“Water into Wine – Listening Nudges from God”
This sermon encourages us to listen to people who love us and listen to that still, small voice of God that nudges us toward difficult callings.
What a bizarre miracle to start out the Gospel with.
Matthew, Mark and Luke have Jesus getting baptized and then going out into the desert for 40 days to battle his demons and contemplate his future.
But John features party Jesus.
Jesus will go on to feed the hungry, heal the sick, and battle demons, but first…
Water into wine!
If we think this is an odd way to start his ministry, I imagine Jesus did too.
I’m pretty sure that he had no idea when he showed up to this party that THIS was the moment his ministry would really begin.
There were certainly signs he was going to make a difference in the world.
Already, by this point, he has some guys following him.
But even they’re not sure he’s the one to follow.
When one of them says, “We’ve found the messiah,” another one says, “Really? Can anything good come out of Nazarteth?”
Jesus himself isn’t convinced that he’s worth all the hype.
When Nathanial and Philip begin walking behind Jesus, he actually turns around and says, “What do you want?”
They ask him where he’s going, and he says, “Well, come and see.”
The next day, they’re still following him, and they ask – “Where are you going?” And he says, “Follow me.”
I imagine Jesus may have thought they were just along for the party.
And it’s some party.
The family has 6 stone jars for water, which are extremely expensive—much more pricy than ceramic jars—so they’re likely quite wealthy.
These jugs are for ritual washing, so they’re from the priestly family, which makes this an even bigger deal.
And the family must have a ton of food and space in their home to spare, because they not only welcome Jesus, but these misfit followers of his as well.
Unfortunately, although they have plenty of food, they didn’t plan for quite SO many guests, or perhaps not so many enthusiastic wine drinkers, and they begin to run out of wine.
Now, from my perspective, that doesn’t seem like a major issue. I’m fine without wine at a party, and it’s certainly not as big a deal as someone being poor or hungry or outcast.
So it wasn’t the worst thing that could happen. It would have brought shame to the family that was trying to do its best to create a great party.
People would have talked about their stinginess or their poor planning.
And since it was a priestly family, and wine was considered sacred in many contexts, it would have been doubly embarrassing for this priestly family to run out of wine.
It’s not a crisis, but it’s one of those “make it work” moments where someone needs to improvise and come up with a way to remedy the problem.
And maybe because it’s not a life or death crisis, it’s the perfect first step for Jesus, who is reluctant to take on the mantle of leadership that so many have told him to take.
Mary, wisely, recognizes what’s going on and turns to her son to solve the problem, not because she can’t solve it herself – I’m sure she could have – but because she recognizes this as an opportunity for Jesus to own up to his role as a leader and miracle-worker.
Mary’s known Jesus for 30 years at this point, and she knows his potential for leadership.
She’s had dreams and angels telling her Jesus is going to be the messiah. And yet, up to this point, he’s been dragging his feet.
Mary, loving mother that she is, uses this opportunity to give him a gentle nudge toward his calling.
Jesus resists, at first, giving the two most common excuses.
“It’s not my problem”
“It’s not my time.”
But Mary doesn’t relent.
She tells the servants to listen to him, and they do.
Jesus was a gifted teacher and leader. He was charismatic and kind. People naturally flocked to him.
But he didn’t see it. Or chose not to see it.
Here, surrounded by a room full of people looking to him, he finally, says yes to being the person all of these other people already believe him to be.
He finally says yes when someone he loves invites him to do something extraordinary.
In the Gospel of John, THIS is the turning point. Not the baptism, not his time in the wilderness. His first miracle, which Mary nudges him to do.
From there, he jumps right into the deep end.
After the wedding, the first thing we hear Jesus does in the Gospel of John is
go to the temple and turn over the tables of the money changers, telling the religious authorities they’ve made a massive mistake monetizing the temple and overcharging poor people for the animals they need to perform sacrifices.
He jumps in head first, jumps into the deep end, and begins his journey of leading people and institutions toward healing and restoration and transformation.
Mary nudges into the water, and Jesus decides, at last, to swim.
I imagine she’d actually been nudging him for years.
I imagine his friends had been too.
But over and over again, Jesus, like so many of us, responded, “It’s not my problem. It’s not yet my time.”
How many times have WE said that?
If you talk to most ministers, they didn’t go to seminary right after college.
The vast majority of them came to ministry as a second career.
For years, they said, “That’s not my problem. It’s not my time,” until God and the community and their own sense of call was so loud, they couldn’t ignore it any more.
Many of us already know, in this moment, something that we NEED to do, but that we’re resisting.
I’m not talking about chores or tasks that are on our todo list.
I’m talking about life-changing difficult choices like saying YES to moving into a smaller home and downsizing, because it’s the right time and it would be what’s best for our health and for our children.
I’m talking about life-changing, difficult choices, like saying at the age of 60, I’ve felt a calling to ministry all my life, and it IS my time.
There were many people over 60 in my seminary, by the way. And they’re extraordinary ministers today. People who were successful lawyers or accountants or stay at home parents who finally said “YES” to the Mary’s in their life who nudged them, at last, toward the calling they’d known their whole lives was lingering under the surface.
I’m talking about life-changing difficult choices like saying YES to leadership in the church, because we need you, and because you know God will multiply the gifts you have to make a difference.
I’m talking about life-changing difficult choices like saying YES to a career change, because you’re not fully living into who you believe God is calling you to be.
I’m talking about life-changing difficult choices like saying YES to the end of a relationship or YES to the beginning of a new one.
I’m talking about life-changing difficult choices like saying YES to being a foster parent, because even though you’re not perfect, you feel called to be a parent, and you have SOMETHING to offer, and this desire to be a parent has been bubbling up in your for years. And there are children in Albuquerque who, due to no fault of their own, are unable to continue living safely with their families.
Jumping into callings like these is not something to do without discernment. Certainly, none of us will ever feel completely prepared to move or to be a pastor or to be a parent or to end a career path or relationship and start a new one.
If we felt completely confident in doing those, I’d question why we didn’t act sooner!
Doubts are normal and healthy.
Even Jesus had them.
But when we hear nudges, from dreams, in prayer, and over and over again from people who love us and know us well, perhaps it’s time to listen.