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First post in a new series: Praying about Jesus’s miracles

Lynne Baab • Wednesday April 3 2024

First post in a new series: Praying about Jesus’s miracles

Jesus turns water into wine. I click on my laptop screen. These two events are connected in my mind, and today I want to tell you how and why.

On Tuesday two weeks ago, I clicked the online button to set up my Patreon account. This had been in the works for nine months. Most of that time involved trying to get my mind around doing it — something God continued to nudge me about and that I had no desire to do. However, despite my resistance, I completed numerous small steps now and then. The Patreon account allows my beloved readers to support this ministry of my blog and website if you want to.

Later on the day of that final mouse click, I told a friend I had finally done something after resisting it for nine months. She replied, “What did you do to celebrate?”

Hmm . . . nothing. Celebrating does not come easily to me. After I pushed that last button on my laptop screen, I picked up my to-do list to see what I might tackle next.

This is the first post in a series about praying about Jesus’s miracles, and today, I want to focus on the wedding at Cana, a story of celebration. Over the next few weeks, I’ll write about miracles of Jesus that have spoken to me and drawn me into prayer. Most of them have been encouraging and illuminating. This first post focuses on a miracle that has never resonated with me but that God has used to gently push me in uncomfortable directions.

You’ll remember that the story comes early in the Gospel of John (chapter 2:1-11). At a wedding, Jesus’s mother notices the wine is running out, and she points that out to Jesus. His words in reply have always sounded oppositional to me: “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come” (verse 4). This is one of the very few places in the Gospels where I don’t like Jesus’s attitude. Jesus then asks the stewards to fill six large jars with water. The wine Jesus creates in those jars is high quality, better than the wine served earlier at the wedding. After tasking it, the chief steward says, “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” (verse 10).

I don’t like that Jesus’s first miracle in John involves alcohol. The chief steward implies that people are already drunk, and I don’t like to think about Jesus adding to drunkenness. I don’t like that his first miracle seems to me to be meaningless in terms of lasting human well-being.

Some of my dislike of this story comes from my own history. As the mother of two sons, I’m not wild about a son being rude to his mother. As the daughter of parents who drank way too much 365 days a year, I’m not enthusiastic about anything that brings more alcohol into a situation where people have already had enough. And as a person who doesn’t know how to celebrate (maybe because of all the alcohol at the celebrations of my childhood), I find it irritating that this first miracle in John’s otherwise beautiful Gospel is set at a wedding celebration.

In my better moments, I know it’s good for me to be a bit baffled by the way God works. One of the central growth points in my years as a Jesus follower has been one central truth: God is God, and I am not. I have prayed many times to be willing to see things God’s way and to rejoice that I am not in charge, a hard prayer.

And yes, I can give assent to the symbolism of this event – scarcity becomes abundance, Jesus as a servant, wine as a foreshadowing of the Last Supper and Holy Communion, and a wedding as a symbol of the union and celebration we will experience in the new Jerusalem someday. Okay, the symbolism is vivid and powerful, but why did it have to involve alcohol?

Because all parts of God’s creation are good when used with wisdom and gratitude. Because we are the branches of the vine, called to bear good grapes as we abide in Jesus, the Vine (John 15:1-11). Because I am not God. I do not get to decide a whole lot of things.

And because celebrations matter. After my friend asked me what I did to celebrate after I made that mouse click two weeks ago, I’ve been doing an informal poll about how people celebrate. I’ve heard about flowers, cake, special dinners, meals out, a new rain jacket for hiking after a nerve-wracking medical appointment, a pair of earrings to celebrate a big graduation, and birthday parties to celebrate God’s gift of life. None of the people I asked mentioned a special bottle of wine, but I am quite sure that if I had kept asking, someone would have said that good wine plays a role in celebrating.

God, many times you have opened our eyes to your truth in the Bible. Sometimes we are immediately aware of the insight and wisdom that come to us through stories in the Gospels. Other times we are baffled. Help us pray for willingness to see things your way and to accept that we will never understand everything you do. You are God. We are not. And for myself specifically, teach me how to celebrate your many good gifts.  

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Next week: Jesus touches and heals a leper. Illustration by Dave Baab: me on our wedding day (painted from a photo 26 years after we were married).

My six-month series on friendship, loneliness, and prayer ended last week. If you’d like to read it from the beginning, the first post is here.  The series before that focused on spiritual practices and prayer. The first post of that series is here.

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