“That which he might say to you, do.” So it is that Mary instructs the people standing around her and her son at the wedding in Cana. The verb tense of Mary’s words indicate that she is not quite sure what Jesus is going to say, and yet she wants people to follow Jesus’ instruction. It is subjunctive: “that which he might say,” follow that. We are never quite sure, are we, what our children, or our Savior, will say.
Then Jesus performs a miracle; in John’s gospel, a sign. This is the first of his signs, turning water into wine. Let’s talk about this water. There is a lot of it, anywhere from 120 to 180 gallons. The big trash cans that we set out for trash pickup? Imagine six of those … that’s a lot of water. And it was not just any water. The water in these urns was that used for ritual cleansing, for cleaning hands and cups and vessels before worship. It is the water of liturgy, of ceremony, of ritual cleansing to make us clean before we present ourselves to the Lord. In this case, the cleansing took place before entrance to the wedding feast, a feast that would last as long as 7 days. Seven days of feasting and celebrating!
At this particular wedding feast, the hosts (that would have been the bride’s family) ran out of wine. David Lose (workingpreacher.org) reminds us that
in this time and place running out of wine too early isn’t a little embarrassing, it’s a disaster. Wine isn’t just a social lubricant, 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.
Running out of wine would have been a great humiliation; the bridegroom did not live up to the customary and expected hospitality. In addition, this would have been a public announcement that the harvest was minimal; that God’s blessing ran out. (Even for us), running short on God’s blessing is a very big deal. We want to know, day by day and sometimes moment by moment, that we are covered in God’s blessing. We could look at Jesus stepping in and “saving the day” as him being the exact superhero that we need. Jesus turns water into wine and the day is saved. … pan to a commercial …
But Jesus is not a cape-clad superhero, as much as we might want him to be one. Superheroes come not only with capes, and sometimes with nerdy glasses and a phone booth, but with scripted lines and powers of our imagination. Jesus is God in the flesh and well beyond our most creative imaginations.
In this wedding at Cana, Jesus shows us who he is. We already know, or have at least experienced, that Jesus is light. Our Christmas feast celebrates that the light of the world has come. Epiphany shows us that light, helps us be introduced to light in the world. Last week, as we celebrated the baptism of Jesus, we read that “the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’” (Luke 3:22)
To us, the revealing of Jesus is gradual: he comes as a baby, human, in a stable; then He is filled [or revealed to us as filled] with the Holy Spirit at the waters of baptism; he is God’s Son. From this pronouncement, Jesus shows us a sign of who he is. He changes things of this world. Notice that he does not take something bad and turn it into something good. This is not dirty bath water turned into party wine, but the water of a holy ritual that is changed, transformed by Jesus. It is the wine of abundance, of great blessing, and it is not simply “enough.” It is generous beyond measure, the best wine of the banquet, urns and urns of blessings, poured out like wine on the wedding guests. God is lavish with God’s grace.
‘Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.” Jesus performs this sign, this miracle. And then what? His disciples believed in him. And that statement informs us today. When we see God’s grace poured out like fine wine at a wedding feast, we are called to believe in Jesus. We are called to recognize that a new age of God working in the world is at once something to come and something with us now.
“His disciples believed in him.” And I wonder what a community looks like that believes in Jesus. How would we live if we knew that God is with us? How do we live, knowing that God is with us?
This community believes in Jesus. Yes, St. Peter’s is a strong community of faith. We are called to come together, to pray together, and to discern what it is that Jesus might tell us that we are to do. Paul reminds us that within this one Spirit, the Holy Spirit of God, there are many gifts. Paul mentions gifts and services and activities … and one Lord. I am asking us today to build on the fine gifts that we each have. Some in this place sing; others read, teach, arrange flowers, sweep, shovel snow, fold papers, prepare food, raise children, pray, write, serve wine, feed others, cook, take notes, help us laugh, show us in their own unique ways the very light of Christ. Water, something already good, was turned into an abundance of God’s grace, flowing freely among many people. We are called to turn what is good in this place into the same type of outpouring of God’s abundance, that others might also see God’s grace.
Pray with me, friends, that we are able to discern what it is that Jesus might tell, or is telling us, to do. And that what He might say, we have the courage to do. Amen.