Tag Archives: Galilee

Grace, Not Fanfare (Jan. 17, 2016)

John 2:1-11


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

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Jesus’ first miracle in the gospel of John is this one: turning water into wine at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. Apparently he didn’t really want to do it, but his mom made him. She comes to him very concerned, saying, “They have no wine.”

Now running out of wine was a big deal. Weddings were major celebrations for the village, and lasted for several days. The family’s status was at stale. Can you imagine hosting a wedding reception and having to tell some of guests that you invited that there isn’t enough food, so they are among those that won’t be eating this evening?

As embarrassing as that would be for us, it would be absolutely devastating for the family in this text.

So Mary is concerned for the family’s reputation as well as concerned for the guests. So she comes to Jesus and tells him that there is no more wine.

Jesus’ response? That’s not our fault. They apparently didn’t plan this wedding very well, did they?

But his mother encourages him and leaves it in Jesus’ hands. That would be a sermon in and of itself, wouldn’t it? Tell Jesus your concerns and then leave it up to him. But that’s not what I think is most important here.

The author here makes a point of saying that this wedding took place in Cana of Galilee. He says it twice. That matters because Cana is such an insignificant village that no one is even sure where it is. Except that it’s in Galilee, which was known as a pretty rough region full of robbers, thieves, and Gentiles. Not exactly a savory, wholesome place.

So why does the author state the location at both the beginning and the end of this story, making sure we know that Jesus’ first sign took place in such a difficult place?

That IS the point. In John, Jesus performs “signs,” not “miracles.” Signs aren’t about themselves, but point out something else. The signs Jesus performs point out what grace is like, they show us what it’s like when God’s reign comes into the world.

So it matters that Jesus didn’t do his first sign in the temple in Jerusalem. It wasn’t at a prayer meeting of people seeking God. The first time Jesus revealed what God’s reign was like was at a wine-infused block party in a remote little village in the middle of a region so bad that Herod was said to have had to come and clean it out twice.

That’s God’s grace. Showing up where it has no business.

What’s more, Jesus makes more wine than they could possibly drink several weeks. Six stone jars each containing 20-30 gallons? That comes out to just shorty of 1000 bottles of wine. About 75 cases. We had over 100 people or so at Emily and Ross’ wedding reception, and with lots of people drinking, we only had five cases, with more than one left over.

That’s God’s grace. Way more than you can ever use!

And beyond that, Jesus changes water into the best wine. Not just big jugs of Gallo, but expensive, fine, snooty kind of wine. The kind reserved for special guests–even royalty.

That’s God’s grace. Way better than the situation calls for.

One more thing. Very few people even knew what had happened. Some of the servants knew, but not the steward, the person in charge of serving the wine. The bride and groom, the family, and none of the guests ever had a clue that this was going on. They simply continued to enjoy the wedding party. Other than noticing the wine was of really good quality, served later rather than earlier, everything continued as usual. And no one probably ever knew what Jesus had done among them.

That’s God’s grace. Quietly working right in our midst, and we often don’t even know it’s happening. Grace, present now, doing amazing things, more than we can use, where we don’t expect it to be.

This was the first sign Jesus did. No fanfare, no spotlights, no headlines. Just overflowing, abundant, more than you need, better than you think, life-changing grace that comes in the middle of everyday life, even when it has no business showing up.

God doesn’t just come to church. God doesn’t just come to Christians. God doesn’t just come to good people. God comes, bringing overabundant grace, wherever you are.

What parts of your life resemble Cana of Galilee, far from where you think God is, separated from God? That’s where grace shows up.

What’s going on in your life that feels shameful, embarrassing, needs to stay in the dark–like you’ve run out of wine? That’s where grace overflows for you; more than enough.

What parts of you seem to be bad, cheap, unworthy? That’s where the best God has to offer comes to you.

God’s grace doesn’t make headlines, but is simply present, working in your life, renewing, restoring, and filling you in ways you may not even know.

Even at a remote wedding in Cana of Galilee, the gracious reign of God shows up. God’s grace is for you. And there’s more than you will ever need.

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Posted by on January 24, 2016 in Sermon


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Life Can’t Be Contained (Mark 16:1-8)

Of the four gospel accounts of Jesus’ resurrection in the Bible, this one in Mark is my favorite. Most scholars agree that the text we read today is the original ending of this gospel, “So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” The end.

There are no resurrection appearances, no putting away doubts, no assurances. Just an empty grave and some frightened women, who, even though they were the only ones who stayed at the cross while Jesus died, now they run away in terror. It’s simply stated that Jesus isn’t here, he’s raised from the dead, and that he will meet them in Galilee. So, go tell his disciples and then get on the road to Galilee if you want to see him.

As faithful and courageous disciples, these women came to the cemetery early in the morning expecting Jesus to be there–at least his body to be there. They are ready for that encounter. They brought all the appropriate spices for anointing. They are on a mission of love and compassion. They aren’t hiding, they aren’t playing it safe, they aren’t giving up. They are expressing their love for Jesus by coming to the cemetery where they expect to find him and where they can perform this act of service for him.

The only problem is that he isn’t where they expect. He’s not contained in the grave. He’s gone on ahead of them. If they want to see him, they need to go where he is, not just where they think he ought to be. If they want to perform acts of love and service for him, they need to follow him back to Galilee, not stick around a cemetery.

So Mark’s point isn’t that we had better believe this account of resurrection. This gospel’s point is that Jesus isn’t to be found in a cemetery just because we think he ought to be there. He isn’t safely tucked away in a convenient place back where we left him. No, Jesus is raised and goes out ahead of us, to Galilee—the place where our lives are.

Too often, I think, we come to a church on a Sunday morning looking to find Jesus. Because, we think, that’s where he ought to be! Don’t you expect to find Jesus in a church? So we put on our piety and our best behavior to show Jesus we love him and believe in him. Even though we may be nervous about entering a church building, we do so. It’s brave, it’s showing respect and love, and it’s where we think Jesus ought to be found.

That’s wonderful! But Mark’s gospel will tell us that Jesus can’t be contained in a church building on a Sunday morning. He’s not just where we expect him to be. He’s risen, he’s gone ahead of us to our homes, our schools, our neighborhoods, our workplaces. He’s gone ahead of us to Galillee. There we will see him. In our homes we will see his unconditional love. In our workplaces we will see his grace and compassion. In our schools we will see his forgiveness that defies explanation. In our neighborhoods we will see his unexplainable generosity. There we will see him.

And what’ more, there we will join him in loving the world. We get to reveal new life in Galilee. There, too, we get to live out the forgiveness he gives. There, too, we get to see his new life in loving others, in forgiving others, in being generous to others.

Whether we believe a particular view of resurrection or not isn’t Mark’s main thing. This gospel’s point is that nothing can contain this risen Christ. Not a building, not a church, not a belief system, not a doctrine, not a religion. Wherever we go, Jesus has arrived there ahead of us. When we leave here today, Jesus leads the way. Are you going to brunch from here? Jesus is there waiting for you! Gathering with family today? Jesus is part of it. Heading out for a quiet afternoon in the mountains? Enjoy your time with Jesus, who’s there already. He’s already gone to Galilee. There, too, you will see him.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Hallelujah!

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Posted by on April 6, 2015 in Sermon


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