Sermon for 16 January 2022, Epiphany 2 Year C
Readings: Psalm 36.5-10; John 2:1-11
The wedding at Cana – that is, when Jesus turned water into wine – is the first miracle that we see Jesus doing in the Gospel of John. In this Gospel, the evangelist uses Jesus’ miracles as ‘signs’ which reveal his glory and point to the Kingdom of God. Each sign teaches us something about who Jesus is as the Word of God, and what his Reign is like.
But Jesus turning water into wine has become a bit of a joke, hasn’t it? It’s something which has become almost mundane, expected. What’s something Jesus did? Well, he turned water into wine. It’s Jesus’ signature party trick.
Indeed, as a first miracle (the opening statement of Jesus’ public ministry) it does seem a bit domestic, doesn’t it? It’s no feeding of 5,000 from one small packed lunch. Nor is it restoring mobility to a fully paralysed man in the middle of a crowded house. No, this is behind the scenes at a wedding – with only servants as witnesses. Jesus doesn’t even take credit for the wine – he lets the bridegroom take the credit for canny planning.
Yet perhaps it’s the domesticity which gives us the first, most important piece of information about Jesus and about the Kingdom: Jesus is domestic. He’s part of our everyday concerns, with us in the day-to-day running of our lives. He can and will transform the most mundane parts of our lives into the miraculous. Or perhaps he reveals that the mundane parts of our lives are miraculous in themselves: the discovery of something we misplaced is worthy of celebration, as is having enough food and drink to celebrate.
Indeed, this miracle inhabits a dual space: the everyday essential of water for ritual purification, washing and drinking, with the indulgence of sublime wine; the working, overlooked space of servants, with the grand drama of the wedding feast. In moving between both these spaces, inhabiting them and showing his familiarity and comfort with both, Jesus shows that he is for all spaces, part of all spaces, and with us in all spaces. He also demonstrates that the Heavenly Realm transcends all spaces: not just in the spaces of ceremony, but also in the necessities of daily life. His dominion is over everything.
The next thing I notice about this miracle is that it is symbolic parallel to Moses’ first pubic miracle – turning the waters of the Nile into blood. Where Moses’ miracle was a curse, a public demonstration of power to discredit the court magicians and declare the sovereignty of the God of Israel – to warn Pharaoh and show him that Moses means business…. Jesus’ miracle is one of providence: an abundant gift to enable celebration. He is ushering in the Kingdom of God, not as a time of judgement and trial, but as jubilee: a time for enjoyment, forgiveness of debts, and freedom from slavery.
Then Jesus hammers this point home with the sheer, ridiculous abundance of this miracle. Jesus didn’t just make a little wine, or even just enough for the party. No, Jesus filled six thirty gallon jars. That’s over 1000 standard sized bottles of wine. Frankly, Jesus has massively over catered. And to top it off, the wine Jesus makes isn’t just any old plonk – no, it’s the best wine the party have had so far. It is as if to say: you don’t even know how good the Kingdom of God is going to be. It’s going to be better than anything you could have expected. God’s goodness and abundance is more than you will ever need.
And the master of the banquet’s comments about the quality of the wine also reveals something else about the Kingdom. You see, the reason he’s surprised by how good the wine is is because this is towards the end of the celebrations. Weddings at the time were celebrations which lasted for multiple days – as the master of banquets reveals, the party would consume the best wine first and – once everyone was a bit more drunk – they’d move on to the cheaper stuff. That the wine had run out suggests that the party was coming to a close. Yet, by providing not only more wine, but good wine (and an abundance of it), Jesus not only gave everyone a treat but allowed the celebrations to last longer.
For me, this reveals the enduring nature of the Kingdom of God – that by his providence the Jubilee will continue on unending in the ceaseless love and forgiveness of the Saviour. And, just as the celebrations at Cana had already been well underway before Jesus stepped in, we can also celebrate the Jubilee in anticipation of its permanent establishment. We can live the values of the Kingdom before it comes to fulfilment.
So what can we take away from this miracle, this sign? It reveals to us the dominion of God in all aspects of our lives, the presence of the Kingdom in everything we do. And it shows us that that Kingdom is one of celebration, abundance and blessing. Of forgiveness and freedom. That this jubilee will be eternal. And it hints to us that we can begin living in that time of celebration NOW.
I wonder, how will our lives look with that knowledge? It’s easy to recognise Jesus in the ceremony of the Eucharist, but what do my household chores look like with Jesus by my side? How do I approach my cleaning, my laundry, my cooking in the knowledge that he is right there with me? What does my day look like if I allow the celebration of Jubilee to permeate every moment? What does liberation look like as I answer the phone, and I write an email? What does abundance look like as I consider my charitable giving, as I greet people on the street, as I talk to the people I love?
This week, may the joy of this celebration fill your hearts in everything you do.
May you see the miracles in the mundane and recognise the mundane as miracles.
May you carry Jesus as your companion in all spaces, wherever you go and whatever you do.
May you live in the time of Jubilee, and may you enjoy its abundance.