Scripture: John 2:1-11
The Wedding in Cana is probably one of my favorite stories in scripture. I like it because it is one of those stories where Jesus’ human and divine natures seem to meet in one place. There is something very human about a wedding and a wedding reception. Yet there is something very spiritual as well.
There are times in life that seem to connect the human and spiritual. The dedication of a child is a ritual that celebrates the birth of a child as well as the commitment in the parents to raise and teach the child the ways of God. On the other end we gather together to mourn and celebrate the wake of a life lived. Usually in the middle of that journey from the dedication to the wake is a joining of two lives a joining that promotes the continuation of the creative joy. It is in this marriage this joining that seems to unite the two events.
Over time the importance of these events has begun to erode away until it is nearly unrecognizable. The dedication ceremony, or the infant baptism in some church traditions, once represented the welcoming of the child into the community of the church. Today this beautiful ceremony connecting a child to a community of faith, yet the commitment to the union of a child to the community is often neglected. Funeral services were once community events where business were closed and people attended where today our culture has shifted to a degree where funerals are scheduled around the other schedules, and have become an inconvenience for all but the closest people. It is odd but how many of us have really realized how much these aspects of our spiritual and human lives have eroded; we fail to recognize the importance of celebration.
We have lost something as a culture when we fail to celebrate theses major milestones in humanity. Celebration is important in the human experience, yet what is celebration usually regulated to? Most of the celebration in our culture is usually directed to the worldly aspects of life. How often do we use celebration in worship?
The wedding at Cana and the interpretations of the events speak more to our current cultural understands of morality than it does anything else. A wedding in the 1st century culture was a very important thing. In ancient cultures a wedding was not just a big event it was a huge event. It was not just the joining of two lives but two families. It even went deeper than this; it was a symbol of a people joining with God. The Hebrew ceremony is one that is filled with a rich symbolism that traces its roots back to Mount Sinai. The Hebrew marriage ceremony is to symbolize the marriage of the people of Israel to God. We look at the Old Testament as a book of laws, but it is a covenant a commandment of sorts. In many ways it is a marriage license. Every aspect of the ceremony has a historic and legal meaning to it, the canopy the party stands under represents the clouds that surrounded the mountain when Moses received the law, the wine represents the sacrifices, and the broken glass represents that they cannot reverse the process. It is a beautiful ceremony.
The ceremony is deeply religious, the union is not complete until after the feast. The feast is just as much of an act of worship as the actual ritual, so much so that there are traditions in the feast as well. I find it interesting that John the gospel writer does not mention the actual ceremony but the feast. It was not in the religious ceremony but in the celebration of that ceremony that we find our Savior. It is a curious thing. So many of us place an importance on the ceremony but it is the feast that Jesus went to.
The feast has great cultural significance. The feast is where the couple is presented and accepted into the community. They are joined as members of the community. These feasts would last several days as the community celebrated the union. As we know a feast requires lots of food and drink. It would be a bad sign for the future of the couple if the refreshments ran out too soon. People would see the groom and his family as being impoverished. People would begin to talk and before the new family could even get started they would be seen as unfit.
We meet Jesus’ mother here, a side of Mary that we do not often see. The feast is proceeding as planned but she notices something, the wine is running short. She is concerned because she has face the tongues of the community. Mary is full of mercy. Jesus and his disciples are there, they came to enjoy the feast not oversee the ceremony. Mary comes to him and says, “They have no wine.” She is concerned and she knows that Jesus is the one that can help.
Mary is concerned and she takes that concern to Jesus. There is a lot we can learn from this. How often do we see a situation around us that we cannot fathom a solution for? We do not have to necessarily have to have the answers to the problems of the world; we only need to know where to go.
Mary then goes to the servants and tells them the last words we hear her say in scripture. “Do whatever He tells you”. She does not hesitate or question, she boldly moves forward with confidence that things will work out. She places her faith not in herself or what she can do but she saw the situation, took it to Jesus, and then left it in his hands. The servants were a bit confused though. Jesus then tells them to go fill the jars with water.
Go fill the jars. Not go get wine from the store, which would make more sense, but go get water. Mary says, do whatever he says. He says go get water and fill up the washing jars. Which is the equivalent of filling up the sinks. They are out of wine and Jesus wants them to fill the sink. Then he says go draw some out and take it to the steward. Can you imagine what the servants would have been thinking? Fill a sink, fill a cup, and serve it up. In their mind they are about to serve the most distinguished guest of the feast, bath water.
Then the amazing thing happens. Out of something they thought was totally inadequate God made something amazing happen. What was water is now wine. Instead of having 120-180 gallons of water, they had wine. Not just wine, but the best wine the steward had drank. Yes it was wine, actual wine. We know this because the steward said that they would bring in poor wine later in the feast when people were drunk, but the wine from the jars was best. Jesus made, out of the purification waters, wine.
Jesus was not concerned about the moral cleanliness of the people; he was concerned with the life of the couple, and their good name in the community. He was concerned with the community and the joy that a marriage feast brings. Often we can get wrapped up in the morality of the celebration that we become dry and stiff. We can suck the joy out of life. But that is not what a life with God is, that is religion. Religion is all about rules and appearances. What concerned Jesus was life, and life is about relationships. Life is about opening up to the community to share a feast. Life is about celebrating and engaging in the life of the children, and celebrating the life lived by those that precede us to the other side of the veil. It is in this sharing of life where we can see what is going on in our community and carry the concerns to Jesus. It is then in that place where we are asked to do what ever He says, and where sometimes he is asking us to accomplish something amazing out of something unimaginable.
Let us take time to celebrate, encourage, remember, and support as we enter into this time of holy expectancy. Let us take our concerns and hopes to Jesus and let us open ourselves up to him so that we can be like those servants, amazed at what can happen before our eyes. Let us take joy in being a community of faith that is sharing this life’s journey together.