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Sunday, January 16, 2022
Today’s Scripture Reading | John 2:1–11
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “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.” Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. (NRSV)
“This, the first of his signs . . .”
Careful readers of the Bible have long noticed that “signs” in the Gospel of John are peculiar. The other three Gospels feature lots of discussion of signs surrounding Jesus—crowds demanding one and Jesus refusing them—but John describes Jesus performing signs and thereby compelling belief; “and his disciples believed in him.”
Signs and faith exist in tension with one another. Jesus does things like turning water into wine and healing the son of a royal official, and the people who witness them believe (in the case of the royal official, so does his whole household). And yet Jesus seems to chastise that same official for requiring “signs and wonders” in order to believe. It’s like the sign is there if you need it for faith, but it’s better to not need it. This seems to be crystalized in the words the risen Jesus says to “doubting” Thomas near the end of the Gospel: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
The New Testament letter to the Hebrews calls faith “the conviction of things not seen.”
I don’t know about you, but there are seasons when the blessing of believing without seeing feels present and powerful, and then there are seasons when I deeply feel the need to see some sign to reinforce my belief. My conviction is not constant. Sometimes it feels strong, and other times it feels weak. I’ve seen signs and believed, but I’ve also missed them and doubted.
Perhaps maturity in faith means situating the present moment, be it one of doubt or one of faith, in the context of a lifetime, so that faith does not become proud certainty and doubt does not become despair.
For the signs we have seen, O God, of your love and mercy and power, we give you thanks and we profess our belief, even as we pray for help with our unbelief, trusting that you hold us both in our faith as well as in our doubt. Through Jesus the Christ, our sign without parallel. Amen.
Written by Rocky Supinger, Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry
Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church
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