“On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee” John 2:1
Four words from the reading, each beginning with the letter “w” can help thinking about the story of the first miracle of Jesus: wedding, woman, water and wine.
“On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee”, says Saint John Chapter 2 Verse 1.
The wedding was a big occasion in the life of a small community, it was one of those moments when everyone was included, it seems to have been one of those when hospitality demanded that even people who were strangers had to be on the guest list for Verse 2 tells us, “Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.”
Is it likely that someone knew all the diverse group that followed Jesus, or is it the case that having invited Jesus they felt his group of friends must also be included? What is important to note is that Jesus was at the heart of the life of the local community. Jesus and his disciples do not go off to be a group apart from everyone else, they do not turn their backs on the ordinary things of the world, instead they are there as full and active members.
What does the wedding at Cana say to people about being members of the church today? Is the church at the heart of the life of the local community, or is it out on the edge of things? Is friendship with Jesus a private and personal matter that only mentioned to other church members? Is membership of the church as something for one part of the week and membership of the local community something for the rest of the time, or are people secure in being Christians in the community?
The wedding at Cana is a challenge to to the church and a challenge to individual Christians about involvement with the wider world, it does not give an option to turn away.
The second “w” is “woman.”
Look at the conversation between Jesus and his mother in Verses 3-4, “When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.'”
It seems an odd exchange, abrupt even. Mary does not explain what she thinks Jesus should do and Jesus does not explain the reply he makes. It is clear that the words are part of a conversation that has been going for some time, when people know someone well, they know what they mean, even if they speak only a couple of words. “Woman, what concern is that to you and me?” asks Jesus, and he knew and Mary knew what he was saying.
Jesus and Mary needed only a few words because they knew each other so well. Can people say that their own faith and their own friendship with God is so close that they have such a level of understanding? God knows the secrets of all hearts, no matter how few words might be used, he understands, but how much understanding have people of him? Sometimes God may speak in many words, but still he is not heard, or perhaps it is that people will not hear. “Woman”, says Jesus, not in an abrupt way, but as part of a long conversation. What conversation are people now having with God?
The third “w” is water.
In Verses 6-7, it says, “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.'”
The water jars were not there for domestic purposes, they were for religious use and the people seeing them there would have known their use. The water jars would have reminded the people gathering for the wedding feast of the hundreds of rules governing daily life that the religious people tried to keep, they would have reminded them of what a great burden religion could be and how dull it could be. The water that was intended to symbolize purity and renewal had come to represent staleness and stagnation.
Might people see the church today in the way that some people might have seen the water jars in Jesus’ time? Might people see the church as being about rules, about imposing burdens on people? Might even those who belong to the church find it wearying at times? Might people feel that there is much that is dull and much that has nothing to do with Jesus? If, like the water in the jars, the church is about us beginning afresh, about us being renewed, then what might people do to make it different?
The final “w” is wine.
Verse 9-10 says, “When 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 and 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.'”
What did the steward think? Did he wonder about how the bridegroom, at a feast where there had not even been sufficient wine, could afford what was the best wine he had tasted? Did he think that the bridegroom must have secret wealth in order to serve such wine at the end of the feast? Did he wonder what sort of family it was that had gathered? The wine was something entirely unexpected.
What does the wine say about the life of the church? Do people think about the life of the church in the way that the steward thought about the wedding feast, that the early part was the best and that now there is only what is leftover? Do people feel, as the steward did about the feast, that there is not much to which to look forward? Dare people ever expect the unexpected? Jesus transforms that wedding feast, is there the confidence that he might transform the lives of churches?
Wedding, woman, water and wine: four words to prompt thought about lives as Christians and four words to prompt thought about the lives of churches.