Eucharist – 3rd Sunday after Epiphany – 24th Jan 2021
SUNDAY 24 JANUARY 2021 – Epiphany 3 Gen 14-7-20: Rev 19.6-10: John 2.1-11
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “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.” Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
Today’s Gospel reading is one eagerly awaited by some ever since Christmas. We don’t get it every year, but this year we do. Hooray!
Now, there’s a heck of a lot in it: and (just to make it more interesting) I’m going to begin at the end. The last sentence tells us that “this” (which we’ll come to) is the first of Jesus’s “signs” (which means there were others, later) that it happened in Cana (factual evidence) and that “his disciples believed in him” (so there were followers already, and this strengthened their faith in who he was). OK? so, back to the top. This sign happened on the third day, and third days are always important; they bring to fruition something that (1) started, (2) brewed a bit, and then (3) was complete: an “Aha!” moment: that’s what it was! now we get it. Of course!
This Aha! was at a wedding: a great celebratory feast when a man and a woman are united in love, and all their family and friends come and rejoice. The first we hear about is Jesus’s mother:- not by name, as if for her own sake, but entirely in relation to Him. She’s there already – Jesus (for once) is an “also”, just one of the invited guests, and part of a group. Mary seems to me to be one of the ladies dealing with food and drink and music and all that has to be got ready if a good time is to be had by all. In that time and place weddings went on not just for hours but for days: and refreshments had to be provided for everyone, coming and going, throughout. Maybe OK for a day or two, but after that so many well-wishers have imbibed the supplies there’s no more vino to sup. Disaster! what an insult!how not at all to start the hospitality of dutiful married life. Mary notices, and shares her dismay with her son, saying it is “they” – the couple themselves – who have nothing to offer their guests, despite her careful preparations: their duty, their problem. When he replies that the state of the marriage is no-one else’s business – yet! – she is restored to her preparatory role meanwhile – a leader not a follower – and gives the servants an order which they, recognising her authority, then accept. But, since that order is to “do whatever he says” she puts him in her place: in which case it is not only the wedding-feast she has prepared, but her son for his future. One day the feast will never end: but that time has yet to come.
But, today, there isn’t even water at the wedding until Jesus sends for it, and the servants hear and obey. They think it’s for guests to get washed in, before the party: but what comes out of the jars is wine, and the party can go on as long as it does . Water then wine: baptism then communion. But it is wise to come ready, prepared: and somebody has to do that, with you and for you, as a good mother might; who then, when the time has come, acknowledges your integrity as a person named before God, and steps back. It’s a pattern (exercising then relinquishing power) we also hear of when John the Baptist looks at Jesus amongst his disciples, and discerns a new form of relationship of which he is no longer part. Like Mary, he’s done his bit. Churches might do well to emulate the work of Mary in the formation of Christians, and the renunciation for his sake of power.