A Sermon Preached at Christ the King Chapel, CFB Suffield, Crown Village of Ralston, AB, 20 January, 2013
Readings For the Second Sunday After Epiphany, Proper 2, Lectionary Year C: Isaiah 62:1-5, Psalm 36:5-10, 1 Corinthians 12:1011, John 2:1-11
"Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana in Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him." (John 2:10).
A wedding is where all sorts of human hopes and dreams come together. There bride wants to be beautiful and wants the day to be magical. The groom hopes he won't embarrass himself. The newlyweds, whether they are quite new at this or have been together a while, sense that this will be their entry, as one couple I know and love put it, into "happily ever after". The parents on both sides hope for the things all parents want out of weddings - happiness for their children, grandchildren for themselves, a happy family gathering, and for all the mundane arrangements of the day to go as planned, especially if they have paid for these arrangements! And God forbid that anything should go wrong or run out. The wedding, in short, is life, with all its hopes and fears, and here, in the midst of this wedding at the start of John's Gospel, is Jesus, with his mother and disciples, in the midst of life.
Here is Jesus, and the wine has run out. And what follows is a story (not surprisingly, much beloved of soldiers) where Jesus saves the day by turning the water into wine. Theologians and biblical scholars tell us that this act is not a miracle, but rather, in the language of the Fourth Gospel, a "sign". John sums up the story by saying that the point of this story is for Jesus to "reveal his glory", to show himself as the Son of God and to give the disciples a reason to believe in him. The timing of this story in the lectionary and life of the Church is the season of Epiphany, a time when we are reminded of the identity and mission of the one born at Christmas. Which is all well and good, I suppose, but a little cold and abstract as well. What about us, about we who go to weddings and family gatherings and all the other events that mark our full and busy lives, with all our hopes and fears? What hope does the revelation of the Son's glory give us?
This is a fair question, and to answer it we need to remind ourselves that this story does not happen on a far mountain top, or in a boat on a stormy lake, but at a wedding, in the midst of life. It may not seem that Jesus in this story has much interest in the life going on around him. He shows little sympathy for the unfortunate newlyweds ("Woman, what concern is that to you and me" Jn 2: ) as if indifferent to their poor choice of a wedding planner. I can even imagine him rolling as eyes as his mother speaks to the servants, no doubt pointing to him proudly as she does, but he acts, for whatever reason, and there is wine, crazy amounts of wine, and it is better than anyone in their right mind would expect at this stage of proceedings. And it may seem like a small thing, wine, even good wine, given that no lepers are healed or cripples restored, but the abundance of wine points to the larger promise that Jesus makes later in this gospel, that he has come so his followers may have life, and have it abundantly (Jn 10:10).
We who are in the midst of life are haunted by scarcity. We may have the sense to plan adequately, for a wedding feast, but we know that other things are beyond our control and may give out. There may not be enough time, enough meaning, enough love, or self respect, or dignity. We may not know it as newlyweds, when life is full of potential, but for those of us old enough to watch the newlyweds heading for their happily ever after, we know that the odds are against them, and we fear for them. And there is Jesus, the Son of God, there in the midst of our lives, pouring out himself, careless of the cost, that we may have true and abundant life. This sign at the wedding of Cana is the first of his signs. The last sign in John's gospel will be given at the cross, where Jesus goes to pour himself out for us, that we may have life, and have it abundantly. Amen.