Second Sunday after Epiphany 2019
How could I not use this text this year? We’re planning a wedding in our family so to begin the year with the Cana wedding is terrific. However, reading through this story and thinking about wedding planning gives me both laughter and nightmares.
On the one hand there’s the old Johnny Carson interview with an eight-year old boy who had rescued some people from a coal mine. When the boy mentioned that he went to Sunday school, Johnny asked what he was studying. The boy said their last lesson was the wedding at Cana. Asked what he knew about the wedding, the boy replied, “If you’re gonna have a party, invite Jesus.”
On the other hand, wrestling with the rehearsal dinner that we’re hosting, the story brings up every host’s nightmare, horror of horror, the party runs out of something. In this case, the wine. The worst part is, the verb tense John uses: “When the wine gave out…” is an absolute. Meaning it was inevitable! So my late night anxiety is thinking about what will give out inevitably as we host?
This seems an odd event for Jesus to start his ministry. It seems trivial compared with healing people and feeding people and raising someone from the dead. Was running out of wine such an emergency that it required divine intervention? Of course, I might think that as we do our planning. But really, in the grand scheme of things…? Just what is Jesus trying to tell us?
The first thing this story tells us is about Jesus’ character and ministry. On the cusp of his public ministry, with urgent matters to attend, like saving the world, Jesus attends a wedding. We don’t know if he and mom sat on bride side, or groom side. We don’t even know the bride and groom. We just know he was there. And that is key. Jesus’ presence at the wedding in Cana tells us that our life’s milestones matter to Jesus. Weddings and births, graduations and birthdays, anniversaries, funerals, reunions, family gatherings, gatherings with friends, these are holy occasions. God is present in our lives, marking our transitions, remembering the set-backs, rejoicing in the hard-won progress and enhancing the celebration even when we do not note his presence or contribution.
The second thing the story tells us is Jesus acts. Sure we know he acts in feeding multitudes, healing the blind and paralytic, raising Lazarus. Yes he acts in big bold, world redeeming ways. But here, at Cana, he shows he acts in the small, daily exchanges of life. He intervened in a way that brought joy to a party. He kept the party going.
Jesus still acts in life-giving, joy-evoking ways. Yes, Jesus saves the world, and yes, Jesus cares for each of us in the small daily grind of life. As we try to put food on the table, balance our retirement, get to the doctor appointments and making sure there is enough wine and cheese for the friends coming over this weekend, Jesus cares deeply. We know this, because we see him at a wedding where the wine gave out. And no one knew it, because he was there.
The third thing to note about this story is that Jesus is not miserly or calculating. He doesn’t look for who was responsible for not ordering enough wine. He does not ponder if the hosts are worthy to receive fine wine. He doesn’t just turn the water into bottom shelf table wine. His generosity s over the top. He turns all the filled-to-the-brim jugs of water into fine wine.
What would it be like to think like Jesus does here in our lives? What might our church meetings be like if we thought this way? How might our conversations about giving proceed if we thought like Jesus? How might our relationships improve if we stopped worrying about who was at fault and instead met each other’s needs? What if we didn’t do the bare minimum, but sought to go over the top with our compassion and love. It would be a heck of a way to keep the party of Cana going.
This odd small story, spells out how Jesus cares deeply about both the moments and the milestones in our lives. Jesus is not only present in the details and the days we will never forget. He is also acting, each step along our way, giving us signs of his grace upon grace. Celebrating with us, and mourning with us.
Sometimes we might not recognize the source of the unexpected fine wine or the compassionate exchange on the new opportunity or the longed for reconciliation. But the wedding at Cana lets us know we can believe Jesus intervenes on our behalf.
We might hoard our forgiveness, or store up wealth for ourselves or calculate who is worthy of our help, but Jesus does none of that. He pours himself out, fills our cups to the brim, feeds the crowd with baskets left over and forgives those who murder him.
Poet Andrew King encapsulates the blessing of Jesus’ presence in the everyday journey that is life, and the hope that we may share with others, to keep the party going.
Sometimes, through no particular fault
of your own, the accumulated cares
of life build up and the storage vault
that holds your strength and hope goes bare.
Sometimes you gaze in longing east
to see the light of the dawn breaking
but clouds block the sun. And that feast,
that celebration you intended making
of life: sometimes the songs won’t come,
laughter fades, and like wine run dry
the jar of joy stands empty, a hollow drum.
But what if God knows this, and why
Jesus came to the wedding feast that day
was to show that God is with us in those
times of barren dryness, when what may
fill our heart’s jar are only tears, lid closed,
and lost the way to hope’s refreshing well. . .
What if Jesus comes that day expressly to spill
into that void his fresh and living water, telling
darkness to roll back for light, filling
the waiting jar of the empty heart
with Love’s own Presence: finest wine indeed.
Yes, Christ comes that life’s feast may truly start —
Love both source and goal, our deepest need.
So fill us to our brims, life-giving One;
may we be sharers in your earthly story.
May we spill love and joy ‘til that realm has come
that fills this precious world with all your glory.