Second Weekend After Epiphany (C/RCL) “Water Into Wine”
January 16-17, 2016
Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Manasquan, NJ
We don’t usually hear chuckles during the Prayers of the Church, but we did a few weeks ago when one of the petitions referred to those who are “happily single.” It wasn’t a slam of marriage; it was just an acknowledgement that not everyone who’s single is looking to change that .
The wedding at Cana in Galilee may be the most famous one on the books, even though the bride and groom are both anonymous, along with everyone else in the story except for Jesus. You might say, “Well, Mary’s not anonymous!” but she’s actually never called by name. She’s referred to simply as “the mother of Jesus,” here and at the foot of the cross, the only 2 scenes from the Fourth Gospel in which she appears. (Calling someone “the mother of whatever-the-son’s-name-was” was complementary, two thousand years ago, because the best and proudest thing a woman could do in those days was to give birth to a son.)
If there hadn’t been a problem at that wedding in Cana we wouldn’t be talking about it. I’ve been performing weddings long enough to have a pretty good list of things that could go wrong and have gone wrong!
· A power outage because of the superstorm: no electricity meant no organ and no lights for the wedding that occurred the week that Sandy struck. Thanks to our little portable generator, though, and a very long extension cord that Pastor Mark connected to it, Eric was able to play the electronic keyboard for the bride to process in and for the bride and groom to recess out.
· Other flies in the wedding ointment:
· A tornado watch in the immediate vicinity of a backyard wedding.
· A summer thunderstorm that sucked up water from Barnegat Bay and, on its way to the ocean, drenched the Lavallette Gazebo, causing the dripping pastor to hurriedly lead the couple in their exchange of vows and then hand off the very damp wedding homily, suggesting they read it at the reception.
· A bride with a very fair complexion who went to the beach 2 days before the wedding to touch up her tan and instead got sun poisoning, .
· A local fish kill incident, the week of a beach wedding.
· A lack of propane tanks to fuel the heaters at an outdoor tent reception on a Colorado evening that put frost on the pumpkin by morning.
Weather worries are really the least of people’s wedding troubles, though. Physical illness or injury of loved ones is hard, but it’s the bumps in the road with relationships that are most painful.
None of that, of course, was the issue at the wedding at Cana. The problem of the bride and groom there was -- a dry bar. ‘Sounds kind of silly, doesn’t it?? So what?? “Go home and get a Bud out of the fridge if you need another one that badly.” “Get your priorities straight!” Let’s just say it was a bigger deal then than it would be now. We’re not talking an evening reception, beginning with cocktail hour at 5 and ending with the last dance at 10 or 11. We’re talking a party that lasted a full week, to which everyone in town was invited, for which a family saved for years and years and years. The poor didn’t usually drink wine – but they sure expected to at a wedding. The supply of wine or lack thereof reflected either a kind or harsh light on the hosts. Running out would be an event that would haunt the families, the bride and groom, for a long time. It would be a failure of hospitality in a culturethat considered hospitality a sacred obligation.
The mother of Jesus wanted to save the hosts, the bridal couple, from that embarrassment, that pain. Somehow she knew her Son had power to prevent that shame. She pointedly says to Him,
“They have no wine.” (John 2:3)
Does He answer, “Sure, Mom, no worries. I’ll fix it!”? No. Jesus’ answer sounds downright curt to our modern ears:
“Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” (John 2:4)
His mother isn’t dissuaded, though. She ploughs right ahead and tells the wait staff:
“Do whatever He tells you.” (John 2:5)
Her persistence reminds me of the Canaanite woman who asked Jesus to heal her daughter and wouldn’t take no for an answer. Remember? Jesus rebuffed her with:
“It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly. (Matthew 15:25-28)
There’s another story about a royal official who lived in Cana who begged Jesus to go to his house and heal his son who was close to death. Jesus answered unenthusiastically:
“Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” The official [persisting….] said to him, “Sir, come down before my little boy dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” (John 4:48-50)
And he did.
So [the official] himself believed, along with his whole household. Now this was the second sign that Jesus did after coming from Judea to Galilee. (John 4:53b-54)
The first sign, of course, that Jesus performed was changing water into wine at the wedding at Cana.
It’s only natural for us to wonder, “Weren’t there any bigger crises in town that day than a final flask of wedding wine emptied?” What about the sick who needed healing and the hungry who needed bread and the dead who needed raising?? Well, Jesus would get to those things, too, in due time. He would heal plenty of the ill, including the son of that royal official. He would feed the five-thousand-plus (John 6:1-14). He would set on his feet the paralytic who hadn’t walked in 38 years (John 5:8-9). He would give sight to the man born blind (John 9:1-12). The final of 7 signs the Lord would perform in the Fourth Gospel is the raising of Lazarus, which foreshadowed His own resurrection. The signs are more than miracles; they point beyond themselves to the identity of the One who performs them. They are intended to provoke faith. And yet, only through the eyes of faith can any of those signs become a signpost pointing to the Christ, the Anointed One, the Savior.
At Cana the wine is a sign of the salvation Jesus brings and of the joy that goes along with it! People back then loved to eat and drink as much as we do. Celebrations always included feasting. Abundanza! God’s grace saturated that wedding with 120 gallons of wine. It wasn’t just any wine either. It was exquisite wine, like none the head steward had ever tasted. He mistakenly thought the groom had provided it and so he marveled, “You have kept the good wine until now.” (John 2:10)
The mother of Jesus, through her intervention, is an important link in the liquid supply chain of this story. There is something for us to learn here about intercession:
“Don’t be too timid to ask. Be bold and name the need.”
There’s more good advice here, too:
“Do whatever He tells you.”
One of the things Jesus tells us is, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” So we gather today in His name. We take and bless the bread and cup. We repeat His words:
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood, shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sins.”
That is the heart of our salvation and Jesus’ glorification: His saving death on the cross to take away the sin of the world. More personally, the source of joy bubbling up in my heart is the saving death of Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away my sin.
Here’s something for us to turn over in our hearts this week:
“…to believe in Jesus as the Christ is to live a life within a life. Nothing is changed but everything is. What had been water is wine.”1
Do we recognize the “signs” of our Lord’s presence among us? Are those signs deepening our faith? Are we boldly naming the needs in our lives or are we too timid to voice them? Are we doing whatever He tells us? Can we see the God-changes that already are and discerning the ones that can be? Has the water become wine without my realizing it? Amen.
1Gerard Sloyan, John (Interpretation; Atlanta: John Knox, 1988), p. 37.
Pastor Mary Virginia Farnham