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Sermon: The Wedding Coordinator

January 17, 2010

John 2:1-11

Wedding coordinators are worth their weight in gold.  You see, nothing ever goes according to plan at a wedding.  Let’s start at the wedding rehearsal, usually on Friday the day before a Saturday wedding.  The purpose of a rehearsal is to walk through the ceremony so that everyone will know when to come in, where to stand and what to say.  Unfortunately, at nearly every rehearsal in recorded human history only about half of the members of the wedding party have been present.  The best man is inevitably working late.  Two of the bridesmaids are still at the airport, and two of the groomsmen show up just as the rehearsal is ending.  That means, of course, that come Saturday, the best man stands over with the bridesmaids, the ring bearer leaves his pillow in the car, and most of the others show up 20 minutes late and drunk.  And so it falls to the unfortunate wedding coordinator to sort this mess out.

The other problem with the rehearsal, is that even though most of the wedding party is missing, both sets of parents show up…early…and they have lots of helpful suggestions.  Never mind that the ceremony already features three solos, six readings and a trained lion jumping through a ring of fire, wouldn’t it be nice if little cousin Johnny could read the poem he wrote in 3rd grade.  The mother of the bride wants to be escorted down the aisle by all five of her sons, and the mother of the groom would like to be carried in like the king of Siam.  And no, they haven’t checked any of this with the bride and groom, but they won’t mind.

Then, if the wedding coordinator is also helping to plan the reception…well, let’s just say that a state dinner at the White House is less hassle.

This is why Jesus would make a great wedding coordinator.  Look at how he handled things in today’s lesson.  He was at the reception with his mother and his disciples, and the wine ran out.  You can imagine what a problem this is for the host, the bridegroom.  Nobody wants to be known around town as the guy who didn’t have enough wine at his wedding.

So Jesus’ mother said to him, “Jesus, there’s no more wine.  I think you know what to do.”

Jesus called the stewards over and pointed to six empty stone jars.  Each jar held about 20 to 30 gallons.  He said, “Fill these with water.”  And they did.

Then he said, “Take some out and take it to the chief steward.”  And they did.

The steward tasted the wine and thought to himself, “This is really good stuff.”

Now that is a really handy skill to have if you are a wedding coordinator.  Imagine what other problems you could fix.  You could magically clear a path through traffic like Jim Carrey in Bruce Almighty so that the maid of honor can arrive at the ceremony on time.  If Jesus could make a mute man speak, he could also keep the parents of the bride quiet.  If Jesus could make a lame man walk, he could prevent the bride from stumbling over her dress as she comes down the aisle.  If Jesus could turn a few fish and some bread into a meal for 5,000, imagine what he could do at the reception.

But there’s a problem.  There’s a problem, that is, if you are the bridegroom at the wedding in Cana where Jesus and his mother are guests.  The steward tasted the wine, and it was really good.  So he went to the groom and said, “Listen, what were you trying to do?  Normally, the host serves the best wine first, but you were holding on to the best wine, you didn’t want to serve it.  You wanted to keep the best stuff for yourself and serve the Two-buck Chuck to your new in-laws.  But you ran out of the cheap stuff, so your instead you are going to look like the cheap one.”

Of course, the bridegroom knew none of this.  He didn’t know what Jesus had done.  He only knew that the wine seemed to be all gone, but somehow the steward found more.  What had been merely an embarrassment to the groom—that he hadn’t bought enough wine—was suddenly a bigger problem.  He was going to look like a jerk in front of the whole town.  He had given them the cheap stuff and hoarded the best wine for himself.

Jesus had never really been interested in being a wedding coordinator.  He just came to be the guest at a wedding.  But his mother sort of goaded him into performing this miracle—or as John’s gospel calls it, this sign.  When his mother first said, “There’s no more wine son,” Jesus responded in a way that makes you wonder if he was a little bit aggravated.  He said, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me?”

There aren’t many conversations with your mother that go well after you address her as woman.

“Eric, you need to clean your room now.”

“Woman, I’ll clean it when I’m good and ready.”

That’s going to go downhill pretty fast.  Our pew Bibles (Today’s English Version), which provide a paraphrase and not a literal translation of the original text, have Jesus saying “You must not tell me what to do.”  So even though this has become for the Church one of the treasured miracles or signs of Jesus, it doesn’t seem he was all that interested in doing it.

He said to his mother, “My hour has not yet come.”  There is something about her request that doesn’t fit in with Jesus’ program.  This was not a part of his own understanding about what being Messiah meant—or, again, using a term that is a favorite of John, the “Word.”  He is not a fix-it man.  His job is not to save us from our problems.  And if that’s what we want from Jesus, we may discover that, like the genie from the bottle who grants three wishes, there are unintended consequences.

John tells us that the sign, the water into wine, revealed Jesus’ glory.  For the disciples who were present, it inspired belief.  But if you ask the man Jesus’ mother was trying to help, he might say that next time maybe he won’t invite Jesus.

God is really good at giving us free will.  In fact, sometimes, we think it would be better if he didn’t give us so much free will.  We tend to misuse it.  But we don’t always return the favor.  Sometimes we expect God and Christ to fit into our program, our script.  We don’t want God to act like God, because, well, God sometimes forgives people I don’t think deserve forgiveness.  And God doesn’t always seem to act to protect people I think do deserve it.  And God sometimes gives me what I need rather than what I want.

Certainly, I would love to have a Triple-A Jesus that I can call whenever I get a flat tire.  Or who will give me good wine whenever I need it.  But that’s not Jesus.  As worthy as good wedding coordinators are, Jesus’ isn’t a wedding coordinator.  He is Messiah.  He came to show the great love of God and to bring eternal life, not to make my headaches go away.

This story, along with many others in scripture, reminds us that the holiness of God is not immediately manageable.  If we want to play around with such great power, we will quickly realize that it is far out of our ability to control.  Jesus’ mother simply wanted to fix the groom’s problem, but they all got more than they bargained for.

Maybe that’s the lesson for us—let go of our own plans and programs, don’t strive so hard to achieve our own wishes and desires.  Often they turn out to be not what we needed.  When we factor in the unintended consequences of all our striving, sometimes we come to understand that the success was not worth the price we paid.  Perhaps it is better to relinquish a little control and allow the Messiah to lead so that we can follow.  Following is indeed the job of the disciple.

A pastor asked someone what had brought them back to church after so many years away, and her answer was, “well, I have been searching for something more in my life and my search has brought me back to God.”

The pastor was thinking about that, and he wrote in reflection,

Trouble is that’s not really how scripture tells the story of what’s going on between us and God…Rarely, if ever, do people go out looking for Jesus; he looks for them.  So to be biblical about it, perhaps it would have been more accurate for this person to say, “Well, God appears to have been searching for me for a long time and recently God finally got me!  I’m back.”  (William Willimon, “God Comes to Us,” Pulpit Resource, Vol. 38, No. 1, 16.)

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