“Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them ! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal? Garden-variety sinners do that. If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that’s charity? The stingiest of pawnbrokers does that. Bible.com/app
As I re-read the story of the wedding at Cana, I closed my eyes and visualized the encounter. I tried to hear the festive wedding sounds, see the celebratory atmosphere (difficult, admittedly, for my 21st century eyes). I meditated on the words found in John 2 and tried to open up my spirit to receive the story, to let it shape me. Rather than analyzing it, I tried to let it rule my heart and mind. This is the difference in Christian meditation: we let God's words - his voice, his Scripture - fill us and form us into the likeness of Messiah Jesus. Yes, we empty our flesh, but we seek to simultaneously receive the life of the Spirit, lest we be like the man who wound up with a new host of evil spirits in the chambers of his heart.
John recounts the story like this (with my reactions written in line):
The next day there was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration.
3 The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus’ mother told him, “They have no more wine.”
4 “Dear woman, that’s not our problem,” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.”
5 But his mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
6 Standing nearby were six stone water jars, used for Jewish ceremonial washing. Each could hold twenty to thirty gallons.
7 Jesus told the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” When the jars had been filled, 8 he said, “Now dip some out, and take it to the master of ceremonies.” So the servants followed his instructions.
9 When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over.
10 “A host always serves the best wine first,” he said. “Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now!”
11 This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
12 After the wedding he went to Capernaum for a few days with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples.
Tucked here in the cornfields of east-central Illinois is a crowded campus where young travelers roam, each whom is deeply loved by our Father, each who needs the transforming grace and power of Jesus Christ.
Recently, I had the privilege of sharing a message at our Saturday worship meeting about an "everyday radical" perspective on the subject of mission (We did a five-part Everyday Radical series on sex, money, Sabbath, emotions and mission - you can find the messages online at illinilife.org/#/media ).
Are you just waiting for your ideal "GPS coordinates" for where you'll live on mission someday, I asked? Are you focusing too much on the destination and not enough on a missional orientation each day?
Pulling out a somewhat dated piece of technology, I encouraged students to take out their "compass" and let that be an image of what it means to have a missional orientation everyday as a follower of Christ in college. Begin with abiding in Christ everyday, listening to his voice, meditating on his words from Scripture, and opening your eyes to the needs and desires of those right around you here in the hem and haw of collegiate life.
Here amid the countless subcultures of the University of Illinois we pray that we, as the body of Jesus Christ, might make manifest the gospel of Christ among the thousands of "people groups" right here on our campus.
This night, we’re discussing: "What are the significant words, images, relationships and experiences which have shaped your beliefs about who God is? What are the words of Scripture which dominate your thinking about who God is?" Whether seasoned disciples, baby Christians or spiritual investigators, these questions compel each of us to evaluate our thinking, beliefs and actions about the fundamental question: "Who is God?"
One student talks about his history with his dad and how he is tempted to think of God as a demanding judge who is never satisfied. Another talks about the way media has unhelpfully shaped her thinking about God. We open Scripture and reflect on passages which students suggest. Feeling prompted to share from one of my favorite sections of Scripture - chapters 14-17 of John’s gospel - I begin reading in John 14:1 and we let the words of Jesus instruct us. Significantly, this night, two international students are visiting. Both are far from Jesus and are curious about this Jesus they encounter in the words of Scripture.
At the end of the evening, as I stand at the door and thank everyone for coming, I am freshly struck by the peculiar nature of what get to do so regularly: to create a crowded house where college students from near and far can encounter the hospitality, grace and truth of Christ and his Spirit-filled community. Some nights, as students arrive, I feel exhausted and don’t really want to do it again. But after the last person exits the front door, I consistently turn to Amber and give thanks that we get to do this.