Sermon: Epiphany 2 RCL C – “Transforming”

Marriage at Cana by Paolo Caliari (1528 – 1588)

Four novice nuns were about to take their vows.

Dressed in their white gowns, they entered the chapel for their symbolic marriage to Jesus, making them “Brides of Christ.”

Just as the ceremony was about to begin, four Hasidic Jews came in and sat in the front row.

The Mother Superior said, “I am so honored you want to share this experience with us. May I ask why you came?”

“We’re from the groom’s family.”

It is not really the time of year for fireworks, but I was thinking back to when I was considerably younger than I am today and playing with those magical little bombs. You could go to the big shows, but it seems that the ones you could buy were regular firecrackers, bottle rockets (great for bottle rocket wars and no one ever lost an eye having them), sparklers, and smoke bombs. All top-notch entertainment. When it came to the regular firecracker, some folks would like to set them all off at once, but I was more a fan of the one-at-a-time method, especially because I had fun blowing things up. I wasn’t that mean little kid in Toy Story, but… load one up in a pine cone or drop one in a can, that was more my speed. I also got a kick out of putting one in a little pile of pebbles, lighting the fuse and running. No serious injuries ever occurred, except for the one time I planned on just throwing one: I lit it with the punk, but ended up throwing the punk instead of the firecracker. It kinda stung a bit.

I mention this, because today in our Gospel, John has lit the fuse on an explosive story and when it reaches it conclusion on a hill outside of Jerusalem with Jesus being crucified and then three days later rising from the dead, it is going to make one heck of a “bang!” John even gives us a hint to the fact that this is where he is headed with his Gospel, because in the telling of the events at the wedding in Cana, he first said, “On the third day there was a wedding….” In addition, in his Gospel, John does not refer to these astonishing events in the life of Jesus as miracles, he calls them signs. The last verse we read: “Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory.”

We’ve talked about this in the past: a wedding in the time of Jesus was a big deal. You didn’t just invite a few guests. You invited the entire town and even folks from the surrounding towns. It was also an event that wasn’t just one day, but could last up to a week. I’m sure that everyone pitched in with food and beverages, but ultimately, it was going to be the family of the bride and groom that provided for the needs of the guests. I would suspect that in seven days, that many folks could go through a fair amount of wine, yet it would seem that those hosting the wedding in Cana—for whatever reason—ran out. Some might say, maybe they shouldn’t be drinking so much, but even so, this would have been a huge embarrassment for the family and the new couple. The couple might even see it as a bad omen for their marriage. What are they to do?

Mary, the mother of Jesus (and this is one of only two times that she appears in John’s Gospel, the next will be at the foot of the cross) upon hearing that there is an issue, goes immediately to her son and tells him, “They have no wine.” Jesus response, “Mom! It’s not time.” Mom’s response, “Yes, yes,” and turns to the servants near by and says, “Just do what he tells you.” If Jesus was a disrespectful child, you would have heard the eye roll at this point, but he is not. He is obedient and he is compassionate, so he sets out to resolve the problem.

Seeing six jars that could hold twenty to thirty gallons each, he tells the servants to fill them with water. There were no waving of wands or magic incantations. He simply said, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” From the sounds of things, it was even better than the wine I make… and that’s saying something! The water had become wine. Water, something that was probably not really fit to drink, so something that was impure, had been transformed into something new and remarkable, beyond anything that they had tasted before.

John lit a fuse on an explosive story. Through this first sign, the events at the wedding in Cana and the transforming of water into wine, we can begin to grasp that John’s explosive story is not only going to be about transformation, but will be transformational in the lives of those who hear it.

Those who have had even a minimal encounter with the Gospels are familiar with most of the events of Jesus’ life. Yet, so often, when we hear them time and time again, they no longer have an affect on our lives. They no longer have that transformative power over our lives. Maybe we’ve heard them so many times that they’ve lost their awe or perhaps we just see them as stories, not believing that the events described actually took place (we’re too sophisticated to be impressed with what we consider to be parlor tricks) or maybe we think, “That was then, but these types of things simply don’t take place anymore”, whatever the case, when we hear the stories they make no change in us. We are not transformed even a little. Our regular, ordinary and impure lives remain water in a jar where nothing extraordinary has or will happen. There’s no fireworks. No bang. If you find yourself falling into such a mindset, then I invite you to a challenge: for a period of time, set aside your doubts and your criticisms, set aside your unbelief and ask yourself, “What if it is actually true? What if it really happened?”

If we start from a place where our minds are already made up, then no amount of signs or wonders will change the way we think. The Sadducees and Pharisees in the time of Jesus fit perfectly in this category. Nothing Jesus did ever made a single impression on them. They denied it all and their hearts remained hardened til the end. As John said in the prologue to his Gospel, Jesus “came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.”  They did not receive him and they were not transformed. They died in their sins. “But,” as John continues, “to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” Those who believed, were transformed, they were reborn by water and the Spirit and they became the finest of wines. They became Children of God.

Give yourself the opportunity to truly believe that Jesus can transform water into wine and you will discover that he can transform you into something new and remarkable. He can transform you into a child of God.

Let us pray:
God, our Father,
You redeemed us
and made us Your children in Christ.
Through Him You have saved us from death
and given us Your Divine life of grace.
By becoming more like Jesus on earth,
may we come to share His glory in Heaven.
Give us the peace of Your kingdom,
which this world does not give.
By Your loving care protect the good You have given us.
Open our eyes to the signs of Your Love
that we may serve You with a willing heart.
Amen.

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