This week both the epistle reading and the gospel reading seemed to fit together for me so I’m going to talk about both and hopefully pull them together for you at the end.
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.” “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, 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.”
What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
The story of Jesus turning water into wine gives us 3 things to think about and help us remember.
1. New life
2. New Covenant
3. New Revelation
1. New Life – Changing one element into something else can symbolize marriage – it brings new life out of two people who become one. The relationship between God and the Israelites was symbolized by marriage. Israel was repeatedly an unfaithful spouse and was sent into exile. Ezekiel 16 is very graphic in describing Jerusalem as an adulterous wife. Jesus represents new life and restored relationship with God.
1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
Colossians 3:10 And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
2. New covenant – The old covenant was broken and time and time again, God’s people did not keep their part of the promise or contract. The stone jars were not for drinking water – they were for ceremonial washing of people and utensils. Jesus turning the water into wine proved that he had more than fulfilled the ceremonial cleansing.
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Hebrews 10 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—I have come to do your will, my God.’”
3. New revelation – This miracle demonstrated the nature of God’s glory revealed through Christ. All of the stories and miracles and history of the old testament were wonderful and important and teach us so much about who we are and who God is, but this moment gives us a sneak peek into How God has saved the best for last.
Summing it up – Jesus brings us new life – we are free from the endless cycle of making and breaking promises to God. Jesus cleanses us – we are no longer sinners doomed to death. Jesus reveals God’s surprising and eternal nature and His glory.
And so we tell the stories of Jesus over and over. We read them for ourselves and I don’t know about you, but I find different things in those same stories year after year, maybe because God reaches out to us through His word right where and when we are. Spiritual needs change with the different seasons of our lives and so the same stories we have always heard take on new meanings and new depth.
Let us look at the epistle reading
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Concerning Spiritual Gifts
Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
It’s a little ironic that I am speaking to you this Sunday. During the Monday morning bible study as we read the lectionary reading for this week, Mark went around the table asking us what our spiritual gifts are. Miss Susie was kind – she said my gift was knowing what to say and how to say it. My interpretation was that I am a chatterbox. I do like to talk. Ask my husband…or maybe you should NOT ask my husband (even if my pastor says he has infinite wisdom!) But aside from talking – I love words! I love stories and poems and art and all of the ways that we as humans try to connect with each other. I love that I can read the same passage in the bible at different times in my life and see something different each time. An example is the reading for this week from the gospel of Mark. I have read that story many times but never until this week did I pick up on the water jars not being for drinking water but water for ceremonial cleaning of people and utensils.
I love the stories of Paul and his care of the churches that he planted, even though Paul sometimes reminds me of shoes that are too tight. Necessary but often uncomfortable!
In the case of the church at Corinth, there were serious problems. They were showing up, but they were what is called in today’s vernacular – a hot mess, and we know that they wrote to Paul about their problems and he wrote several letters back to them addressing those problems. Some of the problems in the early church were similar to the problems in the present day church. Sometimes we forget that the purpose of coming to church is NOT just to come to church!
I used to read this passage about gifts with a little dismay. Partly because I have heard so many sermons that spoke about gifts that seemed to be followed by a hint that I needed to get busy and figure out what my gift is and then do some kind of work in my church related to that gift. I worried too about whether or not I even had a gift! I would observe some of the more mature saints in the church and think, they are so much more capable, loving, spiritual…well you get the picture.
As gifts go, it was to me, a lot like getting clothes for my birthday instead of the pink glitter bike with pastel streamers and pretty basket on the front. I’ve taken spiritual gift surveys and had that same feeling of trepidation because with the answers might come expectations.
But Bible.org defines spiritual gifts as “the supernatural ability to carry out the work of Christ through his church.”
So if we take that definition at face value the question that has to be answered next is “What is the work of Christ” as it pertains to us.
Let’s look at Matthew 28:16-20
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
In this passage, Jesus has been crucified, died, and has risen. The tomb is empty. The women have been told by the angel to go to Galilee and on the way there, Jesus appears to them and tells them to go to his brothers and tell them to go to Galilee too. Jesus appears to the disciples who at this point are probably at a loss as to what to do next. In my imagination, they are grieving the loss of their friend and teacher, afraid of what the future holds for them because of their association with Jesus, and in their humanness, wondering if they have not put all their hope on the wrong thing. Now Jesus shows up and wipes all that doubt away and gives them the very things they need – faith and purpose!
The work of Christ that we are to continue is to make disciples, baptizing and teaching them. Jesus appeared to His disciples and gave them this job so it follows that maybe to make disciples we have to BE disciples. We as individuals and as The Church can’t teach others to follow Christ if we are not following Christ ourselves.
Fast forward to Corinth where this little baby church is fighting over who they follow, doing things we don’t even whisper about in church, never mind do, and just basically in disorder and Paul wades in and tries to help them sort themselves out. He reminds them who they used to be and who they are now.
He pretty much says calm down, everyone is important, God works in everyone and that work is for all and the Spirit gives those gifts as HE pleases so no one can say they are better than anyone else or that their gift is better than any other gift.
It is in our nature is to compare ourselves to others. To think we have goodness because we are better in some way than someone else. That is a trap that puts us slap in the middle of the old covenant where rules and sacrifice and work were the cycle that made the ancient Israelites do right in the sight of the Lord and then do evil in the sight of the Lord.
Romans 7:19 says For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing.
We are free from that trap because Jesus has made us ceremonially clean, he has given us a new covenant – we are right with God, not because of what we do, but because of what God has done through Christ. God saved the best for last!
When the kids were small we lived in Emberson and there was a field next to our yard with a pecan tree and in the spring the field was covered in daffodils. I looked out one day to check on the kids and saw Jessica sitting in the middle of the flowers picking handfuls.
I know you remember when your own children were small and they brought you a bunch of crushed daffodils or a picture they drew for you and that your heart was full. It was better than any expensive roses or painting because of who gave it to you and because it was given out of love. And just that way, these gifts that Paul wrote about are not just jobs or talents or responsibilities. They are the very manifestation of the Holy Spirit, the comforter and encourager that was given to us when Jesus went back to be with the Father.
They are given as He determines – so we don’t have to DO anything. We don’t have to try to have a gift. We don’t have to try to perfect a gift we think we might have. We just have to follow Christ. The Holy Spirit will take care of the gifts.
Paul tells them to listen for Jesus. It doesn’t matter who is actually doing the speaking. Listen for Christ being spoken into your life. Listen for the Holy Spirit. The actual gift doesn’t matter so much as the giver and the gift also doesn’t matter as much as what it accomplishes which is the work of Jesus Christ – which is following Jesus, through that Holy Spirit that is speaking to you – so closely that when someone looks at you, they see Jesus. When someone hears you speak, they hear God loving them. When someone sees your life, they see the manifestation of the Holy Spirit.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
We are water being transformed into wine so that others will see the glory of God in us and believe. That my precious church, is our purpose!