Christ’s Love Changes Us: Epiphany 2

Christ’s Love Changes Us: Epiphany 2

Year C, Epiphany 2: January 16, 2022
The Second Sunday After Epiphany

Year C: Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 36:5-10; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; John2:1-11

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There was a wedding in Cana of Galilee and they had no wine.[1]

We’ve heard the story. Jesus changes water into wine, the first miracle that he performs. Interestingly, this story is told only in the Gospel of John, and I think we rarely focus on all its moving parts, knowing really on that Jesus changed the water into wine. That’s incredible, but how is it that a story of a miracle told only in the gospel of John has gained such significance in Christian theology?

There’s the back story, of course, that Jesus’ mother, Jesus, and his disciples go to a wedding in Cana. Weddings are among the most joyful events in human society.

Perhaps its significance is in the fact that any host would know it is just about the worst thing that can happen, especially at a wedding: the wine is running short. The text doesn’t convey this information, but there have been some scholars who believe that Mary’s concern was because she was the aunt of the bride and might have been the person responsible for the wedding.

“They have no wine.” “So, what do you expect me to do, mother” might have been my response. I wonder exactly what Jesus’ mother expected him to do. She doesn’t ask him to do anything. She simply makes the statement “they have no wine”.

Alas, what I would not do is call my mother “woman”. In this day and in our culture, it would be seen as rude. But Jesus was not being rude. Think of the context of this encounter. In the Greek word (γυναι [gunai] there is no idea of censure as we might understand it. But what the use of γυναι [gunai] instead of μητερ [mēter] (Mother) does indicate that Mary (who is not ever named as Mary here, just Jesus’ mother), she can no longer exercise maternal authority.

Jesus has begun his public ministry.  As I said though none of the synoptic gospels mentions the wedding at Cana, Christian tradition based on this passage holds that this is the first public miracle of Jesus. It is considered to have symbolic importance as the first of the seven signs in the Gospel of John by which Jesus’ divine status is attested and around which the gospel is structured. Jesus will later return to Cana, where John describes him healing a Capernaum official’s young son, the second sign in the Gospel of John.

I think it’s telling that the first act in Jesus’ ministry is an act of human joy. Of human generosity.

Are you open to abundant, transformative, never-ending love?

In today’s gospel, Jesus shows us in a very dramatic way that love transforms. Jesus presides over a transformation at a wedding in Cana, a sign to them and a sign to us of God’s abundant, infectious, transformative love.

It’s a story we all know very well. But the more I sit with this passage and read this story the more I am intrigued by the details being focused on. In this very brief passage, we’re given very precise details about the volume of water Jesus changes into wine.

Let’s read it again: “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” (John 2: 6-7).

So I began to wonder, how much wine are we talking here? If each water-jar is at maximum capacity of 30 gallons, then we’re talking 180 gallons or roughly 900 bottles of wine!

Now we also know from the story that this abundance of wine comes at the very end of the feast, so not only will they have more than enough wine for the remainder of the feast, but they will in fact, never run out of wine! Or in other words — the feast will never end!

The people at this feast, once at risk for running out of wine that would have brought great shame upon them, were welcomed into a feast that Christ himself presides over that will never end! God transformed their shame into great joy!

Now this is Jesus’ first sign in John’s gospel — his first miracle. And clearly we can see that Jesus wants the world to experience and witness the abundant, transformative, never-ending love that God has for us. This never-ending love that is in fact Jesus Christ himself.

But what is so transformative about this story is that Jesus witnesses to God’s love for the world at this wedding. And this witness sets off a chain reaction.

The disciples and all those at the wedding witness this abundant love and experience it and are transformed by it. And they in turn witness to this abundant love by retelling this story of Jesus over and over again.

And when we hear this story we witness this love and experience it and are transformed by it. We are witness to this abundant love also by retelling it over and over again. But we also are witness to this abundant, never-ending, transformative love by coming to this table with our hands outstretched to receive this love.

What happened that day at a village wedding where Jesus was present? John tells us the importance: “Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him.

That we hear this story in the season of Epiphany reminds us that it can happen anywhere, anytime; an epiphany, a sudden seeing. Epiphanies are the big moments when our salvation draws very near, and the light breaks through.

There was a wedding at Cana of Galilee. Jesus was there. The wine was running out.

“Fill the jars with water”. “Now draw some out and take it to the chief steward.”

Look at that in another way.

Look at it as the love of God that Jesus Christ brings into our lives again and again.

This love that we receive changes us. Transforms us. Allows us to decide to live in the light of love instead of the shadows of hatred. Turns our shame into great joy. A joy that we must share.

Amen.  

[1] Cf. John 2:1, 2:3


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