Sermon for the Third Sunday of Epiphany
Psalm 128, Genesis 14: 17-20, Revelation 19: 6-10, John 19: 6-10
Today’s readings cover weddings, eating and drinking and most importantly the revelation of the Glory of Our Lord.
Well, I am sure that we all enjoy a good party and I expect there have been quite a number of us who would have liked to have been able to hold a celebration or two over the last few months. It would seem to go without question that anyone hosting one of these parties would have been more than delighted to have had Jesus in attendance – I certainly would have been. Someone who can turn 120 plus gallons of water into first class wine would I am sure have been very welcome at parties anytime! Even if Jewish weddings could go on for many days, that is still an awful lot of wine.
Of course, back in those days there was not the great choice of beverages that we have now. Often the wine was a safer option than the water, even if it was not quite as refined as most of the wine one can buy today. We also heard in our first reading from Genesis that “King Melchizedek of Salem brought out bread and wine” for Abram on returning from his battle; both of these items being a staple diet of the times, as they have remained. Now also the very corner stones of our Eucharist Services.
Yet, it is this well-known story from John’s Gospel that holds our attention. It was the first miracle, or sign, recorded by John in the public ministry of Jesus. As we heard, Jesus and his disciples had been included in the wedding invitation given to Jesus’ mother Mary, who was presumably known to the host.
Then the unthinkable happened – they ran out of wine. Within Jewish society, then and even today, this would have been a very humiliating situation for the host, the very height of bad manners, and a very big dampener on the celebrations.
So Mary turns to her son to rectify the situation.
‘“They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.”’
For Jesus is not there at our ‘beck and call’ to smooth over social embarrassments, or to perform party tricks on request. He was well aware of his destiny and the path that he was about to take.
Yet Mary, his mother, was confident that Jesus would know how to remedy the situation.
‘“Do whatever he tells you.”’ She says to the servants.
Within the Jewish purification rites, as would happen at a wedding, water is available for ceremonial cleansing, but without Messianic intervention, this water is not life giving. New wine speaks of new creation, coming at last through ‘the Word made flesh’. Jesus himself would be ‘that new wine’, a ‘new wine’ for us all to share in. As was written in Matthew 26:28, at the Passover meal before Jesus’ crucifixion, he said “I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom.”
Wine is widely viewed in the Bible as a symbol of happiness, and a wedding is the happiest of occasions. Perhaps Jesus, at this wedding in Cana was illustrating the wonderful time of joy in his future Kingdom, when all sorrow and sadness will be banished. As was the case in the reading from Revelation, “Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready;” John’s image of God’s own intimate relationship with his people, you and I, through the Glory of His son Jesus Christ.
Yet within our own celebrations and enjoyment we need to remember, like those servants at the wedding in Cana, to obey our Lord even when it is inconvenient or seems bizarre, or our lives are too busy and full of our own selves, or even our own celebrations. For although Jesus came to demonstrate God’s love and purpose to bring joy and peace to our world it is down to us to accept his invitation into his kingdom, his celebration.
Today, because of the restrictions placed on us by the Pandemic we are unable to physically take part in the Eucharist, but we will I know before too long be able once more to hear the words, “we drink this wine in remembrance that Jesus died for us” and we should and must always be truly thankful, especially in these present times.
As John Betjeman so aptly wrote,
“God was man in Palestine and lives today in bread and wine”, and should, and I am sure does, live in all of our hearts and our very being, each and every day.