Saturday, 19 January 2013

Epiphany 2 – the wedding at Cana

John 2: 1-11

“Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.”

I’m sure I’ve preached – and I’m sure you’ve heard, many sermons about the wedding at Cana and what it teaches us about Jesus and who he is. The lectionary writers have put it for us in this season of Epiphany, when traditionally we think about how Jesus shows us the glory of God the Father in all he is and all he does.

This is certainly a powerful sign of Jesus’ identity as the Messiah.
But perhaps it is also something else.

Last week in the Observer I read a column about friendship, which had the intriguing strapline “It’s our friends who teach us how a person should be”.
The article is here

The author, Eva Wiseman, was suggesting that instead of looking for ‘role-models’ far away in life – in celebrities, sports stars, or those we admire from afar – we should look nearer to home. There are ways in which our friends help us to see what real humanity (what Eva Wiseman calls ‘a real grown-up’) looks like. She gives some examples from her own life, and concludes “This , really, is what friends are for ...teaching us how a person should be”.

So we return to Jesus – our saviour, our Messiah, our friend. God incarnate come to earth to show us not only what we need to learn and believe about God and God’s love, but also to teach us what is means to be fully human. Teaching us what the eternal life for which we were made looks like: a life of loving God and loving others and knowing peace, hope and joy.

The wedding at Cana may have been the first sign of Jesus’ glory and caused his disciples to believe in him – but they were already his disciples, they had already made the decision to follow him, to listen to his teaching, to walk in his way.
So if we, like them, are going to follow Jesus, what does it mean to follow the one who shows his glory in this way – what does our friend Jesus show us about what it mean to be a person, in this story?

Jesus responds to a need, very starkly expressed by his mother ‘they have no wine’. It’s a wedding, a celebration, it is a time when people will want to drink the health of the couple, when the family and friends will want to rejoice together. But they can’t  - ‘they have no wine’.
Jesus responds to this need, he provides wine so that the party can carry on.
As followers of Jesus, what are the needs of the people around us to which we need to respond as readily as Jesus does?

Jesus makes it clear that he is providing for them by God’s grace, not because of their efforts. The water, which is changed into wine, comes from the stone jars filled for ritual washing. The original purpose of that water is to enable the people there to do something for themselves, to make them more suitable for God’s love and mercy. But Jesus changes all their expectations: instead of the water being something they can use to makes themselves a little better in God’s sight, Jesus uses that water to demonstrate God’s abundant grace to each one there. They might use that water to have a ritual wash – Jesus uses it to supply all their needs and to do so without cost or demand: he simples says  ‘draw some out’.

When we, as Jesus’ followers, respond to people’s need, can we do so with such an awareness of God’s grace? We might feel that there is little we can do to help another person, that we are no more effective than a drop of water – but used by God’s love we can be the wine of the kingdom to other people, a sign that God is with them. This church can be a place of God’s loving presence, each one of us can be ambassadors for God’s kingdom of peace, joy & hope.

Jesus responds to need, he does so through God’s grace, not through human effort, and he responds by giving not just enough, but an extravagant abundance.

The jars each hold 100 litres of water – and are filled to the brim. We are told there are 6 of them – that’s 600 litres of wine – or 800 standard bottles of wine. And the wine is declared by the man in charge of the feast to be the ‘best’ wine.
Jesus supplies a huge amount of wonderful wine so everyone can have more than they can possibly need.

So we, following Jesus, need to be ready to be both gracious and extravagant when we respond to the needs of others. We have the greatest of Good News to share – the abundant grace, love and joy of God.

So as Jesus reveals his glory in this story, and as we seek to follow, may God grant us the grace to be as generous and responsive as Jesus, our friend who shows us how to live as human beings, how to live together as a church of followers of Jesus, to the glory of God.

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