Let’s get this party started: Party tricks from the Gospel of John.

John’s gospel offers nothing accidentally.

The famous prologue draws heavily on images from Genesis – tying Jesus beginnings to the opening notes of Creation.  The first chapter then moves rapidly through a series of encounters between Jesus and disciples of John the Baptizer, who, through these encounters, become the earliest disciples of Jesus.  John’s gospel rushes through these meetings: “the next day…the next day…the next day…,” one after the other the disciples are gathered.  And just like that we come to chapter two. “On the third day…” begins the narrator, and we are suddenly and significantly connected to the Easter story – this is no accident.

John wants his audience to know that everything that happens hinges on the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus.  The purpose and mission of Christ is not a secret, like in Mark – there is no mystery to unravel except the mystery of God’s faithfulness in the face of human indifference and sin.  The wine from water trick, if you will, is easily understood once you understand the glorious power of God being revealed in the Christ.  But there are those in the story who don’t notice this – the main characters are ignorant of the real significance of Jesus supposed party trick.

John’s gospel pretends Jesus is indifferent; “what business is it of ours?” he asks his mother.  But this is John’s point to make, and he’ll do it his way.  The guests (and the host, for that matter) are only aware of an impending shortage.  “They have no wine…” is a prelude to a scandalous breach of hospitality, one that would surely stain the reputation of any respectable person – who throws a party and then fails to provide the “basic necessities” for the celebration? – the absence  of a thing was likely to be the front page news ; the wine deficit their primary concern.  Until a mother insisted that her son might be of assistance.

Notice that the focus for most of the people – the wine steward, the bridegroom, and eventually the guests – is the fact that the party has been saved.  New wine.  Good wine.  The best wine, in fact, has been brought out in the moment of need.  The day has been saved, and no one seems to know (or care) how it happened.

The servants know.  The disciples know.  And that seems to be John’s point.   There is a very limited audience for the real miracle – the revelation of glory of God in the person of Jesus.  What John’s gospel calls “this first of his signs” is an event that has no real meaning in and of itself; it points to something else.  Jesus could have done anything – turned sawdust into sourdough, or sewage into sweet water.  It really doesn’t matter – because the stories John tells about transformation are  to only told to remind us of the power and glory of God.

So on a day when the lessons remind us of our giftedness, and our unity in those gifts, it is no accident that we are given John’s account of Jesus first ‘revelation’ to consider.  For what are we (on most days) but guests at a fantastic banquet, gathered together once a week to remind ourselves how privileged we are, except we are keenly aware that the wine is running out, and we don’t know what to do. We talk, when pressed, as though we want (and NEED), a miracle; a sign; a reminder of just how privileged and gifted we are, but would we recognize it?  Would we find that we are just like the majority of the guests at this Canaanite wedding – relieved that the party can continue for a while longer, and ignorant of the real reason?

The Scriptures offer other “banquet” metaphors, which cast us as the invited guests, but I am reminded by this morning’s gospel lesson that if we understand our call correctly, we take a different role first.  We stand with the servants and the early disciples, and watch as, with a word, Jesus calls wine from water jars, and offers us the chance to believe that God’s power and glory has come close to us.

If we are merely guests at this party, then the news that the celebration might end prematurely is of no consequence; we can always find another party.  But we are not guests – we are disciples of Christ.  We have witnessed the glory of God come close.  We have been touched by the miracle of resurrection; tasted the new wine of the covenant, and as a result, we can’t just wait for the “wine” to come round again – we are the stewards, offering the gifts we have been given so that others can experience what we have experienced; God with us.  Love made manifest.  The word made flesh.

The lesson for us in the water made wine is one of intentionality.  God’s gift to us transforms the ordinary and opens us to the extraordinary.  It is a sign for us, who have forgotten how eager God is to reach out to us.  It is a challenge to us, who have too long taken our places at the party for granted.

The celebration continues, and we know the reason;  the holy one – Jesus the Christ – was crucified, died and is risen that we might never be parted from God’s presence.  What we do with that knowledge will determine our path, as individuals, as congregations, denominations, as the whole body of Christ.  The gift has been given – the wine will not run out – what will your reaction be to this work of generous grace?  Amen.

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