This morning we have the infamous scripture of Jesus at a wedding party and according to scripture performing his first (at least public) miracle: turning water into wine.
The weddings of the biblical era were seven-day long affairs. Although family, friends, and the community would by custom bring food and wine to share (imagine a biblical pitch-in), it was ultimately the responsibility of the bride and groom to ensure the food and wine flowed freely for those seven days. If not, it would not simply tarnish but destroy the family reputation and bring shame upon them because the assumption was:
- they did not have the financial resources needed and/or
- they lacked sufficient social ties.
This story sheds light on a couple epiphanies.
- The first epiphany is that Jesus is a miracle worker, thus able to work outside the confines of our natural law and order to make the extra-ordinary happen. The disciples and servants witness it and believe in Jesus, as a Rabbi and miracle-worker.
- The second epiphany is that Jesus, especially in Luke, enjoyed a good party. Jesus was able and willing to provide the good time, the good life, and the good wine abundantly for the remaining wedding celebration.
Colleagues and I spoke this week about our lack of comfort with miracles, although comfortable with those recorded in scripture and those performed by the unique person of Jesus. Miracles challenge our preaching and pastoral care in our present day, because often requested miracles revolve around healing from suffering in mind, body, or spirit. These requests are often accompanied with the question posed why one person and not another receives the miracle.
It is a deeply challenging question and mystery in our faith.
Lutherans teach that miracles, whether within or outside the confines of natural law, is in the domain of God’s grace/mercy alone. Our virtue and works cannot earn a ‘miracle’, thus it does not rely on how good of a person, devoted of a Christian, or even how often and hard you pray. We simply cannot comfortably say when, why, or how miracles happen.
But, perhaps you noted that John did not call this a miracle. John refers to this as the “first sign” Jesus performed. The gospel includes seven signs in total.
I have sign that hangs in my bathroom and it reads:
“Life is a Journey, Not a Destination”.
John’s gospel reminds me of this. The signs, such as those on the road, point to something that lies ahead or beyond its point.
There are many signs on our journey of life and our journey of faith,
but miracles (at least for me) are a destination not a journey.
Our journey of life and faith filled with signs of the Triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is at work in our lives and in transforming the ordinary into the extra-ordinary and at times by extra-ordinary means.
Our 1 Corinthians scripture includes spiritual gifts, which are from the same Holy Spirit, although not all persons have the same or same ‘level’ of these gift(s). These gifts that Paul includes here are more charismatic in nature, and thus tends to be uncomfortable for Lutherans. These gifts are:
- utterances of wisdom;
- utterances of knowledge;
- performing healings;
- working miracles;
- ability to speak in tongues;
- interpreting tongues;
- prophesy; and
- discerning of spirits.
These gifts are signs of God active within us as individuals and in our world, but these gifts/signs are not meant to be hoarded for ourselves or those closest to us alone. As Paul writes, these gifts are given for the common good. However, Lutherans are more familiar and comfortable with the less charismatic spiritual gifts including: faithfulness, patience, temperance, etc.
Whether it is the charismatic or the less charismatic gifts/signs of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives and world…
- May our eyes be opened to the signs that point us to that which is beyond ourselves…
- May our hearts answer the call to be like Christ sharing the gifts/signs for the common good…
- May these be signs of the Kingdom that (according to Mark) is here, near, and not yet fulfilled…
- May our lives in their entirety be a sign pointing to God’s work drawing us further into the kingdom that is to come, which is better and greater than any future we can imagine for ourselves (thanks be to God).