Second Sunday after Epiphany 17 January 2016
(Isaiah 62:1-5 Psalm 36 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 John 2:1-11)
“They Have No Wine!”
There are many ways to preach this Gospel text, this well-known story of Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding at Cana.
I’ve decided to preach this sermon through Mary’s words, and although she speaks twice in this story, I will preach her words to Jesus when she says, “They have no wine!” And I will attempt to preach this sermon with a feminine theological voice—daunting, arrogant, impossible, you may say. But I ask you to give me the benefit of your doubt and let me try! So the title of the sermon is: “They have no wine!”
We know the story: the sounds of feasting flying through the air with robust joy! This was a wedding! The mother of Jesus is there. Jesus and his disciples are also invited. Then amid the dancing the wine runs out! The mother of Jesus gets involved, finally so does Jesus—six stone water jars each with a capacity of twenty-plus gallons of water turned into excellent wine! The anxious few moments pass, and then it all resumes with ever greater merriment. And the text concludes by pointing out the significance of this extravagant amount of wine: the reason, so that Jesus’ glory could be revealed and the disciples would believe in him.
So the purpose of this story is to tell us something about Jesus gifted with the glory of the Messiah, and like almost everything else in John’s Gospel it does it through rich symbolism.
Wedding feasts and banquets point us to the “coming days.” Wine is a symbol of joy at the “last times.” In the Book of Proverbs, to drink the wine that Lady Wisdom has poured is to accept her message and lay aside immaturity [Prov. 9:6].
To have no wine is an embarrassment to the provider of the feast and the couple whose wedding is being celebrated. Mary steps in, names the need and takes the initiative to seek a solution. Because she persists, bountiful abundance soon flows among the guests.
So here is my feminine theological voice: I want to suggest that you may see this woman as a leader and catalyst in the mission of Jesus, how women are to be empowered for such work.
Far from silent, Mary speaks. Far from passive, Mary acts. Far from receptive to the orders of the male, Mary goes counter to his wishes, finally bringing him along with her. Far from yielding to a seemingly impossible situation, Mary takes charge of it, organizing the matter to bring benefit to those in need.
Her tone rings with the tone of prophecy, deploring and announcing hope at the same time. From this perspective, she stands in solidarity with women around the world who struggle for social justice for themselves and for their children, especially their daughters.
When you hear Mary’s voice say, “they have no wine,” I want you to hear it as more than “no wine.” Please hear it that too many women have no security from bodily violations, no equal access to education, no health care, no economic opportunity, no political power, no cultural respect because of race or ethnic heritage, no dignity due to them as created in the image and likeness of God.
When you hear Mary’s voice say, “they have no wine” I also want you to hear it as a call for women to be empowered to turn away from socialized lack of self-esteem and submissive acceptance of marginalization. In this context for the poor in the world, Mary stands up among the people, speaking hope for the needy.
And let you also hear that on that night in the poor community of Cana in Galilee a wedding celebration became the place where God’s glory was made manifest as everyone drank wine and celebrated the wedding feast.
And so……..I hear in this story a deep desire that people feel for Divine intervention. I hear in Mary’s cry “They have no wine”, another cry, “they have no peace,” and another cry, “they have no freedom,” and yet another cry, “they have no food, no housing, no jobs, no health.”
So, on this weekend when we baptized four babies into the mission of the church, when we bless 55 quilts to be sent out into the world, and when we welcome Yessica and Carlos as they bring words of gratitude for the work of this congregation with Project Gettysburg Leon, this story of the wedding at Cana becomes a dangerous story when we hear Mary’s voice, because her plea, “they have no wine,” challenges the conscience of the Body of Christ today, because in this picture of a celebrative woman calling for more wine at a wedding, we find a spokesperson of hope for all the disenfranchised and poor throughout the world. And no less, we see an apostolic witness who leads others to Christ. By overlaying both of these images we are given a powerful story that gives challenge to the mutuality of both women and men as we are called to live out our Christian faith as mission to the world. Amen.
Elizabeth Johnson. Truly Our Sister, A Theology of Mary In the Communion of Saints. 2003. pp. 287-289. (quoted throughout)