By Rev. Joan Kessler
John 2: 1-11
Everybody loves a good wedding. With the arrival of the pandemic, these grand celebrations of a couple’s love for one another, like most everything, are changing. The dreams of inviting every single person you ever knew to your nuptials and eating at a buffet and dancing the night way are becoming a bit of an antiquated notion after these past two Covid years. Health restrictions and variant concerns have put a serious damper on the party and shifted our planning around what the wedding celebration looks like. But there is something about weddings that just seems to invite conflict.
There are differences of opinion about a myriad of topics like what dresses the bridesmaids will wear, how to sit guests at tables so everyone gets along. Then, there are those unforeseen things that happen the day of, in the midst of much excitement and pre-wedding jitters, something doesn’t go according to plan. There is a flower bouquet missing… the wedding cake takes a tumble… the DJ doesn’t have the song for the first dance… you get my point, and the list of possible wedding snags is as long as the bride’s train. Quick thinking and pivoting are required to save the day and hopefully, the couple will be none the wiser. I suspect we have all experienced wedding conflict in some shape or form, either as a guest or as hosts… those moments are what make for good stories to share as the anniversaries go by.
Today, we hear the story of a wedding in Cana that Jesus and his family were invited to. And the conflict is identified from the outset. Mary comes to Jesus with the news that the wine has already given out. There seems to be a bit of a difference of opinions over the issue between Jesus and his mother. Mary is concerned for the host family. Weddings in Jesus’ time were multi-day celebrations… to run out of wine too early would have been seen as a lack of hospitality and poor planning and brought embarrassment to the hosts. Jesus, however, doesn’t share his mother’s concern. “What business is this of ours?”, he wants to know, and what is he supposed to do about it? Mary doesn’t argue her point, she simply says to the servants, those on the fringes of this celebratory story, “Do what he tells you.”
“Do what he tells you” ends the discussion. Next, we read of Jesus instructing the catering staff to find six large vessels holding 20 - 30 gallons each and fill them with water… and then the conjuring of water turning into wine happens somehow… the day is saved. Jesus changes his mind and acts.
I don’t know how to explain this, but perhaps, this is not the main focus of this passage. I found myself looking at this story through a different lens this week, noticing the instrumental role Mary plays in saving the wedding. Without her, we might wonder what would have happened. It was Mary who told the servants to do what Jesus says. He had been reluctant up until this point to act in any way, it wasn’t his concern. But could it be hearing his mum express a confidence in him made all the difference to this story?
We often focus on Jesus’ magical act of turning water into wine, but it is Mary who opens the door to a new way of thinking. She has a different insight that causes a shift in the energy and shape around this conflict. It is a story of endearment to me that affirms the relationship between Jesus and his mother and the supporting role she played in getting his ministry started. She believed her son could do anything he put his mind to… and isn’t this the gift all children need to receive from their parents at one time or another and sometimes more than once.
Water doesn’t change into wine… if only solving all life’s problems were this easy. I confess that I enjoy wishful thinking from time to time. It is part of my creative being and spirit to not always look at the reality of a situation but just dream of how I would like it to be. For change to happen, we sometimes need to do a little dreaming and look outside the box; we also need to bring in others and reconsider together what might be possible. And a big part of this wishful thinking is affirming the gifts and strengths of those who are maybe hesitant to share; they think this is not my business, or now is not the right time, or someone knows better than me how to do this. Just as Mary encourages her Jesus to take a step outside of his comfort zone, we too as a community of faith are charged with this special work of encouraging the gifts and leadership of one another.
So, what are you wishfully thinking about these days? What water into wine moments are you hoping for? Sometimes the reality of a situation can prevent us from dreaming and reimagining. We run out of wine from time to time. But we see these moments as opportunities for growth and for change, for renewal and transformation. The wedding at Cana is a great story with a happy ending. It is a celebration of new life; it will see two people changed by one another and open themselves to unknowable possibilities and an unforeseeable future. Maybe running out of wine is not a problem to be fixed but the beginning of something new. Maybe it’s calling forth new life and possibility.
As a community, we see that Jesus had the very visceral need of supportive and positive encouragement. He wasn’t afraid of changing or too proud to accept the viewpoints of others. God’s abundant love and Spirit are working among us in our everyday celebrations and conflicts. But could it be that the Wedding at Cana is a light-hearted story of what it means to be human… to accept help when we need it and live into the abundance that is before us? There is more than enough for the party to carry on … and Jesus too loved a good wedding.
May it be so for us as well… Amen