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notre dame montreal St

Sermon for Second Sunday of Epiphany 2015

Reverend Dr Sam Cappleman

A marriage made in heaven

There is a lot going on in all of our readings this morning.

In Genesis we read of Abram, not yet Abraham, coming back from defeating the allegiance of Kings who had taken Lot captive with Lot to be greeted by the King of Sodom (who would have been on his side) and the mysterious King of Salem/Jerusalem, who is also described as a Priest of the Most High God.  He brings bread and wine in what some see as a foreshadowing of the celebration of the Eucharist and blesses Abram.  Abram gives Melchizedek at tenth of everything he has, but refuses himself the gifts of the King of Salem.

In Revelation we have the blessing for those who are invited to the wedding supper of the lamb, together with all the praise and glory that comes with the wrapping up of time.

And in John we have the story of the wedding in Cana in Galilee.  It’s a familiar passage, one which is chosen by some couples at their own weddings, a story where Jesus turns water into wine.  And there is much we can understand from this story both in the context of a wedding and more generally

John is giving us a clue as to the magnitude of what is about to unfold.  The readers of this gospel would be fully aware of things that happen on the third day.  Death becomes life on the third day, the old world order if fully superseded by the new world order on the third day; that which was hopeless becomes a fount of hope on the third day.   On the third day, there is a wedding at Cana in Galilee

The very words that open the story evoke a picture of the old and the new coming together.  The old world order has run out of wine.  Run out of steam.  Despite the best efforts of those involved the old world order has been found lacking. 

Mary can sense the new world order is beginning and instructs the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them. 
Jesus asks them to take the vessels that are normally used to hold the water for ceremonial washing of the old world order of the law.  He asks them to fill them up with water, the water that would be used to cleanse themselves so they were fit for a relationship with God

And we know that the water has been transformed into wine. Jesus is demonstrating that He can take the very stuff of our human nature, all that we have been in our lives up to now, all that we will be in the future, all our cares, all our concerns, all our fears, and transform them by His very presence.  Jesus doesn’t take our old way of doing things, our old way of being, the way we have been up until now and smash it to pieces, saying it’s worthless.  He asks us to expose it to Him so He can transform it by His touch and His presence.

It’s a deeply profound message as it’s a model of our salvation and our lives.

But perhaps one of the strangest things about the wedding in Cana is that we know very little about it.  We don’t know who was the bride or groom, there is no reference to the families involved or their situation.  All we really know is that there was a wedding and they ran out of wine.

But we do know that at weddings, two families are joined together in ‘kinship bonds’.  In Genesis where the bible speaks of man and woman becoming one flesh, (Gen 2 v 24) the word that is translated flesh (Heb = basar) is more normally translated as ‘relatives’.   They become one family. 

So perhaps one of the points John is making in retelling the story of the wedding in Cana is that Jesus is joining together the two families of the new covenant, the Jews and the Gentiles, confirming the Abrahamic covenant that will the world will come to know the Messiah through the Jews.  That time had now come.

The family of the New Covenant is joined to the family of the old as the bonds between them are made as the water is transformed into wine.

All of this may have huge theological and biblical significance and has provided the source material for many debates, academic treatises and stimulating debates.  And it is important.

But important too is to observe Jesus in this situation.  He doesn’t seem to be entering into any debate.  He doesn’t seem to want to make any theological points or deeply analyse the situation.  He just seems to take practical action.

And, whilst that practical action will have a world changing impact, there are no great histrionics or theological debate about it.  Jesus doesn’t try to work out if using the ceremonial vessels is the right thing to do.  He doesn’t turn His back on the situation, gets ready to leave because the wine has run out (even if to save further embarrassment for the host), He just gets on with it.

Jesus is made aware of a situation and for whatever reason, He takes action and the situation is transformed.  Whilst His actions will have huge significance and meaning, joining the old and the new together in a transforming act of kinship, Jesus seems more concerned with what needs to be done.

It’s an example we can sometimes learn from.  Sometimes God just wants us to take practical action.  To be made aware of a situation and rather than analyse why it has come about or the rights and wrongs of it, just take simple action. 

Take action, not because we want to make a particular point or because we have a particular angle we want to take, or because we want to be rewarded or praised for the action we take.  But just take action.

Take action, not because of any social or political reason, but take action because it is what Christ Himself would do and we are motivated by a desire to become more like Him day by day.

As we do, as we put our faith into action, we inevitably make a statement about who we are and the transformed nature of our beings, especially when taking action seems contrary to the normal state of affairs or cultural norms.

Similarly, as we take action, just as Christ took action, the glory of God is revealed.

His glory, the aura of His presence and His majesty reflected in our lives and in the world breaks through. 

Breaks through as it did when Melchizedek visited Abram and he offered him a tenth of all he had, breaks through as it surely will at the wedding banquet at the end of time, breaks through, because a little more of God’s Kingdom here on earth while we wait is revealed as the old gives way to the new.