Do Whatever He Tells You
January 20, 2019 Speaker: Rev. Braun Campbell Series: Being SJLC 2019: Consecrated, Lord, to Thee - Part 2
Topic: Biblical Verse: John 2:1–2:11
Second Sunday after the Epiphany[i]
St. John's Lutheran Church, Alexandria, VA
“Do Whatever He Tells You”
You are a bringer of joy. Let that sink in for a minute. You are someone who brings joy into our world. You might not feel joyful right now. Many in our region have been directly affected by the ongoing government shutdown. An involuntary break from work might not sound like a joyless thing at first, but not getting paid for it does. And having to work while still not getting paid – that sounds pretty far from joyful. But that’s not what we’re talking about. Today, we hear how Jesus is at work to bring his joy, and he does it through ordinary people like us.
Here at the start of the second chapter of John’s Gospel, we’re at a wedding feast. It looks like Mary may have been a relative friend of the family, so Jesus would have been invited, too. And because Jesus went, so did his disciples. An event like this one would be a huge, days-long celebration for family and friends. People would come together and enjoy food and drink as they reveled with the new bride and groom. Accordingly, the host would prepare with a good supply of wine. Throughout the scriptures, wine (but not drunkenness) serves as a symbol of blessing, abundance, and joy. Running out of wine at a wedding feast would bring shame upon a family.
So Mary comes to Jesus with the news of what’s happened: the wine’s run out! Why does she tell him? It’s not as if Jesus was regularly changing water into wine for their family dinners as he was growing up. It’s more like Mary is letting her son know the situation because he and his disciples are at least partly responsible for depleting the wine! (Imagine thirteen or more men showing up at even the most well-planned banquet and how that might strain your supplies.) But Mary trusts that Jesus will do something about it, instructing the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” And they do.
Jesus has the servants fill these six large stone jars with water, jars that would normally be used for ceremonial washing and purification. Each would have held around 20-30 gallons, and the servants filled them up to the point of overflowing. They might have been wondering just why he told them to do it, but they did it anyway. And then Jesus tells them to draw some out and take it to the head steward for him to taste. Odd, right? They did it anyway. You heard what happened when they did: the head steward drank wine where there had once been water – and it was good! (Literally translated, it was “the better wine.”) The servants followed Jesus’ direction, and he provided in abundance. To give you an idea of just how much he provided, the volume would have been between 600-900 bottles! How long of a banquet could you hold with that much fine wine?
To whom was this great changing of water into wine made known? To the servants, the ordinary people going about their vocations. To the disciples, those whom Jesus had called to follow him as he shaped them for service. This evidence of God’s extravagant grace was revealed without angel choirs singing or a voice speaking from the heavens. The servants did what Jesus told them, and the Lord did an amazing thing, manifesting his glory. John reports, “And his disciples believed in him.” Might Jesus be doing something similar today?
Jesus’ transforming water into wine was a sign that God has come to accomplish His mission. In his Gospel account, John doesn’t refer to Jesus’ divine works as “miracles,” as do the other evangelists. There’s a reason for that. It’s not that he wants us to think less of Jesus and what he’s doing; rather, he wants us to think more of Jesus. If you’re driving down the road to your vacation spot or some other fun location, and you see a sign along the road that tells you that your destination is up ahead, would you pull over the car just to take photos and look at the sign? No – you keep going! You follow where the sign leads. Jesus’ powerful act at Cana points to who he is as the Messiah, even as it shows the nature of God’s extravagant love for His children.
Like the servants at the wedding feast, you have been called to follow Jesus. Jesus, who was the guest at Cana, is really the Lord and Master of all creation. Mary’s instruction to them holds for us, too: “Do whatever he tells you.”
God gives you vocations, callings through which you live out your identity as His child and as a bearer of the joy He brings the world in Christ. Every person has numerous vocations, as “parent,” “child,” “employee,” “friend,” “teacher,” along with many more. But whatever their vocations, Christians are called to follow Jesus through life. But we don’t follow Jesus merely for our own good. As you follow Christ, you are a sign. Your service as his disciple in living out your vocations points to who Jesus is and what he has done for you and for your neighbor. As you go about your seemingly ordinary responsibilities each day, God can work through you so that the world may know His Son. Seeing the “signs” of your life, those you serve may come to recognize God’s extravagant grace working through you. God delivers joy through you, and you don’t even need to be doing anything extraordinary.
In our Epistle text (1 Corinthians 12:1-11), Paul writes about the nature of spiritual gifts. As with Jesus’ sign, the most important thing about such gifts is not the gift itself but the One to whom it points. . God has given and continues to give you spiritual gifts for service as His child. They might not be flashy, but gifts like patience and gentleness can go a long way in today’s world in demonstrating the nature of God’s love and in bringing joy to the lives of those around you. Such gifts can proclaim Jesus and the life that he brings.
The Epiphany season reminds us that Jesus is the light who shines in the darkness. For the past several years, our congregation has chosen this season for our Being SJLC emphasis – Serving Jesus + Living in Community. This year, that emphasis is a continuation of this past fall’s stewardship focus, Consecrated, Lord, to Thee, looking at how God calls us as stewards of work and wisdom. Christian stewardship concerns much more than simply how we manage finances, and we’ll be exploring that concept in the weeks to come. That’ll be happening outside of weekend services, too, as we’ve got a great number of opportunities for service together as a congregation. This weekend, we are blessing the prayer shawls that some of our members have made as signs of our Lord’s continuing love for those in our community who are experiencing challenging times in life. It’s one way in which our people are using what God has given them to care for others. In all these ways in which you serve your neighbor, God can deliver joy through you.
For several years, we’ve incorporated the concepts of Joining Jesus on His Mission to help our people better engage in our calling as everyday missionaries. In line with this weekend’s call to “Do Whatever He Tells You,” hear again the five questions that we use:
- How did you see God at work in your life this week?
- What has God been teaching you in His word?
- What kind of conversations are you having with people who need to know Jesus?
- What good can we do around here?
- How can we help in prayer?
Take some time to reflect on these questions. How might our Lord work through you to care for your neighbor? As the government shutdown continues on, you might know friends or neighbors who aren’t getting their paychecks. Consider inviting them (and their family) to join you for a meal. They’ll have some good company and you’ve taken one thing off their list of concerns for that day. Even in the midst of everyday life, God can do extraordinary things through you.
So head on out, back into the world and into all those vocations that God has given to you. And as you do, remember that God delivers His extravagant grace in Christ through His people. Through you. You are a bringer of joy.
[i] Passage for memory:
This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. – John 2:11