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Sunday, January 17, 2016

Also Invited

Inviting Christ to our lives, along with his friends, is the only way to begin to see the glory of God’s healing life for us and for the whole world.

Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
   The Second Sunday after Epiphany, year C
   text:  John 2:1-11

Sisters and brothers in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen

Apparently it matters whom we invite to our parties.

At least if we want enough food and drink to satisfy our guests for a three day village wedding. Having one who can make fine wine out of water is handy.

This must be a family friend or relative of Jesus getting married, since Jesus’ mother is also on the guest list. Jesus’ disciples were also invited. We’ve only met five so far in John, but you’d have to like Jesus a lot to answer yes to: “is it OK if I bring along five guys who are following me around?”

This may be a grace point in this story, though, a place we can enter and see our lives and God differently.

Maybe it really does matter whom we invite into our story, whom they bring with them, what we expect of them, and what they ask of us.

First, we want to put Jesus on our life’s guest list.

This miracle wasn’t really world-changing. No disease was cured, no demon sent away. Jesus just made sure the hosts of the party weren’t embarrassed. Maybe their guests were heavy drinkers; maybe the family was poor. But it would be humiliating.

But God’s Christ was there, a guest. And even the little details of our lives matter to him. He blessed them with the abundance of God, changed what was ordinary into extraordinary. That’s what happens when Jesus is at the party.

We’re in the afterglow of our celebration of the birth of Christ, and this story reminds us what it means that God has become one of us. In Christ, God lives in our lives, cares about our needs, even ones that seem unimportant to others. Christ Jesus is someone we want actively involved in our lives, with us.

As annoying as they can be, we also want to be sure to invite Jesus’ friends.

Wherever Jesus goes, he brings his friends along. Even to a wedding. They’re not the brightest, they often miss his point, act in ways Christ would prefer they didn’t. They need correction, guidance, help.

But Christ’s friends are vital for us. At Cana, they’re the witnesses of God’s glory in Jesus. So they are for us. Jesus’ friends are the ones who sit next to us in the pew, who talk to us at the coffee time, who know when we need them. They’re the ones who help us see what God is doing in our lives and in the world. Christ’s friends are the ones who stand with us in our faith and doubt, who witness so we might also believe.

Many of those who bear the name Christ can be annoying or problematic. Sometimes we’d rather focus on our faith by ourselves. But we need the friends of this Christ in our lives. We couldn’t see or believe without them.

There’s another on the Cana guest list who needs to be on ours, too.

“The mother of Jesus was there,” John says. And she’s crucial. She’s the one who notices the problem of the wine. She’s the one who comes to the only one who could do something, her son. She’s the one who ignores his resistance and tells the servants they should do whatever he says. Without her at this wedding, would Jesus have acted?

We need people like her in our life. We need to invite people into our life who know the truth about us, who can see what needs we have. But who also know God well enough to bring God our needs and ask for help. Even wrestle a little, argue for our cause, not take no for an answer.

These are the people of faith who are so important to us, who trust God when we struggle to, who pray in confidence when we doubt, and who will speak on our behalf to God, even if we could have spoken ourselves. (Remember, the bridegroom could have come to Jesus. That’s not the question. Sometimes we need someone to speak up for us.)

We want people like Jesus’ mother in our life.

But isn’t this miracle kind of insignificant?

In the huge problems of the world, Jesus’ action was small potatoes. Much of what we hope for from God feels the same to us. We struggle to know what we can bring to God for healing, for hope, for change. We don’t want to be selfish, we know there are bigger, worse problems that lots of other people have. We might only be running out of wine, not dying of hunger or unjustly locked up in a jail. Who are we to ask the Incarnate Son of God to come to our lives and help us?

But Jesus did this small little thing. He learned of a need and met it. He didn’t say, “What about those people over there that have nothing? Your problems aren’t important.” He made the wine.

Oh, but also: “this was the first of his signs, and revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him,” John says. This was only the beginning. After Cana, Jesus would do much more – heal the sick, raise the dead, die on the cross, rise to new life – but this little miracle in an out-of-the-way village was the first sign of what was to come.

That’s the hope. Christ in our lives means we will see signs of God’s glory in our own small needs, our own small lives. And they will be signs that God is even now working in the world for healing. Signs of the much greater things God is going to do. And like the disciples, we believe.

There’s one more thing: whatever he tells you, do it, his mother said.

We need to hear what she said to the servants. Filling a jar with 30 gallons of water by carrying buckets from a well surely didn’t look miraculous. Nor did repeating it five more times. But out of their obedience came rich, abundant grace.

Pay attention to this. When Christ is in our lives, he’ll have things he needs us to do. Inviting him to our life isn’t a passive thing. So when Jesus tells us to do something, however small or unimportant, we would do well to do it. Love your neighbor as yourself, he said. Maybe that’s not going to change our society or world, or stop war, or end hunger. Maybe it’s going to be annoying and inconvenient, as tedious as endlessly carrying buckets to stone jars. But if Christ has asked us to do this, to love as we are loved, there is bound to be a grace, a miracle, a transformation in his plans. Our part is needed, even if we don’t see how.

Whatever he tells you, do it. That Mary sure knew her son.

It’s time to make the guest list of those whom we’re inviting to our lives. 

We’ll invite Jesus, the Son of God, the Anointed. We’ll invite his friends, too, all of them, and especially one or two who know him well and will speak for us when we can’t.

And we’ll be ready for our jobs when we get them.

Because you never know what God can do with just a little thing like water. Or like us.

In the name of Jesus.  Amen

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