On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.
Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.
When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine."
And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what concern is that to you and to me My hour has not yet come."
His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."
Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.
Jesus said to them, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim.
Jesus said to them, "Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward."
So they took it.
When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom
and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now."
Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
When I started here at our church a little more than 8 years ago, one thing (amongst many) that I was completely unprepared for were the children’s church services that we do at our Rainbow Christian Preschool every week. I had worked with teenagers, young adults, even some years with 4th and 5th graders but never 3 and 4 year olds. I had no idea how it would go and I was not exactly eager or enthusiastic about finding out. I reached out to the teachers, the staff at Rainbow and several pastors in the neighborhood that had preschools connected to their churches to find out what I was supposed to do. A lot of people gave me great advice, ideas, encouragement and suggestions. I was directed to some great resources, websites and others to speak with,
The worst advice, the one thing that I still remember hating and going “uh, I don’t think so” has to do with today’s gospel reading about the Wedding at Cana. It was the big example that people told me to do. All you needed to show the children what happened there in Cana all those centuries ago was a few glass jars and a packet or two of red Kool aid. You could tell the story and then when the big moment came, the transition of water into wine, all you had to do was distract the kids for a second and stir in your Kool aid powder. If you were quick enough and your distraction was good enough, you could turn water into wine and they would not even notice your little helper. It would turn the water a color close enough to wine and the kids would all ooh and ahh over the miracle they just saw.
I guess I just never drank the kool aid on this one. It never felt quite right to me. Taking this first miracle in John’s Gospel and making it seem like little more than a magic trick seemed deceitful and just a bad way to start teaching people about God. I get that it’s a cool thing to see, I understand that your average or even above average 3 year old is not well versed in the social and political landscape of the early 1st century, that kindergarteners do not know the background, structure and context of John’s Gospel particularly well. At the same time, there is so much more than a magic trick going on here. John’s entire Gospel only contains 7 miracles presented to show people the evidence that Jesus is the messiah, the word of God made Flesh and dwelling amongst us. Each one is very important, revealing something about God and showing us evidence that Jesus is God with us,
We sang the first noel for our opening hymn. I made that choice because today’s reading is basically an Epiphany moment in John’s Gospel. There are several epiphanies in Johm, times when the world starts to figure out who exactly it was born on Christmas. In many ways, it’s the focus of the book. In Matthew, this happens when the kings, astronomers or magi follow the star and bring the new born Christ gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh (symbolizing that Christ is king, to be worshipped and will suffer). In John’s Gospel, an epiphany happens here at this wedding in Cana, Jesus first followers and family realize that Christ is King, to be worshipped and will suffer (a lot of people note that turning water into wine happens on the third day, the same amount of time that it will take Jesus to turn death into life).
This wedding celebration is held a few quick days after Jesus promised his new followers that they would see great things. They are the ones who would open their eyes to come and see and then open their mouths to witness, testify and convert others. In this miracle, Jesus revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. This is the first of those great things they would see.
This first miracle certainly mattered a lot to the wedding hosts. In this time, throwing a wedding feast was caring for a community and your guests. Wine was central to this, It wasn’t just social lubricant or a party enhancer. Wine was a sign of blessing, abundance and harvest. To run out of wine was a very big deal. Do God’s blessings run out, no, well neither does the wine. Jesus bails out the hosts of this wedding. To be honest it wasn’t exactly global news. This is a very local story, one that would be covered by the ancient equilivant of a local paper or regional tv station, not the NY Times, wall street journal or CNN.
Even the actual work is not that great. I mean, in the events leading up to the exodus, the freedom from slavery for the people of Israel, Moses and Aaron turn all the water in Egypt to blood. I could come close to replicating this with kool aid and im sure most magicians could easily do this as a trick with a few specially prepared props. All Jesus does here is changes a few pails of water into wine, The greatness in this story is the result, this local act of sympathy and kindness reveals that Christ our savior was born on Christmas.
I have been thinking a lot about small things and how they can add up to something much greater. Throughout the week, I have been preparing a speech or message for the Habitat for Humanity Restore as part of their Martin Luther King day of service. I plan to talk about a series of small things. At the store, there is a diverse and dedicated group of voluneteers who each do a small thing or two. Some make those shelves of glasses and cups and vases look good ( a skill I never got), others spot antiques, help customers, nudge an interested but hesitant buyer, offer great layout ideas or bring in new customers. After lifting up the work of the volunteers, I plan to talk about one item I purchased It’s a beautiful dining room table and chairs, Canadian maple I think (assuming the stamp on the bottom is real). I saw it, took my wife in to look at it and we both loved it, so we donated /dropped off our old table and chairs and bought it. The first few weeks we had the table, we were afraid of using for much, we didn’t want to damage the wood, stain or scratch it. We didn’t want it to be a computer desk, paper and key storage, a coat rack or anything like that (the fate of the old table). There were lots of rules, use a coaster, do not lean back on the chairs, wipe up any spills or dropped food right away. After a while, we started to eat small meals at the table, very carefully. Slowly, I started to keep papers on it, just stuff I needed right away, only for a few minutes, then the keys and wallet, then bags, then coats, gloves, hats, and backpacks started to appear on the chairs
We are still careful but now it feels natural to toss my coat on the table or pick up my books and papers for the day. The table went from a thanksgiving dinner only to being used whenever we have too many people to fit on the kitchen table, a reserved for special occasions object is now for everyday use. That is at the heart of Martin Luther King Jr’s faith and work, It starts with small, simple things: actions like marching or walking together, not buying a particular product or using a particular service, ideas like everyone is a child of God and deserves a seat on the bus, a place at the food counter, the right to cast a vote, a seat in a college classroom, a seat at the table where decisions are made. Here a series of small things changes America. Things are now part of daily life for many of us. This came from working together, being together, seeing one another as children of God and in this together. We are daily changing hate and mistrust into love. Changing separation into unity.
Next week, we (well you, I won’t be here) see what happens next, now that the good news is out, Jesus jumps head first into confrontation with the religious authorities, chasing the money lenders out of the temple (a group of approved vendors ripping off worshippers). Zeal, passion, once Jesus gets that glimpse of how things should be vs how the are, he must act. Just like Jesus turns water into wine, the temple back into a temple and death into life, we must remember change starts here (where it goes is up to God)