Sunday, January 17, 2016
During a wedding rehearsal, the groom approached the priest with an unusual offer. Look, I’ll give you $100 if you’ll change the wedding vows. When you get to the part where I’m to promise to ‘love, honor, and obey’ and ‘forsaking all others, be faithful to her forever,’ I’d appreciate it if you’d just leave that part out. He slipped the priest the cash and walked away.
The wedding day arrived. When it came time for the groom’s vows, the priest looked the young man in the eye and said, will you promise to prostrate yourself before her, obey her every command and wish, serve her breakfast in bed every morning of your life and swear eternally before God and your lovely wife that you will not ever even look at another woman, as long as you both shall live? The groom gulped and looked around and then said in a tiny voice, I do.
After the ceremony, the groom pulled the priest aside and hissed, I thought we had a deal. The priest gave him back his $100 and said, we did, but the bride’s father made me a much better deal. Funny things happen at weddings, in real life as well as in jokes.
Here are a few:
The bride’s mother threatened to make a scene if her ex-husband (the bride’s father) brought his new girlfriend to the wedding--which he did.
The pastor got the time wrong and showed up an hour late for the wedding.
Some of the people who didn’t get invited got their feelings hurt, and the same number of those who were invited, sent in their, RSVP, but didn’t show up.
And in another case, people on the guest list didn’t bother to RSVP for the reception, but showed up anyway, assuming there would be enough food and drink for them. And there wasn’t.
We don’t know if that’s what happened in the wedding that took place in our lesson for today or not. This was an embarrassing predicament. Jesus’ mother was there as well as Jesus and His disciples. When the wine was gone, Mary said to Him, they have no more wine. Woman, why do you involve me? My hour has not yet come.
This sounds much harsher than it really was. The word which in English is translated “woman” is, in the Greek, a term of endearment. He wasn’t yelling at her or being disrespectful. It does, however, say that He wasn’t eager to reveal His mission. The time wasn’t quite here for that. Nevertheless, Mary said to the servants, do whatever He tells you. Those are important words: Do whatever He tells you. We’ll come back to them in a few moments.
Six large stone water jars, the kind used for ceremonial washing, each holding about thirty gallons were there and Jesus said to fill the jars with water. So they filled them to the brim. Then He told them to take it to the master of the banquet.
You know what happens next. When the master of the banquet tasted the water it was now wine. He didn’t know where it had come from, though the servants knew. Then the master of the banquet took 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. John then adds these words, what Jesus did in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which He revealed His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.
Have you ever noticed that Jesus always seemed to work in unexpected ways? Imagine, for example, you have a problem with your eye and go to a doctor. He says, let me spit on the ground and make mud and put it in your eye. Who would do as he says? We’d probably run.
Or imagine having skin cancer and you came to me and asked me to pray for you, but instead told you to go show yourself to another pastor down the road? That’s sort of what Jesus did. Would that make sense to you?
Or imagine there’s a crowd with more than ten thousand people to feed; five thousand of which were men (and we know about men and their appetites), and He says to you, go feed them with these five barley loaves and two fish. You’d be suspicious. Those instructions don’t make sense, but, as Paul writes in Corinthians 1:25, The foolishness of God is wiser than men and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
Jesus’ response to Mary’s request that He do something to solve this embarrassing situation at this wedding celebration is one of those incidents that don’t make sense. Here’s the situation: six water jars, used for ceremonial cleaning, in other words, for washing before and after meals. Most likely they’d be outside. Drinking from these jars would be unthinkable, unless you like drinking bath water. But here Jesus, instructs the servants to fill them with water and then serve it to the master of the feast, who would’ve been inside and wouldn’t know where it came from.
What a strange instruction from Jesus. It would require great respect and trust in Him, for the servants of the house to do what He said. They could lose their job or worse, their freedom if their master found out that they’d given him wine taken from these jars. It just didn’t make any sense, but they did it anyway.
Last week we talked about the importance of obedience in the Christian life. It’s not always possible to know what God wants us to do with our lives, but it’s important, that we find out, and do it. It certainly would be easier to do “whatever He tells you” if He spoke directly to us what He wanted us to do, but that’s not how it works. God tells us what to do in His Word.
A woman was visiting her mother. For breakfast the first morning she made tea for her mother’s breakfast and coffee for her own. I wish you wouldn’t do that, her mother said. I much prefer having coffee. But, mom, you always drank tea at breakfast at home. True, her mother agreed. You see, before I got married, I used to have coffee at breakfast. But I found that your father liked tea, and I thought it was silly to make both. The daughter said that if, after 37 years of marriage, she preferred coffee, then that’s what she should have.
Back in her own home, her mother started making coffee for herself but the usual tea for her husband. After a week or so, her husband looked up from his breakfast. How come, he asked, you can have coffee, and I’m stuck with tea? I wonder how many years this couple had gone assuming that they knew what the other wanted. You don’t have to be married for long, though, to have such misunderstandings.
There was an ad in a newspaper. For Sale: Suzuki 1000. This bike is perfect! It has 1000 miles and has had its 500-mile dealer service. (Expensive.) It’s been adult ridden and all wheels have always been on the ground. I used it as a cruiser/commuter. I’m selling it because it was purchased without proper consent of my loving wife. Apparently, ‘Do whatever you want!’ doesn’t mean what I thought. Ask for Steve.
Ah, the joys of married life. No wonder we have difficulty understanding God’s will for our lives, if we can’t even communicate our desires to one another. It’s difficult for us to know sometimes what God desires out of us. But I can suggest a couple of areas in which God’s will is pretty clear.
We know it’s God’s will that we’re to take care of our relationships. Marriage is one of those relationships for many of us.
Remember the groom in our opening story who wanted the priest to eliminate those lines “love, honor, and obey” and ‘forsaking all others, be faithful to her forever?” There are many couples today who want to alter their vows so they’re less restrictive. Doesn’t God want us to be happy, we may ask? Most certainly He does. That’s the whole point. God knows the secret of marriage is a faithful loving relationship.
I read an article in Reader’s Digest titled, Why I Wear Two Wedding Bands. He says that he’s worn two wedding bands for more than a dozen years. When he’s asked about them, he responds, I have two wives. He’s kidding, of course.
One day a stranger wouldn’t let him off the hook with that answer. So he spilled the whole story. He explained his father died in 1999. As they were saying their final farewells at his funeral, his mother, who had been married to him for 50-plus years, removed his father’s wedding band and handed it to Patrick. Surprised, he placed the gold band on his left middle finger, next to his wedding band. There it has remained. He told the stranger that he wears his father’s wedding band to honor his father and his parents’ marriage. He also wears it to remind himself to be the son, brother, husband, and dad that his father wanted him to be. He is now 60 years old and has been married for 30 years. The stranger walked away, then turned back and said, Sir, you know, I have my father’s wedding band in my sock drawer at home, and beginning today, I’m going to start wearing it.
Powerful story. But isn’t it true of all our relationships? It’s important not only to be faithful and attentive to our spouse, but to our children or our parents and our friends. I can tell you right now, without any hesitation at all that it’s God’s will for us to take care of our relationships.
It’s also God’s will for us to take care of our responsibilities. I know it’s tiring to hear, but one of the keys to a satisfying life is to make sure we take care of our responsibilities, whether they be at work or in our neighborhood, or at home. I can promise you that failing to meet your responsibilities only leads to guilt and shame.
I know, that’s a word that some of us do not want to hear. We have our rationalizations for being the way we are. But sooner or later we have to face up to our responsibilities. Sooner or later this is a lesson we all have to learn. If you doubt that, look what happens to celebrities when they live only for their own gratification. Either they grow up, or eventually they die at a young age, or they become bitter individuals. The secret of a successful life is really quite simple. In the words of Mary to the servants, do whatever Christ tells you..
And look what happens when we do whatever He tells us. I love the way the story of the wedding at Cana ends. As the master of the banquet tasted the wine taken from the water jars, he says, you have saved the best till now.
That’s the greatest message of the New Testament. For those who live as God wants us to live, He always saves the best till last. Things work out better when we do what Christ says.
I'm sure that there are people in this room today who will testify that their later years have been their best years. Even though they may not be able to do what they once were able to do, a lifetime of doing God’s will in their lives has made for fulfilling lives. Take care of your relationships. Take care of your responsibilities. The great secret of life, do whatever the Master tells you.