St. Matthew’s Sermon 01-20-2019

St. Matthew’s Sermon 01-20-2019

Give Me the “Good Stuff”, Give Me the Best

Isaiah 62:1-5, Psalm 36:5-10, 1 Corinthians 12:1-11, John 2:1-11

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen.

There are so many ways that our modern culture is very different than that of Jesus’ time and place. We often have to understand those differences to understand what we’re reading in the Gospels. It makes a difference, for example, in understanding marriage as defined then and now. This was particularly different in terms of “falling in love” or “being in love” as a part of being married. Whereas, today, we usually think of falling in love before we decide to marry, in ancient times marriages were arranged as a business deal between the bride’s family and the groom’s. It is possible that the groom might have some say in who he would take as his wife but with the restrictions on what we call “dating” in those times, the couple would, by-and-large, fall in love after the wedding; building up their relationship after committing themselves to each other.

However, as today’s Gospel reading makes clear, something that hasn’t changed over thousands of years is the partying associated with a wedding! Just like most receptions of today involve copious amounts of food, drink, and dancing; they also partied in extravagant, joyful celebration! And, as is still common today, friends and family were a big part of the celebration without regard to their social or financial status! The bride and groom were joyful to be united as one and everyone around them shared in and became a part of their joy!

And what could be different or could be the same; depending on that same level of status, was just how much people needed an excuse to celebrate so joyfully. Many, in this day-and-age, enjoy the “good life” by going out to dinner, dancing and drinking with friends on a weekly basis; an excuse isn’t needed. Still, especially in more impoverished areas, such an excuse is needed to justify the extra spending; be that the spending of one for the benefit of all or by all according to their ability.

The village of Cana in the time of Jesus, it seems, was rather insignificant. Little is written about it in the bible and not much is recorded in any other ancient writing. In fact, today we’re not even certain where the village was. There are at least two possibilities, some historians propose a third; none of them near any known trade route that would bolster the local economy and we could presume that any significant primitive industry like cloth making, tanning, or the like would have made it more notable and left its mark in recorded history.

Knowing this helps us to imagine the scene of the wedding in today’s reading; we can imagine a small village where everyone knows each other; most of them are related to each other; and with a few outsiders like Jesus and his mother (also probably family) they have an excuse to escape their day to day doldrums life of farming or shepherding and do something joyful for a change.

Seeing the scene in this light we can also better realize the tragedy of running out of wine before the party’s over. Not only would the host suffer embarrassment but the whole village would have had their much needed respite cut short; their day of living the good life ended before they were ready.


Now, I’ll add this here, almost as an aside, but it does help make my point. You see, there are many arguments about the reality of the story of the wedding in Cana. Some, even some I have known, argue that wine in ancient times didn’t contain alcohol or at least not enough to get drunk on. They are sure of this because Jesus would never drink an alcoholic beverage so even the “wine” at the last supper was surely only unfermented grape juice.

Others argue that, even though the host of the wedding reception did serve fermented wine, what Jesus made out of the six jars of water was not. “That’s why it’s declared “the best”” they say, because it contained no alcohol.

And still others state what they would call “the obvious”: that Jesus wouldn’t even be seen with a bunch of drunken people at a wedding much less contribute to their drunkenness. Or that he couldn’t make alcoholic wine because that would be contributing to immorality. Or that it couldn’t contain alcohol because there wasn’t time for it to ferment so any other explanation just doesn’t make sense.

And then there’s the argument of the impossibility of the miracle; mostly from the nonbelievers. “You can’t change water into wine”. (period) It just doesn’t make sense.

  To folks such as these the argument centers on the “wine”; would Jesus make actual wine; would he drink wine; would he serve wine; does he espouse drunkenness?

But, just like so many other arguments over bible understanding, the argument itself takes away from the message being delivered.

The message in John’s account of the miracle at the wedding in Cana is not about Jesus and the wine; it’s about Jesus and joy.

Back to the scene at the wedding in Cana… There’s a whole village of people, not unlike the majority of people living in the region at the time, enjoying the rare opportunity to step away from their day-to-day doldrums, hand-to-mouth existence and celebrate something new and exciting; in this case the union of two people in marriage. But the joy of the moment is about to be cut short. Until, that is, Jesus steps in, creating not only enough to get by on, but plenty; more than enough; an extravagant amount; and at no cost to anyone!

And this, of course, is not only offered to the villagers in that moment, but to all people in every time. Without regard to significance, wealth, or any other measure but by grace alone, Christ offers the world; offers you and me; the gift of joyfully living the good life even when it doesn’t make sense; even when it doesn’t seem possible that we should be able to do so.

Jesus gives us the good stuff; Jesus gives us the best!

Enjoy it!


A reasonable discussion on “wine” in Jesus time and the argument that it wasn’t intoxicating can be read at


Psalm 36:5-10
36:5 Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.
36:6 Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your judgments are like the great deep; you save humans and animals alike, O LORD.
36:7 How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
36:8 They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
36:9 For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.
36:10 O continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your salvation to the upright of heart!

Isaiah 62:1-5
62:1 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch.
62:2 The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give.
62:3 You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
62:4 You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married.
62:5 For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your builder marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.

1 Corinthians 12:1-11
12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed.
12:2 You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak.
12:3 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.
12:4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;
12:5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord;
12:6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.
12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
12:8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit,
12:9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,
12:10 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.
12:11 All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

John 2:1-11
2:1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.
2:2 Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.
2:3 When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”
2:4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.”
2:5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
2:6 Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.
2:7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.
2:8 He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it.
2:9 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
2:10 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.”
2:11 Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.