(From John 2: 1-11 & 1Corinthians 12: 1-13)
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.
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Let Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit. Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke tell a similar story of the events of Jesus’ life and ministry. They are believed to share sources in common, as well as sharing a common use of language and style in their storytelling. The Gospel of John, who refers to himself as “the Disciple whom Jesus loved,” tells a different story about Jesus’ life and ministry. It is rich with spiritual language, contrasting light with darkness, and often makes strong contrasts between the ways of heaven and those of this world. In John’s Gospel, Jesus’ miracles are referred to as signs. Signs are defined as those occurrences which indicate something in addition to the events themselves. You might say, there is more to signs than initially meets the eye. In this case, Jesus’ miracle signs in John’s Gospel provide evidence to point us to John’s conclusion that Jesus is the promised Messiah of God. John 20: 30-31 states, “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book, but these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”
Before the world at large was to experience Jesus’ miracle signs, and believe in him, Jesus’ Disciples needed to be convinced to believe in, and to follow, him. Our lesson for today, from John Chapter 2, tells us the story of just how the Disciples’ true belief in Jesus came about, when he performed his first miracle sign to build his body of Disciples.
Today’s lesson shares that Jesus’ mother, as well as he and his Disciples, were invited to a wedding held in Cana of Galilee. At the banquet, there came a time when the party was still going but the wine was all gone. Jesus’ mother was troubled by this. She probably had some responsibility for the banquet. She sent the servants to Jesus saying, “Do whatever he tells you.” Although Jesus initially protested to his mother about the proper timing of this event in his early ministry, he knew it would accomplish something good. He called together the servants and asked them to fill six large stone vessels with water, and then to bring a sample to the chief steward. When the steward tasted the water that had Jesus had turned to wine, he declared that it was the best wine that had been served. It was not common to serve the best wine after the guests had already drunk so much. The scriptures then share the most important result of the first miracle sign Jesus performed-his Disciples believed in him! He now had a body of loyal and believing Disciples to share with him the journey of his ministry and mission. Jesus’ first miracle sign was performed for the purpose of body-building.
The Apostle Paul possessed the heart of a true pastor in shepherding his many church flocks. He sent many letters to his churches to both teach and encourage the people along their individual and communal spiritual journeys. 1Corinthians 12 represents Paul’s attempt to bring unity and to up-build the body of the Church at Corinth. Corinth was a relatively affluent and cosmopolitan harbor city, many of whose people enjoyed a large measure of privilege. The Corinthian Church members were believers in the good news about Jesus Christ who had received the Holy Spirit and many attending spiritual gifts. Yet, their faith journey was, as the introduction to 1Corinthians in the NIV Study Bible discloses, still immature and unspiritual. This truth was revealed in the outward behaviors and actions of the people. Many were boasting about their spiritual gifts, and others about those who had preached the good news and baptized them. This was causing factions within the church community, and Paul had been alerted about this situation within the church. Paul’s letter to them attempted to inform and correct these errors and weaknesses. “There are varieties of gifts,” Paul explained, “but the same Spirit. It is God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though they be many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” Paul is telling the Corinthian Church that the spiritual gifts they had received were for the benefit and up-building of the whole community—the whole body of Christ. All of the gifts of all of the people were necessary and needed for the proper function and wellbeing of the whole church body. Paul knew well from his own personal experience that we are not intended to be individual islands, but communities of faith working, cooperating, and growing in the Spirit together. His words were intended to correct errors in both the understanding and the application of the gifts of the Spirit the Corinthians Church had received. Paul was practicing the art of “body-building.”
On this weekend of celebrating Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday, we are called to remember again and afresh the importance of community: in our families, our churches, and in the greater world in which we live. The body of Christ is also an inclusive community, encompassing a variety of races, nations, gender identifications, abilities, and even beliefs; and possessing a diversity of spiritual gifts. Today, we learned that Jesus performed his first miracle sign to strengthen the faith of his Disciples, so that they might be formed into a community who trusted in him. Paul, in today’s lesson, admonished the early Corinthian Church that all of the diversity and gifts of the many people forming their church community were essential to the function and wellbeing of the whole church body. As Paul stated, “In the one Spirit we were baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” These words were spoken nearly 2,000 years ago. Their meaning still speaks relevance and truth to us. So do these words Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke to our divided nation in his 1963 “I Have a Dream speech: “Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.” “We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.” “And when this happens, and when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
May we all hear well these words today, for they are body-building words offering us hope, encouragement, and also a challenge to make them real through our daily living. May they help to guide our thoughts and change our words and actions, and so hasten the day when living in harmony, as a community of the Church of Christ Jesus, as a nation, and as a world finally at peace, becomes a reality for every one of God’s precious children. Let God’s people say Amen!