There are so many reasons to love today’s Gospel reading. Need I say more than water gets turned into wine! But it is more than the blessing of wine. It those unwritten/ unspoken words between Jesus and his mother. It is the reminder that God’s call to us begins with blessing and abundance.
Our reading today opens with the words “On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.” (John 2:1) The third day of what? I’d always assumed it was the 3rd day of the wedding which could often last about a week. But it is not the third day of the wedding. The text says on the third day there was a wedding. Another question, why is it so important the Jesus mother is there? It is a curious way to begin a story.
It seems to me that this story takes place so early in Jesus ministry that you can count the days on your hand. It is so new that every little detail matters. It is as though John who began with such beautiful poetry, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) And now he needs to move away from poetry and become a chronicler of a narrative.
On the first day – John the Baptist points to Jesus as the Messiah and that he is the one who comes to baptize with the Holy Spirit. Day two begins with a repeat of day one, John exclaims as Jesus walks by, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” (John 1:
36) and is followed by Jesus inviting Phillip and Nathanael to follow him.
On the third day Jesus is at the same wedding as his mother in Cana. He and his disciples have been invited to the wedding and the wine ran out. This was a big problem. Today we’d probably think nothing of it. If the wine runs out, we pop up to the store and buy another bottle. Not a big deal. But then it was a big deal – more because of what the wine represented. Wine is the sign of God’s abundance – running out of wine was like running out of God’s blessing and no one wants to start a marriage with the reminder that God’s blessing is running out.
The wine is gone and Jesus’ mother hears about it. And Mary does what mothers can do with their children when they know what they are capable of. Mary gives her son a knowing look. Maybe you’ve seen it on your mothers face. If you are a mother, maybe that looks has been on your face. She says, “They have no wine” she says to Jesus (John 2:3) She begins to walk away when the protests starts, “But mom, why is that my problem? Why are you looking at me like that? As if I can do something about. My time, my hour is not here.”
Then she does something else only a mother can do. She completely ignores him. Walks up the servants and says, “Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:5) It is the bible’s version of mother knows best. She knows his time is here.
What comes next is the abundance of God’s blessing. The servant does as Jesus says and they fill the six stone water jars – each holding 20 or 30 gallons and then they take them to the chief steward. By the time the water jars reach the chief steward for him to sample, it is wine. Not just any wine but the best wine.
The chief steward exclaims, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” (John 2:10) And this – the gift of the good wine is the first of Jesus’ signs. I’ve often wondered why it was this particular sign. Doesn’t it seem strange? The first sign of Jesus’ ministry could have been a healing miracle or a feeding miracle or a banishing of demons. Instead God begins Jesus' ministry with a sign to remind us of God's abundance. In the blessing of wine Jesus first reveals his glory – in the gift of wine, in the gift of God’s abundance. That is a great way to begin a ministry.
And it all started because his mother knew he was ready even when he didn't. Oh, he was definitely getting there. John the Baptist had already publicly said, “He’s the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.” He even has disciples who are following him. And yet he tells his mother he’s not ready. His hour is not here.
This is the amazing and frustrating thing about God. God calls us even when were not ready. God calls, invites, pushes, nudges us to follow whether we are ready or not – whether we expect it or not.
Malcolm Gladwell the author of many books and staff writer for the New Yorker certainly never expected to find faith sitting in the backyard of someone he was interviewing for a book. He was working on his latest book called David and Goliath when faith found him once again. He describes what happened in an article called, “How I re-discovered faith.” He writes, “I was raised in a Christian home in Southwestern Ontario. My parents took time each morning to read the Bible and pray. Both my brothers are devout. My sister-in-law is a Mennonite pastor. I have had a different experience from the rest of my family. I was the only one to move away from Canada. And I have been the only one to move away from the Church.
…What I understand now is that I was one of those people who did not appreciate the weapons of the spirit. I have always been someone attracted to the quantifiable and the physical. …I have always believed in God. I have grasped the logic of Christian faith. What I have had a hard time seeing is God’s power.
…I put that sentence in the past tense because something happened to me when I sat in Wilma Derksen’s garden. It is one thing to read in a history book about people empowered by their faith. But it is quite another to meet an otherwise very ordinary person, in the backyard of a very ordinary house, who has managed to do something utterly extraordinary.
Their daughter was murdered. And the first thing the Derksens did was to stand up at the press conference and talk about the path to forgiveness. “We would like to know who the person or persons are so we could share, hopefully, a love that seems to be missing in these people’s lives.”
Maybe we have difficulty seeing the weapons of the spirit because we don’t know where to look, or because we are distracted by the louder claims of material advantage. But I’ve seen them now, and I will never be the same.”.” (http://www.relevantmagazine.com/culture/books/how-i-rediscovered-faith)
The invitation to faith and the reminders of both God’s power at work in the world and the abundance of God’s blessings come at the most unexpected times. There is no way of truly knowing. What we need to know is that it God’s abundance is always with us. The Chief steward said, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” (John 2:10) That just how things are with God. The best wine is served last.
And we are invited, whether we are ready or not, to follow, to shine God’s love into the world, to share with others the blessing of being one of God’s children and followers of Jesus. Amen