GOSPEL: John 2:1-11
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine…” (Read the whole passage)
Water into Wine.
It is more than just the high point of the story today. The water follows us from last week. We just came from the baptism of Jesus last Sunday. A story that came after the Epiphany story, the one about the wisemen bringing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Christ-child. Feels like ages ago doesn’t it?
By now we can see the Epiphany theme beginning to emerge. The star, the sign that the Magi followed revealed to them the divine king of Israel, the Messiah born to save. And as Jesus went down into the waters, the heavens broke open and the sign of the spirit descending upon Jesus and the thundering voice from heaven revealed again the Messiah, the Beloved Son of God.
And today, the water into wine again reveals the Messiah, the Christ to the folks at the wedding of Cana in Galilee.
But is this story *just* about how God likes a good party? A quaint almost movie-script like story (think My Big Fat Hebrew Wedding) about a wedding gone wrong, a bickering family and a happy ending.
Of course, we know that there is always more to the story… and knowing where we are in the bigger over-arching story that begins in Advent and ends on Christ the King Sunday, and brings us through the birth, baptism, ministry, transfiguration, temptation, teaching, preaching, arrest, trial, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus… knowing where we are in that story gives us all kinds of clues about what is happing, and today, it gives us some clues about what is happening at that wedding in Cana of Galilee.
Think back to the last wedding that you attending. Two sets of families and friends gathering together in fancy clothes and elegant decor to bear witness to the public and formal joining together of a couple in relationship. And the ceremony or liturgy followed by a party… a party full of its own expectation and traditions. In fact, the party is often the most important part of the day. The entrance of the couple, the bad jokes told by the M.C., the speeches and dances. And of course the food and drink.
Weddings are events full of tradition and expectation, full of things that must be done just so and the right way… Because tied up in those traditions and expectations are the hopes and dreams of family and community. Somewhere in the hidden reaches our minds and hearts is the sense that the wedding is an omen for the future marriage.
The wedding at Cana of Galilee was no different of course. Sure the details of the traditions vary from what we know, but the expectations are the same. The wedding represented the hopes and dreams of the community. A wedding was a sign of God’s blessing for a marriage, for the joining to two families. Weddings were expected to be lavish 8 day affairs of celebration, of food and drink in abundance. The Bride groom was expected to spare no expense. The Father of the bride should be functionally broke by the end.
And so on only the 3rd day of wedding the wine runs out… this is so much more than an embarrassing wedding planning error. It is sign of what is to come. It is the failure or inability of the families of the Bride and Groom to properly celebrate, the is the failure of the entire community. It is the blessings and abundance of God being withheld. A failed wedding would surely mean a disappointing, failing and infertile marriage.
But is it all that surprising? Cana was a nothing town in the middle of a backwater province of the Roman Empire, far from being anything important. The failure of this wedding was just another omen for the community as whole. The world and God had forgotten this place… and because of it they would continue to not be enough, to shrivel up and die, to be forgotten and ignored. To be of no importance in the grand scheme of things.
To our ears, the wedding of Cana probably sounds familiar… it probably feels familiar. We see the omens and signs of the wine running out all around us. Economic worries, insecure jobs and incomes, climate change and environmental worries, political chaos to our south and across the Atlantic. More locally, government cuts, private sector restructuring, failing infrastructure. Stressed and burned-out families, struggling businesses, fraying neighbourhoods, endless personal to-do lists that never seem to check off much in the bottom half.
And of course here in church’s and communities of faith. Budget stresses, shifting attendance, aging demographics, difficulty finding volunteers and leaders take on the work of being church together.
Our wine feels like it is running out too… we are rationing, we are diluting it, we are hoping to limp along a little further. But the signs and omens are there, the party is going to come to an end, and God’s blessing for us feels like it is being withheld. Day 1 of the party, remember that day? Back when everything was great, everyone was happy, there was more than enough for everyone. Too bad we can’t go back to that day.
And of course our wine running out here is more than just bad planning. It feels like we have failed. Failed our communities and families, failed to keep up our end of bargain, failed to maintain the abundance of our parents and grandparents, we have lost what we remember from our youth… and what we have now feels as though it is dying. At least, that is what we think the wine running out means, that is what imagine.
But Mary sees something different.
Mary the mother of Jesus looks around the wedding of Cana and sees the same omens and signs that we see. The wine is running out far too early, and this is not good.
“They have no wine,” she says to her son.
Jesus isn’t into listening to his mother in this moment… I am sure we get the feeling.
But Mary isn’t talking to her son.
Mary has been here before. She has been surrounded by the signs and omens of dying in a world that barely even notices you are there. And Mary has lived through it. She has found herself pregnant out of wedlock, found no room in the inn, escaped to Egypt from murderous soldiers. She knows what the signs and omens of dying are and what they mean.
But she has also been visited by an Angel, given birth in a stable, been found by Magi bearing gifts and heard the voice of God thunder over the waters, thunder over her son.
And in the signs and omen of dying at the Wedding of Cana, Mary also sees the promise of God in flesh. The Messiah come to save.
Mary is not some interfering parent in this moment. She is a prophet, a prophet who knows that the promises of God are true. That the only hope in the world, the only hope in all creation for the people of Cana is that same promise of God that has been spoken by angels, and magi and shepherds and thunder from heaven.
So ignoring her son’s reticence and speaking from her experience, she tells the servants,
“Do whatever he tells you”
And there in the midst of the signs and omens of death in Cana, the blessing of God does not leave the party, but arrives.
From the waters that birthed creation, from the baptismal waters of the New Creation in Christ, Jesus brings the wedding of Cana back to life. Jesus’s first miracle in the Gospel of John is nothing less than resurrection itself.
Because wherever death exists in our world, wherever there is dying, no matter how big or small, Christ is there bringing new life.
And all of a sudden the hope and promise of a Wedding Cana, the signs and omens tell a different story. They speak of God’s rich and abundance blessing given to a couple, to two families, to a community in the middle of forgotten nowhere… God’s promise of new life is even for Cana.
God’s promise of new life is even for us.
Even in the midst of all the omens and signs of dying around us, God’s promises have come for us too. God’s promise is attending our party, bringing abundant, new life.
And just like Mary, God has been showing up and giving us the signs and omens all along.
As we drown in waters of sin and death, God raises us to new life in Christ.
As we come needing forgiveness and mercy, the spirit proclaims us forgiven and beloved.
As the world declares us dead and forgotten, Jesus comes to us with Good News of the Kingdom.
As life leaves us so often hungry and alone, the Father gathers us next to brothers and sisters at the table of the Lord.
As we so often only see the signs and omens of death, the Messiah brings abundant new life in the most surprising of places…
in water turned into wine.