Message from Our Pastor
Today we find ourselves back in John’s gospel. The scene is Jesus’s first miracle, although John simply calls it a sign. What do you suppose is the epiphany found in water, wine and a wedding?
Well, let’s start at the beginning, as I understand this is a very good place to start. There is a wedding in Cana of Galilee. Now this is a little misleading, as the miracle occurs not at the wedding, but at the party that follows. We call this the reception. You have all been to weddings, I presume, and the receptions that follow, yes? They are two very different events. There is a reverence and refined nature observed in the wedding ceremony. Receptions, however, are often anything but reverent and refined. At the wedding we invoke God’s presence. At the reception, well, let’s just say that after the blessing of the meal, God is often free to leave the building.
And yet, where is it we find God in today’s gospel? At the reception.
What does this say about God? It says to me that God intends to be part of our entire lives. Not just the formal religious times of prayer and worship, but also the wild, crazy, and irreverent times and places of life. There is another significant piece to the fact that we first witness Jesus in action at a wedding. God understands his relationship with us to be a marriage, in which we are the bride and he is the bridegroom. We heard this in the reading from Isaiah. “As a young man marries a young woman, so shall your builder marry you; and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” It’s not by accident Jesus first courts us at a wedding, for this event is truly a foretaste of the wedding feast that is to come.
Here we are with friends and family, having a good time, and just when the real party is getting started, we are broadsided with a problem, a big problem. There is no wine.
The steward leads us to believe the wine has run out, not that there never was any wine. But it doesn’t really matter how the problem came about, the fact is, there is a lack of drink, and when the people find out, they are not going to be happy.
How many times has this scenario played out in our lives? We’re going along, everything is great, going as planned, and then, wham! We are stopped dead in our tracks by some unexpected party-crashing event: an illness, a job loss, a pandemic, a distressed relationship, the aging process, the death of a loved one, a dashed dream, an unexpected not in the budget expense.
In the gospel, Mary knows where to turn for the solution. But, Jesus doesn’t seem to be very willing to come to the rescue. In this brief altercation between mother and son, we learn God is not a magician, who performs on command. Nor is God a court jester, who can be employed to keep the party going. Nor is God some type of divine duct tape, to fix everything, thereby relieving us of consequences from poor planning or bad decisions. We must be careful we do not expect God to be our magic wand or genie. Mary seems to know and understand all of this, but she does that which is in her power, she turns the problem over to Jesus. Whatever he decides, the servants are to respect. And, in the end, Jesus responds. The revelation is that when placed at God’s feet, God always addresses what is lacking in our lives. And, God always does so with abundant, filled-to-the-brim, grace.
What this grace looks like, and how it is experienced, varies. But, this is always true; the grace with which God intercedes is transformative. God takes what is ordinary and transforms it into something totally unexpected, often out of character. We may not enjoy our results as much as the guests enjoyed the wine at the wedding reception, but we can be sure that when God intercedes, the unexpected will happen.
Let me point out, God’s goodness, depicted as succulent wine filled to brim and overflowing, is not a random metaphor. Listen to this passage from Amos: “ ‘The time is surely coming,’ says the Lord, ‘when the one who plows shall overtake the one who reaps, and the treader of grapes the one who sows the seed. The mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it. I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.’ ”
And these verses from Joel: “On that day the mountains shall drip sweet wine, the hills shall flow with milk, and all the stream beds of Judah shall flow with water; a fountain shall come forth from the house of the Lord and water the Wadi.”
Long before the wedding feast in Cana took place, scripture established that an abundance of wine would be a sign of the joyous arrival of God’s new age. And, in today’s gospel lesson, God’s word has taken on flesh.
At the end of the gospel reading, it says the disciples believed in Jesus. This sign, this miracle, confirms for the disciples that Jesus is, indeed, Emmanuel, God with us.
A new day has dawned, the third day notes John. And, the significance of the third day? On the third day, Jesus rose again. From that moment on, nothing remained as it was. Just as after this first sign, nothing would again be the same: not for the disciples, not for Mary, not for Jesus, not for all of Cana and beyond, not for you, not for me.
So, go ahead, live your life, be about your business, enjoy the party. When the time comes that you are stopped in your tracks by whatever problem or issue arises, don’t panic.
It’s precisely these moments for which God waits to reveal himself, and his abundant grace and love. Place your problems into the hands of Jesus. Expect there to be a response. Remember the grace you experience, here and now, is only a foretaste of the wedding feast yet to come. Amen.