Epiphany 2C, 2001
John 2: 1-10
THE DAY THE GROG RUN OUT, AND OTHER EARLY MORNING CELEBRATIONS
The Epiphany season of the church year, as we shared last week,
traditionally celebrates the 'showing forth' of Jesus.
In our everyday contemporary language we could say:
Epiphany is about ‘going on a journey, searching’.
During Epiphany we often hear a collection of stories:
of the Magi or Wise Men,
the baptism of Jesus,
the marriage feast of Cana, and
the so-called calling of the first disciples.
The Cana story is surely one of the most charming in all the Bible.
And John is the only one to tell this story.
The wedding itself would have been a great social occasion.
A celebration probably for the whole community.
We don't know how many days the party had been celebrating when the wine ran out.
Weddings were traditionally occasions for festivities lasting a week or more.
Relatives sometimes traveled great distances,
and friends and neighbours poured in.
The groom's father usually paid the bill!
How did the story survive in the tradition till the time of John's gospel?
Why did not one of the other evangelists pick it up?
How indeed does it fit in John's gospel?
There are no easy answers to any of these questions, though perhaps
all one has to say is that it is a great story, so why not use it.
But what meaning can we give to it?
A lot of theological ink and perspiration has been spilled on that subject.
Perhaps the most obvious but not always offered meaning we can give it, is:
Jesus by his attendance at the feast
endorsed feasting and singing and dancing and human sexual love.
Those puritans, prudes, and party-poopers who will try to tell us otherwise,
“have never been to a Jewish wedding,” to quote Andrew Greeley.
For others, such a meaning is just too human.
They claim we should take this story
as written testimony to Jesus’ powers over the laws of nature.
He has somehow miraculously violated the laws of fermentation
and instantaneously turned plain old tap water
into wine of the best available vintage.
And on the surface maybe this would be enough for this story.
But John never calls any of the signs Jesus performs ‘miracles’.
This is in spite of what some English translations of the Bible
would have us believe!
To John, these are ‘signs’, and signs are objects or gestures
with one meaning that suggests another.
In the story of the wedding feast at Cana we meet Jesus
in the first event after his baptism, celebrating...
Yes celebrating the joyous human event of marriage
with a young couple, their family and friends and neighbours.
So it is with us.
We will continue to meet Jesus in every ordinary event in our lives.
Good and bad.
Joy filled or grief stricken.
And when true love travels on a gravel road.
At this stage of my preparing this sermon
I once again decided to ‘surf the net’
and check out a few of my favourite sermon sites.
My interest was sparked when one of my Internet colleagues
turned to the conclusion to the story of the Prodigal Father,
when sharing his comments on the wedding feast at Cana.
I was surprised and intrigued!
Remember... in the story of the Prodigal Father, the father
pleads with the older son to join in the celebration, and the son replies:
'Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so I might celebrate with my friends' (Luke 15:29).
This colleague then suggests:
“We can safely assume the son is not lying. If our Christian life has the character of ‘working like a slave’, ‘never disobeying’, never being able to celebrate with our friends, what have we made Christianity into? Not only do those outside miss out on the celebrations, we too have lost what is the essence of our faith”.
We are told by John that this was Jesus' first sign...
A sign of how and what God through Jesus is ever trying to show us.
That grace-type events are everywhere.
Even in unlikely places.
The love and grace of God are meant to overflow freely for everyone.
Not just is some rarified New Age sacredness or fundamentalist Christianity.
Not just is some ‘totally’ other.
But also lurking in the midst of the grace-full events
of secular human life that ordinary people enjoy.
A spirituality of the secular?
Is that not what Incarnation - or more accurately, ‘open incarnation’ - is?
When grace overflows freely for everyone, it is said people come running...
It was about 2.30 in the morning.
A young minister called Tony was still struggling with his sermon...
He just couldn’t get his thoughts together.
“I’ve just got to have a break”, he said.
So he went for a walk to a local roadhouse to get a cup of coffee.
As he sat finishing his coffee at the counter,
three blokes - three down-and-outers - came in.
One of them in a kind of half-drunk voice said to the others:
“Tomorrow’s my birthday”.
One of his mates responded sarcastically: “So what?”
And they had a cup of coffee and left.
Tony found out from the roadhouse owner, Harry,
that these blokes came to the roadhouse every night at the same time,
and the chap celebrating a birthday was named Rob.
Tony asked Harry if he would help set up a birthday party for Rob. Harry agreed.
Early the following morning,
the roadhouse was filled with party decorations. Even a birthday cake.
Several other people had heard about the party
and had come in off the street.
When Rob and his mates came in, everyone sang “Happy Birthday” to him.
And when the candles on the cake were lit, he was speechless.
When it came time to cut the cake,
Rob asked to take the cake with him to admire.
No one had ever given him a cake before in his life.
After the party was over, there was an interesting conversation.
Harry leaned on his elbow on the counter
and looked across at Tony and said:
“I bet you belong to some church”.
“I belong to the church that celebrates birthday parties
for bums at 2.30 in the morning”.
Harry looked at him and said:
“If I could find such a church, I’d join it in the morning.”