The Next Step is Yours (Preached as a Dramatic Monologue)
Rev. Dr. Glenda Hollingshead; January 20, 2019
2nd Sunday after Epiphany
Elder Ordination & Installation
1 Corinthians 12:1-11; John 2:1-11
Disgrace! It is an emotion I know well. Even though, in my head, I understood why people talked, my heart was broken many times. You see, in my day, getting into what might be referred to as “my predicament,” brought with it not only shame—but the potential for execution. So of course, people talked and, occasionally, I felt shamed because of it. But the man whom I had chosen to wed was a good man—such a good man—and he refused to end his covenant with me. No doubt, the Angel of the Lord had something to do with that. I mean, really, wouldn’t you obey Gabriel if he came knocking on your door?
The child was Yahweh’s. Joseph knew it. I knew it. But few others believed us. As people have a way of doing, they thought the worst. Some whispered that I had been unfaithful. Others said that it was Joseph’s child and we should just own up to our behavior. Regardless of what others thought or said, Joseph and I remained resolute. We knew that God had spoken, and we relied on God and one another.
Still, being disgraced left its mark on my heart. Maybe that’s why I behaved as I did when things went awry in Cana. The wedding was beautiful, and it was special to have Jesus there, along with his disciples. Overall, everything went well—until it didn’t. In those days, a newly married couple did not have a honeymoon. Instead, the bride and groom celebrated the marriage with a seven-day wedding feast at the groom’s home.[i] It was a grand affair of tremendous social importance. Everything had to be just right. So, when it came to my attention that those lovely people were about to run out of wine, I realized if there was anything I could do, anything at all, well, I had to do it! And I knew just where to turn. Jesus could keep our friends from being disgraced. So, I did what mothers have done since the beginning of time—I offered my child a little encouragement, a little nudge if you will, realizing that the next step would, or course, be his to make. It was possible that he would deny my request, but somehow, in my heart, I knew he wouldn’t. Somehow, I knew that this was the day of new beginnings.
Although he was hesitant at first, Jesus came through with flying colors. “Fill those jars with water,” he told the servants. The huge pots were generally used for religious purification purposes, and collectively, they held 120-180 gallons of water. Make no mistake, to fill them was hard, back-breaking work. It took time and effort, but fill them, the servants did, all the way to the brim. Then Jesus said, “Now take some to the host,” and it was done.
Two simple instructions—Fill those jars with water—Take some to the host—and the result was astounding. It was a moment of extravagance—not a little wine—or enough wine—but wine filled to the brim! Not average wine—or good wine—but the best we had ever tasted! (Isn’t that so like the divine generous nature of our God?) Of course, the servants were amazed because they had witnessed this sign first hand. The host was amazed by the wine’s quality. But the disciples—they were more than amazed. They caught the first glimpse of Jesus’ glory and they believed.
Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding in Cana. Later, I wondered why his first sign of glory would occur in such a setting and here is what I finally grasped: Turning water into wine was the perfect first miracle because it showed all people of all time—it is God who puts joy into life and God thinks it’s worth a little divine intervention to help us keep a party going to celebrate it.[ii]
From his first breath until his last, I watched over my son. I prayed for him—oh, how I prayed! I was there when people were moved by his love and care and provision. I was there when people believed because of his many miracles of healing. And I was there when things began to take a turn and his life was in danger. Surely you know that I was there at the cross, a witness to the cruelest of deaths—an innocent man hanging on a tree—more than a man—my son—more than my son—the Son of God.
Remarkably, it was on the 3rd day that we gathered for the wedding feast—the 3rd day in a long line of 3rd days for our people: For on the 3rd day, God revealed to Abraham the place where he was to sacrifice his son, Isaac. On the 3rd day, God came down upon Mt. Sinai and Moses led the people forth. On the 3rd day, Jesus revealed his glory for the first time, turning water into wine. And at the end of his ministry, Jesus was mocked and beaten and crucified, but on the 3rd day, he rose from the dead and brought salvation to all who believed—including me, his mother.[iii]
Then the day came when Jesus ascended into heaven after promising us that we would receive power once the Holy Spirit came. He told us we would be witnesses in Jerusalem and even to the ends of the earth. We did not understand but we waited, and we prayed. And then, in the rush of a mighty wind, the Spirit came, and we were filled to the brim with God’s wonder-working power. Yes, the Holy Spirit came and gave to us gifts for the common good. Over time, some of us contributed to God’s kingdom work through the gift of wisdom, some through the gift of knowledge, some through faith. There were those who had gifts of healing, working miracles, while others were given the gift of prophecy or discernment.
As the mother of Jesus, I had a part to play in God’s salvation story. How could I, a young and lowly girl, have found such favor? Why had the Mighty One done great things for me? Great is the mystery of our faith for his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He scatters the proud; lifts up the lowly; and fills the hungry with good things. Such is the generous nature of our God.[iv]
As the mother of Jesus, I had a part to play in God’s redemptive story. But the truth is, we all have a part to play. At the wedding, I saw my friends in need, so I went to the one person I believed could make a difference. Isn’t it the same today? Isn’t the world still in need? Aren’t there people, for example, who have “no clean drinking water—let alone fine wine?”[v] When you watch the news on your modern day televisions or electronic devices, and you see a world in which desperate mothers have to say to their children, “We have no food,” don’t you want to join me? Don’t you want to tug on Jesus’ sleeve and say, “Do something!” I hope you do. I hope you have not come here for your benefit alone—although that’s part of the reason communities of believers gather in Jesus’ name. But haven’t you also come because you love my Son and you want to play your part in making a difference? Aren’t you here to tug on his sleeve and cry out for those in need?
Maybe, just maybe, God is waiting for you to accept your responsibility in God’s kingdom work. Maybe your job is to recognize the human need that is right beside you and pray. Maybe your work is to encourage others, much like I encouraged Jesus. Maybe your role is to feed the hungry or seek justice for the oppressed. As a baptized believer, each one of you has a calling. Through the grapevine, I have heard there are those here today who have accepted their vocation as leaders of this church—Ruling Elders. You have been called to help lead this church forward. You have been called to help others find their vocation, too. May God bless you on your journey. May your next step and every step, thereafter, bring you closer to God’s will for your life and for the life of this church. May you be filled to the brim with God’s wonder-working power. Amen.
[i] Feasting on the Word, Year C, Vol. 1. 260.
[iii] Adapted from Worship Workbook for the Gospels: Cycle C, Robert D. Ingram, 56.
[iv] Adapted from Luke 1:46-55.
[v] Feasting on the Word, 262.
*Cover Art “Water into Wine” © Jan Richard, used by subscription