Epiphany 2C 2019

Epiphany 2C 2019

Texts:

Isaiah 62:1-5
Psalm 36: 5-10
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
John 2:1-11

“Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine…But you have kept the good wine until now.”  John 2:10

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be always acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.  Amen. 

In our gospel reading this morning, have you ever wondered whose wedding this was? I have. I wonder if this was just a friend or perhaps the wedding of a family member of Jesus.  Was this Mary’s niece or Joseph’s nephew getting married? It’s not important really, I’m just curious who Jesus saved from a major social faux pax.

Weddings were major happenings in a town.  In a difficult time when life could be brutal, weddings were a source of joy, a respite from the daily grind of Roman occupation, servitude and poverty. And so weddings were important, not just to the two families involved but to the entire community.

In Jesus’ time a wedding reception lasted not one evening but rather one week. Marriage was a legal agreement between two families.  The marriage rite itself was a procession from the bride’s home to the bridegroom’s home where the marriage agreement was signed by the two senior male relatives of the couple.  After the agreement was signed a week-long party ensued. 

Not just friends, but whole villages were invited and it was the responsibility of the bride’s family to make sure that there was enough food, drink, and entertainment for the party to continue for the entire seven days. 

To not have this happen would be a social catastrophe for the family, possibly reflecting on and making it more difficult for the bride’s family to marry off any other daughters.  To run out of wine, the hallmark of the party, would be a source of shame for the family for generations.

We are told that on the third day Jesus’ mother, who is never mentioned by name in John’s gospel, notices that the wine has run out.  She knows just the person to deal with the situation.  She goes to Jesus and tells him about the wine and his response was, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me?  My hour has not yet come.”  This isn’t a snarky rebuke to Mary.  Jesus calls her “woman” again as she stands at the foot of the cross and is given over to John’s care.  This was an acceptable way to address her.

Whenever John mentions Jesus’ hour, he is referring to the time of crucifixion and resurrection, the time of Jesus’ glorification being made known.  Jesus knows that to do what his mother is asking of him will start his walk to the cross.  But Jesus’ ministry has started and Jesus chooses to act on his mother’s concern. 

There are six empty jars standing nearby that were normally used for washing during the rites of purification.  He tells the servants to fill the jars with water.  Each jar held between 25 to 30 gallons, so we are talking about 150-180 gallons of water, a huge amount, an amount large enough to wash the whole community. 

 Jesus tells the servants to take the water that had turned to wine to the wine steward.  The wine steward wasn’t part of the interchange between Mary, Jesus and the servants.  He didn’t know what Jesus had just done.  When he tastes the wine the servants brought to him he was astounded how good it was, better than anything that had been served up until that moment. 

This wasn’t just some generic or box wine, this wasn’t Boone’s  Farm Apple wine or Mogan David, this wine was the best that one could offer.  Think of a 1947 Chateau Lafite Rothschild, considered one of the finest wines ever made.  That is the type of quality we are talking about. 

The Steward is amazed and tells the groom, “Wow!  Most people serve the good stuff first, and then when the party goers are past the point of caring about or being able to recognize the quality, the cheap wine is brought out.  But with you, the wine just keeps getting better!”  This is totally unexpected. 

In my first year of seminary, I organized a trip for the new students through the wine country of Missouri.  There are so many wineries in this area that it is called the Rhine of Missouri.  It was a beautiful October day and we went to many of the wineries overlooking the Missouri River. 

When we got to the small town of Washington we sat under a pavilion in a city park overlooking the river and had a picnic.  One of my classmates asked me what kind of wine we Episcopalians use for communion.  I replied that the church I attended at the time used, “the good stuff.”  We used Sheffield Port.

This student, coming from a much lower liturgical faith tradition said to me, “Oh! Our good stuff is Welches, but one time we ran out and had to bless Juicy Juice and use that instead.” 

Juicy Juice, Sheffield port.  Boone’s Farm or a 947 Chateau Lafite Rothschild.  Good wine, the finest wine you can imagine.  You get the idea.  This becomes Jesus’ first miracle. 

I came across a definition of a miracle the other day that I just loved.  A miracle in the Jewish tradition is something that makes us go, “WOW!”  It is something that engenders awe and mystery. 

But the point really isn’t about the miracle that occurred.  If we get side tracked by the miracle we miss what the miracle points to, and miracles always point to something or someone else.  Miracles always reveal a deeper reality; they always tell us something about God.

What is revealed about God in this first miracle is the abundance, the extravagance, the joy, the grace upon grace that we are showered with.  Jesus is saying, “You think this is good?  Just wait.  Life with me will get better and better!”

Rick Fry, an Episcopal priest, writes that this miracle is “a panoramic vision of blessing stretching from Cana to Kingdom Come.”

This is also, ultimately, a miracle of hope.  As I was thinking about this text all week I got to wondering; what if we are the empty jars?  What happens if we are the jars, empty, tired, just hanging around the banquet of life?

This story tells us that as we are empty, so we will be filled.  And not just filled with some ordinary, everyday, odorless, colorless, tasteless substance. 

This story tells us that when we stand empty God will fill us with the best that Jesus has to offer.  We are told that as we are filled with Jesus we will be transformed, that our lives and what we have to offer will go from the ordinary to the extraordinary.

When we think we have run out of what is good, Jesus tells us to hold on because the best is yet to come and we will have more to offer than we thought possible.

This miracle was not a private affair.  It was done in public, although many at the wedding didn’t know about it.  It benefitted all those in attendance whether they saw it or not, whether they believed it or not, whether they understood it or not.

The revelation of God to the world in the person of Jesus wasn’t just a message for those at the wedding in Cana; it is a message for today; in fact, it is a message for all time. 

It is time for us to claim the blessing of Cana as we look to the future.  It is time to understand that God promises to take us and fill us with abundance and joy.  As we look towards St. Luke’s future it is time to believe that best is yet to come.

Amen.

 

 

Robin Whittington