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Third Sunday of Epiphany

Third Sunday of Epiphany
John 2 1-11
The Wedding at Cana
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ 4And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ 5His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ 6Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. 8He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So they took it. 9When 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 10and 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.’ 11Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
‘They have no wine’
This is the first recorded miracle in John’s gospel and it was at a wedding. As we heard in last week’s sermon John is at pains to show us who Jesus was and he writes in such a way to point to the glory of God. The first miracle at a wedding, and the very last words of the Bible written by John in Revelation are the wedding feast of the lamb.
The account opens with the words ‘On the third day’ John might have been telling us that this event happened two days after the calling of Nathaniel, relating to the ‘greater things’ Jesus promised that Nathaniel would see. It might have been just the third day of the week Wednesday the usual day for weddings in that time. Or it could have been a link for us of the resurrection to come on the third day.
Jesus being invited to a wedding is interesting. Clearly he was not seen as an antisocial killjoy, he was just an ordinary 30 year old man enjoying the same things we do. A bit sad that he was with his Mum, but I am sure he was enjoying himself with his friends.

History tells us that weddings were usually held on a Wednesday evening. The couple would wear wedding robes and crowns on their heads and they would be treated like royalty – for this was the greatest celebration of their life. They would be led home through the town by torchbearers after the ceremony. They would not go away for a honeymoon but would have a party, which lasted a week.

Imagine the planning and catering that would have to go into that! There would be lots of guests, often hundreds, and they would all wash their hands and feet when they came into the house – so there were always huge stone water jars outside the door, each holding about 30 litres. They were huge.

Jesus, his Mother and his disciples were at such a wedding party and I guess having fun. There would have been singing, dancing, eating and lots of wine – nothing new there then, until disaster struck.

Just imagine the embarrassment for the bride and groom and their parents, the party would have to close early. It was a serious social faux pas and would have reflected badly on the bridegroom and his parents. Lawsuits were not unknown in these circumstances.

There might have been some family link with the invitation as Mary seems to have had some lead in the catering role. Mary tells Jesus what is going on possibly a habit bred from long years of family dependence on Jesus as Joseph seems to be absent. His reply was not very encouraging – Mary had approached her son for help and had been reproached, however she responds, believing in him, and her faith is rewarded as Jesus takes over and turns a very ordinary wedding into an extraordinary event. It was a miraculous sign. It was a life-changing day for every person at the wedding and a turning point for the disciples – they began to realise just who he was. John writes ‘and they believed in him.’
They saw first-hand a miracle and Jesus revealed his glory.

Can you just imagine what our reaction would have been if we had been there? ‘Look here you can’t use those jars, or that water, it’s for washing. Someone might want to wash their hands or feet and we won’t have any water. Those jars aren’t sterile, there’s no telling what is lurking at the bottom, remember health and safety. What do you mean, you are going to turn it into wine? There will be too much; this party is going to get of out of hand. What will it taste like? You don’t think we are going to give it out do you?’

But Jesus did just that - he turned water into wine.
Not in the synagogue, not in the presence of the holy people of the time, but in a social setting at a week-long wedding party, which takes us to the heart of the ‘sign’. The steward tasted the wine and declared it to be the best compared to the wine served earlier. Jesus changed the water of Judaism into the wine of Christianity. The promised one written about in the law of Moses and the prophets had come, the word had become flesh and was among them.

There is another nugget in this miracle:

Mary, said to the servants at the wedding ‘Do what he tells you’
If the servants had ignored Jesus there would have been no miracle. But amazingly they did as they were told and the same holds true for us today.
‘They have no wine’ with those words Mary speaks a truth about our lives. The day when the wine runs out, the glass is empty, we are dry. Life feels colourless and we feel we are living a less than full life. I am sure many are experiencing those feeling during this Pandemic. Mary’s words challenge us to ask some serious questions. Has the wine in my life run out? Have some relationships run dry? Am I spiritually empty? Each one of us will have a different story about a day the wine ran out. It might be linked to the death of someone we loved or the loss of a friendship or a marriage. It might be linked to feelings of guilt, fear, regret or disappointment. Or unanswered prayer, doubts or questions that may be in the past, or are relevant to us today.

Behind each of our stories is the hope and desire for a wedding at Cana experience. Not simply as a spectator, but as a participant, just like the bride and groom seeking a union, seeking intimacy and seeking wholeness, seeking new wine.

Have you noticed that despite our best efforts, good intentions and often hard work, it seems that the wine in our life is often giving out?

‘They have no wine’ Mary tells Jesus. It wasn’t a judgement but simply an observation. This is not just a miracle about the wine but about our inner life, our way of being. Too often we live with the illusion of our own self-sufficiency, and we know that illusion is shattered on the day the wine runs out and our jars of life stand empty. That day we come face to face with the realisation that we were never expected to live by our own resources, but with the constant infilling of the Holy Spirit. Jesus does not simply refill our glasses. He wants to transform our lives, turning water into wine. Jesus wants to change the waters of our broken humanity into the joys of wine. To transform the water of duty into the wine of love, to transform the water of consumerism into the wine of giving. Turning that which was colourless into a vibrant red. That which was mediocre into the best. When our lives are filled to the brim with the good wine, the intoxicating life of God, we will surely be under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

That is the miracle at Cana and it has never ceased happening. Every moment of every day Jesus pours himself into the empty jars of our lives. He is the good wine saved till last, extravagant, abundant and endless. Every time that the good wine of the Holy Spirit is poured into our lives we are changed and transformed. As the Book of Common Prayer states, we are brought ‘out of error into truth, out of sin into righteousness, out of death into life.’

I can’t tell you how it happens, it is a miracle, I only know that it does.
I have experienced the miracle of Cana in my life and tasted of the good wine and I have seen it in the lives of others.

Those moments when death is turned into new life, sorrow is turned into joy and despair into hope. When we see lives turned around and become meaningful. When we see people with courage do things they never thought possible, broken lives ransomed, healed restored and forgiven, the miracle goes on. This is Christ’s glory being revealed in ordinary people like us.

Just as Jesus needed the faith, trust and hard work of those servants who filled the six stone jars to the brim with water, He needs our trust and our belief in Him to transform us and fill our lives to the brim, not just once but constantly. As Paul writes ‘Be, being filled with the spirit’ it is a present, continual verb.

Mary said ‘They have no wine’, but we know that the miracle will begin when the wine runs out. Jesus will take the ordinary and turn it into the extraordinary.

Let us pray: Lord God come fill us today with the new wine of the Holy Spirit, help us to come to you daily to be refilled, refreshed and restored.
‘The spirit and the Bride say ‘come’!
Come, Lord Jesus.’

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