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.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.”
His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it.
When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all of our hearts be always acceptable in your sight o Lord, our rock and our redeemer.
Well, we’ve been on a crazy race through the Gospels in the last few weeks, we’ve moved very quickly from Jesus’ birth at Christmas through his childhood, baptism, and now we are here at the wedding at Cana, the first of the signs that John lays out in his Gospel, pointing to Jesus’ divine nature. Now, there’s a lot going on in this Gospel passage, with Jesus, his disciples, and his mother at a wedding, which has been going on for three days. Can you even imagine? Three days of celebration. And then, panic! The wine has run out.
Now, this for us wouldn’t be such a big deal, when my best friend The Rev’d Rosalyn Elm was inducted at the Mohawk Chapel and in all the planning the wine was forgotten for Eucharist, I got to run out to the LCBO. But in this time, there was no quick fix for this. There’s no store to run to, no easy way to get all that wine home, nobody has an SUV with the touchless trunk opener. And worse, this was no ordinary party, this was a wedding, an immensely important and sacred rite, a community celebration of the coming together of two families.
And they have run out of wine. Now, somehow Jesus’ mother knows this has happened, and in typical mother style, has offered her son’s help. And Jesus, like the typical son, doesn’t want to do it at first. But probably giving Him a look, she tells the servants to do what He tells them, and – tada – miracle! Jesus has turned the water jugs into wine.
Now, obviously, we can talk about this miracle as the first sign of many, the first miracle that Jesus performs over the course of His ministry. We can talk about Jesus, and his divine powers, and we can merely marvel at the signs that John has recorded. But I think that this sign, this first miracle, has an important job other than just showing us that Jesus is not your average guy. It is tying Jesus’ birth to Jesus’ death, and the significance of both, and I say this for two reasons.
Firstly, there is the presence of Jesus’ mother. Now, she is unnamed in John’s Gospel, just called Jesus’ mother, and she appears only twice, here at His first miracle and at the foot of His cross for the crucifixion. But the importance isn’t just in her placement in the story, it’s that Jesus, the Logos, the Word made flesh, has a mom. He is a real human being from a particular place and family, with a mom who bosses Him around when they’re at parties. Who voluntells Him to help at the wedding. She connects Him to creation in a human way, to His humble birth, and to His place in an ordinary family.
And she and the wedding remind us that God works through human scenarios that are imperfect and lacking, through humans that are flawed and full of doubts and fears and mistakes.
She stands in the place of us all, turning to Jesus to help. We have messed up, not planned right, or made a miscalculation. Something has gone askew, something has gone wrong.
It’s like Murphy’s Law, what can go wrong will go wrong. And this, this is a big one. Because wine isn’t just a nice pairing to the meal, it’s a sign of the harvest, of God’s abundance, of joy and gladness and hospitality. And so when they run short on wine, they run short on blessing. This is a catastrophe.
But this is the second connection we have to the overarching story of the Messiah, because this isn’t just a miracle like oh Jesus got some great Pinot Noir, this is about the gift of abundance tied to the gift of resurrection.
Now, the details of abundance cannot be overlooked in this text – six water jars, each 20-30 galleons, filled to the brim, with the best wine. Which would have been a total change-up of the traditional way of supplying your guests with wine, who would be expecting that the host would be down to the dregs of their supply and pulling out the worst of their store.
This is an outpouring of a gift beyond human deserving or making. Human resources are at an end, there is no wine left, no joy, no blessing, no abundance, but just like the other miracles John describes, when humans have come to the end of their skills, supplies, or courage, Jesus heals, feeds, comforts amid the storm of life.
And on the cross, where this miracle is pointing, the Word made flesh comes to the end of His earthly life, but there is another miracle there. Life where there is only death. Beginning where there is ending.
This is what our Gospel reading is about this morning. The gift of the wedding is, yes, wine, but it is more, it is abundance where there was only scarcity. And it propels us forward to the hour when the gift will be abundant new life.
It is easy with the way we read our Bibles in tiny sections every week to forget that there is a grander story that is at play here, that there is an arc, a movement to the ministry of Jesus, and our liturgical year. It’s easy to forget how they connect with one another, to just get caught up in the magic of Christmas and the deprivation of Lent.
But this is a wonderful opportunity to sit in the tension of the story, moving from one turning point to the next, from the birth to the cross; and to really look at the importance of the whole.
Jesus was born a humble babe in a manger, to ordinary parents, born in a stable in the midst of miracle. Here, he is both the child of that mother, and the Son of God who shows the gift of abundance in the midst of great lack.
This Gospel reading is a reminder that whenever Jesus reveals His divinity, He is simultaneously revealing something about His humanity. And in this sign of water into wine, we might experience something of ourselves.
That miracles are not as far away as we think. That God, working in ordinary people can move mountains, can change sorrow into joy.
That every moment we live in Jesus, we have the chance to live in the dance of the divine in and amongst creation. Bread and wine can bear Christ’s body and blood. An ordinary hug can convey unbounded love and blessing. The smallest donation of food or money can tip the balance between scarcity and abundance. A simple act of kindness can make all the difference in the world. The tiniest bit of light can shine in the darkest of places.
With God, anything is possible. And so, my brothers and sisters in Christ, as we gather to share in the bread and wine, let us be filled with that gift of abundance, that we may spread it, share it, enjoy it, and use it.