John 2:1-12; watch video here
On a cold winter day,
there’s a woman on the New York subway
in a thin sweater, clearly freezing and hungry.
She’s asking for money; a few people hand her a dollar quickly
without eye contact. Everyone’s trying to get the whole thing over with.
She’s carrying bags of stuff, bumping into people
who are grumbling and trying not to look at her or each other.
In the midst of this, a man at the end of the car
removes his expensive wool coat and red scarf.
He silently wraps the scarf around the woman
and places the coat on her shoulders.
Suddenly everyone is aware … alive … alert … watching the scene unfold.
She looks a little embarrassed and tries to give him back the coat and scarf.
He says that he wants her to keep them. She relaxes and agrees.
And the subway car bursts into spontaneous applause …
The people know what is good. (1)
I am riveted by the New Yorkers’ applause in response to this miracle.
The miracle is that the woman said yes to love.
Today’s Scripture is a story about the miracles of love.
I am curious:
How do the people in the Scripture respond to these miracles?
How do we respond to miracles?
Through applause? Through silence?
Through a willingness to weep?
In today’s Scripture, we hear the story of a surprising love.
This love creates an abundance
where before there was nothing.
No thing. No wine, to be precise.
The wine had run out.
At the wedding, this lack of wine
would have been an embarrassment.
At that time, people needed fermented drinks, like wine,
in order to have safe drinking liquids.
In that era, running of out something to drink
would have been a failure in hospitality.
The headwaiter of the wedding
would have been sharply aware of this failure.
What did he experience in response to the lack of wine?
Panic? Disappointment? Resignation?
This is just the reality, he might have said. There is no wine.
Spread the word; there is no wine.
Yet, without his knowing, Mary, the mother of Jesus, also says,
“There is no wine.”
I imagine Mary delivering the news differently.
Like a goading. Like a poke.
Like the gentle whisper of a mother asking her son to do something.
Jesus receives the news a bit uncertainly.
Will this be the hour Jesus risks venturing into the public eye?
Reluctantly, Jesus replies,
“Woman, what does that have to do with me?
My hour has not yet come.”
I imagine what happens next is not recorded in the Scriptures.
I imagine there is a look exchanged:
Mary looking at Jesus, Jesus looking at Mary.
Jesus’ fear oozes out;
Mary’s steadfast care for her child remains present.
What would Jesus do? Who would Jesus become?
She would support him whatever happened next.
Mary turns to the servants.
“Do whatever he tells you,” she instructs them.
She has done what she could.
And now it is up to Jesus.
Something about that look of love changed Jesus,
held Jesus, like Mary first held Jesus when he was born.
He turns to the servants.
“Fill [the empty] jars with water,” he instructs them.
And so they do.
They take a cup of this tap water to the headwaiter,
the headwaiter who has seen his area of responsibility
flounder and flail at the final hour.
The headwaiter takes a sip.
how does he respond?
The headwaiter doesn’t know where the wine has come from.
The headwaiter only knows that they had no wine,
They definitely had no wine.
Yet, now there is wine.
The taste of wine lingers in his mouth.
He savors the sweet notes, the rich overtones, the fruity hues.
Why had they not told him about this wine?
This was the best part of the party!
He could not help but call in the groom, and share his surprise.
Why did you wait to share your best wine until now? he asks.
The groom stares back at him.
He doesn’t know where this wine has come from.
Do they laugh? Do they cry?
Do they break out into applause?
How do they respond to this miracle of God?
That’s a question that two high school football teams
The Gainesville State Tornadoes and
The Faith Lions. (2)
To give you a bit of context, Gainesville State is a maximum
security correction facility for teenagers.
They play every game on the road.
They are escorted to the field by twelve uniformed guards.
In contrast, Faith private school has seventy kids, eleven coaches,
and all the latest equipment.
At the time, Faith had a record of 7-2,
while Gainesville had scored only two touchdowns all year.
When the two teams were set to play,
Faith’s coach Kris Hogan decided to do something different.
Hogan sent out an e-mail and asked half of his community to cheer for the Tornadoes. He asked this of the fans as well as the cheerleaders.
He asked everyone to know the rival team by name.
When game day arrived, the Tornadoes showed up as usual at the field.
A 40-yard spirit line greeted them.
A spirit line is when people line up on either side
and the players run through it. This spirit line confounded them.
One player admits he thought they would just go around it
because it was for the other team.
Instead, their coach told them to run through it
and so they did, as the people roared around them.
They don’t want to stop running.
Usually, their teachers were their only fans.
Usually, those in the bleachers averted their eyes.
Now, when the Tornadoes have the ball,
people in the stands yell, “Defense.”
Still a bit confused, they wondered,
“Why are these people yelling, ‘Defense’?”
Yet, the cheering continued by name.
The Tornadoes ended up having the best game of their lives,
scoring two touchdowns.
Even though they didn’t win, they are so overcome with excitement
that they still dump the Gatorade from their water bottles
on their coach afterward.
Afterward, both teams pray together.
Isaiah from the Tornadoes volunteered to say the prayer.
Isaiah prays, “Lord, I don’t know how this happened, so I don’t know how to say, ‘Thank you’, but I never would’ve known there were so many people in the world that cared for us.”
Isaiah later shares, “I cried, after the game; I went back to my room. I cried; [you] think that family is the only one that loves you, God loves you, other people love you, too.”
How do we respond to a miracle?
There’s something so wondrous
about the fragile life around us.
I wonder if sometimes we get used to it.
The poet Hafiz writes,
Art is the conversation between lovers.
Art offers an opening for the heart.
True art makes the divine silence in the soul
Break into applause.
Art is at last the knowledge of where we are standing –
Where we are standing in this wonderland
When we rip off … this blindman’s patch, veil,
That got tied across our brow
Art is the conversation between lovers
True art awakens the extraordinary ovation
At last, I perceive that Jesus is an artist creating opportunity
after opportunity to surprise us with love.
It’s so bewildering that sometimes
we, like the headwaiter, like the boys,
can’t comprehend, and can’t understand it.
Yet, like the servants, Jesus stands there waiting for us to taste the wine.
To love the stranger. To receive God’s care through the birds, sunrises, and scarves.
May the veil part.
May the patch tear.
May we be willing to weep
from a love that penetrates
all of our soul.
Which never ceases to whisper,
I love you.
A love that never ceases to flow.
Like the thirty gallons of water
Turned into 1,000 bottles of wine.
Thanks be to God.
(1) I learned of this true story from the Rev. Dr. Rachel McGuire in a sermon of hers.
(2) Read the full story of the Faith Lions and the Gainesville State Tornadoes here: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/one-heart-movie-gainesvil_n_1974895
The featured image for this post is called, “Art@Subway” by d26b73. See their license here.