Sermon on Wedding in Cana
John Chapter 2 by The Reverend Dr Sam Cappleman
A world in transformation
The gospel reading from 2 John is a familiar reading to many. It provides a framework and introduction to what is to follow and be expanded on in John’s gospel.
It talks of the transformation that Jesus brings when he touches the things of our everyday lives. It speaks about a miracle that happens on the third day. It speaks about the water of ceremonial cleansing, water which is laboriously put into ceremonial jars for ritual use being transformed into wine. It speaks of the recreation from the very stuff of everyday life.
John refers to this miracle as the first, and overarching, sign that Jesus will perform. It sets the scene for all that is to follow and puts it into context.
Imaging the confusion which must have reigned at the wedding, and this was a big wedding, with celebrations probably going on for several days. Many of us have experienced what it’s like planning weddings. It’s a major logistics project and getting the catering right is no small feat.
The wedding in Cana would have been planned for some time and arrangements for the food and wine made well in advance. It would be a huge embarrassment to run out of either. Despite all the planning and the good intentions the wine runs out.
And in some ways, that’s the punch line of the story, the main point. It’s not by accident that John tells us that the water is in the ceremonial washing jars, he’s underlining the point.
The old Jewish way under the law has come to an end, it had run out. There was going to be a new beginning. The old way had run out of steam, come to an end and as such it wasn’t a case of trying to breathe new life into it, but transforming it into something new and much richer that would build on the old but supersede it with the new. It didn’t replace the old; it transformed it into the new.
Jesus instructs the stone jars the old world order to be filled with water, the stuff of everyday life.
The stone jars were not smashed but were taken as the receptacles for something that was new and transformed. That’s the image that John wants us to have in our lives. Not to throw away, smash and disregard what has brought us to this place, but to expose it to Christ so it can be transformed. The water was transformed into wine.
But John also presents another facet to this transformation. Mary, Jesus’ mother, was perhaps more aware than anyone else that the old was passing and the new had come.
But before the New can come, it has to be acknowledged that the Old has become obsolete. The wedding party had to face the brutal truth that they were out of wine. Until the Jews faced the brutal truth that the law was not sufficient in itself to have a complete and personal relationship with God nothing could change for them.
Until they realised their longed for Messiah had come their world could not be transformed. They had to realise the wine had run out, they had run out of their own steam and an encounter with the Christ was required to move them on and into true faith.
So it is for us. Sometimes we too need to acknowledge our old ways of doing things need to change. Sometimes it feels like we have just run out of stream and our spiritual life is dry and exhausted. Consciously exposing our lives and everything in them again to God so that they can be continually transformed so that we can have a new and fresh encounter with Jesus and revelation of just who His is, is the only thing that can ever move us on. Just like the Jews.
Jesus’ mother signals the end of the old (wine) to Jesus, perhaps prompting Him into action, and then leaves the situation in His hands. All she does is tell the servants to do as He tells them.
There seem to be two different elements to her involvement both of which would seem to offer insights into our relationship with Christ the transformer.
Firstly it’s clear that Jesus is at no one’s beck and call. Jesus isn’t some kind of genie we can pull out of a bottle and ask him to do what we like, however well intentioned. Our responsibility often is to offer a situation up in prayer, to ask Jesus to intervene as we lay what is on our hearts before God, and be patient as God responds as He will.
So often in our prayers we want to be prescriptive in telling God what He should do, or demanding answers when he does not respond as we expect. Jesus’ mother’s words give an example of the trust that we so often lack.
An example of laying the situation before Jesus, speaking to Him and then trusting that He will take action.
Secondly, Mary is quite clear to the servants. ‘Do whatever He tells you’. Simple words, yet they must have been difficult to understand, especially amid all the confusion. Were they about to be ritually cleaned because they had run out of wine? Was some sort of ceremonial washing ceremony about to begin?
As John will reveal throughout His gospel, things with Jesus are not always what they seem. The ordinary is turned into the extra-ordinary. Water can be turned into wine.
Fortunately they do as they are told. God’s transformation of the world requires us to be willing agents in that transformation process. Catalysts for His work. Agents that may not always understand what we are being asked to do. Agents who may expect things to turn out differently, but Agents all the same.
For the disciples, who up until this time in the story have been observers, the penny begins to drop. They begin to understand what Jesus is about as he reveals His ‘glory’, or His worth, His value.
The Old had passed and the transforming New had indeed dawned.
And as we fulfil our role as God’s agents on earth, to be His hands, feet, mouth, eyes and ears, so our world is transformed and what was once mystery is becomes clearer and clearer - ultimately to be crystal clear when we He returns.
As we do our response will be the same as the disciples. Increased faith, praise, thanks and worship.
Sometimes we wonder how we can go deeper into God, something which is explicitly called out as part of the Mission Action Planning agenda. It would seem that John offers us the answer at the wedding at Cana in Galilee.
We need to face the facts that sometimes and in some areas of our lives we have run out, run dry and need God’s renewing transformation.
We need to offer the situation up before God for His transforming touch
We need to be open to do what He tells us to do, not tying to predict the outcome but open to new things happening
And when they do, respond in praise and worship as, just like the disciples, our faith is strengthened as we see more of God’s glory in our lives and in our world.