After choosing his disciples what do you think is the first thing Jesus does? They all go to a party! John writes that three days into their ministry these thirteen men attend a wedding banquet to which they had been invited.
It must have been quite a party because the wine ran out! Jesus’ mother Mary sees this and says to him, “They have no wine.”
It sounds like a “mom” thing to say! I can imagine that Mary has been saying things like this for all of Jesus’ adult life. She’s known all along that her son is something special and she’s probably been dropping hints for years that he should do something with his gifts. Jesus is already thirty years old. If not now, when?
Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come! “Mom, stop bugging me!” He’s heard her hints and proddings before. But she’s heard his excuses before. Mary doesn’t back down, and immediately she says to some servants, Do whatever he tells you.
And this time Jesus does act. It’s almost as if he does something just to get his mom off his back. Before anyone knows it, he’s been given credit for turning as much as180 gallons of water…into wine!
This is the first of Jesus’ miracles. It’s the beginning of his public ministry. But within two or three years his earthly ministry would be over; he would be dead.
It was just the last few years of Jesus’ life that history remembers. We could say that God saved the best for last.
Martin Luther King, Jr., accomplished great things throughout his life. He lived a bit longer than Jesus but only a little. His life was cut short at age thirty-nine. And yet, it is the work toward the end of his life that we remember. We could say that in the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., God saved the best for last.
But what about the rest of us? What about ordinary people like us who don’t turn water into wine, who don’t lead a courageous national struggle for civil rights, who don’t take an assassin’s bullet or get nailed to a cross? What word does God have for us this morning?
In his letter to the Corinthian church, St. Paul speaks of spiritual gifts, and not just a few! He lists varieties of gifts. Not just to some but to each, Paul writes, is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. Two points not to be missed: spiritual gifts all come from the same source, the Holy Spirit who activates those gifts, and, all for the same purpose, the common good: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, tongues, interpretation, to name a few. No one has all spiritual gifts but everyone has at least one, and, as Paul says, it is God who activates all of them in everyone.
But as Jesus himself shows, the Holy Spirit can activate little where our spirits resist. It took the Holy Spirit working through his mother’s persistence for Jesus to perform the miracle at the wedding feast in Cana. After that, the miracles flowed through his life like good wine!
In Martin Luther King, Jr., as with Jesus, God seems to have saved the best for last. It’s true, you know, for us, too. God has saved the best for last!
You may find yourself resisting that idea. You may be saying to yourself, That’s not true! If you’re older you may be thinking of a time when your body was stronger, your health was better, you were working at something you loved, and children were obedient or eager to please, and maybe in a financially more advantageous position. That was the best! Or, if you’re younger, you may find yourself thinking, Yes, the best will be later, in the future. Some day when my mortgage is paid off, when the kids are out of school and on their own, when I’m retired and free to do what I want, those days will be the best!
But to the extent we see either the past or the future as our salvation we will miss the power of the Holy Spirit in the here and now. No matter what our age or life circumstances God has saved the best for last!
Some of you might remember back in the 1970s everyone seemed to have the same plaque on their wall, which read: Today is the first day of the rest of your life. That’s actually pretty good Lutheran theology. Every day is a new beginning!
It’s also true that today is the last day of our lives up until this point. Everything that’s happened in our lives is before this moment. Nothing in the future yet exists. The only thing we have is the present moment. The only place the Holy Spirit can activate spiritual gifts in you for the common good is the present moment!
Notice how difficult this is to accept and believe. Not even Jesus himself found it easy to live in the present. Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come! In other words, “the future is what it’s all about!” Without the prodding of his mother it’s not likely that the guests at that wedding feast would have enjoyed an overflowing abundance of wine. If not for Mary, the power of God in Jesus would have remained hidden. Many lives would have been cheated of the opportunity to experience God’s power, love, grace and abundance!
God has saved the best for last. The best that we have can only be known to the world in the here and now, the present moment. As Paul writes to the Corinthians in his second letter, the Lord says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.” See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! (1 Corinthians 6:2)
Whether our lives on this earth continue for a few more minutes, or hours, or days, or years, or decades the truth for all of us is the same: God has saved the best for last. The Holy Spirit desires in any given moment to activate the abundant spiritual gifts that God has given you for the common good. The past no longer exists; the future doesn’t yet exist. All you have, all any of us have, is this moment to serve, this moment to pray, this moment to see God’s power and presence and abundance in the world, this moment to be grateful.
So one question we’re left with this morning is this: In what ways are we like Jesus at the wedding feast? In what ways do we resist the Holy Spirit at work in the present, leading us in new directions? To what extent do we also make excuses: My hour has not yet come, he said. Maybe some other time. Maybe the future. Or, maybe, “been there, done that” in the past!
Maybe the most important question today’s readings leave with us is this: Where are the voices of Mary in our lives? Through whom and through what circumstances is the Holy Spirit nudging us, prodding us…shouting in our ear? Where is the Holy Spirit attempting to cut through our excuses, to drag us out of the past or away from the future to the only moment in which God is present, the here and now?
May our hearts allow the Holy Spirit to activate in us all that God desires, and may our spiritual gifts reflect into the world the power and love of Jesus Christ! AMEN