THE WEDDING BANQUET
There is a wedding going on in the town of Cana in Galilee, near to where Jesus lives with his family at Nazareth. As far as we can tell, the wedding is just like any other wedding of the day. There is probably a religious service of some sort although that religious service would not look anything like what we do today. You can be pretty sure that it does not include a white dress and rented tuxes.
But like any wedding of almost any age, after the religious service and the formal joining together of the husband and wife, it is time to party. And that is right up Jesus’ alley. Most people are surprised to learn that the Bible is pretty clear that Jesus loved a good party. In fact, most of his best ministry was done at parties. In Luke 19:1-10, he went to a dinner party at the home of Zaccheaus. In Luke 5:27-32 there is the story of Jesus going to a banquet at Matthew’s house. In fact, he went to so many parties that his detractors accused him of being a glutton and a drunkard. He, of course, was neither but he still loved a good party.
The story begins in Luke 2:1-3 (NIV):
On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”
Jesus shows up at the wedding banquet with his mother and some of his disciples. As the party continues on through the night, something dreadful happens; they run out of wine. That is surely a tragedy because wine is very much a part of the wedding banquet. It could be a huge embarrassment for the family to run out of wine because no wine means that the party is over.
What happens next is quite interesting. Mary gives Jesus the look that only mothers can give which strongly suggests that Jesus might want to do something about it.
The story continues in John 2:4-8 (NIV):
“Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”
His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.
Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.
Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so…
Jesus, being the respectful son that he is, does what his mother asks. But it’s not done yet. Let’s read John 2:9-10 (NIV):
… and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”
The story ends with the master of the banquet speaking to the bridegroom. Listen again to what he says in John 2:10 (NIV) after tasting the wine: “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” That’s significant. Everyone else serves the good stuff until their guests have had a few and their taste buds aren’t quite as tender and then they bring out the cheep stuff when they think no one will notice. At this wedding, however, the best was saved until the end.
Not only does Jesus turn water into wine, he turns it into very good wine. In fact, he turns it into the very best wine. This reminds us that, with Jesus, the best was yet to come.
SOMETHING BETTER IS COMING
The best is yet to come. As people of faith, we believe that. We believe that no matter how good life is or what curves life throws at us, there is always something better coming our way. We see that in two points.
First of all, we see it in our belief about eternity. We believe that through faith in Jesus Christ our salvation is secured and that, when the day comes to leave this life, there is something even better waiting for us in the kingdom.
The book of Revelation is filled with descriptions of God’s final kingdom where believers will all some day dwell for eternity. Revelation 7:16-17 (NIV) says this:
Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Isn’t that a beautiful passage? What it basically tells us is that all of the cares and sorrows of this life are only temporary. They will pass. There will only be the joy of being in God’s presence and sharing our eternal lives together in him. That’s a big part of our hope and that’s one of the reasons why the best is yet to come.
But that’s not the only reason. We can look forward to God’s kingdom all we want. But what about right here, right now? We still have to live life. You have no idea how many times I talk to people who say that heaven is all well and good but how come life sucks so much? How come everything seems to be going wrong? How come I can’t find a better job? How come my kids are driving me nuts? How come I got sick? I didn’t deserve that! How come it seems that every time I just about get back on my feet again, something happens to knock me back down? How come? How come? How come?
That brings us to the second point which is this: God’s promise that the best is yet to come isn’t only about the afterlife. It’s also about right now. God wants you to live a full productive life as you walk this earth.
In John 10:10 (NRSV), Jesus says this: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” What does it mean to live abundantly? It means that Jesus doesn’t want you to have a ho-hum life. He doesn’t want you to drudge through this earthly existence just waiting to die so you can get something better in God’s kingdom. He wants you to live fully, abundantly. He didn’t die on the cross just so that you could go to the heavenly kingdom. He gave his life so that you could live better right here, right now. Yes, the best is yet to come but sometimes the future isn’t the next life. Sometimes it’s next year or next month or even next week. Maybe that’s when things get better.
The bottom line is this: God wants you to have a fulfilling, joyful life. That doesn’t mean that you won’t have your challenges. All of us will have those. But it does mean that, even through the tough times, Jesus is there and that his desire is to take those difficulties and turn them into something better.
Think of your own life. How many times has God changed your pain into something better? Think back to when you were a teenager and just discovering the thrill of romance. Do you remember your first boyfriend or girlfriend? Do you remember the first time you held hands? Can you remember the mystery and delight of that first kiss? Do you remember thinking that nothing could get better than this!? Dig up those memories for a moment and take a good close look at them.
Now think about this; chances are that you didn’t marry that your girlfriend or boyfriend, did you. Chances are that you broke up and you experienced some pain in doing that. Chances are that you experienced that sort of heartbreak a few times before you finally found the life partner that God had set aside just for you. At the time of those heartaches, I bet you didn’t realize that God was at work. But God was. He was working for your good because he had someone else better in mind for you. And aren’t you glad he did? God can even works through the pain of divorce to bring us to the place he wants us to be. And some of us know what that’s like too. And that’s just another example of what it means to say of that the best is yet to come.
Tough times are not fun but tough times eventually come to an end. The reality, however, is that when we are going through them, it’s often really hard to see how God is working. In fact, you’re more inclined to think that God has abandoned you. You think, “Okay God, where are you. Hello! I didn’t sign up for this and you really don’t seem to be doing very much to help right now. Is anybody home?” That’s often how we feel in the midst of challenging times. Often it’s only when the challenge has passed and things have improved that we have the clarity of vision to be able to look back and see God working all things out for our good.
The best is yet to come. Sometimes that happens in this life. I have known many, many people in my ministry who have been diagnosed with cancer and wondered what the future held for them. I’ve sat with people who have received some pretty grim news about their chances of recovery. The interesting thing is that people sometimes beat the odds. The treatments works and the family support works and the prayer works and that person makes a full recovery. In those situations, it’s very easy to realize that the best really was coming.
But sometimes, people don’t beat the odds. Sometimes despite the treatments and the family support and the prayer, things just continue to get worse. The cancer will not be beat and it is time to go and be with God. Part of faith is also knowing that even when things don’t get better in this life, there is a glorious life waiting on the other side of the grave for those who put their faith in Jesus Christ. Death eventually comes to us all and when it does come it is up to each of us to be ready. Sometimes the best God can do for us is call us home to be with him.
YOUR WATER / YOUR WINE
Jesus turned that water in wine at the wedding banquet in Cana. He can do the same thing for you. He can take the water of your life and turn it into wine. What I mean is this. Some of us live a watered-down life. Life is ordinary which is okay by itself. Life cannot always be full of surprises and hoopla. But you’re bored. You don’t know why you’re here. You wonder why your facing hardships when they don’t seem to have much of a purpose. What happened to that abundant life that Jesus promised you?
The question then is this: are you happy with your watered-down life or do you want something more? Would you like Jesus to take your watered-down life and turn it into something better? That’s what the wine in this story represents, the better things of life. Can Jesus do that for you? Of course he can.
Deep down inside, none of us wants to live a watered-down life. All of us want to life fully, abundantly and joyfully. The big problem is that often we’re stuck and we don’t know how to get out of the ruts that we’re in.
The other big problem is that we’re afraid to trust God. We’re afraid that we don’t matter. We’re afraid that he can’t do anything for us. We’re afraid that he won’t hear our prayers and that maybe he will fail us. And that will just make us feel worse. And because we’re afraid, we don’t reach out to God and ask for his help.
Do you remember the very first thing that happened in the story of the wedding banquet? Mary saw that there is no wine and, in her motherly way, suggested to Jesus that he do something about it. Here’s the point; if Mary had not asked Jesus to fix the problem, chances are that there would have been no wine at the party. But Mary did ask Jesus and Jesus did something about it.
Don’t be satisfied with a watered-down life. God wants so much more for you. But he won’t force himself into your life. Like we’ve said a few times the past couple of weeks, he won’t barge into your life. He wants you to invite him in. That doesn’t mean that he will fix all of your problems and life will be peachy from this time forth and forever more, amen. But it does mean that given time and patience and commitment, the best is yet to come and he will turn your watered-down life into the choicest wine.
I just want to make one more point this morning. The best is yet come but making it come requires effort on two fronts. The first one is you. After Jesus agreed to fix the problem at the wedding banquet, Mary gave some simple instructions to the servants. In John 2:5 (NIV) she said, “Do whatever he tells you.” She told the servants to do whatever Jesus told them to do.
What this tells us is that before Jesus can do anything about your watered-down life you have to be willing to do your part. At the banquet, Jesus told the servants to draw enough water to fill six large jars of water. And we aren’t talking about pickle jars here. The kind of jars that are referred to in this story held something like 100 liters of water. That’s a lot of water. That was a lot to draw from the well and it would have taken a good deal of time and effort to accomplish it.
We have our part to play in the remaking of our own lives. Each of us is required to make mature decisions, be responsible for past failures and have the courage to believe that the best is yet to come. None of us should expect God to simply wave a magic wand and fix all of our problems. He expects you to listen for his voice and follow the leading of his Spirit wherever it might take you.
But it doesn’t end there. The servants may have filled the jars with water but it was Jesus who performed the miracle. In John 2:8 (NIV), Jesus told the servants, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” When they did, the master tasted the water and discovered that it had been turned to wine. Not only was it wine, it was very good wine. Not only was there good wine for the party, there was 600 liters of it. That would have been quite the party.
Here’s something that you have to understand. God expects you to do what you can to make a difference in your own life but it takes God to perform the miracle of transformation. You might be able to make changes in your life but only God can transform it. You might be able to make the water of life more palatable but only God can turn the water into wine.
The best really is yet to come, either in this life or the next. Do your part and trust God to do his. In the end you will discover that your life will be the fullest, most abundant, most joyful life it could possibly be.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Holy God, we listen for your voice and you faithfully answer our prayers. You hear our pleas and respond in love, providing for us and holding us close to your heart. We thank you for your goodness and for your constant care. You are so great and we are so small but, still, you call us your children and shelter us under your wing.
We offer our thanks for the transformation that you make possible in our lives. You take the ordinary and make it extraordinary. You make simple things special. How grateful we are that you lift us above our limitations and enable us to live as you created us to be. By the power of your Spirit, you change lives. You wash away the sinfulness and make us holy. When others fail to see or accept the changes that you make in our lives, you still encourage us to be all that we can be for Christ Jesus our Lord. Open our eyes so that we can see what you do in the lives of our sisters and brothers. Enable us to see past our differences and look at life through the lens of your love.
We pray for those of this community as they search for meaning and belonging especially as we continue to confront Covid. Help all of us to remember them in our prayers so that your angels will guard their hearts, their minds and their bodies against the forces of that would seek to keep them from being all that they you created them to be. Help us to be a supportive and nurturing community of faith for all ages and all people.
We lift up in prayer the sick of our congregation and community. Give them peace and healing. Be also with the front line medical professionals as they seek to do their best with limited resources and uncertain times.
God of Grace and Mercy, it is a comfort to know that you care about the things that we do. Enable us to always do all that we can for those around us, and thereby be an example of your love and character. Thank you for your unconditional love and unfailing promises. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE
January 16, 2022 / Epiphany 2
Psalm 36:5‑10; Isaiah 62:1‑5; John 2:1‑11; 1 Corinthians 12:1‑11
CALL TO WORSHIP
The love of God reaches the heavens.
God’s faithfulness touches the sky.
His righteousness rises like the mountains,
and justice like the depths of the seas.
Come to us, God, in your unfailing love.
Comfort us under the shadow of your wing.
We come, God of Love, as a community of faith, gathered to give you humble worship and praise. Speak to us of your love. Hold us in your arms. Protect us in the comfort of your wing. As Jesus turned the water into wine, we ask that you would transform us that our of the clay of our lives, you would fashion vessels of grace and righteousness. Renew us. Refresh us. Perfect us.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
We come to your holy house out of the goodness of your world. We, also, come in awareness of our sin for all have fallen short of your glory. We fail to live by the standard you have set for us. We hope to do what is right but our human hearts turn us in another direction. We watch television while others sit in loneliness. We waste our resources on lottery tickets and casinos while children in our own community go hungry. We lament the high cost of living while we plan foreign vacations. Forgive our self‑centeredness and enable us to live for others with simplicity and dignity.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
God renewed the people of Jerusalem as they dwelt in Exile in a foreign land. God heard their prayers and God acted. God continues to save us with acts of compassion and mercy. We are called God’s children, saved in grace and compassion to live fully and freely. Confessing our sins, we receive God’s forgiveness.
DEDICATION OF OFFERING
We offer you our gifts, O God of Creation. We ask that you, who turned the water into wine, would use our offerings to transform the world. May the hungry be fed and the thirsty be refreshed. Enliven us for mission and give us a sense of purpose. May the name of Jesus be heard and known in our words and actions that others may come to receive him as Saviour.
We have been blessed in our worship with the grace of the Spirit.
We have felt the gentle touch of Godly transformation.
Let us go in Jesus’ name to share the Good News of God’s eternal love.