Today is Memorial Day. Today, towns all across America will have parades- school bands and VFW floats meandering the city streets, tossing candy and playing patriotic music. Today, lots of folks will be char-broiling a wide variety of meats- charcoal and gas grill tank sales rise dramatically in anticipation of Memorial Day. From the ages of 18 to about 22, I was a part of a community Municipal Band that performed twice a week during the summer- I was among the youngest of the members. We would always participate in the Memorial Day parade and the Fourth of July celebration. It was inaccurate to describe us a “marching” band- we were really much more of a “strolling” band. And although we would stroll…amble…call it what you will…on the parade route all the way TO the cemetery, the tone and mood changed noticeably once we got there. The band just seemed to…understand…the gravity of the proceedings, and our demeanor changed. And then, as we stood there at attention (or at least as much at attention as a band can be!) and heard the lone trumpeter blow taps, it was powerful. As those mournful notes echoed across the cemetery, unimpeded by ANY other noise but the breeze and the birds, I couldn’t help but tear up- thinking about the countless men and women who gave their lives…their LIVES…so that I had the freedoms that I so much enjoy…and all too often take for granted.
We are in the 4th week of our current sermon series- Things Your Parents Said. If you remember, the 1st week we looked at “Wear Clean Underwear”, the 2nd week we looked at “You’ll Put Your Eye Out”, last week it was “Don’t Play With Fire”. Today, as we have every week, we’ll consider 2 “old standards” before getting to the topic at hand. Do you remember this? “Money doesn’t grow on trees!” Well…no…DUH! (But how many of us have wished that money DID in fact grow on trees?) How about this one? “Stop crying, or I’ll give you something to cry about!” Well, isn’t THAT special? Apparently I’m NOT already upset enough- I mean, I’m only in tears! But now you’re going to “give me something to cry about”! Well, I can hardly wait! How about this one? “When I was your age…” You KNOW what I mean! You would be complaining about how bad your life was, and your mom and/or dad would say something like, “When I was your age, I had to walk to school, every day, 8 miles, each way, uphill, BOTH ways, barefoot, in three feet of snow, carrying a thousand pounds of firewood on my back, with rabid wolverines chasing me and biting at my ankles!” Do you ever feel like your kids just aren’t caring about, even paying attention to your stories about “back in the day…”? Let me let you in on a little secret- technology is the key in that case. If you really want your kids to know how deprived and empty your childhood was, talk about the technology you didn’t have. “In my day, we didn’t have computers, cell phones, IPods, Facebook…”- that’ll get their attention! But be careful- there’s a fine line between garnering sympathy and inviting ridicule. Hunter once asked me if we had music when I was a kid. I assured him we hummed Gregorian Chants will we rode our dinosaurs to school. But perhaps the best example of this is “back in my day” mentality is found in a Monty Python skit where two men are talking about “the old days”.
John 2:1-11- the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied, “My time has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.
You’ve seen the commercial that asks the question: “Got milk?” Well, today’s question is: “Got wine?” And the answer is: “No!” The wine was gone. The new couple was facing the ultimate embarrassment- not being able to provide. They would be forever remembered as the ones who failed to take care of the needs of their guests. The supply of wine was already running low- Jesus and his boys showing up only put an addition strain on the already diminishing supply of wine.
Did you notice that the story opened with the words: “The third day…”? There is a strong allusion to the resurrection. John’s Gospel, and Jesus’ ministry, begin where they end- a miracle at the end of three days. With this story, John begins the slow, steady build to the greatest miracle ever- the resurrection of Jesus, when Jesus becomes the bridegroom and the church becomes the bride, adorned for her Husband. Jesus’ first miracle points to his penultimate miracle, the one by which He shows His glory.
After Jesus and his disciples arrive at the wedding, Mary, Jesus’ mother, comes to Him and says, “They have no more wine.” Some theologians believe that Mary was not actually asking for, or even expecting, a miracle.but was instead saying, “You and your friends showing up has helped cause this problem. Send some of your buddies over to the Casey’s to get some more wine.” But I respectfully disagree with those folks. I think the more likely scenario is that Mary knew exactly what she was doing. I mean, she has known all along who Jesus was…remember, the angel visited HER with the news of the coming miraculous birth. She KNOWS who Jesus is…and what he’s capable of. She knows of His baptism, of His calling the disciples- she understands that His public ministry has begun. She knows that He’s about to do something wonderful. I think she sees this “mini-crisis” and providential. And so, even through His reluctance to start his ministry before its time, she tells the servants: “Do whatever He tells you.”
This is a story about miracles…involving everyday, ordinary needs. Miracles happen when we understand that Jesus cares about our everyday needs. Mary knew that- Jesus cares about people, about our physical needs, not just our spiritual needs. Jesus is the kind of guy you want at your party. He knows how to have a good time. He enjoyed himself so much that, in Matthew 11:19, He quotes his detractors as calling Him a “glutton and drunkard”. No one ever accused Jesus of promoting a rigid, serious, emotionally stifling religion- quite the opposite. Wherever Jesus went there was life and joy. In fact, in John 15:11, He states that his life mission is that his joy might be in us and that our joy might be complete. Jesus came to bring His joy…to us. He is the God of irrepressible joy, and He’s come to share it. He offers the wine of joy to all those who are thirsty for life — for all those who are willing to come and drink.
This is a story about miracles. Miracles happen when we understand that Jesus transforms our everyday experiences. Jesus didn’t come to give us information; he came to give us transformation. He came to change things. He didn’t come to bring new ideas; he came to make new people. God is in the transformation business. The world wants us to get a new hairdo, a new wardrobe, a face lift. But Jesus doesn’t want to change our looks, He wants to change our hearts. He doesn’t want to rearrange us; he wants to transform us. Jesus is in the business of turning water into wine, sinners into saints, fear into courage, sorrow into joy, defeat into victory, despair into hope and death into life.
In this story, when the master of the banquet tastes the wine, his eyes light up. He can’t believe what he’s tasting. He says, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests are drunk; but you’ve saved the best till last.” Jesus always saves the best till last. The world puts its best right up front…and then things quickly go downhill from there. But when God shows up, things go from good…through better…to best. Like the water jars, we can be filled to the brim with the blessings of God. The best the world has to offer pales when compared to the new wine Jesus offers. Notice- Jesus waited until their resources had completely run dry before he performed the miracle. Only when the people came to the end of their supply were they ready to receive what Jesus had to give.
We need to hunger for the living bread of heaven, instead of the white bread the world offers. Are you satisfied with yourself…and your TV…and your computer…and your job? Or do you hunger…and thirst…for more? Do you find yourself looking around and thinking, “This CAN’T be all there is…there HAS TO BE more!” Are you thirsty for something more? If so, you’ve come to the right place…the right Savior…because He is the God of abundance, the God of life…new life…new wine. To receive this new wine, you have to come to Him with a legitimate, sincere thirst. You have to stand before Jesus and follow the instructions of His mother, “Do whatever He tells you.” If you do, something wonderful will happen- new wine, new life, a miracle.
Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed Sunday and a GREAT Memorial Day tomorrow! Please make sure and stop then, and stick with Jesus!
Remember Junior High? Everybody wanted to be like “the cool kids”…and I was NOT one of the cool kids! We all wanted to wear the right clothes, have the right hair style, say the right things. We wanted to be…alike! The funny thing about that it that even people who want to be different than the mainstream folk end up looking JUST LIKE the people they run with. I once heard someone ask a guy who was wearing all black with eye liner and spikes and chains everywhere, “Why do you dress like that?” The response? “I want to be different.” The irony? They were surrounded by about a dozen people who all looked JUST like them!
WE all know the power of Duct Tape. Carl Zwanzig said, “Duct tape is like the force: It has a dark side…and a light side and it holds the universe together.” (Perhaps Darth Vader could say, “The Duct Tape is strong in this one!”) I found a website that lists things you can do with Duct Tape. Here are just SOME of them: make a decorative book cover, fix a broken tail light, repair a cracked windshield, patch clothing, repair a broken hose, wallpaper your house, make a hinge for a cabinet door, repair upholstery, roll into a ball for hockey practice, mark lines on a sports field, use to pull unsightly hair, patch holes in vinyl siding, make jewelry, make shoes, close chip bags, fix vacuum cleaner hose, repair eye glasses, make a wallet, hold a car hood shut, make a belt, use as handcuffs, remove lint from clothes…the list goes on and on! Dave Barry said about it, “Magnetism is one of the Six Fundamental Forces of the Universe, with the other five being Gravity, Duct Tape, Whining, Remote Control, and The Force That Pulls Dogs Toward The Groins Of Strangers.” While G. Weilacher said, “One only needs two tools in life: WD-40 to make things go, and duct tape to make them stop.”
When I was 5, I contracted Rheumatic Fever, an inflammatory disease that occurs follows a bout of things like strep throat. It can impact the joints, skin, heart and brain. I was in the hospital for a month, in bed at hour for some time after that, and had to learn to walk again. Because of all that, I was rather late starting Kindergarten- I didn’t start until after Christmas! When I first started, I was not even allowed to play outside. So when the other kids went out for recess, I had to stay in and watch them. It was NOT fun! I also didn’t know anybody. The other kids had the entire first semester to meet people and make friends, so I was definitely “behind the curve” when I got there. But that changed rather quickly.
My youngest son and I were planting flowers the other evening (we waiting until after dinner to try and avoid the heat…it was MILDLY successful!) We planted several flowers in the flower bed we have in our front yard. When we were done, we had several flowers left over (amazingly enough…all part of my plan!) so we carried them around back, lugged them up the stairs and put them on the deck. Then, we set out to plant our tomatoes. I have tried what I call “Pot Tomatoes” ( and NO…it has NOTHING to do with any illegal substances, but instead means I plant them in big…ready?…POTS on the deck!) the past few years, with VERY limited success. So…I have officially jumped on the Topsy-Turvy bandwagon! Yep, I went to the local Wally-World and bought three of them. I ALMOST left without buying tomato plants. (The Topsy-Turvy is rather useless without the actual plants!)
In the United Methodist system, the country is broken down by Jurisdictions. The jurisdictions are broken down by Annual Conferences. The Annual Conferences are broken down by Districts. The Districts are broken down by Clusters. The Clusters are broken down by Charges. And the Charges are broken down by individual congregations. (And individual congregations are broken down by arguing and backbiting! Boo-Doom-Ching! Oh, I’ll be here all week! Try the veal! Tip your waitresses!) No, seriously, us United Methodists never met a structure we didn’t like. (We are, after all, METHOD-ists!) Well, if you noticed, in the midst of that list was the Annual Conference. In my case, the Annual Conference is basically the entire state of Illinois south of Chicago. And every Annual Conference is governed by a Bishop, who serves as the spiritual leader of the Annual Conference. For a time a few years ago, the resident Bishop would come to every District once a year and meet with the clergy. It was intended to be a time of prayer a sharing, as well as an opportunity to take care of any “housekeeping” that needed attention.