Scripture: John 2:1-11
When we think about discipleship, about following Jesus, we probably begin to think about learning. After all, much of the Christian life is about learning from Jesus, learning about Jesus and learning to live the life that God is growing in our lives. We make a big deal about learning. Jesus is described in the Bible as a teacher, as a Rabbi a great religious instructor; we think of the disciples as students taking in their lessons at the feet of Jesus.
And they were. And so it is important for us to think about the Christian life as one of study and learning.
Except to get at what the Bible means by discipleship, we have to throw out all our modern notions of what learning is – because they are thoroughly unhelpful and not very fruitful if we allow them to shape our journey of faith.
You see when we think about learning and education, our minds invariably go right to our current models of education: facts to learn, thinking to develop, tests to write and career skill building. We think of schools, universities, colleges. Institutions dedicated to education. All very professional, neat and tidy. It is an intermittent state, something we do during set periods of the day, or even set times.
We tend to this kind of thinking in the Church too. When we talk about Christian education we usually are talking about the courses that are on offer, the studying of the Bible or for some that might just be the weekly readings and sermon at church. It’s ok, I’m guilty of this thinking sometimes too!
But you see by segmenting Christian education from Christian living, or even just life in general we do ourselves a disservice and really miss the point of the whole discipleship thing.
In fact, when we compartmentalize our lives this way, passages like the one we heard today from the Gospel of John, make absolutely no sense and we have to do mental gymnastics to draw anything out of them about what it means to follow Jesus.
The story we heard today about the wedding at Cana, is the Gospel John’s first real story about Jesus and his ministry. The story immediately follows John’s account of Jesus calling his first disciples, an account which is marked by Jesus’ invitation for Simon, Andrew, Philip and Nathaniel to ‘Come and see.’ (John 1:39).
And what is it they are invited to ‘Come and see’? Is it some great lecture? Some expounding on the Hebrew Scriptures? Some great revelation of divine knowledge? Some wondrous display of God saving or creating power?
Nope. Instead the opening act of Jesus’ ministry, of the disciple’s chance to come and see, is a wedding. And not just any wedding, but a wedding clearly flowing with copious amounts of wine.
Just imagine if your college professor had begun your semester by inviting the whole class out to the local pub or to a raucous party on the first day and called that the opening lecture! Hey maybe it would have kept your attention better! But it certainly isn’t what we’d expect from our teachers.
But in Jesus’ day this was a pretty normal thing. The master-student relationship was about spending time with your teacher, learning from them in every situation: on the road, in the temple and even in social settings like a wedding feast. Because you never knew if your teacher was going to share some pearl of wisdom or reveal something special, and so you hung around them and just stayed with them.
And honestly, even today the best learning is done when you can have a deeper relationship with a teacher, more than the couple of hours you might see them in class. The course which had the biggest impact on me during my time at seminary, wasn’t one of my core classes, but rather an elective that I took on the theology of John Wesley. The course material was great no doubt (Wesley has become one of my favourite Christian thinkers), but what made it so deep and formative was the fact that there were only two students and the professor spent so much time and energy tailoring the course to fit us. Getting to know us, and us getting to know him.
He might not have invited me to the local pub, but the relationship that he fostered with me and my fellow student helped the learning to go so much deeper than the couple of hours I spent with him in a dusty classroom once a week.
And so Jesus brought his disciples along to a wedding. A wedding that like any wedding of the time would have stretched over multiple days, and been full of feasting, with lots and lots of wine. The better the party, the better it reflected the hosts honour and standing in their community. And this is where Jesus thought to begin the disciples’ journey of learning
But unfortunately for the hosts of this wedding in Cana, the wine unfortunately ran out. And if the guests had found out, the party likely would have died down, people likely would have started making their way home and what was meant to be a joyous occasion likely would have ended in some shame for the family.
Nothing too serious in the grand scheme of things, but not the outcome the hosts were likely looking for.
And clearly Mary (although our story just calls her Jesus’ mother), who was also invited to this wedding noticed something was wrong, she noticed the wine had given out and went to her son to see if there was anything he could do – because that’s what you do when you know you Son is somebody special.
And Jesus’ response is about as cold as you can imagine: “Woman, what concern is that to you and me? My time has not yet come.”
He doesn’t say mother he says woman and he seemingly dismisses her without giving her request much thought – I can just imagine the look my mother would give me if I spoke to her like that (it wouldn’t be pretty!
Despite Jesus’ dismissiveness, Mary wasn’t dissuaded and told the servants on hand to do whatever he told them to do.
And then despite all his protestations Jesus acts. He tells the servants to fill six very large water jugs (about the size of full-sized bath tubs) and then draw the water and bring it to the chief steward.
The rest, as they say, is history. The water becomes the best wine imaginable, and the steward is so flabbergasted that he pulls the groom aside and chastises him for serving the best wine last, because everyone was already drunk!
This is quite a way for Jesus to begin his public ministry. John tells us that this was the first of Jesus’ signs the first revelation of his glory and that the disciples believed in him.
Come and see.
I don’t know about you, but witnessing the turning of water into copious amounts (excessive amounts even!) of wine is a pretty shocking way to begin your path of learning and a pretty decadent miracle to kick off God’s great plan to save the world from the powers of sin and death. And yet this is what the disciples were invited to come and see. This was the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and the beginning of the revelation of God’s glory in Jesus.
When we think about glory, we probably think about great and mighty deeds. If we were to picture glory, it would likely be images full of light and wonder. When we think of glory, we probably think of great successes and achievements. When we think of God’s glory, our minds probably turn to the great acts of God (the Exodus, Jesus’ birth or his Resurrection). Turning water into wine is certainly miraculous (you or I would be hard pressed to accomplish it!) but it’s not exactly glorious.
And yet John tells us this revealed Jesus’ glory, John tells us that disciples came to believe in him because of this rather indulgent miracle.
Come and see.
Come and see the master at a party.
Come and see the superabundant gifts of God.
Come and see his glory revealed in the seemingly insignificant and normal parts of life.
John doesn’t shy away from telling us about the miraculous, and big events of Jesus’ ministry – those are definitely coming. Jesus will heal the sick, cure the blind, feed the multitude and even raise the dead. But we begin here with the glory of the feast, the glory of wine overflowing at a wedding. We begin with Jesus saving a bride and groom from the shame of a social-faux pas.
Perhaps Jesus’ invitation for the disciples and for us to ‘Come and see’ is for us to have eyes open to the possibility for the abundance of God in the small things of life, in the everyday occurrences that make up most of our lives, and even our lives of faith.
We don’t need to wait for Sunday morning worship, or a moment of divine ecstasy or divine revelation to experience the glory of God in our lives. We don’t need to wait for the perfect study course or the most inspiring sermon, the best Bible verse to learn more about the abundance of God in our lives and in the life of our church.
Jesus invites us to come and see. To stay with him, to abide with him.
Our life of faith is an everyday, every minute, every moment experience. It isn’t something we can check into or out of when we come to church on Sunday. It isn’t made up of just those miraculous moments of divine inspiration or great moments of learning.
Jesus invites you to come and see when you are out doing your weekly grocery shopping.
Jesus invites you to come and see when you’re shoveling your driveway after a snowfall (like we had last night).
Jesus invites you to come and see, when you are caring for a sick loved one.
And yes, Jesus invites you to come and see, even when you are enjoying a couple of glasses of wine or beer in the company of friends.
God’s grace extends into every facet of your life. Every part of your life from Monday morning to Sunday evening is an opportunity for learning more and more about the love, mercy and forgiveness of God. Every activity no matter how mundane or insignificant is an opportunity for you to experience the superabundance of God in your life.
The life of a disciple is about constantly learning from our great teacher, learning and remaining with him even though sometimes he might take us to the most unexpected places (like a lavish drunken wedding feast) and into the company of the most unexpected people (like the poor and dispossessed, the tax collectors and sinners).
As disciples we are invited to work with the Holy Spirit, for our whole lives to reflect the grace, mercy and superabundance of God. As a community of disciples, as this church, we are encouraged to constantly seek out Jesus and abide with him – even when it makes us uncomfortable and stretches our expectations and comfort levels.
On our journey, let us come and see the feast that Jesus has prepared for us. Let us come to this table and see how ordinary bread and wine become for us a foretaste of a feast that will put the wedding at Cana to shame.
Just as we believe that God can take this ordinary bread and wine and reveal his glory, let us also believe that he can take you and me, ordinary you and me, and reveal his glory.
All we can do is come and see.
Will you come and see with me?
Let us pray.