Blessing and Joy – reflection for the third Sunday of Epiphany

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.

John 2:1-11

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Do you know a Shiraz from a Merlot, a Sauvignon Blanc from a Chardonnay? Are you the sort of person who chooses a particular drink for a special occasion? Or perhaps you don’t drink at all.

Remember those days when we used to go out to a party or we used to entertain at home?

It’s crisis time. Jesus and Mary are at a wedding. It’s a big occasion. The guests have enjoyed the most delicious food and wines. Everyone is having a good time but for those with eyes to see and ears to hear, there is a problem. The servants are rushing about in the background. The chief steward has a discrete word in the ear of the bridegroom. The wine has run out. The party is over and embarrassment is assured. It’s time to go home; let the gossip begin. All anyone will remember about this particular wedding is that the family was too mean to order enough wine.

Mary steps in. It’s a simple enough sentence: ‘…….the mother of Jesus was there.’ Mary is simply enjoying herself as a guest at the wedding. She has no role and no authority. She is however attentive to need. Turning to Jesus, she states the obvious: ‘They have no wine.’ Mary doesn’t ask, persuade or cajole. She has complete confidence that Jesus will act: ‘Do whatever he tells you.’

‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’

We can hear the impatience in Jesus’ voice, yet too the intimate way in which he talks to his mother. Jesus doesn’t want to be interrupted. His ministry is yet to begin. He and his disciples are guests just like everyone else and Jesus doesn’t want to get involved. But Mary looks at Jesus with love. She is the woman through whom the Word became incarnate. She knows he can respond to need. Perhaps Mary is beginning to understand who Jesus might be. ‘Fill the jars with water,’ he commands. And they are filled to the brim. Water is turned into wine, not just any wine but the best of wines. Imagine the excitement, the wonder, the awe! The ordinary becomes extraordinary, scarcity becomes abundance and water is transformed into a vehicle of blessing and joy. There is a new relationship between God and humankind. The Law of Moses is represented by the six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification. This Law is replaced by the grace and truth of Jesus Christ, symbolised by the wine of the Kingdom of God. In the words of a hymn by Graham Kendrick:

‘Come on in and taste the new wine, the wine of the kingdom, the wine of the kingdom of God. Here is healing and forgiveness, the wine of the kingdom, the wine of the kingdom of God.’

The story ends: ‘Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.’ In this Epiphany season, intentionally we stop to recognise the glory of Jesus revealed in and through the ordinary everyday stuff of our daily lives. We recognise too God’s glory revealed in and through the extraordinary signs of love and hope that we give and we receive. Along with those first disciples we see and we believe.

Mary, Jesus and his disciples are simply guests at a wedding. Mary notices what is going on around her. She speaks up, she asks Jesus to help and quietly Jesus responds to the need. As you reflect on your response to today’s gospel, you may like to make Bill Braviner’s Epiphany Prayer your own:

Take from us Lord,
any sense that we haven’t much to offer you.
Even when we feel that our gifts are meagre and ordinary, help us to offer them joyfully to you,
that you may transform what we think is just water, into the rich wine of your kingdom,
full of blessing. Amen.

Rev Canon Nikki Arthy, Rector

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