Sermon preached by the Reverend Jordan Haynie, Deacon & Seminarian
St. Paul’s on the Green, Norwalk, CT
The Second Sunday after the Epiphany – January 20, 2013
“But you have kept the good wine until now.” May I speak in the name of our abundant God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.
As someone currently overwhelmed with the minutiae of wedding planning, I can tell you that this story absolutely terrifies me. Those of you who’ve been married might remember that in the thick of planning a wedding, when choosing linens and approving bridesmaid dresses, it’s not the best idea to worry a stressed-out bride with stories about how things might go wrong. Like running out of wine. Oh my gosh, what would we do if we ran out of wine? It would be so embarrassing. I would be looking for someone to bail me out. I’d be looking for someone like Jesus.
Now, Jesus’s role in this story is pretty weird. If we’re honest, this whole story is weird. Rowan Atkinson, the famed actor behind Mr. Bean, has a fabulous bit in which he retells the story of Cana. He describes the servants as applauding in the kitchen once the water has been changed. They ask if Our Lord “does children’s parties.” They press him to “give us another one.” And this story seems to lend itself to that view of Jesus. “Magic Jesus.” “Problem Solver Jesus” The God who shows up to fix our mistakes and rescue us from any calamity in which we find ourselves, no matter how trivial, no matter how avoidable. We often find ourselves believing in this Jesus. I do, at least in the 4th quarter when the Longhorns are down by 3. And yet, when we look at the world around us, we know this cannot be the case. When we see the suffering that abounds, we know that our God does not magically fix all our problems. That money does not suddenly appear to pay our bills, that those who pray are no more likely to escape violence than anyone else, that God is not some “cosmic butler” waiting in the wings, just in case we might need him to step in and save us from ourselves. All too often, it feels like Jesus is saying, “What concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.”
But in this story, this weird, confusing story, we learn something else about Jesus. While he does, indeed, respond to his mother’s request and rescue the wedding from lack of wine, the rescue is not the point. After all, the bride and groom never asked Jesus for his help. The guests never even knew he was responsible. The only ones who know Jesus is the source of this new wine are his mother Mary, the disciples, and the servants. They are the ones who share the good news with their hosts. So, why? Why did Jesus perform this miracle at all? For that matter, why does Mary even ask him to do so? Why does she care so much that they have run out of wine?
Perhaps her concern arises from the same place that glorified God in her early pregnancy, saying, “He has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” Maybe Mary, who knows the faithfulness of God, who knows God’s abundant love and mercy shown to those who fear him, who knows how he lifts up the lowly, believes that her son, who she knows to be God, will offer relief to those who have run out of enough. And so she calls upon Jesus to offer his help. But, weirdly, Jesus initially rebuffs her. “Woman!” He says, “What concern is that to you and to me?” This sounds awfully harsh! Like he is rudely dismissing her, dismissing her concerns, as though he were refusing to perform on cue like a children’s party magician. Because the miracle at Cana is not about Jesus magically fixing our problems or showing up in the nick of time. No, the miracle at Cana, is that God’s abundant, extravagant love makes the common, the everyday, holy.
Today, we don’t think of weddings as ordinary events. The magazines tell us that it’s “my special day.” The day on which the bride is supposed to “feel like a princess.” But on my “special day,” 6,200 other couples will be getting married. 6,200 other couples will be wondering if they’ll run out of wine. And in the Gospel, Jesus shows us not that he’s picked one couple out of 6,200 to grace with his presence, but rather, this miracle shows us that even at this most common of events, he shows forth his glory.
In the Hebrew Scriptures, the prophets tell us that in the days of the Messiah, “The mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it.” That “on this mountain, the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples afeast of rich food, a feast of well-matured wines.” The miracle at Cana is that even on an ordinary day, not just at the end of days, the Messiah can make the mountains drip with wine and can offer to all peoples a feast of rich food. Just a few weeks later in Jesus’ ministry, the Lord will feed over five thousand people with only five loaves and two fish. And in just a few moments, we will gather at the Lord’s table, and be fed with the loaves and with the wine that he has made holy, that he has made into his body and blood. In these miracles, Christ has made all times and all places holy. In these miracles, Christ shows us his presence in every day things. In the bread and wine that sustain our bodies we find God’s perfect love that sustains our souls.
God does not do children’s parties. God does not magically show up when we call, and does not answer to “Home, Jeeves.” Not even when we think it’s really, really important. But our God does make our everyday lives holy with his presence in the bread and wine in our Eucharistic feast. As we eat the bread and drink the cup, we take the holiness of Christ into ourselves, and out into the world, offering the feast that the Lord gives us to all peoples. We are called to be like Mary. To boldly stand before God, and tell him when the world has run out of enough. To keep asking when he tells us to wait, and to trust in his promise of abundance fulfilled in the Eucharist, even when we can’t see it in the world around us. And so as we come to this table, and partake of Christ’s body and blood, may we be empowered by his grace to make our everyday lives holy. To daily lift life heavenward. To trust his promise that life abundant is meant for us all, even when it feels like he’s saying the hour has not yet come. Our Lord is keeping the good wine for us now, and entrusting us to bring it forth into the world that so desperately needs to know his love. Amen.