Covenant Presbyterian Church – Athens, GA

Ready or Not! (Jn.2:1-11 & 1 Cor.12:4-7 & Ps.36:5-9) January 20, 2019

This first recorded miracle of Jesus is such a delight.  It’s probably a family reunion, supporting a bride & groom at their wedding, and in such a small town as Cana near Nazareth.  Everyone was invited – all the friends of friends of friends, even those disciples who had ganged up with Jesus just 2 days earlier.  It was Nathanael’s hometown, after all.  You know – the disciple who, when he first heard about Jesus, said – Can anything good ever come from Nazareth?  Little did he realize.  And as with all weddings, but especially a Jewish one, there was lots of music & dancing and eating & drinking going on – with no end in sight – until IT happened.  Mary, the quiet & pondering one who saw all and knew all – Mary noticed first – the worst thing possible in small-town society.  The family would never live it down = they ran out of wine at the biggest party of the season.

I simply love the family dialogue that follows between a mother and her son, volumes spoken in just a few words.  How I wish we could hear their tone, see their eyes roll.  For Mary never asked Jesus for anything.  She simply & silently sidled up to him and reported the facts.  “The wine is all gone.”  And his reaction is priceless – “Don’t tell me what to do, mom.”  He could read her mind.  He knew what she wanted.  Literally, he says, “What to me and to you, woman?”  What’s it to us?  So – we are left to make up our own minds about this conversation.  Maybe they were very minor guests to this more prosperous household, and Mary was trying to help the rich & famous save face.  Maybe they were related to the family, and Mary was even playing a hostess role.  (That would explain what authority she had to speak to the servants.)  Or maybe, she was just pushy, like Maude’s mom on the Golden Girls, short in stature, but in charge of the world, incredibly practical, but then knowing the mysteries of the universe that no one else even dreamed of, as the sun rose & set in her eldest son Jesus.  In any case, Mary’s quiet nod to Jesus and then to the servants was all that was needed – both to challenge a sad reality and to set God’s abundant generosity in motion.

And what did Jesus mean when he said, “My time has not yet come”?  For us who know the whole story, it hints of the darkness of Good Friday, his arrest & trial, his torture & crucifixion, the first of many such signs to come, recorded in the Gospel of John.  Yet being fully human as well as divine, did Jesus really know all those details yet?  I doubt it.  Perhaps he himself was still unsure, not yet ready to show his hand.  He had barely begun his ministry, just a few days with his disciples.  All he had to go on were the mysteries of his baptism and his temptation in the desert – and surely HE knew that WE weren’t ready either, to understand what Jesus was offering the world.  No one seems ready, except his mother Mary.  For she knew well her son’s faithful heart, one so full of compassion that she knew he would respond to any & every need, with a generous & abundant love.  He couldn’t keep from it.  It was who he was.  So ready or not, Jesus.  Ready or not, disciples.  Ready or not, world.  Here he comes.

At times, like Jesus, we may seem reluctant to share our gifts too.  We may not see what we have to offer, or we may fear not having enough to go around.  We may not think our gift suits, or that anyone else would ever value what we bring.  Jesus seemed to take a step back, unsure if it was the right time & place to step up, in the earliest days of his ministry, at the beginning of his story.  But as we grow with God, as we come to realize that God doesn’t call us to be or do anything beyond who we are as a child of God, then we, like Christ, see the light and take courage in our great responsibility to reflect who God is in the world – the very source of light & life who blesses us with kindness & mercy & steadfast love – a seemingly tall order, yet as opportunities to give abound, so will God’s gifts in us abound, till what is empty will be filled again to overflowing with the wine of compassion, as we drink from the river of God’s delights, as we drink in what makes God well-pleased, and as what we say & do for others BECOMES that glorious abundance God so richly offers, fleshed out for all to see.  So like Mary, may we ever look to the interests of others and trust the extravagant faithfulness of God, and like Jesus, may our hearts rule our heads and come to celebrate with great abandon the gifts we are able to share, doing the best we can for the glory of God and for the good of all we meet.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit gives them.  There are different ways of serving, but the same Lord is served.  There are different abilities, but the same God gives strength to all – to show the loving presence of God’s Spirit, in each one of us.  Such the Apostle Paul wrote to encourage the Corinthian church to live together in the peace of Christ, diverse in their talents but not divided by them, for our differences simply reflect the endless creativity of God.  On this holiday weekend, when we offer a Day of Service in memory of the life & leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., let us remember the same encouragement he gave to his congregation of followers – to speak truth to power in non-violent ways, seeking a life of unity in the peace of Christ, while valuing our differences as God-given gifts.  May we continue to uphold the vision these men shared nearly 2000 years apart, yet one in the Spirit of God’s steadfast love for all.

So may we come to the party just as we are – knowing that God will use the gifts we bring, trusting that the extravagant generosity of God’s grace will make us ready & willing to be the hands and heart of Christ for one another, and like the Psalmist, singing the praises of the One who inspires us to see the light along the way, as together we journey into a life of justice & righteousness & peace.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

Beecher Mathes