Welcome to Week 2 of our Phanatics sermon series. This week, the Philadelphia Eagles. (Unfortunately, they didn’t give us a win last week, but the message is still a good one!) I have to say, the Wedding at Cana is probably one of my favorite stories from the Gospels. There’s so much interesting stuff packed into these verses. Why does Jesus respond so abruptly to his mother? What does it mean that his hour has not yet come? Is there any significance to the number of jars? What role do we most identify in this story? There’s so much here, it’s hard to choose one focus point. But this time around, I chose to focus on the abundance that Jesus provides. Let me know what you think!
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
When I’m performing a wedding, I always tell couples that something is going to go wrong. I’m not trying to scare them, or to tempt fate, but simply to prepare them. And to manage expectations. Something is going to go wrong. There’s so many moving parts in a wedding, it’s almost inevitable.
For Tim and me, it was the shuttle that was supposed to get guests to and from the reception. It got them there, but it never came back at the end of the night. Luckily, that one was easily solved with a phone call to the hotel and an extra 15-minute wait. Sometimes, someone spills something. Or a groomsman forgets his cufflinks. Or someone’s running late.
It might not be disastrous, but usually something goes wrong. I tell couples that, and then I tell them not to worry about it, because they’re going to end up getting married anyway. Even with something going wrong, at the end of the day they will be married and that is the most important thing.
Sometimes, the things that go wrong are a bigger problem than a late shuttle, though. The problem our wedding couple at Cana is running into is actually a huge deal. They’ve run out of wine. This isn’t, of course, a situation where you can just go get some more.
Running out of wine is more than just embarrassing, as it would be today. In the ancient world, hospitality, how you treated guests, was hugely important. Weddings were weeklong affairs, where everyone would come to the groom’s house to celebrate the couple. Hosting this crowd was an honor and a way to display the importance of the family. This couple, and their families, risked not just embarrassment, but shame. Loss of their social standing and a negative reputation.
And Mary takes notice of this. It’s not clear really if anyone else has noticed, but Mary at least is paying attention. And, concerned for the couple, she brings this problem to Jesus, telling him, “they have no wine.” Jesus, almost reluctantly, eventually listens to his mother and solves the problem, turning water into wine.
It’s a miraculous solution to the problem, but it’s not just miraculous, it’s extravagantly so. There’s six jars, holding twenty or thirty gallons each. Someone better at math than me did all the conversions to realize that we’re talking about almost 1,000 bottles of wine. And not just any wine, the steward notes. He hasn’t seen the miracle but is amazed anyway. This is the good stuff. Once the guests are drunk, most people are serving Franzia straight from the box, but here, at the end, is the best wine of the celebration.
Jesus’ response to the problem of no wine is not a simple fix. This first miracle, his first public act of ministry in the Gospel of John, it isn’t a healing or an exorcism, or a teaching. But instead it’s an absolute abundance. An overflowing amount of joy. He provides so much more than is needed.
I think sometimes we all fall victim to the mentality of looking around us, and only seeing what we don’t have. Only seeing holes, only seeing what’s lacking. “We all we got, we all we need,” became the motto of the Philadelphia Eagles last season. Unfortunately, it didn’t exactly play out well for them last Sunday night.
But last year! Last year, after their star quarterback Carson Wentz had a season ending injury in December, team leader and safety Malcolm Jenkins gave an inspiring speech in the locker room after the game. He knew that many people would now be saying that the Eagles had no chance in the playoffs without Wentz. That they didn’t have what it took.
And he declared to his teammates, “We all we got, we all we need.” Believe that everything we need to succeed is right here. Look around this locker room and instead of seeing what’s missing, see what’s here. He used a little more colorful language than that, of course. But he was right. The Eagles did have all they needed. And they won the Super Bowl. It started with a mindset of seeing what they had as being enough.
God provides abundantly far more than we need. I’m not talking about points on a scoreboard or players in the starting lineup. Those things are fun for us sometimes, but they’re definitely not what God is most concerned with. God provides for so much more important needs: love, the ability to care for each other, gifts and talents and passions.
Only sometimes, we get so caught up in the idea that there isn’t enough, that we’re unable to see the abundance right in front of us. Instead of living with the mindset of abundance, we live with the myth of scarcity, believing that there isn’t enough. When we live our lives by the myth of scarcity, we are never satisfied but always wanting. When we live our lives by the myth of scarcity, we are always in competition with every other form of life on the planet. When we live our lives by this myth, other peoples’ successes, other peoples’ blessings, become bad news for us because we think we’re all fighting for the same small pool.
But in this story of water turned into wine, we have a powerful new narrative by which we can live new lives. We can be generous. We can take risks. We can act like guests at a wedding feast, filled with thanksgiving and joy. We can stop viewing fellow human beings as our competition and instead see them as our companions. Because we do in fact have enough. Sometimes, we might need to ask ourselves what “enough” really looks like. Because we have enough food on this planet to feed everyone, and yet people still starve. We have enough space to house everyone, and yet people are still homeless. We have enough, but we often don’t use it well enough to care for everyone.
But God has given us enough. God has given us more than enough, because God has given us God’s very self. We are called to be the stewards of what God has given. The steward in our story is amazed and overjoyed at what God has done (although he doesn’t know who did it). But he sees this miracle of abundance and simply delights in it. And then, because he is the steward, he would have shared it. He would have made sure that everyone had a taste of this marvelous abundance.
We are God’s stewards in this world. We have been tasked with caring for what God has given us. Like the steward in Cana, we can delight in how magnificent that is. How deeply satisfying, how nourishing, how fulfilling it is. And then we can take up the task of seeing that what God has given us—our lives, our ability to care, our resources, and God’s own love—is spread around. Is shared with all those in need.
“We all we got, we all we need.” The Eagles were on to something in the way they chose to view their situation. They saw abundance instead of lack. There’s a lesson there for all of us. We do in fact have all we need, but only because we have something much bigger than ourselves. We have God, who gives generously and abundantly, fulfilling our needs with overflowing grace. Amen.