Extravagant Signs

John 2:1-11

Who doesn’t love a wedding? It’s a time of joy and covenant and fellowship; two lives joining as one. And here’s the coolest part of all. As a pastor, I’m invited to witness the moment when the newly married couple realize for the first time, their married! That, I think, is one of the most joyous moments in life.

But what happens when everything doesn’t go as planned? What happens when the standard advice for the bride to wear “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” doesn’t bring good luck? I mean, it’s been my experience that weddings seldom go exactly as planned. So, I’ve decided to tinker around with the old saying a bit: “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, if something goes wrong, shrug it off and continue.” Well, it’s a work in progress.

Here are some examples of weddings not going according plan.

First, the screaming child. I officiated a wedding with a friend for his stepdaughter and it was going just as we had rehearsed. All that was left in the ceremony was to light the unity candle, pronounce them married, kiss, and go to the reception. It was all good. But the bride’s three-year-old daughter had other ideas.  While they were lighting the unity candle, she escaped her grandmother’s grasp, made her way up to the altar pushing her way in-between the bride and groom to see what they were doing. The moment, however, didn’t last. Before the unity song ended, she had made her way into the choir loft, and just as the music stopped, she fell, hitting her head with a loud thump, followed by a wail that could be heard for miles.  Now, at this point, the entire wedding stopped. Nobody moved. Finally, I said, “Paul, go pick up your granddaughter. He did and she was quickly taken next door to the parsonage. But by this time the wedding had been at a complete stand still for about five minutes. So, I got everyone back in place, and whispered, “let’s just finish.” At which time, I looked down at my notes, I looked at the bride and then the groom, I look back at my notes, and then said to the assembled crowd, “I can’t believe I have to say this… but… may you home be a sanctuary of peace and tranquility…” Everyone burst out laughing for what seemed like another five minutes.  Finally, I said, “just kiss her already.” Oh, by the way, the little girl was fine, she was more frightened then injured.

Fast-forward now to a few years ago. I was asked to perform a wedding for Becky’s cousin. And, like the previous story, all was going perfectly, that is, until I messed up the bride’s name. Yes, I said the wrong name! You see, the groom’s name was Tony, and he wanted to be called Tony all throughout the ceremony, that is, until the introduction the couple, at which time he wanted me to use his formal name, Anthony. Fair enough. But when the moment came, I was so focused on making sure I said “Anthony” I said, “it is my honor to present to you, Mr. and Mrs. Anthony and Tony Pape.” The funniest part is that no really caught it, except the bride, who insisted I do it over again correctly. Believe me, the family hasn’t let me lived that one down yet.

And then there’s my daughter Brianna’s wedding. This is the final wedding story, I promise. Just as Brianna was about to take my arm and head into the sanctuary to begin her wedding, the power went out. And to say my youngest daughter had a panic attack would be an understatement. I thought her mother and I were going to have to administer CPR there for a while.  But even though it didn’t go exactly as planned, it turned out to be a beautiful ceremony held by candlelight.

Now, I shared all these wedding stories today for a reason. Weddings, like life, don’t always go as planned. Sometimes we bump our heads, or mis-speak, or something beyond our control, like a power outage, can throw our lives into chaos. Whether it’s an illness or an accident, or a silly mistake or words said in anger that we wish desperately we could take back, or some other outside influence; life seldom goes exactly as planned.

So, when this happens; when chaos displaces calm, where do we turn? I don’t know. Perhaps stories like the Wedding at Cana can bring us some reassurance. How? Well, consider the bigger picture here. Remember earlier I said that one of the hallmarks of John’s Gospel is that he invites the reader to enter into the story? Well, it goes even deeper than that. John is inviting us not only to see ourselves in the story but to use the narrative and these deeper connections the assist us when we bump our head, or mis-speak, or the power goes out; John is opening the door for us to invite the Living God to journey with us through this life.

So, what are these deeper connections? Well, first, we’re invited to look for the “extraordinary within the ordinary.” You see, Jesus often takes the ordinary things of life and uses them to demonstrate the most extraordinary aspects of faith. In this case, I think John wants us to understand that contained within even the most basic necessity of life, water, is the potential for the extraordinary.

What might it mean to share a cool drink of water with someone who’s thirsty? I mean, isn’t that an extraordinary thing? Maybe. But what if we were to think bigger? What if we were to share ordinary water, something we have in abundance, with other parts of the world, where water is scarce? What an extraordinary thing it would be if we were to share from our abundance; our time, talent, and treasure; our food, water, and resources with those who have little.

Which leads us naturally into our second deeper connection with this text: abundance. When Jesus changed the water into wine, he didn’t make one cup or even one pitcher; he changed “six stone jars each containing twenty or thirty gallons.” An abundance by any measure. More than enough for everyone at the party. And it wasn’t some screw-top or box kind of wine, it was the finest wine ever.

Now, it’s pretty clear to me that the wine is a metaphor of the Love of God. God’s Love is abundant beyond all measure, there’s more than enough for everyone, and it’s the finest thing we could ever encounter. Bishop John Sprong once said in a sermon that God’s love is like a faucet that’s been left on, filling the sink to overflowing.  And when that overflowing water spills out of the sink and covers the floor, it fills every crack and crevice, it floods every nook and cranny with the water of life. What a wonderful image of abundance; of the abundance of God’s love.

And, my friends, when we hit our head, or mis-speak, or the power goes out, it’s then that these words about God’s abundant love and our calling to bring extraordinary action into the ordinary problems of the world; it’s these things can bring us reassurance; it’s these things that have the potential to bring us back to life.

May it be so. Amen.

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Sources Consulted

Beverly Roberts Gaventa, Mary: Glimpses of the Mother of Jesus, Chapter Four, “Cana and the Cross: The Mother of Jesus in the Gospel of John,” (University of South Carolina Press, 1995).
Craig R. Koester, Symbolism in the Fourth Gospel: Meaning, Mystery, Community (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995). 
Alyce McKenzie. Wedding Mishaps and the Cross (www.patheos.com) 2013
John Sprong sermon found in Living the Questions: The Wisdom of Progressive Theology. Jeff Procter-Murphy and David Felten (Harper One 2012)

 

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