January 19-20, 2013
One of the fun things about getting together as colleagues
is to tell stories.
Teachers get together and tell stories of the crazy things that happen in the classroom.
People who work at a bank get together and tell bank stories.
Funeral directors – now funeral directors have some stories!
Well pastors and organists get together and tell stories too.
And one of the topics that will really get us going,
are things that have happened at weddings.
There have been some doozies!
There are brides whose dresses rip on the way down the aisle,
ushers who faint,
flower girls who start screaming,
decorations which begin to catch fire,
photographers who climb over all sorts of things to get a picture,
pastors who say the wrong names,
and of course ring bearers who manage to drop rings in bushes and sewer drains,
down toilets and heating vents.
Wedding mishaps are so common, that one pastor I know
has changed the old saying to:
“Something old, something new,
something borrowed, something blue,
something goes wrong, something’s askew.”[i]
Well there are wedding goofs that cause some brief anxiety and then we laugh over later,
but then there are wedding disasters we can never forget.
What was about to happen in Cana
was not a minor wedding mishap.
What was about to happen in Cana when the wine gave out early,
would have been a wedding disaster.
Jewish weddings during the time of Jesus were festive events.
The weddings usually began on Tuesday nights, when the groom and his friends would gather in front of the bride’s home.
Following tradition, she would come out of her home and remove her veil for the first time in her adult life.
Then the men would go back to the groom’s house to begin a 7-day party.
During those seven days, family and friends would bring gifts and food.
They would party for seven days.
At such wedding celebrations as these, wine was served.
As the Bible says, it was the “oil of gladness. It was a sign of joy,
a sign of the very presence of God.[ii]”
Well some time before the 7 days were up, in Cana,
the disaster happened.
The wine gave out.
This was not a simple problem;
this would have been a source of deep shame for the family,
and most certainly it did not bode well for the marriage.
The mother of Jesus (interestingly enough, throughout his gospel John never uses the name “Mary”),
she goes to her son and says, “They have no wine.”
Jesus replies in a strange formal way that makes our ears perk up
and wonder how Jesus could be so rude to his mom…
He says, “Woman, what is that to you and to me?
My hour is not yet come.”
He then turns back to his friends.
But his mother know that this is not the end of the story.
She tells the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
And Jesus tells the servants to fill up some stone jars with water.
We’re told that these are jars for the rite of purification.
Jews would use the water to wash their faces before worship services,
and their hands and feet before prayers.
The jars are huge.
Each of them holds about 30 gallons – and there are six of them.
The servants do as Jesus asks.
And when it is drawn out and served to the steward, it is good – very good wine.
180 gallons of fine wine.
More than enough for the week.
More than enough for these guests in Cana.
More than enough for all of Galilee.
John says that this was Jesus’ first sign.
He says it was a sign meant to reveal his glory.
This sign shows that the glory of God is overflowing.
180 gallons worth.
The glory of God is more than enough.
More than enough for a week.
And as the world would learn soon enough,
Jesus would give more than enough for the world.
Sometimes this story makes us uncomfortable, though.
A few years ago, my sister was teaching 1st graders
in a public school near Boston.
It was a Monday morning and the 1st graders were talking about what happened on the weekend.
One of her little boys had been to church and heard this story of Jesus turning water into wine
and he shared it with his class!
At that, one of the little girls named Diana was horrified.
She said indignantly, “If Jesus turned water into wine at my wedding,
my Daddy would have said,
‘Jesus, you turn that wine right back into water!
Diana isn’t allowed to drink wine!’”
Diana isn’t alone in thinking that maybe Jesus could have chosen a better sign – a more significant one.
Shouldn’t Jesus be somewhere else healing lepers,
multiplying bread – not alcohol,
and solving the world’s social problems?
And what’s he doing at a party anyway?
Shouldn’t he be working on his next sermon?
Well apparently Jesus is working on his sermon.
And I think that it’s kind of neat that his sermon
is about joy in the Christian community.
Later in John, Jesus says, “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”
Jesus thought joy was a good thing.
He liked to celebrate with his friends.
He liked to laugh.
He liked to sing.
He liked to be with people.
Sure the lepers needed to be healed.
Sure the hungry needed to be fed.
Sure there were social problems to be addressed.
But on this occasion in the small town of Cana,
Jesus chose to do all of those things while making space for joy too.
Soren Kierkegard once said that “”Christ turned water into wine,
but the church has succeeded in doing something even more difficult:
it has turned wine into water.”
Too often we focus on the work of faith…we’re satisfied with water;
the getting the kids up in the morning and out the door in time for church,
the task of preparing a Sunday school lesson,
the yet-another Tuesday night committee meeting.
But in the story from Cana, Jesus asks us to look for the joy of faith too –
the wine and the coffee;
the laughter and the friendships;
the sharing of meals;
the singing together;
the helping each other cross a stream when you’re hiking in the woods together…
Yes, our St. James hiking group was out in the Caledonia area together today.
We didn’t do anything to help end world hunger or gun violence.
We didn’t have a single meaningful conversation on this Martin Luther King weekend about the problem of racism in Gettysburg .
We didn’t talk about the church budget or our preferred version of the Lord’s Prayer.
We went hiking.
We enjoyed each other’s company.
We marveled in the beauty of the snow on the path, the icicles on the evergreens, the bright orange mushrooms on the trees, the abundance of rhododendron bushes, the shining sun and the blue sky.
We simply took time out and made space for joy.
Our Scripture reading says that all these events in Cana happened on the 3rd day…
The number 3 brings to mind another 3rd day, when just at daybreak,
Jesus does it once again.
When it seems that all is lost.
When it seems that it is hopeless,
once again Jesus comes and changes despair into joy.
The message of Cana ?
Make space for joy.
Jesus turned despair into joy.
He turned water into wine.
Let’s not try to turn it back again.