The first of Jesus' miracles takes place in a familiar setting. The celebration of a wedding, the coming together of families and friends to surround the bride and groom with love and support. Jesus is there, with his mother and disciples, to share the joy and folly of life.
Weddings were different back then. Ceremonies took place at the groom’s house, and not in a church. While most weddings today often drag into the night, it was common for an event like this to last a week or more.
In ancient times, when hospitality was a mark of social pride, the host supplied everything. Especially at a wedding, one made sure there was plenty of food and drink for everyone to get their fill.
Now, I can’t recall how much booze we supplied for Halloween party, but the empty bottles and cans that I cleaned up the next day filled at least two recycling bins! On top of what we supplied, most of our guest brought their own and more to share.
At this wedding, the host either calculated wrong, or the guest enjoyed themselves a little too much. By the third day there was no more wine left. Jesus’ mom notices this social faux pas. And incorporates her son to help. While Jesus is hesitant, he does what his mom asks of him.
It’s here, between water and wine, Jesus preforms his first public miracle, revealing who he truly is. This is all it took for his disciples to believe. Not healing a sick person or bringing someone back from the dead. They believed because Jesus made more wine to keep the party going.
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According to John there were six purification pots - each held 20-30 gallons of water. If my math is correct that’s roughly 150 gallons of wine! At five bottles of wine per gallon Jesus made roughly 750 bottles or 62.5 cases of wine. And not just any wine, but the best wine!
With a quick Google search, I learned Sine Qua Non was voted the best premium wine for 2021. It’s a California Syrah that sells for $450 a bottle. Call me cheap but I’d have to be drunk to crack open my wallet to make such a frivolous purchase. And you can bet I’d never offer it to someone who has already emptied my liquor cabinet. They wouldn’t appreciate its quality muchless the cost.
Yet, this is exactly what Jesus does. He makes the best wine. And gives it to us, even when we aren’t in a place to appreciate it. Jesus knows our joy is priceless to God and doesn’t hold back. But he also knows what this miracle will cost him later. Yet, he’s willing to pay the price for us.
It’s no coincidence that this epiphany moment happens at a wedding. Throughout the bible, marriage is a metaphor used to describe the union of God and humankind. A wedding, of course, is a public symbol of that union.
In Christ, God has made a union with all of us. And this union is cause for celebration. So, why wouldn’t Jesus want to keep the party going? He knows God loves to celebrate us so much so that God came in flesh and blood to keep that party going for you and me.
While only John mentions the wedding in Cana, all four gospels give countless examples of Jesus celebrating with people - people sharing meals, people getting healed, people being liberated from the demons in their lives.
Jesus carried that spirit of celebration wherever he went proclaiming God’s mercy, grace, and love. As he did, lives were transformed, relationships were restored, and communities healed. Talk about miracles! He turned the bitter water of sadness and sin into the finest wine of joy and redemption. And he’s called us to follow him.
The Incarnation didn’t happen so God could drag us off to a heaven. It happened so God could bring the very best of heaven to us. And through Jesus we can enjoy all the abundance that God has to offer. Through him, we can celebrate others without the fear of running out. Even when it looks like the end of the party we can count on Christ to keep it going.
And for this reason, according to Robert Hotchkins, “Christians ought to be celebrating constantly. We ought to be preoccupied with parties, banquets, feasts, and merriment. We ought to give ourselves over to veritable orgies of joy because we have been liberated from the fear of life and the fear of death. We ought to attract people to the church quite literally by the fun there is in being a Christian.”
Is that how you would describe being a follower of Christ? Do you see faith as fun? Or is it a chore? Or a burden you have to carry?
The way I see it, our God doesn’t want our worship to be too holy to be happy in. Or too solemn to be celebrated. God wants us to embrace life and enjoy the fullness and abundance of it.
A great way for us to honor and worship our God is to be a community that celebrates one another - with laughter, food, and drink. I can’t think of a better way to launch Anamesa then by following Jesus’ lead by perform the miracles that keep God’s party going.
Given the grim times we are facing, this might seem like a tall order. You might be asking yourself, “What can I do? I’m no miracle worker.”
For years my brother-in-law criticized my choice to leave the riches of advertising for the poverty of ministry. The last time he said something to me, I told him, “You know, Brendan, I can turn water into wine.”
At the time it was a snarky comment said just to mess with him. But now I have come to realize there is some truth to that statement. Because of Jesus, I possess the power to turn something as basic as water into something miraculous. And so do you.
You may have noticed there’s an invitation in this passage. Mary, sensitive to the needs of the gathering, invites Jesus to intercede. And he does. There are dire needs in our world right now.
The sickness of poverty, injustice, and inequality have done more damage to the human spirit than Covid or cancer combined. Jesus is inviting us to intercede. Jesus is calling us to be the miracle that brings abundance and life to the party. This is something we can all do, together. We don’t have to be perfect; we just have to show up.
Think about those in the story who showed up. The one’s who helped Jesus at the wedding didn’t do it because they had faith. That came later. They didn’t do it to win favor in God’s eyes or to impress their boss. They just showed up and did what was asked of them.
Jesus told them to “Fill the jars with water.” And they do it.
Jesus said, “Now draw some out and take it to the chief steward.” And they do it.
Just as Jesus was obedient to his mother, these servants were obedient to Jesus. As a result, they became a part of his miracle. You see, the key to following Jesus is simply doing the will of God like he did. Whenever we do what Jesus asks of us, miracles happen.
So what is Jesus asking you to do? The answer is pretty clear and straightforward. He said love, share, give, serve, listen, pray. This is how we are to celebrate God’s kingdom here on earth.
It’s here, in this space between us and them, Jesus tells us to make love our priority. In the space between you and me, Jesus tells us to be so generous that no child, or neighbor or family is without. It’s in that space between heaven and earth, Jesus tells us to welcome all people no matter who they are; forgive all people no matter what they’ve done; and care for all people, just as has God has done all these things for you and me.
Show up and do what Jesus asks of you. This is how you become the miracle that reveals God’s incarnate glory to the world.
This is how we, the body of Christ, celebrate the goodness of God’s heavenly feast, today.
When we do what Jesus asks of us, water becomes the finest wine. The mundane becomes miraculous. The everyday becomes extraordinary. And the party continues, now until the end of time.
If that’s not a reason to celebrate, well…then I don’t know what is.
Bartlett, David L. and Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. Feasting on the Word. Year C, Vol. 1. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2009).
Cox, Jason. Come and Dine. episcopalchurch.org on January 17, 2016 (accessed on January 12, 2022).
Richter, Amy. The First Sign. episcopalchurch.org on January 20, 2019 (accessed on January 12, 2022).
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”