Epiphany 2C John 2:1-11
In the years well before I became a pastor, I sometimes worked as a wedding photographer. I didn’t do it very often because while I love weddings, it was definitely not my favorite thing to photograph. Truth is, you could not pay me enough to photograph another one! There is always so much anxiety, stress, frustration, tension on the wedding day! And, as I understand it, the bride is a little nervous as well!
I did have the privilege of directing the wedding of two dear friends of mine a several years ago. Both really wanted the service to be more worship and less wedding. This wedding was a wonderful experience. The focus was on worship and the marriage as a way of worship. The groom said, “I don’t want everyone to be thinking about us—I want them to be thinking about God! We’re there in the chapel because of Jesus. We could get married anywhere—but we are here—in this specific place for a reason.”
The bride said, “our wedding should be about Christ.” There were, of course, plenty of struggles on the day of the wedding. The flowers were not quite right, there were scuffed shoes on the young bridesmaids, and the constant fear that one of the two young girls in the wedding would end up jumping in a mudpuddle just before the service started. But in the end, they were right. It really WAS about God. It really WAS a worship service. That’s been true at pretty much every wedding I’ve attended because even when the couple is not as consciously focused on this fact, it is still just as true.
In the time that I have been here, we’ve had a few weddings. We’ve also had some vow renewals, too. They all decided to renew their vows during a regular Sunday service. Actually, Martin Luther strongly suggested this kind of practice for weddings to ensure just the sort of thing my friends wanted in their wedding: to be certain the marriage was securely situated within worship.
Just like a wedding with all its details, there are plenty of things in which to get lost when we hear our Gospel lesson for today. So much to think about and consider. Jesus is at a wedding. Not your typical setting for a Jesus story is it? It’s on the third day of the wedding and any time we hear something about ‘the third day’, it’s usually a sign of something significant.
In those days, weddings were long, lasting up to a week! Just think about the catering bill for that! Unfortunately at this wedding, they run out of wine on the third day. In the section we heard today, Jesus is ordering the steward around, telling him what to do, tensions are running high! He calls his mother “woman”, which seems disrespectful, but may not actually be. There are those purification jars that the guests are to wash their hands in, but they are empty (probably someone from the caterers forgot to fill them!) And, worst of all, did I mention that they ran out of wine!! That was a really big deal then. Pretty big deal these days, too. How embarrassing!
Then after all of that excitement and drama, right at the very end of the story as almost an afterthought, is perhaps the most important part of the scripture. “Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.”
The first of his signs. His very first miracle!
So, what does a sign really do? Well, it points to something else. A street sign’s entire purpose for existence is to show you the street. A billboard’s job is to get you to think about something being advertised. Nether the street sign nor the billboard sign are there for you to think about the poles and structures, letters and paint that make up what they are. Those things are all important in their own way, but their purpose is to point you in a direction or help you see something else.
So too it is with the miracle in this story: Jesus miraculously turning water into wine. This is probably the case for all of Jesus’ miracles as well. In the end, it does not matter HOW the water became wine. What matters is that Jesus made it so.
The ultimate objective of this story about Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding is to point to God. It is a sign.
Jesus says to his disciples, to us and to everyone: Look!! let me tell you about the God I know.
The God I know can do ANYTHING, even turn water to wine. The God I know gives abundantly; not just a little, but giving full to the brim. Just like these overflowing jars, he gives with great generosity. The God I know does not skimp on you. Just like this wonderful, fine wine, he gives you the very finest. He always gives you his very best.
I wonder what the bride and groom might have said on that day. Now there is no reason in the scripture to assume that they ever even knew that the wine had come from water or that a miracle had occurred, but I often like to think about this: what if one of the people in a bible story could talk to us and tell us about God? What would they say? Maybe they knew about it and were overcome with thanksgiving and awe at the miracle. Maybe, for them, it was one of those days that happens to all of us from time to time. God shows up and helps us out of a tight spot and we don’t even realize it happened.
So who is the God you know? And how do we tell people about him? If signs are to point to God, how do we point to God and tell others about the God we know? I doubt that any of us are going to turn water into wine, but there are many ways we do this now. We tell about God what we create with the gifts of creativity God has given us. We tell about God with fabric and thread, needles and yarn, banners with messages of God’s grace and all kinds of creative works. We tell about God with music from organs and pianos, strings and voices lifted together loudly and softly all singing that Christ is Lord of all. Words spoken from altar, pulpit; from class room and fellowship hall. Words spoken at the font and over the wine poured into the cup saying: God Loves You No Matter What! Hands helping, cleaning, building. Hands holding other hands cold with sorrow and loss, showing that God does not leave you. Ever.
It has been said that Jesus gladdened the wedding at Cana with his first miracle; changing water to wine and alleviating the sorrows and worries of this family and changing them to joy. This is the God we know; the Christ who transforms us, our sorrows and worries, who works in us, and, like turning water into wine, he changes us daily into the Body of Christ so that we can be signs. So that we can say: Look! Let me tell you about the God I know.