Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

<If you want to hear the music, listen along…>

monty-python-sign-in-norway-facebook-screenshotAre you ready?

1On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” 5His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. 9When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs

Pray with me:

Fill us with gladness today, Lord

As you filled the hearts at Cana.

We are your empty jars,

Make us into good wine for the world.

Amen.

Some music to begin here, folks.  We have over 20 of our youth and adults at a Teens Encounter Christ weekend today, and they’re singing up a storm over there, so we’re going to join them a bit today with a hit from the Captivating Canadian crew Five Man Electrical Band:

And the sign said “Long-haired freaky people need not apply”
So I tucked my hair up under my hat and I went in to ask him why
He said “You look like a fine upstanding young man, I think you’ll do”
So I took off my hat, I said “Imagine that. Huh! Me workin’ for you!”
Whoa-oh-oh

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?

This season, the season that comes between Christmas and Lent, is a season of signs.  It’s where we get clues to who Jesus is through these signs he’s doing.

And today, with the wedding at Cana, this familiar miracle story of Jesus, I figured, well, it was a wedding story, so we should have some music along with it.

Because music can sign to us, signal, what we’re supposed to do. Like, if I start in like

Young man, there’s no need to feel down

I said, young man, get yourself off the ground

I said, young man, cause you’re in a new town

There’s no need to be unhappy…

You know that eventually you’ll end up doing what?  Right, you’ll do these weird things with your hands that no sane person would ever do on their own, and yet we do it at weddings, stadiums, all these public places…

The music is the sign of what’s to come, right?

Ok, back to the Bible.  So Jesus is at this wedding, and maybe it’s a wedding of relatives, who knows?  We think that because Jesus’ mother has the inside scoop on what’s going on behind the scenes.  She knows they’ve run out of wine.

And as I said in my Friday Faithprints, this would have been disastrous for the married couple.  It was up to them to show everyone a good time, to throw this great party, a party that lasts for days, and if on the third day…

Wait a second.  Did you notice that?  It was on the third day.

See, the Bible writers are all about giving us signs on what is about to happen.  Remember a few weeks ago when Mary and Joseph lost Jesus and they go looking for him?  I mean, that story was on the Sunday after Christmas, so let’s be honest, attendance was modest and you may not have heard that story, but how long was Jesus gone missing?

3 days.

And here, how does Jesus’ miraculous story start out?

On the third day.

Amazing things happen over three days…

So, the third day the wine runs out, and they have a few more days of this party to go, and if the wine runs out the family will be shamed.  Not feel ashamed, but actually be shamed.  Because we sometimes forget that these Biblical stories don’t happen in a vacuum, and this wedding is not taking place in Duplin at the wedding barn at the sweet muscadine winery they have over there.  This is taking place in the East.  Jesus, Beloved, is more Eastern than Western, and so the culture, the thought process, it is all more Eastern than Western, which is why I think it is so hard for us in the West to truly grasp what Jesus is saying a lot of the time…

The East was, and is, an honor and shame society.

And so you don’t feel ashamed.   Feeling has nothing to do with it.  You are shamed, in that society.  And if you are shamed you are often ostracized, thought less of.  Your reputation suffers.

And Jesus often deals with shamed people throughout his ministry.  And what he does is he takes away the shame and integrates them back into the community.  He shows everyone that shame is not holy, and therefore is wholly unnecessary.

And see, the real miracle here in this story is not that Jesus can turn water into wine.  There were stories of other magicians running around ancient Palestine able to do such things.

No.  The real miracle is that, in providing for the party, Jesus gives the sign that the God we see in Jesus is not the God who can do tricks, but the God who can do the impossible, the God who can restore shamed people back to wholeness; who can restore communities wracked by shame back to honor.

That is the sign.

And notice, notice who knows what Jesus has done.  His mother certainly does; she knows her baby, right?

And it says the disciples trust Jesus after seeing this, so it’s clear that they know.

But who are the ones who catch the glimpse of what God has done through Jesus here?

The servants.  The scripture says that the steward did not know where this great wine had come from, but that the servants who drew the water knew.

And that, Beloved, is another sign.  Sign, sign, everywhere there are signs in this scripture.  Because the sign here is that the servants, the lowly, the marginal, they will be the ones who get Jesus first.

Kind of like those shepherds at his birth, who were on the margins of the honor/shame society.

Kind of like the women at the tomb who, on the third day, are the first to learn about the resurrection.

Kind of like the woman at the well who was at the margins of the honor/shame society.

The sign here, my friends, is that in Jesus we have the marriage of divinity and humanity, and he will, at the wedding feast of our lives, bestow upon us:

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me

I once was lost, but now am found

Was blind but now I see

 

My chains are gone, I’ve been set free

My God my savior has given back me

And like a flood, his mercy rains

Unending love, amazing grace…

The kind of love and grace that takes away shame.  That’s the kind of love and grace we see in Jesus.  And it’s something that nothing but God can do.

And so when you see Jesus on the scene, you know that shame is on the run, and in this season where we ask, “Who is Jesus?” the answer we see today in this sign at the wedding in Cana is that Jesus is one who wipes away shame and make people whole enough to truly live.

Which should make us pay attention to the people who are being shamed in this world, today.  At the party of life, are we as Christians part of the ones doing the shaming, or are we the servants who know that Jesus doesn’t stand for that and wants those people to be restored, by God?

And it also makes me wonder: how are you?  Has someone told you things about yourself that make you feel empty?  Perhaps you’ve been told that you’re not good. Or maybe you’re one who has said that to others, because you feel empty, and you have to make others feel how you feel so that you won’t be all alone in your shame…

See, here’s the thing about empty pots.  We learn today that God takes shame, emptiness, and makes them overflow with goodness and grace.

So, if you ever wonder if you’re any good; if you think you’re hollow and empty inside, see the sign given today: in Christ you are made whole.

Which makes me want to sing that one wedding song, that sign of that first dance of new life

At last, my love has come along

My lonely days are over

And life is like a song…

The sign that God gives in Jesus is that humanity is restored, that God’s love embodied has come along to wipe away shame…at last…

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