A Wedding and a Signpost.
Sunday, 25th January, 2015.
Gospel reading: John 2:1-11
I love the passages we read in the four Sundays of Epiphany.
The Jews believed that the place where heaven and earth intersect with each other was the temple but in these Epiphany passages, Jesus’ glory is revealed outside the temple - and, even more startling, none was in Jerusalem; we have a house in Bethlehem, the river Jordan, under a fig tree, and at a village wedding in Cana.
I was once told that during the war (WW2), the road signs were removed or made deliberately misleading in the hopes that the enemy would get lost if we were invaded.
We all need help in finding the right way - even if we use sat navs these days.
John doesn’t use the term ‘miracles’ - he uses ‘signs’ - chosen especially to be like signposts on a journey which will help us to discover who Jesus really is.
So at the end of our Gospel reading we heard: “Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him”. [John 2:11]
These signs eventually lead us to words near the end of this Gospel: - “that we may come to believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that through believing we may have life in his name”. [John 20:30-31]
How does this story help us to begin this journey? What do we see on this ‘first’ signpost?
To me, the clue is in the word ‘first’. It’s the same word John uses for ‘beginning’ in the first words of the Gospel. It’s the word from which we get ‘archetype’ in English. So this story is about the ‘basic/primary’ sign John uses to set us off on our journey to discover who Jesus is [the Messiah].
What is this primary sign?
Jesus is in the ‘transformation business’.
In the custom of the time, the wedding would be a large community affair. The whole village would be involved. It was the village Nathanael came from. Jesus mother was there and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited.
The family on the verge of social disaster. It was a disgrace not to have enough wine. The family would always live with the shame of it.
He changed water into wine - and not into any old plonk when the guests had already had too much to drink. It was the best wine possible. There more than enough of it and the water jars couldn’t have held any more.
Jesus’ presence still changes lives. He transforms our lives. He does it to the full. God doesn’t scrimp on grace. He transforms lives on the edge of disaster and good lives into even better ones.
I think that, when we’ve grown up in the church, we sometimes forget this. Just try to imagine what your own life would be like without the presence of Jesus in it.
At a deeper level, this sign points us to the heavenly feast prepared for God’s people - often described as a wedding feast with the church as Jesus’ bride. Communion is sometimes described as being a foretaste of this banquet. Is this how we think about it?
The water jars - used for ‘Jewish rites of purification’ - washing feet on arrival and for hand washing before and during eating - are a sign that God is doing something new from within the Jewish system. Jesus brings cleansing and transformation not only to the Jews but to the rest of the world.
At a baptism service when the child is given a lighted candle we say: ‘Shine as a light in the world to the glory of God the Father’.
So here are some questions for us, today:
Where are the places WE expect to see Jesus’ glory?
Do we recognise the transformation Jesus continually brings to our own lives.
Is Jesus’ glory revealed to the world through us?
Mildred J Butterworth.