One of the first stories that we encounter in the gospel of John is about a wedding. And a puzzling story it is. Scholars have debated the meaning, and theologians have scratched their heads. You may remember the story of Jesus’ first miracle, recorded in John 2:1-12. Jesus turns water into wine! Take a few moments to read the story and make a note of your questions as you read.
Here is what I notice: The Gospel writer directs our attention to the corner of the room where six stone jars stand, jars of water for the Jewish rite of purification that remind us of the serious side of religious traditions. For hundreds of years the rules have multiplied so that it becomes difficult for the average person to keep them all. Jesus takes the water jars that symbolize the burdensome rules that have weighed down the common folk and replaces the contents with new wine. As we move into the season of Lent, I think this leads us to a good question. What can you do when you offer all you’ve got and it’s not enough?
I want to tell you the story of a retired pastor who shared with me his wisdom about this difficult text. I think it might be meaningful for those of us who understand what it means to offer all you’ve got and find that it is not enough.
“When I was just a little fella, the best day of the week was Saturday morning. On that day our dad would hand us our allowance, 10 cents! Back in 1937 that was a lot of money for a little boy, and even though I didn’t know much about money, I did understand that you could take it to the Five and Dime and trade it for what you wanted.
One Saturday morning as the dime was beginning to burn a hole in my pocket, I spotted a water gun that had my name written all over it. I picked out my favorite color and plopped my dime on the counter. The clerk told me that the water gun cost fifteen cents. She said it would cost me a nickel more. I was so embarrassed, I wanted the floor to open up. I knew what a nickel was, but I hadn’t the slightest idea where I was going to find one. I was just about a half a step away from PANIC, when the man behind me stepped forward and said, “It’s okay lady, he just forgot to give you the one behind his ear!” And he reached forward and brought out this bright, shiny nickel from behind my ear and gave it to the clerk.
That night as mom was giving me my bath, and I was playing with my water gun, I told her about the miracle, and I told her to be careful when she washed behind my ears, because there might be another nickel back there.”
The little boy was certain it was a miracle, but to you and me it was simply the kindness of a stranger who stepped in to ease the hurt and offer a gift, unexpected and free. It was Grace. So my friends, one of these days when you’ve run out of strength and courage and vision, when you come face to face with your own inadequacy, why then, you’ll have all the ingredients you need for a miracle.
And on that day, somewhere in the future, when we all stand at the end of our time here on earth, in that moment, we will know that what we have brought with us is not nearly enough. On that day, when we place everything on the counter that we can possibly think of, the clerk will tell us that what we’ve got is not enough.
In this crucial moment, Jesus will be there once again, just as he was at Cana, to make up the difference. Six stone jars, 180 gallons of the best wine that they had ever tasted. A miracle, yes, but John tells us that it was more than a miracle. John tells us that it was a sign, a sign that pointed to Jesus and the changes that he would make through his life and death and resurrection.
So when you come to those times in your life when you are a nickel short, when you have done what you can do, and done it to the very best of your ability, and you find that it will never be enough, remember what you already know. Remember that it is not really about you. It is about Jesus.
Serving Christ together,