One of Jesus’s first incredible acts was to save the day at a wedding reception. But that amazing demonstration not only inspires his followers–it becomes a symbol of our own joy to come. By the Rev. Brad Mullis
Click each link below to read the scripture for January 17, 2016
Today we gather to celebrate the weekly feast of the Lord’s resurrection. It’s God’s party. And most everyone I know loves a good party. Christians, and I suspect Episcopalians in particular, are no exception. We Trinity folk sure do. On Friday night, undeterred by the weather, we put on a party for over two hundred souls to raise some money for the Y and for Yokefellow Ministries. It was a tremendous spread and another tremendous example of teamwork. There was all manner of food and beverage, and I thought the oysters were terrific. Bud Martin and the Misty River Band kept things lively with their music, and everyone seemed to have a grand time. Thanks to you all for the gifts you brought to the fifteenth annual oyster roast. It’s all of us working together that makes such a party. And in a couple of weeks we’ll have a Soup-er Sunday party, then a Shrove Tuesday pancake supper, and then we won’t party until Easter.
We’ve had some close calls in the past as far as the food holding out. One year, Rowdy had to dash out mid-roast to buy some Brunswick stew to keep the crockpots full, and a few years ago, there were repeated runs for more beverage. To keep the event going, for the night, and for the long haul, we need to be sure there’s plenty of everything.
But, any embarrassment we might have suffered had we run out of anything pales in comparison to the disgrace a wedding host would have experienced in Jesus’ time.
Early in John’s gospel, Jesus and his friends went to a wedding. Now, the folks who are experts on what society was like in those days make it real clear that running out of wine at a wedding was not a minor social inconvenience. It was not like, “Well, the wine’s gone, so we have to switch to scotch.” Instead, this was a major breach of the demands of hospitality; it was a disgrace and it would be devastating for the couple. Everywhere they went, for the rest of their married life, they would be known, ridiculed, and talked about. The strain on their life together would be enormous. (After all, there wasn’t that much to talk about in Cana of Galilee.)
But that’s exactly what happened. Jesus and the disciples are there in Cana enjoying the wedding. There is music, dancing, and great food. People are hugging, smiling, and laughing. But at the reception, the wine runs out.
Now one early tradition claims that Jesus’ mother Mary was the groom’s aunt, but whether that’s the case or not, she certainly acts as though she’s been appointed to make sure that everything goes right. “They’re out of wine!” she cries. In other words, “Don’t just stand there, do something.”
Well, after a strange exchange between them, Jesus does do something. As you heard, Jesus changes water into wine. A whole lot of water into a whole lot of wine. And the wine steward judges this new wine to be better than the wine they just ran out of. The gospel writer calls this the first of the signs to reveal the glory of Jesus and adds, “and the disciples believed in him.”
We can’t miss the obvious fact that this is a miracle about abundance and extravagance. We hear about an enormous amount of wine – twenty to thirty gallons per jar for six jars – way too much and by any standard extravagant. A clear example of the grace God bestows on us, in such abundance, beyond anything we should ever expect or could ever deserve. It’s a message that God wants us to celebrate life, to enjoy the company of one another as companions engaged in this great adventure called life.
This is also obviously a miracle of transformation and new possibilities. In Cana, Jesus made it possible for the wine of celebration to continue flowing. This reminds us of a central symbol of our faith: Jesus providing for us the wine of a whole new creation that continues to sustain us. Recounting the story of Jesus changing water into wine was John’s way of showing that he had come to do nothing less than transform the common into the holy.
In Christ we learn about the power of God to: transform the incomplete into the whole; transform the weaker into the stronger; transform the ordinary into the precious; transform the despised into the beloved; transform the tasteless into that which gives joy to the heart; transform what we are into what we can become. (The Rev. Ken Kesselus)
Remember, the question we ask of all gospel lessons in Epiphany is “who is Jesus?” So what is revealed about Jesus in this story, so early in John’s gospel? In the words of Marcus Borg, “It is the author’s way of saying, `The story of Jesus is about a wedding feast at which the wine never runs out.’” It’s about a party that never ends.
It is worth remembering that Jesus here in his first miracle brought the party to others. It was not about himself. It was as others tasted God’s presence and the reign of God that the party happened. And we must also know that while many on our planet languish and suffer, the great party of God remains
but a foretaste of the heavenly banquet.
Life is God’s party. And each of us is called to bring our gifts to the party. And as Paul tells us today, we’re each given gifts for the good of the whole. So often in church it seems that we can’t do something because we don’t have enough money or enough hands to help. Sometimes we wonder what we’ll do. There’s a saying, and it’s true, that the church is always only a generation from extinction. But again and again God turns that watery fear into the joyous hope of fine wine. It happens when new hands reach out to help in ministry, new generosity manifests itself in a stronger financial commitment, or when a new baby is offered for baptism.
Jesus says, “when you come to me – when you bring me what you have, I will transform it – and it will be a banquet. It will be a wedding feast; you will be wedded to me and to all humanity.” (The Rt. Rev. G. Porter Taylor) And at this wedding feast the wine never runs out. So join in that feast. Taste and see the unending goodness of the Lord.