or too late for the production of the new wine. Today may be the time to commence, as your trust your life entirely to Christ Jesus.
Do not lose the context of joy. The water-into-wine sign, given at Cana in Galilee, happened at a marriage feast. It was a joyful occasion, a time for celebration. The way of Christ is a way of happiness. Sometimes like a champagne bottle full and bubbling over, or sometimes like a welcome cup of tea to be quietly savoured, in deep trust and gratitude.
Praise God for this deathless man who “wines up” water into the best vintage available.
This first great sign of Jesus, was done at Cana in Galilee, displaying his glory; and his disciples put their trust in him
SERMON 2: OVERDOING IT?
Now 6 stone jars where standing there, each holding 80 to 120 litres. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them to the brim. He said to them: “Now draw some out and take it to the MC.” So they took it. When the MC tasted the wine........ he said: “Usually they serve the best wine first, and when men are a little drunk they then serve poor wine; but you have kept the best wine until now.”
Was Jesus overdoing it?
What else you think of someone who near the end of a wedding feast produces another 500-600 litres of wine?
Maybe, this strange happening is a kind of parable-in-action?
I believe it is. John does call it a sign .This story of turning water into wine points us to a God who is an extravagant Creator and Redeemer. The God of Jesus Christ holds nothing back. This God “goes over the top,” repeatedly over doing it. We see this pre-eminently displayed in the life and teaching of Jesus. But it is also present in the Old Testament.
Psalm 104 exults in a God who is remarkably generous in creation. And in the much-loved Psalm 23, we have that enduring picture of “my cup overflows.” We see God as the generous host who not only fills our cup but fills it to overflowing.
You may think 500-600 litres of wine is excessive?
But that is the kind of God in whom we place our trust. This story is a parable, a sign post pointing us to a remarkable, holy Friend.
THE EXTRAVAGANCE OF CREATION
Think with me now for a while about the extravagant abundance of creation.
These days we view on TV some excellent films featuring the wonders of the life forms that inhabit this planet. We often see the over-supply in terms of numbers and variety. For example, the truly prodigal, annual spawning of the corals of the Great Barrier Reef
For myself, in the Aussie outback, I have stood on the inland plains south of Akaroola, not far from the salt expanses of lake Frome, and marvelled at the vast carpet of little daisies stretching to the Flinders Ranges in the far distance.
In Kakadu National Park the prolific bird life has left me “gob smacked.” Thousands, no millions of water birds!
I thought the dancing native crane, the Brolga, was relatively scarce until early one morning in North Queensland I saw over a thousand of them taking to the air at once.
As a child in Tasmania I liked to fish in small streams for the tiny mountain trout, and used to marvel at the oversupply; thick schools of them attacking my bait.
The excesses of the Creator are around us everywhere!
If we look out at night from this planet at the skies around us, we witness the same pattern of over-supply! What an extravagant Mind is must be that produced such prodigal billions of stars in our one galaxy, and trillions upon trillions more throughout the millions of other galaxies.
We can share the enthusiasm of Anne Dillard when she writes:
The extravagant gesture is the very stuff of creation. After that one extravagant gesture of creation itself in the first place, flinging intricacies and colossi down aeons of emptiness, heaping profusion on profligacies with ever fresh vigour, the whole show has been on fire from the word go!”
I for one, recognise who this profligate Creator must be! It is characteristic of the One who in Christ Jesus confounds people towards the end of a wedding feast by producing about 600 litres of choice wine. The God who excels at overdoing generosity!
THE EXTRAVAGANCE OF THE KINGDOM
What is true about physical things is also true about spiritual things.
Jesus spoke often about that kingdom of heaven (Matthew) and the kingdom of God (Mark and Luke) which his presence and ministry were inaugurating on earth. In this new realm the bonanza of God’s goodness is everywhere. Grace abounds.
The water into wine incident is just one example among many.
Remember that this happened at a wedding feast. Many of the parables are built around the picture of a great feast. Festivity, celebrations are typical of the Kingdom of God. The saving grace of God is like an on-going, never-flagging, festival!
Take for example one surprised woman. You find her in that mini parable (Luke6:38) which implies that a women went to the market to purchase her supply of barely for bread making purposes. The grain merchant keeps filling up the measuring bowl, pressing the grain down tight, shaking it to maximise the quantity, and then with it still overflowing he pours the grain into her apron, which she holds out to receive the precious abundance.
And what about the parable of the over-enthusiastic cook? That story about the woman who takes what amounts to 128 cups ( three sater) of flour and makes bread for her household. That amount of flour will make about 60 of our ordinary loaves of bread! How’s that for going over the top! It matches the water-into-wine episode! Such extravagance! In the kingdom, God is like that, says Jesus.
There are many more examples.
The more readily remembered being those of the prodigal son, or the surprising wages paid to the workers in a vineyard. Time does not permit me to expound on them. It is enough to recognise that in Jesus’ parables of the kingdom we have the same prodigal grace that is reflected in 600 litres of wine.
Dutch theologian Edward Schillebeeckx writes that God is luxury ; “for believers, God is the luxury of the life.....sheer, superfluous luxury.”
As John’s Gospel has it: “Out of his full store we have received grace upon grace.”
Have you ever surprised yourself by exhibiting a similar generous spirit?
If you have,. then you have not trusted Christ in vain. We are called by Jesus to share in this extravagant mission of God.
We are called live the generosity of the kingdom of God here and now.
To are to surprise ourselves by lending without expecting return, giving with no thought of reward, cheerfully going the second mile, extending hospitality to those who cannot repay us, forgiving seventy time seven those who offend us, and even praying for our persecutors.
That ridiculous gift of 600 litres of wine, is not ridiculous in the kingdom of God and his Messiah Jesus. It is par for the course. It is not an onerous duty on God’s part; for God is fun—fun is an essential part of God’s nature.
This week, I invite you to take extra delight in God’s abundant generosity, and to surprise yourself by doing likewise to others. Share God’s fun! Even one such deed of extravagant grace will bring it’s own, blessed delight.
We thank you, loving God, for the abundant, and even extravagant, blessings we enjoy in this land we gladly call our home.
For the clouds of budgerigars on inland plains and the flocks of magpie geese in Kakadu.
For the vineyards and orchards of the Riverland, the mango trees and tomato crops around Bowen, and the bananas plantations of Coffs Harbour.
For the mines of WA, the salmon farms of Tassie and the tuna of S.A, the sheep flocks of NSW and the multitudinous treasures of the Barrier Reef.
For large mobs of kangaroos, flocks of emus, and for the kindly dolphins that play around our long coastline.
For the spirituality of the indigenous people of the land, and their unshakeable conviction that all good gifts are meant to be shared.
For the laughter of children in ten thousand playgrounds, the cheering crowds at sports stadiums, and the new generation of babies who are born each day.
For the multiplicity of cultures and races, and for the varieties of foods, music and folklore that have enlarged our understanding and enriched our common days.
For the presence of numerous churches large and small, where people gather for the Gospel of peace and the Bread of life.
For the Southern Cross in our night skies reminding us that Christ has loved this world with a love exceeding all expectation or deserving.
Most generous God, for these gifts and a host more, we give you thanks.We pray for the good grace to treat our land and its creatures with the respect that is born from worship of you. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!
* for 2 voices
God of wedding parties and new wine, of love and laughter, dancing and singing, we pause to pray for those among your worldwide family who today may be feeling left out in the cold.
Bless the many people who must toil for such long hours that there is no time or energy to laugh or sing.
Bless your children who feel so demeaned and exploited that they view even angels of mercy with suspicion and fear.
Bless the many folk who are caught in vicious circles of evil and can see no way to escape.
Bless those among your children whose every waking hour is spent in pain, and whose sleep is at the best fitful.
Bless those people who are drawn to Christ and new life, yet who fear the scorn of family, friends or workmates.
Bless your children who once tasted the new wine of Christ but have now slipped away into indifference, or maybe despair.
Bless those folk who with much trembling, hand their lives over to you this day. May they find faith and courage for the days to come.
Bless the people of your church, that abundant love may flow in our prayers and our prayers flow into generous words and deeds.
In the name of the Christ who makes all things new. Amen!
Take the wedding sign out into the world with you today:
The sign of the stone jars of cold water that can be turned into new wine,
is a sign of hope for the strong and weak,
the middle aged, old and young,
the downcast and the buoyant,
and for those with largish faith , or very diminutive faith.
By the grace of Messiah Jesus, go out from this place with more than you brought in.
The blessing of. the one generous God, sustaining., liberating and fulfilling all things, will be with you now and always.