"Luck" and "Miracles"
On the third day, there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” She said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Now, standing there were six stone water jars for the rites of Jewish purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “fill them up with water.” So they filled them up to the brim. Then he told them to draw some out and take it to the chief steward, so they took it. When the chief steward tasted the water that had become wine and did not know where it had come from (though the servants who drew the water knew), he called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first and the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have saved the good wine until now.”
Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
I had a conversation a week or so ago with one of my boys about the concept of “luck.” I don’t remember the details, but I think it had something to do with a half-court buzzer beater at some basketball game that went in, earned someone three points, and won the game. “Lucky,” right? Of course “luck” may have been involved, but I assured them it also very likely involved some preparation and practice, too.
One of my favorite sayings – for which I give Oprah credit, though she may have learned it from somewhere else – is the notion that there’s really no such thing as “luck.” Instead, she suggests that “luck” is nothing more and nothing less than the moment when preparation meets opportunity. “Luck is nothing more and nothing less than the moment when preparation meets opportunity.”
It may not apply, so much, to a winning lottery ticket – or if I were the one who made a half-court buzzer beater on the basketball court. That would be nothing more than dumb luck, for sure. But it does make sense when it comes to a half-court buzzer beater by Jordan Reid, say, or Steph Curry, or any time when good fortune finds someone who’s been preparing for, practicing on, working toward such blessing, abundance, or victory – like passing the test; or getting the job; or winning the game. What looks like “luck” to outsiders a lot of the time really involves a whole lot of practice, preparation and just the right opportunity coming together.
And I wonder if the same might be true where miracles are concerned. Don’t get me wrong, miracles are miracles are miracles. I don’t mean to discount them or suck the mystery and magic and power they carry from our faith’s story. I think they are evidence of grace when they happen and by the power of God, for sure, in ways I don’t always try to explain or rationalize or justify. And there are miracles worth praying for in these days for many of us gathered here…just look at our prayer list for evidence of that.
But what if “miracles” are more like “luck” a lot of the time, too. What if what we want to call – or need to be – “miracles” in our lives also involve some preparation, some practice and some opportunity coming together at just the right moment?
I read a reflection on this passage from John’s Gospel last week, written by a pastor in Kansas, named Joanna Harader, who suggests that miracles can be hard work. She considers this miracle – of Jesus turning water into wine – from the perspective of the stewards in the story, who Jesus enlists to help him make it happen.
The short of the long is that these stewards had to fill six hefty, heavy, stone water jars, each with 20-30 gallons. Imagine the weight of those jars before they were full, let alone after they were filled to the brim with all of that water. And remember that there wasn’t a tap or a hose or a pump, and who knows how far they were from the nearest well or what kinds of buckets they had at their disposal.
(I found myself wondering about the kids and sisters who care for us in Haiti who, each morning before they do almost anything else, have to hoof it up or down the mountainside for long distances with containers as large as 5 gallon buckets and as small as an old, re-purposed Canola oil bottle to collect water for their day. Suddenly, 20-30 gallons of water – times six – seems like no small “miracle” in and of itself, and no small favor to ask of the stewards at the wedding.)
So again, the point is that, as miraculous as Jesus’ water-to-wine event was, it wasn’t all magic; it wasn’t easy; and he didn’t do it alone. There was no small amount of preparation involved, coupled with the opportunity of God’s power and God’s people being willing and able and in the right place at the right time.
And I wonder if you and I are preparing ourselves for the opportunity to see and share in, to instigate, to accomplish, even, the miracles we long for in the world these days.
If we want there to be safety and warmth and shelter for those who are without it this winter, have we done something to prepare for that – or are we just waiting for a miracle?
If we want hungry people to have something to eat, have we so much as made a sandwich, passed out a gift card, volunteered at the soup kitchen – or are we just hoping their luck will change?
If we want the politics in our country to change did we vote? Have we contacted our representatives? Are we praying, by name, for our leaders?
If we want there to be peace on earth (a miracle to be sure), what are we doing – what have we done – to let it begin with us? Or are we just waiting, praying and hoping for a miracle to do the trick?
I guess what I’m saying is, maybe you and I are called to be like the stewards at that wedding in Cana – the ones called to get things ready, if you will, and to let someone else have their miracle. Maybe it’s time we start fetching the water; readying the jars; following Jesus’ orders; creating the opportunity for God to do God’s thing.
You and I – and wow, the whole lot of us together – could just be the miracle someone’s waiting for; we could just be the lucky day someone’s been praying about.
Yes, miracles can be hard work. But look at the joy that follows. Imagine the party that flowed from the abundance Jesus created that day in Cana. Imagine the fun those servants had drawing out that new wine, re-filling those empty glasses, jump-starting that celebration, when everyone thought it had ended too soon.
And what a miracle it will be, when all God hopes and everything Jesus died for, comes to pass – thanks to the faithful work and heavy lifting of you and me; God’s church, the baptized children of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, at work – making miracles – in and for the sake of the world.