When I Was Your Age…

     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”.

1ST MAN: In those days we were glad to have the price of a cup of tea.
2ND MAN: A cup of cold tea.
1ST MAN: Without milk or sugar.
2ND MAN: Or tea.
1ST MAN: In a cracked cup.
2ND MAN: Oh, we never had a cup. We used to have to drink out of a rolled up newspaper. But you know, we were happy in those days, though we were poor.
1ST MAN: I was happier then and I had nothing. We used to live in this tiny old house with great big holes in the roof.
2ND MAN: House! You were lucky to live in a house! We used to live in one room, all twenty-six of us, no furniture, half the floor was missing, and we were all huddled together in one corner for fear of falling.
1ST MAN: You were lucky to have a room! We used to have to live in a corridor!
2ND MAN: Oh, we used to dream of living in a corridor! Would have been a palace to us. We used to live in an old water tank on a rubbish heap.
1ST MAN: When I say ‘house’ it was only a hole in the ground covered by a tarp, but it was a house to us.
2ND MAN: We were evicted from our hole in the ground; we had to live in a lake.
1ST MAN: You were lucky to have a lake! There were a hundred and fifty of us living in a shoebox in the middle of the road.
2ND MAN: Cardboard box?
1ST MAN: Aye.
2ND MAN: You were lucky. We lived for three months in a paper bag in a septic tank. And the one-upsmanship went on from there! “Back in my day” stories can be annoying, but in the end they can be time-worn stories that teach! Look at this New Testament passage-

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. 

     Today is Memorial Day. Memorial Day is about giving your last full measure of devotion to your country. It’s about sacrificing for something larger than yourself. Its about being willing to lay down even your life for what you believe in. Memorial Day is about sacrifice and service. Faith in God is also about sacrifice and service, about being willing to lay down even your life for what you believe in. When I shuffle off this mortal coil and go to join the choir in Visibule, I want to be remembered as someone who loved others. And I want our church to be known as a church that’s not judgmental and stand-offish, but rather a church that opens up their heart to everyone- even people who are stumbling and falling, a church without judgement in our hearts, a church that says “I’ve got some really Good News for you- I met this guy named Jesus, and He changed my life. I want to share Him with you.” Christian witness, at its’ heart, isn’t about some authority telling everyone how they should live. Instead, it’s about one beggar telling another beggar where they can find some food.

     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!

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