August 28, 2018 YOU ARE WELCOME TO THE CELEBRATION

August  26, 2018 John 2:1-14

Renewal of Vows

YOU ARE WELCOME TO THE CELEBRATION

The very first miracle that is recorded in the Gospel of John came about during a wedding celebration. John records how Jesus and his disciples were invited to that celebration that lasted more than a day, perhaps a week, as the custom was. While there, something unusual happened. They ran out of wine. It might have been bad enough if it was food, but wine? Unthinkable! But what was more unusual was the request that Jesus got from his mother. Let’s have John tell us the story. “On the third day a wedding took place in Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water:” so they filed them to the brim. Then he told them “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine after the guests have had too much to drink, but you have saved the best till now.”

God’s miraculous power and words of grace for us this morning.

Have you ever been invited to a wedding celebration? I’m sure most of you have. It’s been a busy few months for Carole and me with the wedding of Chelsea Nichols in St. Louis, Kimberly’s wedding here, and in a few weeks our Heather’s wedding in Mexico. Wedding celebrations, the joy of being invited to be special guests of the bride and groom and be their witnesses as they exchange their wedding vows. It’s always been an exciting time for me when I’ve officiated at a wedding, seeing the expressions of joy on the faces of the bride and groom as they look into each other’s eyes and repeat their wedding vows, vows that seal the deal of their relationship. Mom’s cry, dad’s smile, it’s a good feeling as they witness the joining of a son and daughter as they begin a new family. What joy watching the celebration later as they dance together their first dance, or when dad dances with his daughter for the last time, and mom with her son. The celebration that happens, the joy they share with their invited guests. It’s a highlight of their wedding that began when a pastor or someone else who officiated declared that they are one in marriage, committed to each other till the end of time. And when I pronounce them husband and wife, and the kiss, and later I introduce them as husband and wife for the first time, there is applause, clapping and some great response from those who have joined in this great celebration. The deed is done! Now it’s on to the celebration with their guests. But folks, as many of you know at the altar, when you stand and exchange those vows, it’s only the beginning. The marriage has just begun.

In this wedding at Cana Jesus and his disciples have come to be part of this celebration. It doesn’t say whether it was a relative or not, but with his mom there, it could have been, or even a neighbor or just a friend. The fact is, they were there. They were enjoying the celebration, and now we might say, following the ceremony and exchanging of vows, they were celebrating with all the other guests with food, dancing, and a few drinks. It was a glorious celebration as two had become one.

What does this have to do with us today? Well, for those who didn’t know, you have been invited to a celebration this morning. You who are here today are going to witness, in a few moments Carole and me renewing our wedding vows. I have thought about this for a few months how cool, how great it would be to renew our vows celebrating our 55th wedding anniversary. We’ve come a long way since that Friday night on August 30, 1963, when we, Carole and me, and our two witnesses, stood at the bottom of the stairs getting ready to climb those stairs that would change both our lives. Two folks starting fresh, knowing each other for only 3 months. So, with the help of my good friend Curt Rush, whom I shared my idea and asked if he would do the honors of officiating, here we are today and in a few minutes Carole and Curt will join me to renew those vows. I didn’t even tell Carole at the beginning but one day in the kitchen I asked how she would feel about renewing our vows and I think she was surprised at first but thought that would be great. So, I told her I had already made plans and that we would do it today, with family and our church friends invited to share this experience. Then I thought I still would preach and what better passage of scripture then to lead into the renewal of vows but the wedding at Cana.

You might ask why, and here is my thought. It is always a blessing when you invite Jesus to be part of something you are doing. It doesn’t matter what it is. A wedding, a baptism, a joining a church, when Jesus is present you never know what miracle can happen. Just like that wedding at Cana we have invited Jesus to be part of this renewal celebration knowing that when Jesus is present wonderful things can still happen because God is good all the time, and we get blessed when we acknowledge his presence.

Second, when Jesus is present we know special things can happen. Think of it. At Cana when the wine ran out he did something miraculous. He turned 6 jugs of water into 6 jugs of wine. Now it would have been a miracle if he just did one. But he did 6, He just went overboard it seems. He blessed over and over. And who knows, maybe just maybe, when one became empty and they filled it with water again, that to turned into wine, right up until the last day of the celebration when, perhaps, they turned back to just plain water…. if any was left. Isn’t that the way Jesus does? Count those blessings folks, name them one by one, because you know that God has really blessed you over and over again. He has done miracles in your lives that you never expected.

Oh, by the way, it wasn’t just wine, it was the very best ever. How do we know? Well, when the  head guy took a sip, he was so amazed he went to find the bridegroom to complement him on not giving the cheap stuff after people were drinking but giving the best wine he had ever tasted. You see, Jesus doesn’t do anything shabby. He does the best.

So, this first miracle wasn’t something gigantic. It didn’t have anything to do with a healing, or raising someone who died, nor did it have anything to do with feeding many people or calming a storm or two. It didn’t have anything to do with parting of waters. In fact, not many knew of it at all. Just Jesus, his mom, his disciples, the wine stewards, and the bridegroom. It was a simple miracle, but one that was recorded for us by John to show Jesus’ compassion for people no matter what the situation might be. This was a miracle that was under the wire. No hoopla! No thank you Jesus. No boosting. Just a simple magical moment to save a wedding celebration. 

And this story also tells us how his mother knew of the power her son had over everything. Imagine how she must have felt years later when Jesus did so much more. Add to that what the disciples must have thought following this episode. After all, they just began this journey with Jesus and the first thing he does is turn water into wine? What else can he do? What else will he do? I imagine they had lots to talk about amongst themselves. Who is this guy that has called us to follow that he can turn water into the very best wine with just a word or two? The scriptures don’t tell us he prayed over those jugs. It doesn’t say he touched them either. All it says is that when Jesus told the servants to take the 6 jugs and fill them with water all the way to the top they became wine. And we can’t forget what John says following this first miracle as he wants us to consider what just happened in Cana and apply it to our lives as he writes, “This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.”

Oh, should we do anything less…..

So, we learn that Jesus cares about the little things in our lives as well, those things that seem so insignificant to others. He cares about weddings, about renewal of vows, about friends gathering together to celebrate milestones in their lives. 

That’s why we are so blessed this morning. Because on any given Sunday Jesus has been invited to be here with us. And when Jesus is present who knows what can happen. Someone could be blessed. Someone could hear an answer to prayer. Someone could have their hearts strangely warmed. Someone could feel a new hope. Someone could feel their anger floating away. Someone could feel the presence of God so strong that their heart is racing. All because Jesus is here with us and he knocks on the door of every heart and slips in quietly when it is opened in order to calm a fear, offer some joy, and to have fellowship. 

For you see, we may not have jugs of water with us this morning. But we do come with our big and little concerns. And though we might not think they are big enough for Jesus to care about, we learn that isn’t true. He cares about everything, and everyone. Nothing is to small, nothing to big that God can’t handle. He takes what we have, and he turns it into the best that we need. Even our faith, our lives, and even our relationships.

So, this morning it is Carole and my privilege to have you be part of our celebration of our wedding anniversary. There is cake following this celebration, no wine, but something else to share. Our first vows were taken in the office of the Justice of Peace in Boston. Our second vows were at a camp meeting following my commitment to Christ with friends from our Bible study performed by my mentor Rev. Willis P. Miller. Today it is our joy to stand in this church, with this congregation, with some of our family, knowing Christ is here with us and is part of this wonderful celebration as we renew our vows.

55 years ago, when we stood at the bottom of those stairs I wasn’t sure she was going to go through with our marriage. The one thing I asked was if she wanted to change her mind, do it now. Not sure how long we lingered, but as you know we climbed those stairs, she said yes, and we began a journey that has lasted 55 years.

And folks, it has only just begun. 

As I have said, when Jesus is invited to be part of your life, your journey, your hearts, your activities, your party, great things can happen. Thanks be to God for Jesus.

And just a reminder, Jesus can bring joy to any renewal of relationships…. marriage…. commitment to church…and to one another…even to your work. When Jesus is invited to join in, watch out…. you never know when a miracle might happen…even as Carole and I renew our vows today.

So, I invite you to our celebration as we now renew our vows with joy and thanksgiving as I invite my wonderful wife Carole, and my good friend Curt, to join me as he leads us in renewing our vows. Thanks friends, for being part of our celebration. It’s a joy having you a part of this special celebration.

About Rev. Dick Piscatelli, Pastor

Reverend Richard Piscatelli, (Pastor Dick) has been serving this church since 2006 and has begun his 13th year at Williamsville. Dick is a graduate of Asbury College, 1980, now Asbury University, and Asbury Theological Seminary, 1983, in Wilmore, Kentucky. Originally from Watertown, Massachusetts, he and his wife, Carole, have enjoyed living in the Midwest and have made many friends here. Dick’s first appointment was to Buffalo/Dawson UMCs, a two-point charge, which he served for almost 8 years when he was appointed to Paris Trinity UMC. He served at Paris for 6 years and was then appointed to First UMC at St. Elmo in southern Illinois. Dick’s final full-time appointment was to Roanoke/Secor UMCs, a two-point charge. These churches brought much satisfaction and lasting relationships in each. Williamsville UMC has been a joy to serve as he actually began his first church in “retirement,” and is very much involved in all areas of ministry, as the Lord leads. Pastor Dick has a special gift for doing Celebrations of Life and comforting the family. He prepares uplifting, inspiring sermons in a more casual and relaxed style, using humor when appropriate, yet ever-mindful of the importance of bringing the Gospel message for the salvation that Jesus Christ offers to all.