Saturday, May 23, 2009

What is Too Small for God?

"Unexplainable" is a series by Erwin McManus that explores the gospel of John and the seven wonders of Jesus that John says provokes our faith and shows us a new reality of our relationship with Christ.

Of course, the most fascinating miracle of Jesus was how He conquered death and rose from the grave. However, if we were a marketing group, we might not have suggested that the Messiah come the way He did. We would've instead suggested that God make a huge appearance on earth that would leave little question that He was the King of Kings.

In John 2:1-11, there's a story about how Jesus turned water into wine and "His glory was shown". It sounds like He did a magic trick and gained disciples. But, Erwin suggests that there are a lot of fill-in-the-blanks here.
We know that Mary, Jesus and the disciples were there in Galilee at a party. Mary comes to Jesus telling Him that they have no more wine. "How in the world could you think to involve God in this?" says Erwin. Jesus is almost indifferent in His response to Mary, basically saying "How does this involve me?" Have you ever experienced someone who involves you in their problems? They just pull you in. After asking the question, Jesus even says, "My time has not yet come." He was there to save the world, not to provide after-dinner drinks.
Sometimes, though, Jesus starts a conversation to press us into uncomfortable situations. Mary doesn't argue with Jesus, she just asks the servants around Him to do whatever He asks.
"I flew in from my trip to Europe...Kim was telling me some things I needed to do...we were going to have dinner with this couple...oh and by the way, they are bringing 48 people with them...I'm not a social party guy...cause it's a little exhausting for me...but Kim gave me the 'you don't have to be there' I knew I was going to be there because I have..I want to...because I have to be there." Mary, in a woman's way, involved Jesus.

It's an interesting point in this story that Mary never commands Jesus. In all of scriptures, the only command Mary gives is "do whatever He asks". It, then, is almost an honor to Mary to do whatever Jesus asks. Many times in our life, we don't even know what to ask God. There seem to be many things in our life that seem like we shouldn't even bother to ask God. But God created us to have a relationship with Him. The idea of Him creating the Universe or parting the Red Sea is mind-boggling. But turning water into wine is just "God play".

Why would Jesus produce the wine when most people at the party were probably already too far gone to notice? Many of us act like we have just so many "God chips" or just so many "Yes chips". "God, I know I blew it, but let them hire me..." We feel like we are risking chips if we ask more questions. If we ask God for something, we might not want to waste a God chip on an incidental, like running out of wine.

The unexplainable in Erwin's message is the notion that God will pay attention to the small trite things that are well beneath Him. "You know what stretches my faith but blows my mind?....God actually cares about the details....the little things of my life."

What's more, in this passage, Jesus doesn't just respond with a wave of His hand. Jesus gives instructions to fill up an estimated 120 to 180 gallon jars with water. Jesus is about to create! Not only does Jesus make the wine, but He makes it a premium wine and they have an abundance of it.

There are such things as the prosperity gospels that many people focus on saying that if you become a Christian, you will life a life of prosperity. But what is phenomenal about this story is that Jesus would perform a miracle that only concerned those around Him. Jesus took these people to the place of celebrating life. Symbolically, this was thought to be Jesus taking religious vessels and turning the cleansing element (water) to that of celebration (wine). The master of the banquet was overwhelmed with the quality of the wine!

Each of us loves certain kinds of foods. There is so much detail in what we enjoy and what brings us pleasure. Recently, Erwin went to Europe with a group of guys for seven days. "We had the most amazing time...It was a group of guys, all from all parts of the world." One guy Erwin had never met before came and someone else came from a chance meeting. So, eight strangers came to know each other over this time and God seemed interested in the details of hooking these men up to build bonds with each other. Erwin noticed that. "Have you ever noticed that when people truly love each other, they become very interested in the details that mean the most to that person?" One of the guys was a real physically conscious guy, but as this guy was traveling with them, he went on a chocolate binge. He loaded up on more chocolate that Erwin had ever seen. "It became chocolate mania and soon, all the guys became aware of all the chocolate places to go." Then, when each guy received a piece of chocolate at a restaurant, they would all pass it to this guy. It was a chance for the others to contribute to what seemed important or desirable to him.

Erwin remembers having a conversation with his daughter while she was telling him about what she liked. Sunflowers and carnations. This is what Erwin locked in his mind because he cared for his little girl.

Religious leaders might have tried to shut the party down and to condemn Jesus for his actions. But Jesus chose to honor his friends and to love them through the gift of a miracle. Erwin's daughter, Mariah, has a body language that tells Erwin that she is about to hug him. One evening, she came in front of Erwin and asked him to hug her. He did, but she needed a stronger hug. She then told him that he had been absent from her all week and she really needed him to stop and be present with her.

The unexplainable moment for many of us can be the fact that the Creator of the Universe can be present with all of us and can care for each of us and can even care about the details that would be minuscule to the person right next to us. For whatever reason, God decided to demonstrate His love through wine.
"I was watching a special with Kobe Bryant...Spike Lee was the interviewer...Spike asked, 'Why do you call the plays out loud?'... 'Everyone knows the plays, but it's in the details and the execution that makes the play work even when the opposing team knows the play'" When you listen to truly great music, you hear great care to the details, the spaces and the harmonies. It is actually the details that makes a composition work.

A couple of months ago, a group wanted to create a short film around an experience Erwin had. Erwin began writing, on their request, some of the script to help with the details. But Erwin was having a hard time, because the experience was by far much easier to live through than trying to duplicate it. Storyboarding, writing, directing, angle shots and editing were all required. Attention to the details eventually created the masterpiece of the short film. But it could have easily missed its mark without them.
This is what makes God great in how He works in our lives. His willingness to write the story of humanity is beautiful, He has to be involved in the details for its full creation. He waits for us to each invite Him to be a part of our own personal lives with full integration of His handiwork.

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