Are we like the chief wine steward?

            I love the story of the miracle at the wedding in Cana. It is one of the most memorable moments in John’s gospel. It is also the inspiration of some of my favorite Jesus jokes. For example, have you heard the one where Jesus walks into a bar with the disciples, orders thirteen glasses of water and then just winks at the bartender? Beyond it’s possibilities for inspiring jokes, this miracle is vivid and relatable. There are two classic human themes for us to connect with. First, there is the recognizable scene of a wedding; certainly most of us have been to a wedding or two. While weddings were certainly different in Jesus’ time there are some elements that are the same. Most notably, weddings are still about families and hospitality.  While this wedding in Cana was likely 7 days long and not just one night, we can still imagine the sense of disaster a host might feel if they discovered they were out of wine at their child’s wedding.

            The second familiar theme in this miracle is the mother-son relationship. Or should I say the mother- adult son relationship. This miracle only occurs because of the encouragement of the mother of Jesus. She is not named in John’s Gospel yet she plays a pivotal role in Jesus’s first miracle. The gospel reads “When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” Jesus’ response to his mother is something of a stumbling block to me in appreciating this passage. I can’t help but feel that his response to his mother is rude. I understand that by saying “My hour has not yet come.” he means that it isn’t time to reveal His divine nature to the world. But the line “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me?” feels unnecessarily harsh. One commentary I consulted on this passage suggested that this phrasing is not harsh but meant to downplay the relationship between mother and son in favor of Jesus’ relationship to his heavenly father. The expression “what concern is that to you and me” and “woman” are “formulas of disengagement not rudeness.”[1]  It’s almost as if Jesus is embarrassed that his mother has asked him to do something like this and he wants to shake her off. This is something most of us can relate to. You should be able to enter this scene easily if your parents have ever embarrassed you or if your children have ever been embarrassed by you. And yet the mother of Jesus ignores his attempt to shake her off and tells the servants at the wedding“Do whatever he tells you.” And so Jesus performs his first miracle. Apparently not even Jesus could escape the direction of his mother.

But why is this miracle is so important? A miracle is really a sign that points beyond the act itself. In this case, the wine points to the truth that Jesus is Messiah. But it doesn’t seem that anyone really notices this miracle. Of course, Jesus’s mother noticed the miracle, as did his disciples, because we are told that they believed in him. The servants who drew the water must have known that Jesus made this wine appear, but they don’t tell anyone what they saw. They don’t even tell the chief steward who tastes the wine.  John tells us that “when the steward tasted the water that had become wine… he called the bridegroom 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." And this is what catches my attention in this miracle. The chief steward recognizes that the wine is very good, but he does not know where it comes from. How often are we like that? We usually recognize the goodness around us but not the source. We are grateful for the gifts in our lives, but do we thank the source? I know that I sometimes forget who is responsible for all the wonderful things in my own life. It’s easy to see our families, careers or homes as something we worked for and not as a gift from God.

So what can we do to thank God for all the gifts he has given us? For starters we can let this gospel can remind us that the goodness we have received is a gift from God and we can praise God for all our gifts. After that we can return that goodness to God. One of the ways we can return our gifts to God is by sharing them with the church. We can share our time, talent and treasure with Saint Luke’s, as so many of us already do. Thankfully, we had a very successful annual pledge campaign this year. And now is the time of year we turn to the Endowment Fund. The Endowment is a way to grow what we can do with God’s gifts to us. I personally am excited that the income from the Endowment can be used for any creative ministry idea that we come up with. So let’s not be like the chief wine steward in this morning’s Gospel. Let us recognize and thank the source of all the goodness in our lives. Amen.


[1] Bartlett, David L., and Barbara Brown Taylor. Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary. Vol. Year C Vol. 1. Louisville (Ky.): Westminster John Knox, 2011. 263.