Feast of Transformation

Feast of Transformation

Wedding at Cana of Galilee (John 2:1-11)


You can easily be forgiven if your first thought on the Gospel reading was – that must have been some party. 


You can easily be forgiven if your first thought on the Gospel reading was – that must have been some party. 

They must have calculated how much wine they needed for the wedding feast. If the guests had drunk too much, then presumably they were having a fun time! If more people had come than expected, again it would suggest that this was a great party and may well last for a lot longer than expected.

Let’s begin with a spoiler alert.

This story is not in the Bible to give us an excuse for a wild night out.

This is a marriage at Cana of Galilee not a Downing Street party during lockdown.  I suppose Jesus and the disciples were at work.

Nor is it a Harry Potter tale of sorcery – Jesus’ first conjuring trick.

The story is so rich in symbolic meaning that one sermon cannot give it justice. But I hope that you are willing to spend a brief period looking at some of wealth of insight contained within the story.

Our time is limited but we need to begin by looking at time at the beginning of John’s Gospel. We are given a timeline for the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.

In the first chapter of John, we read of the testimony of John the Baptist.  Immediately after that the Gospel says ‘The next day’ Jesus comes to John for baptism.

Then the Gospel says, ‘The next day’ Jesus calls his first disciples.

Then the Gospel says ‘The next day’ and it tells of the call of Philip and Nathaniel. 

By the time we come to Chapter 2 we have already been told of four days in the life of Jesus.  As you see from the text in front of you, we then read ‘on the third day’ there was a wedding.

Let me tell you about another ‘third day’ – and yes you are right – Jesus rises from the dead on the third day but that is not the one I am thinking of.

When the children of Israel were wandering in the wilderness. God establishes a covenant with Israel on Mount Sinai.  Do you remember the story of how Moses is given the ten commandments. 

When Moses went up the mountain he told the people to purify themselves – to wash themselves and keep themselves pure until –

Have you guessed it – the third day. 

On the third day God appeared on the mountain.

So the coming of Jesus on the third day with the stone water jars of purification standing by was a sign and an important sign. God reveals himself once more.

God has joined the wedding.

Jesus and his disciples had been invited. 

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is an invitation to a kingdom feast with tables set for the poor, the hungry, the mourning and the persecuted. 

This is the paradox of the Gospel – Jesus invites us whilst it remains our choice to invite Jesus.

His mother, Mary (although she is not named) was already there.

She belonged with the villagers enjoying a joyful day. But she has observed that the wine has run out and turns to Jesus for some help.

I don’t think she was suggesting that he nip down to the off licence for some replenishment!

Jesus appears to be indifferent – ‘woman what concern is that to you and me?’

He calls his mother ‘woman’.

I don’t know about you but no matter what my age, I wouldn’t have wanted and certainly not dared to call my mother ‘woman’.

She says ‘They have no wine’.

Just empty bottles!

The prophets had delivered God’s message to Israel that there will be a future day of prosperity when wine will overflow. 

The prophet Amos had said: ‘The mountains shall drip with the juice of grape and all the hills shall run with it.’ (Amos 9.13)

And the prophet Joel had declared, ‘on that day the mountains shall drip with new wine.’ (Joel 4.18)

That was the hope –

but Mary says, ‘they have no wine’.

These are seemingly hard days in Cana of Galilee, just nine miles north of Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth.  Times are tough.  Budgets are tight. People are not free. God’s promise of prosperity seems a long way off.

They have no wine.

We read this story in challenging times. Too many people are dependent on charity for the basics of food, shelter, and to provide for their children.  Fuel bills are rising. Inflation is rising. Rents are too high for people even on reasonable incomes to afford.

They have no wine.

Mary – the woman – tells the stewards ‘Do whatever he tells you’.

He calls her woman – not because he is being rude - but because she stands in for all the people of Israel – for all the children of God.

Mary is echoing the response of the people to Moses, when he delivered the message from God, ‘Everything that the Lord has spoken we will do.’

There are six large stone jars each holding between 120 and 180 gallons. 

They were there for the ritual purification at the wedding.

Jesus says fill them with water to the brim.

The water becomes wine and it is a lot of wine!

Not only is a lot of wine, but it is also the best. The sort of wine which brings thousands of pounds at auction or Liz Truss’ lunch appointments!

They have wine now!

Their cups were overflowing.

On the timeline of the ministry of Jesus we are at the beginning.  Jesus says that his ‘hour’ has not yet come.

The hour is the hour of his death.  The hour of our salvation. 

The hour when he takes just a single cup of wine in his hand – a cup filled to the brim with love, grace, expectation.

At that hour he says – ‘this cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood’. (Luke 22.20)

His hour comes as he hangs from a cross and turns to his mother, once again calling her ‘woman’ and says, ‘woman, here is your son’ and to the disciple he loved, ‘here is your mother.’ (John 19,27)

Mary at the foot of the cross is woman standing there for you and for me.

So, I am sorry if this is a big disappointment to you but this is not a story about the mother of all parties.  Rather it is a profound statement – a sign – of who Jesus was and what he came to do.

The miracle is not merely a past event where water became wine, wonderful though that was. 

The miracle is God’s generosity to an impoverished humanity.

The miracle is the transformation that the Gospel brings.

The transformation of a planet whose resources have been squandered to a land overflowing with the prosperity which comes from the soil. 

From a world impure and corrupted to a world which is rich with the goodness of humanity. 

From a relationship with God, marred by the failures of God’s people to a New Covenant of love.

As Isaiah had written:

‘You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married.

For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your builder marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you’. (Isaiah 62.4-5)

Our relationship with God is as intimate as a marriage. God’s love for the world is that of a bride and her groom. 

You know there is an easy – and I would suggest quite false – way of reading the message of salvation.

The easy way is to say that now we are saved God will look after us. Nothing can harm us so bad things won’t happen to us.  No need for Covid vaccines or looking out for what is happening in the world.

All we need to do is pray and things will go well. 

It doesn’t work like that.

Let us preach the truth. We pray to be protected from illness, from Covid, from accidents, from natural and unnatural disasters, from poverty, from vulnerability. from death. 

All the things that we fear and pray won’t happen may very well happen to us. And when they do, we may well feel that the wine of God’s love and grace have run out.

We need to be like the woman – like Mary – who knew that to be a disciple of Jesus is to be both obedient and trusting. 

It is to look into the waters of our despair not to anticipate drowning but an overflowing of grace.

A new wine for our tired wineskins.

So, raise your glasses with the wine which intoxicates with love for God.

This wine, which transforms each day and every night from times of bewilderment and uncertainty into adventures in faith.

This wine which transforms the cup of our suffering and pains to an ever-deeper relationship with the God of love.

This wine which has the power to confront those times when we are discriminated against, treated unfairly, forced into hiding because of who we are so that we join the struggle and determination to live with justice and equality.

This wine which looks at a world in which there is no wine – where the people suffer from poverty, abuse, neglect, violence and tells us that there is a better way.

Ours is a different kind of feast. It is a feast of sharing. It is a feast in which the good things of life are multiplied through giving.

It is a feast of life which springs from a new relationship with God – a new covenantal relationship bought for us through the blood of Jesus – the wine of the Kingdom of God.

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