A sermon offered at
St. Nathaniel’s Episcopal Church
North Port, FL
January 20, 2013
Epiphany 2C – John 2:1-11
The Gospel story today tells about a wedding that Jesus and his new-found followers are attending. His mother is there as well. This is probably one of the best known – and most dearly loved stories in the gospels. On first reading it’s a happy light-hearted tale. A party is in progress. They run out of wine and that will mean that the celebration will be cut short. But Jesus comes to the rescue after a little prodding from his mother. Reluctant at first, Jesus does end up pulling off a little miracle – turning some water into plenty of wine to sustain the party. And then, I suppose, we can assume that everyone lives happily ever after. A delightful story to be sure – but is there more to it than that?
Putting this story in the context of the church calendar – today is the second Sunday after Epiphany. Generally speaking in this period after Christmas before Lent starts, the the gospel readings focus on revealing who Jesus is. That’s what Epiphany is all about.
After the Christmas stories, we fast forward to the beginning of Jesus ministry – covering a time period of about 30 years. The story of the Wedding at Cana is the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry in John’s gospel. So in looking a bit more closely at this story in this season after Epiphany, it follows that we could ask the question: What can we learn about Jesus in this story – what does the story reveal about who Jesus is?
At this wedding feast we catch a glimpse of Jesus’ kindness — the warmth of his personality. . . And we also learn that he enjoys a good party. Can’t you just imagine Jesus along with his other young friends, joining in the celebration, perhaps singing along with everybody else, enjoying the wine — – – – celebrating with people he knows and loves. This is the totally human Jesus. But at this party we end up seeing much more than Jesus’ humanity. The divine glory of Jesus is unveiled at Cana as well.
Cana isn’t far from Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth, so it’s likely that the wedding Jesus and Mary are attending is that of a close relative or neighbor. Running out of wine will be embarrassing for the newlyweds.
Mary simply tells Jesus, “They have no wine”. At first he replies that his “hour” has not yet come – which would lead us to believe that Jesus is not intending to do anything about her request.
But hospitality is an important aspect of the Middle Eastern culture — and hospitality demands that hosts graciously care for their guests. So, at his mother’s discreet request – Jesus remedies the awkward situation of the shortage of wine.
However — Mary’s words, imply more than the expectation that her son will do a favor for the bride and groom. She’s prompting him to do something out of the ordinary. She knows about his special gifts – she knows who he is. Maybe this is Mary’s way of suggesting that the time has come for Jesus to begin his divine work – his divine mission.
When Jesus responds to his mother’s request – he begins to reveal who he is through this miracle at Cana. It’s a sign of the fulfillment of his hour. Jesus’ death, his resurrection and ascension in glory – his mission of salvation is coming close.
Jesus says: “Fill the jars with water. . . . Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward”.
With these simple instructions to the waiters, Jesus changes about 120 gallons of ordinary water into wine. . . not just ordinary wine but fine wine!. The abundance — the quantity of wine as well as the quality of the wine – points to the way God interacts with the people he loves. This abundance reveals the generosity of God.
An abundance of wine is one of the dominant images in the Old Testament prophets – Abundance is a distinctive expectation of the time when the Messiah will arrive.
The wedding feast at Cana mirrors the Old Testament image of marriage – marriage as an expression of God’s relationship to Israel.
In today’s Reading from Isaiah we heard these words:
“For 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.”
At the wedding feast in Cana — when Jesus changes the water into an abundance of wine — he is revealing that the Messiah has arrived. . . The kingdom of God is at hand.
With this “new wine”, a new era has begun – and in this era, Jesus himself is the bridegroom. By providing wine in great abundance at the marriage feast – Jesus reveals his identity as the divine bridegroom – the Messiah.
So after this closer look into the goings on at the wedding in Cana – I want to ask you this question – Do you believe in miracles? I’d guess that your answer to that question depends somewhat on whether you’ve ever personally witnessed a miracle. . . whether you’ve ever felt the power of the Holy Spirit working a miracle.
I do believe in miracles – and I do see many signs of God’s generosity in our midst. I’ve felt the power of God’s miraculous work here among us at St. Nathaniel’s. For instance, just as Jesus changed the water into an abundance of wine at Cana . . . he just as abundantly . . . just as surely . . . changes bread and wine into his Body and Blood at our Eucharistic table every Sunday.
So keep your eyes open –
look for God’s abundance –
and expect to be a part of the miracle.