It is the 2nd Sunday after the Epiphany. Like we heard last week in our Sunday worship, these weeks after Christmas give us a peek, or an aha, into who Christ is, and who we are in relationship to God and to each other. Imagine those Three Kings traveling home by a different road after meeting the Christ Child. It must have taken them weeks, if not a lifetime, to grasp the significance of their meeting with the Holy Family. It is the same for us. It takes a lifetime to grasp, even a little bit, of what it means to us that God is here, between us and in us and all around us. All the time.
It takes a lifetime because we encounter God through our daily experiences, through listening to the Scriptures, through prayer and meditation and in more ways that we can count. We see the Divine with and through our own lenses so to speak. And if you are anything like me, your lenses, meaning your vision, changes – especially with age!
In our Listening to the Gospel group we talked about the story that we heard today – the wedding at Cana. Some of us immediately loved this story and could quickly find their place in the story – as the servants, or Jesus, or the baffled disciples, or as Mary his mother giving her son a push to get his life going. Others were affronted by the story; questioning what was happening in the text and what it was bringing up for our ourselves. We all had one kind of aha or another.
My aha came quickly. As soon as I heard that Jesus and his mother were at a wedding, I thought of the many weddings that I attended with my parents, including the first wedding that I performed when the bride took what seemed almost an hour to show up. I thought about my own wedding 22 years ago.
When I heard that today’s Gospel story was centered on wine and that the steward was talking to the bridegroom about the custom of pouring the good wine first, and the inferior wine after the guests had become drunk, I flashed on all the weddings that I have attended and even officiated, including family weddings, where the bride or the groom and many of the guests were not only drinking fine or inferior wine, but were drunk. And I thought, what is Christ doing at a drunken wedding party? If the word Gospel means Good News, where is the Good News?
Our lives; our history, our hopes, and all of our baggage have a strong influence on how we see and hear and understand the world and the Word. The Good News is that nothing, not even our messy history, can separate us from God. As Paul in his letter to the Corinthians says, we all have different gifts and the Spirit activates all of us. Of course God is going to show up at a wedding party. As every 12 step program attests, our lives are out of control when we think that we are out there on our own, running the show. When we do what the servants did – which was turn their lives over to God, and just do one small thing at a time, miracles can and do happen.
Miracles happened for Jesus too. There he was, minding his own business, lounging at the banquet table with some of the wine drinkers. Who shows up? His mother. She points out the problem (the wine has run out) and he says what many of us have said, in one version or not, to our mothers “What does that have to do with you or me? Can’t you see that my time has not yet come? Can’t I just be a guest?”
Mom lets his question rattle around in his head and she goes to the servants and tells them “Do what he tells you.” And Jesus’ public ministry – his miracles, his healings, his speaking, and his dying and rising, is activated. His ministry was seeded back when he was sent out to the desert to be tested, or maybe at his baptism when the Spirit shouted a blessing to him, but his gifts came to life when his mother tapped him on the shoulder.
“Do whatever he tells you to do.” Jesus does not tell the servants to do anything remarkable – just what they do all the time. Show up. Get water. Fill the jars. Draw some out and bring it to the steward. Do no more and no less than I tell you to do.
This is the news that I heard in our Gospel group. In whatever circumstance that I find myself in, whether it be a drunken wedding, or a walk downtown, don’t make a big deal about it. Don’t overly analyze it. Just do what God is telling me to do. No more, No less.
We often listen to the Gospel as though it were written or told for us personally. And it is. As I said, we all hear the Word through our own lives. But the Gospel is also, and maybe even more so, given to every community of faith to wrestle with and to respond to and to act on. This is what is happening in worship and in meetings and in every encounter. Where two or more are gathered…God is speaking.
We, like Jesus, are prodded and sometimes pushed to go public with our ministry. We, like the servants are given small mundane doable tasks that may make a huge difference. We, like the steward at the wedding are charged with using the abundant gifts that have been given to us, without clinging to them. And we, like the disciples, are invited to the party – which sounds a lot like the kingdom that Jesus is always talking about, where love flows like wine – and we are invited to trust and believe.
What is the point of this miracle at Cana story? One of the people who came to the Listening to the Gospel group put it this way. There is no point to this or any of the stories. It is not an intellectual exercise that can be distilled to a point. The Gospel is an Epiphany! God is here in the mundane and the miraculous. In our hearing, our living together, our turning our lives over to the Higher Power. In doing one thing at a time.