Transformed in the Real Presence of Jesus

Wesley Chapel Episcopal Church
Wesley Chapel, FL
Preacher: The Rev. Adrienne R. Hymes
The Second Sunday after the Epiphany/Year C: January 20, 2019
Gospel: John 2:1-11

I speak to you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

For 13 years I was a public relations executive in the healthcare industry. PR folks have many tools at our disposal in order to influence the consumer behaviors of thinking and acting. One effective tool is, of course, the media which can be manipulated to saturate messages to the masses.

Another tool, and I consider it the most precious tool in the PR toolbox, is the word-of-mouth testimonial. In 1998 I was a part of the team that launched the cholesterol-lowering drug, Lipitor. We enlisted the celebrity of Regis Philbin, who used Lipitor, to be the face of the big media blitz. We also hired famed actress, choreographer and director, Debbie Allen, to be the face of the traveling campaign, covering 10 cities across the U.S. For several months I traveled with the grassroots campaign. We went into cities where Debbie Allen, a wife and mother, shared her testimonial of choosing healthy eating habits and regular exercise, with other wives and mothers, who trusted and respected her.

From city to city, she testified to her witness of the effectiveness of the Lipitor treatment for her family members. Lipitor quickly became the number one therapy for the treatment of high cholesterol, and dominated the cholesterol-lowering therapeutics market for years. I was witnessing more than a product launch; I was witnessing the start of a sustained consumer education movement—powered by witness and testimony.

In our Gospel reading we are drawn into a narrative about a wedding in Cana, most likely for Jesus’ relatives, where Jesus attends, along with his disciples. Weddings were a big deal for the families involved and for the community, and traditionally lasted for a week. Wine at the wedding was so important that families would begin to store up wine when a daughter was born in anticipation of the future wedding festivities.

Not only would it be poor hospitality to run out of wine; it would be a major embarrassment for the family, and did not bode well for a successful marriage.

The mother of Jesus was already at the wedding when Jesus arrives. And when the worst thing that could happen during such a celebratory event happens—Jesus’ mother brings the crisis to his attention. She said to him, “They have no wine.”

Despite Jesus’ initial push back, this crisis of scarcity provides the opportunity for Jesus to perform what is known as the first of the seven signs that reveal his glory through this extraordinary, act of transforming water into an abundance of wine.

Through this sign we witness much more than the launch of Jesus’ public ministry; we witness the start of a sustained movement—the Jesus Movement—of which our presiding bishop, Michael Curry so passionately speaks.

Much like a perceptive public relations agent, Jesus’ mother saw an opportunity to leverage the wine crisis as a means to create early witnesses who would influence others to believe in Jesus’ divinity. She was aware of how important it was for people to see Jesus’ signs in order for them to believe.

In mobilizing the servants to assist Jesus, his mother surrounded him with eye witnesses who could
share their precious word-of-mouth testimonies with the people in Cana. Involving the servants
as witnesses to the sign was strategic and purposeful. After the wedding, Jesus and his disciples
would move on, but the vibrant testimony of the servants left behind would take root and spread
so that others might come to believe.

Another tool in the PR toolbox is the call-to-action command which influences people to do
something. An example of a call-to-action command is, “For more information call the 1-800
number…or to learn more, visit the web site.”

Jesus issued a three-part call-to-action—to the servants. He said, “Fill the jars with water; Draw
some out; take it to the chief steward.” A considerable amount of physical effort would be required
by the servants in order to go out to draw and bring back 20 or 30 gallons of water back to the site
of the six purification jars. Obediently responding to Jesus’ commands, positioned the servants as
active participants in the sign to come. And when the servants drew the wine to take to the chief
steward, they saw that the water had been transformed into wine. The chief steward, oblivious to
what had taken place, knew only that there was an abundance of wine that tasted distinctively
better than the “good” wine he had been consuming.

The servants knew. Jesus, engaged them to participate in, and to witness, an Epiphany—the
revelation of his glory.

As a hospital chaplain I practiced a ministry of presence; not necessarily doing or fixing—but
actively being. Often the patient care team didn’t really understand what the chaplain actually did
until they witnessed it. But, the nurses and doctors who were in the room at the times when
spiritual support was provided for patients and their families—GOT it. They felt the presence of
God in those shared encounters, and they witnessed me BEING a chaplain, not DOING chaplaincy.
In this text, we are not told what Jesus DID to transform the water into wine. He did not say words
over the full jars. He didn’t dip his hands into the jars. From the time Jesus gave the servants the
commands to fill the jars with water, to the point when they gave the wine to the chief steward,
the scripture says nothing about what Jesus DID to the water—because what he DID is not the
point. Who Jesus IS—his divine “otherness”—is the point.

In the real presence of Jesus, the water was transformed. In the real presence of Jesus, the lives of
the witnesses to this sign, were forever changed. God is in the business of transformation!
Through our baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we like the water collected in
the Jewish purification jars, are transformed. And, that transformation continues each time we
encounter the real presence of Christ as we eat and drink of Jesus’ body and blood through the
sacrament of Holy Eucharist.

The risen Christ comes among us and moves through us to transform us into vibrant, living signs
of His Church’s mission: To restore ALL PEOPLE to God and to each other in Christ.
In this season of Epiphany and beyond, may we all be signs that point to the transforming power
of Jesus’ real presence IN us and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit THROUGH us to bring
about God’s Kingdom on earth. To God be the Glory! Amen.