- The Rev. Fr. Samuel Hartman
Sermon - 2 Epiphany
Water into wine. One of the most well-known and familiar of stories in the Gospels. But why? Why do we remember this strange and puzzling event? Most of Jesus’ miracles are about healing, conquering demons, and meeting real human needs for health and salvation.
But – Jesus making more wine, and LOTs of it, to keep a wedding party going? What sort of a miracle is this?
But, as we see Jesus turning water into wine, something resonates in our hearts and souls. What happens here is a sign of something important. If we are familiar with the way John the Evangelist tells Jesus’ story, we should be expecting something like this. John loves to tell us about events that are signs, revealing the true nature and identity of Jesus. So, we should expect that that this wedding feast and shortage of wine will tell us the truth about Jesus, about us and our world, and about God.
Jesus says very little – three short sentences – and what he does say is puzzling: “What does this have to do with me? This isn’t my time!” he fusses at his mother.
And Jesus’ mother is pretty pushy – “Just do what he says,” she tells the servants. The steward of the wedding feast has the most to say, but he doesn’t understand what has happened – “Where did this good wine come from and why didn’t you serve it first, before everyone had too much to drink?” he asks.
As usual, John the Evangelist tells the story with images, snapshots, rather than full narration. He uses metaphors and suggestions to indicate what is being shown here, layers upon layers of meaning, looping around and up and down as he tells about what Jesus does.
This is a wedding feast - a metaphor used regularly in the Bible for the kingdom of God. Marriage is a sign of the union of God and humankind; we heard Isaiah use the same metaphor in today’s reading, where God is described as the bridegroom joined with Israel: “as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.”
And consider the symbols and metaphors of the details:
On the third day and “my hour” - (are these details foretastes of Jesus’ suffering and death, and the resurrection, which happened on the third day after Jesus’ crucifixion?)
Water and wine – (we might be reminded of the water and blood coming from Jesus’ side on the cross in John’s telling of the crucifixion.)
The best wine served last - (the Hebrew law was good, but the presence of the Son is better)
The jars are large, and filled to the brim, more than is needed - (the abundance of God is overwhelming, and unlimited).
Ordinary, day-to-day water is transformed into wine – (everyday life is transformed into life sparkling with Spirit.)
This list of symbolic details could go on and on, getting longer and longer as we reflect on the story. This in fact is what John the Evangelist wants us to do; he invites us to understand this story, familiar as it is, by letting it live in our imaginations, continuously opening for us new visions and new understandings of the good news of God’s love for the world.
There is no limit to what we can discover here. The epiphany, the revealing of Jesus, of God, is unlimited, as unlimited as the reality of God and of our souls. As Jesus changes water into wine, we see creation and the human community filled with the grace and joy of God. “Cana-grace” someone has called it. Human beings together, filled with joy, celebrating the abundant gifts and grace of God.
We always do this: on special occasions, occasions when we are particularly aware of God’s grace and gifts, we too celebrate with food and drink.
Sunday refreshment time after church, Turkey Dinner, pancake suppers, receptions after funerals - even the meal (symbolic and abbreviated as it may be) of the Holy Eucharist. Why is this a universal human practice? We probably have enough food and drink at home, we don’t need to eat and drink at these times of special meaning and celebrations.
Except we do. Celebrations are the everyday enactments of the grace of God’s kingdom; they show us (however dimly) what we expect in heaven – the “Cana-grace” of God.
And this “Cana-grace” reminds us of how we are to live, who we can be as a community of faith. St Paul reminds us today that “each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” Restating Paul’s truth in the image of the gospel: each of us can turn water into wine. By our actions, by the miracle of God’s grace in us, shared in the human community and the family of faith, we can turn despair into hope, hatred into love, violence into healing, scarcity into abundance. We can perform miracles. We can show the grace of the creator.
This isn’t magic. Jesus was not a magician and neither are we. This miracle is simply the miracle of God’s grace at work in the world. Water is changed into wine by our loving sharing of the gifts God has given us, by the sharing of our lives, our care and concern with one another. Water is changed into wine as our hearts and souls are opened and we experience the reality of God’s grace and love.
In fact, the whole Gospel, the whole story of Jesus, his birth and life and death and Resurrection, can be seen as a wedding, a wedding at which the wine never runs out, and the best wine is saved for last.
Every moment is a celebration of the wedding feast with Jesus, life with God the creator, the water of life turned into the wine of the kingdom. Every moment can be an epiphany of creation, a revelation of divine grace and love, if we only look and see. Water into wine? What is going on? Simply: the manifestation, the epiphany of the kingdom, the blessed and grace-filled life of God in our lives and in our world. Thanks be to God for the miracle of water into wine.