Sunday 20th January 2013 – Mary teaches us how to pray



The Word This Week:

Thoughts on the Word:

John 2:1-11

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.’ Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

Today as we continue in the Season of Epiphany where we recall the many ways in which Jesus manifests and displays his divinity, we will look for an epiphany of our own.  As we look to the narrative of Jesus’ first miracle, we will seek to see beyond the miraculous, and gather for ourselves a message of hope, and a way of prayer and faith, that will lead us to experience the divine will for ourselves.

 Weddings, they are a drama waiting to happen aren’t they?  I remember fondly my own wedding day when during the middle of the ceremony, when we were about to exchange rings,  we discovered that they weren’t in fact there! Thankfully as we were married on my in laws farm, they weren’t far  away and my mother in law hurriedly rushed off to retrieve them – leaving her shoes scattered over the lawn on her way.

 This wedding in Galilee, is seemingly going well, there doesn’t appear to have been any drama during the ceremony here – everyone is happily celebrating, but now it is this wedding’s turn for drama – the wine has given out!  Now in todays world we wouldn’t bat an eyelid at this sort of drama – we would likely just send someone out to get more – it’s not so simple in first century Israel though, and this drama will be seen as a great shame not only on the couple getting married, but also on their respective families and clans.

 Mary the mother of Jesus becomes aware of the situation and immediately steps in to help – scholars have suggested that this is an indication that she was a relative of the one of the married couple.  When she seeks help she doesn’t turn to the chief steward, or to the bridegroom – rather she turns immediately to Jesus, who though he has not performed any miracle in her sight, she knows can and if asked will help.

 Jesus response sounds harsh to our ears, but it was not disrespectful.  He uses the term that we have translated as ‘woman’.  It would perhaps be better translated as ‘dear woman’.  He asks why she brings it to his attention, as his hour – his time for glory and his death, has not yet come.

 Mary, as any good mother would do when she makes a request of her son, promptly ignores Jesus’ apparent protest, and turns to the servants – ‘do whatever he tells you’, she says. Mary, despite what appears to be reluctance on the part of Jesus, does not go seeking someone else to help out, rather she simply trusts Him. 

 Is there not a lesson in that for all of us? How often I wonder do we pray to God, seeking answers, or seeking help, and then immediately after the ‘amen’ promptly forget that we have sought God’s help and attempt to deal with the situation ourselves, or seek someone else out to deal with the issue for us.  How often also do we take the time to listen for his instructions, so that we can ‘do whatever he tells us’  as the servants do in our Gospel account.

 You see this opening part of todays Gospel gives us a model for prayer, and a model for faith.  When we pray for guidance, when we pray for hope, for help, for anything -we must hand it all over to Christ.  When we hand it over, we must then trust Him to do what is right.

 You will note that Mary doesn’t go to Jesus with a solution – she doesn’t come to Jesus and say, ‘son, there’s a bit of an issue with the wine, how about you miraculously change water into wine…’ No, Mary simply takes the problem to Jesus, hands it over to Him, and trusts that whatever solution he comes up with will be the best one.

 So we have from the first portion of our reading a model of prayer and faith.  What does the rest of this account offer us? So many people focus on the actual miracle of turning water into wine that they miss the bigger picture, we have seen in the opening account a model for faith and prayer, what we see in the miracle account is God’s intention for us and his response to us when we live according to this model.

 Let’s look at what happens after Mary having laid the problem before Jesus, simply trusts in Him to deal with it in whatever way he sees fit.  Jesus, doesn’t just rustle up a few wine skins, he doesn’t send the servants down to Dan Murphy’s or Liquorland.  He has them fill 6 stone jars which each hold 20 to 30 gallons, and they are filled to the brim.  Let’s put this in perspective, that equates to somewhere between 700 to 1100 bottles of wine. 

 Jesus’ response is abundance.  He provides the solution for the problem not with a few wine skins to see them through, but with an abundance of the very finest of wine.  His intention for the happy couple was an abundance of joy, an abundance of love and celebration. 

 The miracle isn’t about showing us that Jesus can do cool magic tricks, it is about giving us a glimpse of God’s intention for those who trust in Him – for those who follow the model of faith and prayer we discovered in the beginning of this narrative. 

 God’s will for us is abundant love, joy and happiness.  In this account we see a glimpse of the Kingdom of God – a place of plenty, of celebration and feasting.  However God is a fair and just God, and will not force us to receive the grace on offer, God will not force us into the Kingdom.  We must be willing to hand ourselves over completely, not just our problems, but our whole selves, our whole lives and being – we must trust Him completely just as Mary did – even in the face of what appeared to be a negative response – Mary trusted completely.

 Do you trust in God completely?  I am not talking about believing in God, or coming to church, I mean do you really trust Him? Have you completely handed over your life to him or do you still seek your own answers?

 I know it is something I struggle with daily, it is in my nature to find my own solution to everything.  I often wonder how much of God’s abundance I have missed in this life because of my stubbornness – How much of that abundant grace have I missed because I refused to hand over everything to him?  How much have you missed? 

 If you have wandered away from God, or if you have never really handed over yourself to Him, I invite you do that today. Commit to seeking God’s abundant love and experiencing his abundant joy through placing your trust, your hope, and your faith in Him, and Him alone.  Let us all commit ourselves to seek him in all things and as Mary says ‘do whatever he tells you’.