1On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." 4And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come." 5His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." 6Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to them, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. 8He said to them, "Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward." So they took it. 9When 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 10and 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." 11Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
Almost two months ago, on the first Sunday of December this year, the church began a New Year of Grace with the waiting, anticipatory, expectant, hope-filled season of advent. So far during this year of grace we've encountered Jesus' cousin John the Baptist, we've met Mary, Joseph, and the infant Jesus; we've become acquainted with magi who were foreign religious leaders from the East—from the direction of the rising sun, where every new day begins.
Thanks to Barbara and to Pastor Peg for facilitating when I stayed home with the flu last week...
Last Sunday on the Baptism of Jesus, we begin the liturgical season of Epiphany, a short segment of the green and growing Ordinary (ordered, structured) Time. Every year during the time after the Great 50 Days of Easter we have a long segment of Ordinary Time when we count Sundays after the Day of Pentecost that's the 50th day of Easter. The Epiphany season begins and ends with a trinitarian theophany—a showing-forth, manifestation, of the triune God. Last Sunday we celebrated the first theophany with the Baptism of Jesus; three days before Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, we'll experience Jesus' Transfiguration.
Today our gospel reading is back in the Gospel According to John, the latest of the 4 canonical gospels, compiled between 90 and 110. John gives us a different worldview from the synoptics Matthew, Mark, and Luke that despite marked differences, perceive Jesus' life and ministry in a similar manner. This John most likely is John the son of Zebedee, brother of Peter and James—John the "beloved disciple." More accurately, the fourth gospel comes out of John's community, the people who surrounded John.
John brings us the most explicit new creation of the four canonical gospels. Besides events remembered from Jesus' life and ministry, John's gospel brings us seven signs and seven "I am" statements that the community likely found, discovered, or uncovered in separate written-down documents. Seven is the number of perfection in Hebrew numerology.
Today our gospel reading brings us John's version of Jesus' first act of public ministry. In all four gospels, Jesus first calls disciples (followers, people he taught or "disciplined"), and then the text reveals the direction of God's call to Jesus with a specific act. As I've explained, John is the rogue, outlier gospel that almost didn't make the canonical cut; John shows us the reign of heaven on earth, the kingdom of God as an endless party, so what else to start out with but a wedding banquet?! In the ancient near east, an opulent, exorbitant, inclusive wedding feast would be one of the main signs or indicators of the messianic age.
John speaks of signs rather than miracles. We've talked about signs pointing to or indicating something other than themselves. Street signs that say Santa Monica Boulevard are not the actual reality of Santa Monica Blvd, though they're mostly located on the street itself. Signs in John's gospel all point to Jesus; in contrast, people would be apt to view a miracle as a suspension of natural laws, as a spectacular event that drew attention to itself.
The reality of this Messianic Feast or Wedding Banquet that begins Jesus' public ministry is not Canned Heat's hippy anthem that sings about where "the water tastes like wine." It's about water that has been changed into wine, into the fruit of the vine, that's one of the agricultural gifts of the Promised Land. It's important to realize this Cana in Galilee was a place full of shady characters and reprobates, and not exactly an elite suburb where people would hanker to hang out.
Next Sunday we'll return to this Revised Common Lectionary Year C's featured gospel according to Luke with Luke's version of Jesus' first act of public ministry.