1/18/04, Ep2C

“Fill it to the Brim”
"Jesus said, 'Fill the jars with water.' and they filled them to the brim." John.2: 7

his story from the wedding feast at Cana reminds us that sooner or later the wine runs out. We eventually run dry, and then we need more. That is what Jesus' mother did. As a widow, she trusted her eldest son to take care of things even though she did not always understand his ways. That's also our predicament when trouble comes. We ask God to intervene but He does not always answer the phone on the first ring. We sometimes think that He is saying, "What concern is that to me?" (v.4). But, after a few scrapes we learn to trust Him anyway, as did Mary. She said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." (v.6). So, they brought six large empty water barrels, each holding up to thirty gallons; that's 6 X 30 = 180 gallons, "And they filled them up to the brim." Then Jesus turned the water into wine: Performing his first Messianic miracle before these many wedding party guests, many of whom became disciples.

This supernatural miracle, inexplicable by the laws of nature, is just what Jesus’ fledgling followers needed. They were about to begin a journey that would take them through mountains and valleys as they followed Jesus along the way. They must have felt somewhat powerless. They were away from the security of home and employment. They were not sure that they had done the right thing. John's narrative tells us that, as a result of seeing the turning of water into wine, “they believed in him." (v.11)

Jesus’ first public miracle was an obvious sign to the many Jews who were waiting and watching for their promised Messiah. This observable and crystal clear miracle was taken as a sign of the beginning of the prophesied Messianic Age of redemption.

Our Jewish/Christian tradition tells us that a miracle is an act of Divine intervention: God steps into time and space and changes things. The creation of the universe was God’s first great miracle--- As I sometimes open my prayers, “Infinite God, thou who flung the stars into space!” I like that because it’s a big and bold statement of faith. You see, if we can believe this miracle of Creation, then it’s easy to believe that water can be turned into wine. Indeed, the God of miracles has so ordered things that sunshine and rain regularly brings grapes to life which are later turned into wine through the divinely ordained process of fermentation. We sometimes call that process a natural miracle. There are many organic and biological miracles that we take for granted. When our first daughter was born the doctor turned to me and said, “It’s a miracle!”

When we think about it, just believing in God is believing in a miracle. Although we see evidence of God in creation, it takes faith to opens one’s soul to hear Him speak, and see Him work. Some have said that if we can believe the first four words of the Bible then we can believe the entire book, “In the beginning God…” (Genesis 1:1) There is a popular tune out there somewhere that closes with the line, “I believe in miracles, for I believe in God.”

One professor described his experience with believing as being like a person walking in the woods observing the beauty of nature and then he sees a reflection from the Sun on a shiny object and reaches down to discover an old pocket watch. It is obvious that the watch is different in that it could not be attributed to nature; but rather, the finder assumes that there must be a watchmaker. It’s that way with nature; it is so extraordinary that there must be a Creator.

Yet still, some folks say that they do not believe in miracles. They are not talking about the air that we breathe, but the heaven sent wonders that we Christians claim. However, it has been my experience that whenever trouble comes, skeptics try prayer, and that’s a good thing.

Prayer is the process through which we petition God for help. Some petitions are agreed upon by all believers. We all pray for peace, and for our nation, for people everywhere and we also pray for our enemies and sometimes for trivialities. I quit playing for team sports. I am leaving the Atlanta Braves Baseball Team up to the players. My prayers for baseball and football have not worked and I recall the embarrassment of actually getting down on my knees to pray for the Braves in a World Series game, which they lost. I do pray for Chipper Jones, and the others. I pray for their health and their personal lives which can wreck their careers. We all need to pray for Pete Rose who has gotten himself backed into a lonely corner. Hopefully some believer will be able to reach him and God will restore him to the beauty of living.

I feel that many folks pray and do not mean it. I have known people who were surprised when God answered their prayer because they did not really believe that God could intervene.

A precious part of our Christian faith is that miracles still can happen as a result of God answering our prayers. I believe that most people really want to believe but have not been told that they have a right to receive God’s help in all human trials.

Sometimes folks get discouraged by the adversity of life. Bereavement is awful, random accidents, war, famine and diseases all around. We want to believe, we know it must be true, and we take the plunge of faith; but only later, after a few lonesome valleys, old doubts return. Yet, as were the first disciples at the wedding feast, we can be filled to the brim with God's Holy Spirit. God can build us up.

Also, the church grows as we the members grow in grace. Spiritual growth always begets numerical growth. This is the sign of a healthy local church. You are to be applauded that we paid in full our 2003 church budget and have pledged our 2004 budget. Also, we ended the year by going over 1600 members for the first time with 1602 full members, not counting our hundreds of children and many constituents. Jesus who performed his first miracle at the wedding feast at Cana is bringing about a contemporary miracle through our church. There is power in our prayers for old First Church. It is an exciting place to be because we can feel the Spirit of God working here, through our prayers and God’s miracles.

We ask God anew, “Fill us to the brim with your Grace and Power!”

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor
1/18/04, Ep2C