In seeking to discover the value of todayâs gospel, anyone fortunate enough to have attended a wedding in a small, rural community has a leg up on those who have not. At such rituals, sometimes paralleled in ethnic urban environments, one finds that the power of the liturgical meaning of the actual wedding is underscored by an exuberant celebration that follows.
After the commitment of vows, day-long events continue the celebration. This involves nearly everyone in the community, is replete with beverages including those of the adult-only variety, lots of food, dancing, and other kinds of merry-making for all ages â an extended family doing what they do best.
Surely such weddings reflect conditions in Biblical times, the kind of weddings Jesus attended, including the one at Cana of Galilee. A whole village, a days-long celebration, lots of food and dancing and storytelling and reminiscing â and much wine to drink.
But what must have begun as an ordinary wedding at Cana resulted in anything but an ordinary action. We heard today an account of Jesusâ earliest miracle. St. John calls it a sign. That makes this a perfect lesson for Epiphany, because it manifests, shows forth, what God is for us. The reason for John's telling the story is not to make a big deal about a miracle, but to point to the reality of who Jesus was and who we can be as a result.
All of John's stories about Jesus point beyond themselves to reveal the character and nature of God. John used the story of Jesus at the wedding in Cana of Galilee to reveal something much deeper and broader than any simple miracle could ever convey. In the midst of an ordinary celebration, Jesus did something so remarkable that we are forced to think about who we are and who God is â forced to reflect on the mysteries of Christ and reexamine our lives, digging deep into our souls to discover what God wants for us and from us.
We canât miss the obvious fact that this is a miracle about abundance and extravagance. We hear about an enormous amount of wine â twenty to thirty gallons per jar for six jars â way too much and by any standard extravagant. A clear example of the grace God bestows on us, in such abundance, beyond anything we should ever expect or could ever deserve. Itâs a message that God wants us to celebrate life, to enjoy the company of one another as companions engaged in this great adventure called life.
This is also obviously a miracle of transformation and new possibilities. In Cana, Jesus made it possible for the wine of celebration to continue flowing. This reminds us of a central symbol of our faith: Jesus providing for us the wine of a whole new creation that continues to sustain us. Recounting the story of Jesus changing water into wine was John's way of showing that he had come to do nothing less than transform the common into the holy.
In Christ we learn about the power of God to:
â¢ transform the incomplete into the whole
â¢ transform the weaker into the stronger
â¢ transform the ordinary into the precious
â¢ transform the despised into the beloved
â¢ transform the tasteless into that which give joy to the heart
â¢ transform what we are into what we can become
How well this transformation takes place depends on our connectedness with God. And that connectedness depends on our connectedness with Jesus, in whom we see the human face of God.
The unity between Christ and human kind has been explained in scripture through the example of marriage. In today's Old Testament lesson, for example, we heard the prophet Isaiah use the wedding metaphor to describe God's redemption of Israel. In this passage the prophet refers to a time when Jews would return to Jerusalem after the exile, the eventual creation of a new Jerusalem from the one that had been destroyed.
Isaiah encouraged the people with stirring words:
âYou shall no more be termed Forsaken,
and your land shall no more be termed Desolate;
but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,
and your land Married;
for the Lord delights in you,
and your land shall be married.
For as a young man marries a young woman,
so shall your builder marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
so shall your God rejoice over you.â
In the New Testament, wedding metaphors are used to exemplify the relationship of God with the people of God. We are encouraged to better understand our relationship with the unseen God by examining the nature of love between two people in an ideal marriage. In this way, we can better know the love that God intends for a relationship with us â the very children of God.
We are bid to examine the best kind of love in marriage and see the giving away of self, in extravagance like the abundance of wine at Cana, as a something that can lead to new possibilities â that can produce in each of us a genuine transformation from the tendency toward human selfishness into gracious, loving Christ-like-ness.
Today's gospel story about a miracle at a wedding celebration can help lead us to a renewed life in Christ. We can better learn how to share the unlimited gifts God offers us. We can better learn how to celebrate the joys of human community and the union we can have with God, one that will sustain us through our journeys of faith.
May it be our prayer today that Christ will more closely unite not only with the whole church but specifically with each congregation and each individual. In such a prayer we will seek an unbreakable connection of mutual love â love that not only will show us clearly what God is like but also will lead us to the fullness of Christ. We will seek in our hearts and souls to enter into the new, abundant life of our Lord Christ.