“The have no wine…”
Last year we were blessed with Erik preaching on these wonderful Bible readings about the Wedding in Cana. Last night he reminded me that I convinced him that he should preach given that he had just been married the year before and must have insights that I could not bring to such readings. Well, this year I have no such excuse – although for me it’s only been two and half weeks!
I will return to this a little later.
But first just a reminder. The season of Epiphany is about the manifestation of God, or the revealing Sunday by Sunday of who this Jesus who was born into the world really is.
This Sunday Jesus is revealed for the first time, by his first miracle at the wedding at Cana, as the Messiah expected by the Jews, the Messiah that would save his people [St John 2:1-11]. In the Bible from Genesis [Gen 2:22-25 as read by Paul in Ephesians 5:30-32], and through the Prophets [e.g. Isa 54:4-8; Jer 31:31-34; Ezek 16] and the Wisdom books [e.g. Song of Songs] in the Old Testament, and in the parables and actions of Jesus [e.g. Matt 22:1-14; 25:1-13; 9:15; Luke 14:8-11; John 3:29] people had been prepared for the Messiah. And the promised new age that the Messiah would bring about is characterized by a new relationship between God and his people – a marriage union.
In our Baptism and through faith, we are united mystically with Christ – we receive His Spirit dwelling in our hearts – that we may evermore dwell in Him and He is us. And this marriage union becomes possible because of the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus.
What separated us from a closeness with God – our shame, our guilt, our blindness to truth, our weakness of will – some of the result of our sin, some of it the result of the sins of others against us – these things have hindered our love, hindered our close union with God. Jesus has come into our midst to deal with these things, to reunite us with God, in a holy bond of marriage.
His first miracle happens at a wedding feast, to correspond with the revelation that He is the Bridegroom, we are his bride. Jesus takes the first steps to overcome the divisions between him and us. And when we are joined with him, through faith and baptism, we are raised up through this union.
Jesus changes clay vessels filled with water into clay vessels filled with wine – a figure of human bodies with a living spirit transformed into human bodies with a living spirit joined with His Spirit. And I saw, says John in Revelation , the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband [21:2, 19:7-9]. Jesus is adorning us even now by His Spirit to be God’s bride. The added joy to the wedding feast of abundant wine is a figure of the deep joy he brings to our souls through our spiritual union with Him.
So what new insights have I learned from two weeks of marriage?
One insight: During our preparations for marriage and during our honeymoon – Daniëlle and I have been reflecting on what specifically we would like to see come about as the fruit of our lives together – no doubt some of you here have thought about that too for yourselves, in your married life. God willing, new life, God willing, some very specific other fruits of the union of our love – that our love for one another might overflow with benefits for others. The specifics in our case are private but we have some very clear ideas, based on our particular gifts and callings – and no doubt God will show us other ways too.
Likewise, in the Epistle today [Romans 12:6-16a], Paul reminds us that our marriage union with God is to bear fruit – and in very specific ways. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.
Our union with God in marriage through our Baptism, through faith, means we can expect things from God – he sends His Spirit into our hearts – that is the grace given to us, God’s very self. And we have things we can offer God that we have by our creation. And in combination, the very specific gifts that we have by our nature, God promises to transform, from natural gifts to supernatural gifts. And we are to use them. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be genuine.
Today let us reconsider our gifts, and to see ways we can use them – this is the fruit of our marriage union with God. Paul lists a few examples of gifts – prophesy [some of us are taking a course currently offered to understand this gift better], service, teaching, generosity, leadership, acts of mercy, compassion, hospitality. And he says that we are to use these gifts in a right Spirit – in hopefulness, with patience, steadfastly, in love, in peace, and in humility.
Earthly love is to bear fruit as is our love with God.
A second insight: In marriage and in deep friendship, we also discover our failures in love – this also is a fruit. I see already some unhelpful patterns from my own parents’ failures in love (pointing out lovingly by my wife), and I’m sure you’ve seen, having been shown, some from yours. There are hurts and poor examples that we have taken into our own souls that hinder a deeper intimacy with one another, and there are hurts that hinder our deeper intimacy with God. Praise God when we see these things that we might seek pardon and turn to God to be healed of them.
Mary shows us today that we are to make our needs known to Jesus. She speaks for all of humanity when she says, they have no wine – she is describing our insufficiency and asks Jesus for help. And she advises us to, do whatever Jesus tells us to do.
Today there is opportunity in our service to ask for healing – for bodily sickness, if that is your need, and also for those sicknesses in our souls that hinder our closeness to God and one another. Jesus has come to bring about the flourishing of love – so let us bring these things to him and ask him to heal us.
Then we will do what Jesus told us to do: we have the opportunity to receive Holy Communion. In Holy Communion, we strengthen the bond of our marriage union with God, through being truthful with Him about our failings and our needs, recalling Christ’s offering of Himself for us, and then receiving the best wine, the wine that has been saved for us until now. We will wash ourselves in His blood and be fed with His body – to strengthen and renew the vows we have made to Jesus, and to receive all the benefits he has promised us.
We have no wine, so let us ask him.