The Lenten Roses are in full bloom. Most things in the garden are still in winter hibernation, but the Lenten greenery, members of the Hellebores family, are proudly expressing themselves with multi-colored blooms and shouting the glory of the Christ gift. For the Christian the season of Lent is here.
The season of Lent is composed of the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter, not including the Sundays of those six weeks. The word lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon word spring. It is generally understood to be a time of fasting and penance in preparation for Easter.
All of us do not have the same religious customs or practices for the Lenten season. For some, Lent is a Roman Catholic liturgical season or something associated with one of the Orthodox groups arising from the East. More and more, however, others see the need for something more in our Christian pilgrimage than just keeping the celebratory Easter. Thus the season of Lent comes as one of the buttressing times supporting us in our Christian journey.
Some honor the time leading up to the resurrection through a partial fast of some kind – leaving something normally associated with every day behind as a reminder of the coming Christ resurrection.
Others take their vital signs and take from their lives habits or practices that impede their spiritual growth.
Some carve out a few extra moments of the day for deliberate time with the Lord . . . praying or reading or reflecting or waiting.
Right now, Holy Week is within sight. But it is not too late. Look within. Look about. What do you see!
Today’s blog post was written by Robert H. Spain. Robert Spain is a retired United Methodist bishop and former chaplain of the United Methodist Publishing House.
Today’s Bible Lesson
The Wedding at Cana
by Robert V. Dodd
This bible lesson originally appeared in the Spring 2012 issue of Christian Living in the Mature Years.
LESSON: JOHN 2:1-12
Of all the responsibilities of parish ministry I have, those I enjoy most are opportunities to interact with people, especially during celebrations of positive life transitions: baptisms, confirmations, graduations and marriages. Weddings are a special source of enjoyment for me because they give me the opportunity to guide couples in preparation for their marriage and to officiate at the worship service celebrating their marriage. For couples who are not actively involved in the life of the church, premarriage consultations give me an opportunity to help them understand the importance of the Christian faith and how involvement in the life of the church will help them establish a strong and lasting marriage.
Jesus and his disciples were invited to a wedding in Cana of Galilee. His mother was also there, perhaps along with other family members. At these festive occasions, friends and relatives gather to celebrate the formation of a new branch of the family. The worship service reminds every one how God blesses marriage; and lots of food, beverages, and dancing are expected at the reception. Can you imagine how you embarrassed you would feel if you were the host of a wedding reception and you realized that you were running out of food or drink? This was what happened at the wedding Jesus attended.
Jesus’ mother told him that they had run out of wine. All parents want their children to help others, but Jesus might have felt that his mother was pushing him into doing something that he was not quite ready to do. Perhaps he felt that she was meddling in someone else’s business. His irritation was expressed by the way that he addressed his mother—not by the name that he customarily called her, but by his use of the general term woman: “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4).
Jesus knew the difference between helping others and helping others in the way that God intends and at the time that God intends. Just because something seems to be a good idea does not necessarily mean that it is God’s idea. When the church where I was a pastor attempted to become involved in a specific ministry that proved to be less than effective, my friend, who was a church member, gave me a cartoon of an Edsel automobile, with the caption, “It seemed like a good idea at the time.” Further prayer and reflection may help us discern that what seems like a good idea is not always what God intends for us to do. Perhaps God has someone else in mind to do it.
But Mary knew her son. So she told the servants: “You see that man over there. His name is Jesus, and he is my son. Do whatever he tells you. Even if it seems to be a little unusual, do it simply because he tells you to do it.” (John 2:5, paraphrased) Soon Jesus told the servants to take the water jars used for washing the wedding guests’ feet and to fill them with water. Then they should draw some of the water out and take it to the chief wine steward for his approval so that it could be served to the wedding guests. When the wine steward tasted it, he realized that not only was it wine, it was the best wine that they had served. Then he complimented the bridegroom on saving the best wine for the last instead of serving at first like most people did.
John says that this was the first miracle Jesus performed; but instead of using the word miracle, he refers to it as a sign of the immediate availability of God’s kingdom. In the presence of Jesus, God’s kingdom was beginning to invade material reality. The miracles Jesus accomplished were signs and wonders of the kingdom that he embodied. He did not do these things to amuse or entertain others but to show them that God was at work and that, in God’s kingdom, things were going to be different.
In our culture, approximately 60 percent of marriages end in divorce. When I counsel couples planning to get married, I tell them that the high divorce rate shows that it is easier to get married than to stay married. Many couples end their marriage when it shows the first signs of being less than perfect, believing that to be their only option. If they do not take the time to understand why their first marriage was not working, they are likely to repeat the ineffective relationship patterns in any subsequent marriage. A strong marriage takes a lifetime to build. A successful marriage requires a solid commitment from both husband and wife to stay married.
The young bride wants everything to look and be perfect on her wedding day, but something will inevitably go wrong. Perhaps the bride or groom flubs a line in the vows; the flower girl takes a wrong turn; the ring bearer wanders off; an usher faints; or someone drops the wedding ring, and it rolls under the piano; the couple misplaces the license; the bride laughs hysterically and is unable to stop.
I always caution couples to continue the ceremony should something go wrong and to let others take care of any emergencies. I reassure couples that these little mishaps serve only to make the ceremony memorable and that, although they may not be funny now, they will someday be a source of laughter and endearment when the couple looks at the video. Ironically, a part of making the experience memorable is recalling the things that may have gone wrong and thanking God that somehow you manage to get through it. These experiences may be traumatic at the time, but later they are sure to be a source of amusement.
Weddings are a lot like life. We can make our plans, but sometimes plans have a way of going wrong. How we respond to life’s mishaps and upsets determines our character. In the presence of God, couples pledge their love for and to each other.
But there can be mishaps, unanticipated events, and sometimes even tragic circumstances. The wedding ceremony is a worship service in which a husband and wife celebrate their love for and commitment to one another as well as state their intention to glorify God in and through their marriage. This celebration of two lives becoming one couple should be observed with the intention of consistently demonstrating love for one another and also glorifying God. But things happen along the way, and not everything that happens is good. During challenging times, the couple’s commitment to God and their commitment to each other is what enables them to endure.
In the larger scheme of things, running out of wine at a wedding reception doesn’t seem to be very important. But this story dramatically demonstrates that God is interested in every detail of our lives, including whether we may experience social embarrassment because we have not adequately prepared for the number of guests who show up at a wedding reception. It is a real temptation for us to feel that God is not interested in the daily aches and pains, fears and frustrations, loneliness and isolation that we experience. But God is infinitely aware of our situation and wants to help us cope with it, because God cares about us even more than we care about ourselves.
Most people reading these words either got married years ago, are widowed, are divorced, or have never been married. Some may have lost their spouse in death due to accidents, violent crimes, suicide, addiction, disease, or war. Others may have lost their spouse through divorce or abandonment. Still others live their lives feeling quite lonely and alone, believing that they have missed an important part of life because they have never married. Others may secretly wish that they had never gotten married.
Sometimes older adults experience a recurrence of grief and regret over things that have not worked out the way they had hoped and planned. Sometimes those dark feelings can be the result of our age, our health, and the fact that we may spend a lot of time alone and do not have anyone to talk with about those feelings. But if we are physically able, we can and should take the initiative to do something about our situation. We can and should ask for help. We can talk to a friend, a family member, our pastor, a medical doctor, or a therapist. We can join a prayer group or Bible study group and learn to pray for others as well as do things for others. Most of all, we should remember that we are not alone in this thing called life. Christ Jesus is with us, and others who supporting us with their prayers even if we do not realize it.
KEY VERSE Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. John 2:11