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Learning from What We Think We Already Know

The Church of Our Saviour at Oatlands, – Rev'd Elijah White
First, please read I Corinthians 12:1-11, John 2:1-11: Hymns 48, 53, 52

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

One of the dangers of being a faithful churchgoer and constant Bible-reader is tuning-out, over-familiarity: we hear the Gospel appointed for today begin “On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee…“ and we mentally say “Oh, yeah, wedding, water into wine, right, got it” so our minds are tempted to coast, hit neutral through this familiar passage rather than listen carefully to heed what’s being said, what word from God is being taught: we may not listen as carefully as we do to un-familiar passages.

In today’s lesson – it’s not just a ‘reading,’ Holy Scripture is always a lesson – from John 2:1-11 we know all about Jesus turning water into wine – or do we? Let’s look into, think through, below the simple surface story to some deeper truths it can tell us about Jesus and His work – after all, John had a reason for writing it down for us. Like good investigative reporters let’s consider “the five W’s:” 1 who, 2 what, 3 when, 4 where, 5 why?

We can learn a bit here about the Christian – that is, the Christ-like – attitude toward human life, and liveliness. Some ‘religious’ people spread gloom wherever they go, following some Gnostic or ascetic Puritan role-model – wherever this comes from, it’s not from Jesus, whom we frequently see at dinners, parties, social gatherings, to the extent of giving His detractors ammunition for gossip, dismissing Him as ‘a party-animal.’ Thus in Luke 7:33 Jesus notes their hypocritical double-standard by pointing out that “John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine and you say ‘He has a demon’ – now the Son of Man has come eating and drinking and you say ‘Behold a glutton and a wine-bibber.’” {‘Wine-bibber’ – I love it! Long live the King James Bible}

So, that’s [3] when this sign of Jesus’ divinity was given, toward the late end of a long party. Next question, [4], where? In a small country village, off the main roads, quiet. Not in Jerusalem, not before a crowd of 5,000 watchers, but privately, in a home. Time and again we see Jesus as a guest in somebody’s home: today He honors this home (as the Wedding Service says) “with His presence and first miracle that He wrought.” Here, in these simple domestic surroundings, St. John specifies for us that Jesus gave the very first of the ‘signs’ which manifested His glory – as we just sang in hymn 53, “Manifest in power divine, Changing water into wine.”

Finally, [5], Why this miracle? Quite simply, to save a humble village family from hurt and humiliation. Hospitality was a sacred duty in Hebrew life, so to run out of wine – especially as hosts to a wedding – would bring deep embarrassment to both families… especially the groom’s, who gave the nuptial feast. Jesus therefore put forth His power in sympathy, in kindness, in understanding and care for simple folk: most of us can do the big thing on the big occasion, but Jesus did the big thing at the simple, homely event of a hick-town wedding.

So, yes, ‘the wine-water bit’ – a very familiar story, but don’t tune it out. Think as you hear or read Holy Scripture… read deeply, ‘hear, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest…’ One hour a week in church can make a tremendous difference in our lives – it’s the other 167 hours, what we do outside church, that will make a difference in the lives of others – and it’s to others that you and I are sent, by God, His ambassadors to deliver His message and to manifest His glory, through a friendly greeting or a quiet, listening chat – through being a good and glad guest in the homes and company of others – and treating our own homes with no less respect – through kindly acts and gentle words that help the feelings or fears of others, and perhaps lead them to Christ. How long has it been since you invited a non-member to come to church and have brunch with you afterward…,

in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.