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A while ago, at a wedding in Cana, Jesus turned water into wine. In our reading today, Jesus has returned, and word has gotten around, “Do you know who I saw at the market the other day? Jesus, the son of Joseph, from Nazareth. You remember, the guy from that wedding?”

And word hasn’t just gotten around Cana and the countryside. It’s spread all the way to Capernaum, and…

I don’t have kids. I’m not a parent. So I can’t imagine… except we can always imagine…

There is a royal official in Capernaum. We don’t know anything else about him. We don’t know if he’s a Jew or a Gentile; but he’s probably Jewish. We don’t know if he is an official for Herod Antipas (the son of the other Herod) or for the Emperor; but he probably works for Herod. We don’t know if he is a high-ranking official or a low-ranking one.

We only know that he is a royal official… and he’s in Capernaum… and his son… is on the precipice of the grave. 

So when he hears that Jesus is back in Cana, he does the only thing that he can do. After all, Cana is only a day or two away. And who knows? Maybe someone who can turn water into wine can turn sickness into health. Maybe someone who can turn water into wine can turn hopelessness into hope. Maybe someone who can turn water into wine can turn sorrow into joy.

So he does the only thing that he can do. He goes to Cana. He goes to find Jesus.

When I was in seminary, I took a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education, which means that I spent a semester serving as a student chaplain at a hospital in Chicago. I went from room to room down the list that I was given, and responded to emergency calls, and did my best to be a non-anxious and comforting presence to people who were going through some of the worst moments of their lives.

And sometimes, a patient—or, more often, a patient’s family member—would ask me to pray for a miracle.

Not a small miracle like finding a parking space, or making it to an appointment on time, or finding something decent in the cafeteria. No. A big miracle: that the cancer would shrivel away… that twenty weeks would be enough… that this wouldn’t be the end.

And I was always uncomfortable with that. Because the thing about miracles is that they’re miracles; they’re almost certainly not going to happen. And what then? What do you do when it turns out that your faith isn’t enough? What do you do when it turns out the prayers of this kid-who-is-play-acting-at-being-a-chaplain aren’t enough?

What do you do when sorrow and hopelessness and sickness remain? What do you do when the water of your tears is still there?

So I would pray for God’s will to be done. I would pray for God’s healing to be present. I would pray in a way that would sound just a little like I might be asking for a miracle, but that didn’t actually quite ask for a miracle. Because what do you do?

I don’t have kids. I’m not a parent. So I can’t imagine… except we can always imagine…

We don’t know how this royal official finds Jesus. We don’t know where this royal official finds Jesus. But he does… and when he does, he collapses in a heap and does the only thing that he can do. He begs.

Please. Come with me to my home in Capernaum where my son is lying on the precipice of the grave. Please. You turned water into wine. Turn sickness into health; turn hopelessness into hope; turn sorrow into joy. Please.

When Jesus was at that wedding, and his mom turned to him and told him that they were out of wine, he was… dismissive. And now, with this father falling apart in front of him, he sounds almost the same, “You people just won’t believe unless there are signs and wonders, will you?”

And John tells us that the royal official says, “Sir, come down before my little boy dies.”

And I will tell you: I don’t buy it. Not for a second. Not at all.  Because I might not have kids… I might not be a parent… so I can’t imagine… except that we can always imagine…

I don’t believe? I don’t believe? I walked for two days to find you! Right now, at this moment, you are the only thing I believe in. Because you are it. You are the last hope I have; you are the last hope he has. He is going to die! And you can do this as easily as you can breathe. So do the thing. Save the life. Bring my son back from the edge of death. Please!

In this moment, the royal official is gone. There is no rank. There is no station. There is no title. I doubt that there is even a name. There is only the anger… and the sadness… and the love that this parent feels for their child.

And I wonder if, in this moment, Jesus sees himself: the God who saw a broken world… covered in the shadow of death…. and laid aside glory… and threw his shields and defenses aside… and crossed the chasm between creator and creation… to turn sorrow into joy, to turn hopelessness into hope, to turn death into life. I wonder if, in this moment, Jesus sees humanity meeting the divine.

Go. Your son will live. And the parent believes. And the parent goes.

The thing about miracles is that they’re miracles; they’re almost certainly not going to happen.

I still don’t like to pray for miracles. But I get it.

There are moments when everything that we present to the world—all of our ranks and stations and titles… when all of our power and privilege and prestige… when all of our shields and defenses—falls away… 

…and we are left with nothing but the anger and the sadness and the love…

…and all that we can do is collapse in a heap and beg for God to sorrow into joy, to turn hopelessness into hope, to turn death into life.

Sometimes those moments happen in hospitals, when the doctors and nurses and most special of specialists have done everything that they can do. Sometimes those moments happen in homes, when conversations and arguments and interventions have done everything that they can do. Sometimes those moments happen in offices, when strategies and plans and spreadsheets have done everything that they can do.

Let’s be honest: those moments can happen anywhere… wherever it’s just us, and Jesus, and the humble little bit of faith that we have… and all we can do is hope that it’s enough.

And the thing about miracles is that they’re miracles; they’re almost certainly not going to happen. But sometimes they do.

I don’t have kids. I’m not a parent. So I can’t imagine… except we can always imagine…

It’s the day after the royal official begged Jesus for help. It’s the day after he was broken down to nothing. And he’s on his way home. And he doesn’t know.

Yesterday, he believed. Yesterday, he was certain. But today…

Today he is on his way home, and doubt has crept in. What if it was just water into wine? What if all of this was for nothing? What if he wasn’t at home, at his son’s bedside, holding his hand when…

And a couple of his slaves find him on the road and tell him the good news. “We were just on our way to Cana to find you! Your son… is better! At one o’clock yesterday afternoon, his fever just… went away!”

And the royal official remembers that was moment when Jesus told him that his son would live. And he believes. And he tells these slaves the story—he tells everyone the story—and his whole household believes.

And I don’t know what happened next. But I hope that royal official took the grace that he had been given and shared it with his household… and his neighbors… and anyone else he could find. I hope that he took whatever resources he could find, and worked tirelessly to bring healing to other people’s children.

Because let’s be honest: there’s no such thing as other people’s children; we are all responsible for each other.

The thing about miracles is that they’re miracles; they’re almost certainly not going to happen. But sometimes they do.

I still don’t like to pray for miracles. But I get it. There are moments when every human hope has been exhausted… when we have been stripped down to our very souls… when all that is left is the anger and the sadness and the love… and all we can do is hope that the humble little bit of faith that we have is enough.

And sometimes it is. So if you’re in that place, and there is nothing left, and you need a miracle, then by all means pray for a miracle.

And the rest of the time…

Look, most of the time we are not lying in a heap before Christ. Most of the time, we are standing here with our ranks and stations and titles… with all of our power and privilege and prestige… with all of our shields and defenses. Most of the time, there are people lying in heaps before us, with pleading faces and outstretched hands, begging for a miracle.

And the reality is that we plant vineyards; it takes cooperation and hard work, but we turn water into wine all the time. And while we might not be able to heal with a word, we can turn some sorrow into joy, and some hopelessness into hope, and some sickness into health. 

And with a whole bunch of humble little bits of faith—with enough faith to give up our ranks and stations and titles, our power and privilege and prestige, our shields and defenses—we might just be able to join Christ in the work of turning death into life.

Because the thing about miracles is that they’re miracles; they’re almost certainly not going to happen. But the actual thing about miracles is that they could happen all the time.

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