Saturday, January 13, 2007

Wedding at Cana

I like John – favorite gospel. Speaks to me – Luke was my favorite, then Mark, now John.
Stresses different stories – ask your spouse the story of your relationship, you will get different stories/ what the other sees as formative/important.

John starts with a beautiful word poem – parallel to the most important point in history to that point, creation. God spoke the Word and the world was created – now the Word has become flesh and is dwelling (pitching tent and all that implies) among us.

New beginnings. Then moves to John the Baptizer – different points than the story last week – John the Gospel makes it very clear about who John the Baptizer really is: not the Messiah, not Elijah come again, but a voice crying in the wilderness –

John calls Jesus Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world – and testifies to the movement of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ life.

The next day (parallel here to the days of creation), he gathers together two of the disciples – those who will be beacons of light to the world – Nathaniel and Phillip, telling them to “Come and see.” (phrase found a lot in John) They join Andrew, Peter and John as disciples so by this point there are 5 of them.

Then we get to our text – John 2:1-11.

This is the way the gospel of john starts Jesus’ ministry – at a wedding. This is a strange little story, really. It’s the third day in John’s gospel – parallel for John to the day God called forth the vegetation of the fields, trees bearing fruit, plants bearing seed, ripe grapes called forth on the vine. On this day, there was a wedding in Cana.

Don’t know where Cana really is – scholars debate, but it was maybe 5 to 6 miles from Nazareth. Close enough to walk, but far enough away to stay in Cana during the wedding. Weddings – days and days and days. Week long celebration starting on a Tuesday night about midnight with the father of the bride leading the bride from house to house around the community. It was a community experience – a time for joy.

Years ago when Johnny Carson was the host of The Tonight Show he interviewed an eight year old boy. The young man was asked to appear because he had rescued two friends in a coalmine outside his hometown in West Virginia. As Johnny questioned the boy, it became apparent to him and the audience that the young man was a Christian. So Johnny asked him if he attended Sunday school. When the boy said he did Johnny inquired, "What are you learning in Sunday school?" "Last week," came his reply, "our lesson was about when Jesus went to a wedding and turned water into wine." The audience roared, but Johnny tried to keep a straight face. Then he said, "And what did you learn from that story?" The boy squirmed in his chair. It was apparent he hadn't thought about this. But then he lifted up his face and said, "If you're going to have a wedding, make sure you invite Jesus!" The little boy was on to something. Weddings are time of Joy.

Don’t know who was being married – maybe related to Mary. Maybe Mary was helping out at the wedding – a sort of wedding director for the 1st century.

Vivid imagination – no mention of Joseph – Mary is a widow by this time. Jesus only relative mentioned being with with Mary – the bachelor son. Maybe just Mary was invited – the way it’s phrased “Jesus and the disciples were “also invited.” Maybe it was a pity invite. It’s uncomfortable to be a single person at the wedding. Bittersweet maybe. Did he go home after calling out Philip and Nathaniel? Or did he drop by to collect Mary on the way? Gospel unclear. But he went – as well as his 5 new disciples.

After a while, the refreshments ran out – specifically the wine. I wonder if it was the strain of having extra guests that caused them to run out, 6 extra people. And we don’t know how far into the wedding it was, but I know that stress of running out of food at a party. I’m sure if they could afford it, they would have had more, but this part of Galilee was not wealthy and I can imagine that 6 extra people would really put a strain on the host. And there is not only that strain, but it could be seen as an omen that not only would the wine run dry, but that the marriage was doomed for failure, never reaching it’s fullest potential. Maybe joy was not meant for these people.

Mary remarks about this “They have no wine.” Actually she doesn’t use Jesus’ name – nor is she named in the gospel, but one referred as “The Mother of Jesus.”

To this Jesus responds “Woman! What concern is that to you and me?” – OK, I have often wondered about this comment. It’s not always translated that way. I understand the “Woman!” was not a rude way to talk in that society, but it wasn’t particularly intimate. He didn’t call her mother – again I have to wonder why. Maybe he was distancing himself from his family in order to begin his ministry; I don’t think we will ever really know. It seems harsh – maybe he was angry that she was pushing him and he replies --

My hour has not yet come.

The hour is not yet come. There are two different word to indicate the passage of time in the NT – Chronos and Kairos – the word here for hour is usually used with Kairos – God time. But Jesus’ hour has not yet come. It’s early yet. It’s not yet time but …

Jesus has the servants fill six jars with water – about 120 to 180 gallons. That’s a bunch of water. They may have been just sitting around because the bride or groom had just gone through ritual purification in order to be married. You see, the Jewish people knew they needed to be cleansed and so they had these rituals for purification – from sin both of commission and omission. It wasn’t right to enter into a marriage without being cleaned from that sin.

And then it happened – Jesus tells the steward to draw some out and taste it – and it was wine. Water from the purification jars had turned – transformed – into something else. And not only was it wine, it was very very good wine. It had been transformed into something that showed he was master over both matter and time. You see, it takes time to make a good wine – you know the saying, “We will sell no wine before it’s time.”

This was the first sign Jesus did to reveal his glory – to his disciples. The servants didn’t know what was going on, the bride and groom didn’t know, the steward didn’t know – only Jesus, his mother and the disciples. There was joy there that day…

But the clock has started and we will end this journey with Jesus at the cross, where another cup of wine will be offered, thick with bitter herbs and then the pronouncement – it is finished.

What was Jesus trying to say with this miracle? That he was ready to begin his ministry? That he was an obedient son? Or was he saying that the old, tried and true ways that we use to try to clean ourselves just don’t work any more and that we need the transforming power of God Incarnate to turn our watery tasteless existence into the cup of salvation?
Have we experienced that change – that act of creation of new life? How are you experiencing it today?

There is a question that BBT asks herself – how am I being saved today? So I am asking you – how are you experiencing the transformative power of Christ in your life today?

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