January 17th 2016
Based on John 2:1-11
If you are doing a Christian wedding in Palestine to this day, you MUST read this scripture about the wedding feast at Cana; it isn’t considered a proper wedding unless you do! On my pilgrimage in Nov. 2013 we did drive through Cana on our way to Jericho but alas, didn’t have time to stop and buy some Cana wine.
This story is placed at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in the gospel of John. John’s account is the most symbolic of the four gospels. This is the gospel from whence we get the phrase in our Creed, `…Jesus, the Word made flesh.’ From this source we hear such pronouncements as: Jesus is the bread of life, Jesus is the true vine, the living water, and today – we may see him as the wine of abundance. If we look a little deeper, and a little further, we also find Jesus is the bridegroom. “What?” you may say. Where’s that in the story? Ah, just you wait.
There are all sorts of details in the story which I’m not going to deal with today – details such as the amazing amount of wine, the water jars for purification, and the cryptic conversation between Jesus and his mom – that’s for another day. Today I want to talk about the promise of abundance, as symbolized in wine and weddings.
Wine, may seem a little more obvious, after all Jesus apparently made about 150 gallons of it in one fell swoop; enough for the whole village of Cana and all their friends. Water into wine at Cana as a metaphor for abundance- the outpouring of God’s great love.
Then there is the abundance theme on weddings. That may not be so apparent at first glance, even though a wedding is the setting for this story in John’s gospel. But what is the picture of a wedding you get in the year 2016? In the church at least, the number of wedding I am asked to preside at has diminished steadily in the past nearly thirty years.
The vast majority of weddings, if they happen at all, are presided over by a government marriage commissioner, keeping God entirely out of the equation. And I don’t think I know anyone these days who hasn’t been married several times, if at all, or if they are contentedly married, don’t have some extended family member that has gone through a marriage break-up.
Is a wedding still something we can celebrate? Weddings in the Jewish tradition (and Christian) involve God as a partner in the wedding. This is so clearly the intended reality, that the highest joy, the best news, that the prophet Isaiah can come up with to show that the exiles returning from Babylon will flourish, is to pronounce them, `Married.’
I mentioned that another metaphor for Jesus was the bridegroom. And no, it’s not contained in the little story of the wedding at Cana, but it is just over the page in chapter three. Often when we read scripture we just read little bits, and miss other parts out, not seeing the amazing connections that hold the larger story together. So let’s see what it says, in John, chapter 3 beyond the well-known verses about God loving the world so much that he sent this only begotten son.
In John chapter 3, starting at the 22nd verse we hear that Jesus is baptizing down at the Jordan River. It’s not a misprint – we usually think of John the Baptist, but here is says Jesus was baptizing and John’s disciples go to their leader and complain that Jesus is competing with them.
John tells his disciples that this is perfectly fine, in verse 28 he says Jesus is the bride groom. In the translation `The Message’ John says “… The one who gets the bride is, by definition, the bridegroom. And the bridegrooms friend, his `best man’ – that’s me – in place at his side where he can hear every word, is genuinely happy. How could he be jealous when he knows that the wedding is finished and the marriage is off to a good start?
So if Jesus is the groom, is humanity the bride? It would seem that that is John’s intent, in using this imagery.
I share with you this wee story. My parents do not have a perfect marriage. There were times when it was pretty rocky, and I remember at one point when I was about ten years old, asking mom that scary question. “Are you and dad going to get a divorce?” I’ll never forget her reassuring words:
“Hell no” she said, “We can’t agree on anything else, we’d sure never agree to a divorce!” They will be celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary this coming April 3rd, and I’m delgithed to say, they are still going strong.
In 1999, Mom and I took a trip across Canada. Every night Mom would call Dad back in Ft. Nelson and tell him about the day and tell him that she loved him. Isn’t that kind of like the relationship we long for with the Divine? That deep heart connection. Saying, “Here’s my day,” pouring it out, and then resting in that love.
The beautiful theologian Marcus Borg, who passed away last January, wrote that faith is the “way of the heart,” the act of “beloving” God, of giving one’s whole self to God. The age of Enlightenment and scientific revolution whittled away the sense of the `holy’ in western society. Diana Butler Bass in reflecting on Borg says, “Beloving God devolved into believing things about God. Is it possible (she asks) to reenchant the universe? Can we move back to a holistic way of apprehending God? Can we heal what has been torn? Can we `belove’ God?” p179 Christianity for the Rest of Us
In wedding imagery at its finest, the love (will) of God is wedded to human activity in the world. With the strength of God’s abundant love we can create communities of abundance for all, justice and care for those most vulnerable, and celebrate with Psalm 85:10 “Steadfast love and faithfulness with meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.”
In 1987, Gordon Light wrote a lovely song based on the story of the wedding feast at Cana. I invite you to listen to the verses, join in on the chorus, and let it fill your soul.
Song: Cana Wine (by Gordon Light)