Listen to what your Mama Says

 

 

Isaiah 62:1-5
Psalm 36:5-10
John 2:1-11

 

2:1 “On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. 9 When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now. 11 Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.” (John 2:1-11, NRSV)

 

Let us pray: O God of steadfast love, at the wedding in Cana your Son Jesus turned water into wine, delighting all who were there. Transform our hearts by your Spirit, that we may use our varied gifts to show forth the light of your love as one body in Christ. Amen.

 

Every wedding ceremony is special and different.  All the people involved work hard to create a joyous and a memorable moment.  Couples often spend six months to a year planning, preparing, and going through pre-marital counseling in order to get to the wedding ceremony.  When the big day finally arrives and all of those years of dreaming, months of planning, decades of saving and a lifetime of praying come together as two become one.

 

As, the congregation stands and the organ begins to play the wedding march.  The Bride starts her procession wearing her beautiful wedding dress. The groom standing tall at the front of the church, watching as his bride is escorted down the aisle looking more beautiful than he has ever seen her look.  It is a glorious moment,[1] setting the stage for today’s Gospel reading.

 

Our wedding story took place at Cana in Galilee.  Jesus, his mother and the 12 disciples were all there.   This wedding was a glorious occasion as well that is until they ran out of wine.  Running out of wine threatened to ruin the joy of the event.  To run out of wine was an act of inhospitality.  Running out of wine would reflect poorly on the family of the bride and it would cause a great deal of embarrassment for them.   So, Jesus’ mother tells him about it.   Jesus responds with a very puzzling and downright rude statement to his own mother, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me?”   Wow!  What does that mean?  Is he scolding his own mother?   Is he rejecting her?   Undeterred by his declaration, Mary turns and tells the servants to do whatever he tells them to do.

 

There were six large vessels of water at the wedding and Jesus turns those six jars of water into wine.  The wedding party was saved.  It is a great story Jesus saves a wedding party from great embarrassment.  It seems like a very superficial and unimportant thing to do, turn water into wine.   And yes, this passage is about a wedding, but it is about so much more.

 

A wedding is a fitting place for Jesus to begin his miracles.  Weddings are all about commitment, the participant’s commitment to each other and to God, the congregation’s commitment to support the new couple, and God’s commitment to be with them in their marriage.  Jesus begins his ministry by showing his commitment to humanity.  Another reason that this is a great beginning to Jesus miracles is it is an example of God’s grace upon grace.  It is a story of abundance!

 

The abundance is found in the details of this seemingly superficial miracle.   It is meant to show us what God’s grace is like.  What it looks like, what it smells like, what it tastes like, and what it feels like.  Jesus is changing 120-180 gallons of water into the best wine. This is not just a bottle or two of wine but more like 63 cases of wine.

 

So, if a standard bottle of wine is 750 milliliters (ml), and a case of wine is 12 bottles or 2.378 gallons.  At 150 gallons per ton, a ton of grapes becomes 150/2.378 gallons per case, or a little more than 63 cases of wine. With 12 bottles per case, we have 756 bottles in total.”[2]

 

And since we are talking about God, let’s round up and assume 180 gallons for the miracle at Cana.   It is close to a 1000 bottles of wine.   And how many grapes per bottle of wine?  According to Conversion Factors, a website, 2.6 pounds of grapes yields one bottle of wine.  So, yes, we really are talking about a ton of grapes – over a ton.   What difference do these details make?   When we consider the details, in ways we might understand, it is a ton of grace.  It is an overabundance of grace, it is exaggerated grace, extravagant grace, and excessive grace.

 

Six vessels, twenty to thirty gallons each, filled to the brim, with the best wine, when you least expect it.  Think about what that looks like – six tall stone vessels.  Think about what that smells like.  Stick your nose deep in that unexpected glass of a lovely wine, because it’s that first smell that anticipates that first taste.  Think about what that tastes like, what flavors you might detect, how does it finish?  Think about how that feels, that unexpected deliciousness of a well-aged, top-shelf wine, when there is no reason to anticipate such a moment.  The wine ran out – and you expect nothing but what you get, instead is the best wine.  One would assume it should be served first.

 

But this miracle is really not about the wine.  Jesus’ miracle points towards God’s abundance in our lives, God’s abundant grace, God’s abundant mercy, and God’s abundant goodness.   Jesus does not merely give just enough wine for the party to continue – he turned enough water into wine for the whole village to enjoy.  He gave abundantly.  It is always that way with Jesus.  There is enough of Jesus for everyone.  There is enough love and grace and mercy for all God’s children.  There is nothing – not our biggest mistake, not our darkest sin, not our greatest sin, nothing in all of creation that will make God love us any less.

 

And as much as we want to think this grace is only for us, this Epiphany also shows us that God’s grace is to be shared with others.  The setting of this first sign is essential – a wedding.   All the guests will get to experience this act of grace.  All will watch the steward pour wine in their glasses when they thought their cups would stay empty.   All will get that first smell and be surprised.   All will take that first sip.  All will have the opportunity to respond to Jesus’ voice and know life.  Because God’s grace is for all and it’s impossible, to restrain God’s abundance.

Grace upon grace is the tangible experience of God’s love; not something to be kept to ourselves but to go about testifying because God loves the world – which is, the real heart of Epiphany.

 

Happiness and joy are all the appropriate responses at a wedding ceremony and they are suitable responses to God’s abundant love and God’s amazing grace.   So, friends let us rejoice and know that we are God’s delight both now and always.  Amen.

 

 

[1] The Reverend Dr. M. Craig Barnes, “A Reckless Miracle,” a sermon on John 2:1-11. Shadyside Presbyterian Church. June 5, 2005.

[2] The Reverend Dr. Karoline Lewis, Embodied Epiphanies, Sunday, January 10, 2016. Conversion Factors: From Vineyard to Bottle from Cornell University. www.workingpreacher.org

 

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