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And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee;….
And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.
The readings in Epiphany season are a mediation on Christmas. What does it mean that God takes flesh and dwells among us? What does it mean about God? What does it mean about human nature and the possibilities for us?
This morning Jesus reveals himself at the celebration of a marriage with his first miracle – turning water into wine. The miracle of turning water into wine at a marriage feast is filled with meaning. The joining of God and human nature in Jesus Christ will make possible a marriage union of our souls and bodies with God. How we relate to God will be new in Jesus Christ.
We may haven take this close relationship for granted, if we have been Christians for a long time, but the reality is quite astonishing. Jesus Christ, is God incarnate, God in the flesh. As followers of Christ, we are not just following a teaching, but God will become incarnate in us. Through baptism and faith there is a new relation between God and humanity. We don’t just come to know about God but there is a change in our very being.
Let’s think about this for minute, about the ways people came to relate to God in the Old Testament and compare it with human love.
Psalm 19 speaks in the first half, about how God reveals something about who he is in the creation:
The heavens declare the glory of God: and the firmament shows his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; yet their voice goes out into all lands, and their words to the ends of the world.
We learn something about God from the creation – creation speaks without words – that God is powerful – look at mountains, or crashing waves, that God is interested in beauty and in variety – go for a walk in the wilderness and be amazed.
How would this compare with human love? If you wanted to learn something about your beloved, you could look to the place she lived – her study room would tell me much – what are her interests? what does she hold as valuable? There are mementoes of what has she done in her life? That is a beginning, but who could be satisfied with that knowledge?
The creation itself tells us much about God, but who could be satisfied with that?
The second part of Psalm 19 speaks about another way in which God reveals something about who he is:
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the ordinances of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than the honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
We learn something more about God from His written Word – the nature of God, God’s relation to humanity, how to grow in wisdom, what is a holy life, and as we follow that way we begin to become more like God – and so we can see God reflected in ourselves.
If you read the letters that your beloved wrote to you, you would have deeper insight into who she is, and you might understand how you might meet up with her – but you would still not have actually met her or entered into a relationship with her. You still would not be satisfied with the letters themselves.
God’s Word written, God’s revelation – the Law, the Writings, the Prophets, the Gospels, Acts, the Letters of the Apostles, Revelation – they are an added gift beyond the Creation – here we learn profound insights about who God is, and about how we might prepare for an encounter, and how to live so as to look more like God.
But we cannot be satisfied with the Word written alone. Jesus said to the Pharisees, who gave their lives to study God’s Word written, You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. [Jn 5:39-40]
To get to know your earthly beloved, you would need to call her up, to actually have a conversation, to go out on a date, and ultimately, if all is good and you discern that you could spend the rest of your life in discovery of one another – you would enter into a marriage…
The depth of the relationship which God has been preparing for humanity from the foundation of the world is not just to tell us things about Himself in the Creation and in His Written Word, but a marriage union.
All the careful preparations of God in Exodus, to draw near and tabernacle among His people – but still there was a distance; all the careful preparations of the Prophets and Wisdom literature, it is all a preparation for the fullness of time, when God would enter into a marriage union with His people.
Jeremiah – speaks of this coming new relationship:
“no longer shall each man teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, “Know the Lord”, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity (the thing holding God at a distance in Exodus), and I will remember their sin no more.” This language of “knowing God” is not an intellectual knowledge (though that is a part of it) but it is a biblical term used in the marriage union, the consummation of love – to know – in a soul and body sense.
Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived and bore Cain…
Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch…
The miracle in today’s Gospel is a foretelling of that new union through faith in Jesus Christ.
That the first miracle happens at a marriage – indicates the new age has begun – in one sense Jesus’ time has not yet come – he has not yet given up his life, which makes possible the union, through the forgiveness of sins – but his earthly ministry which will lead to that has begun publicly.
The clay water pots filled with water – a figure of the human soul and body – are turned into wine. The clay and water is not replaced, but becomes more than it was – a figure of our lives transformed when infused with the divine life.
There will be consequences of this marriage union – just as in earthly marriage, where the spouses knowing one another in close proximity, bring about a change in both, and possibly a child. It will be the case in the marriage union of God with our souls and bodies – their will be fruit.
Paul speaks about this in today’s Epistle:
- Our Christian identity pervades our work and our interactions with others – not just words on a page, not just intellectual knowledge, but a new heart:
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.
- Grace is what happens to us through this marriage union – the gift of the Spirit of Jesus Christ entering our souls and bodies to transform us.
- Grace is what happens to us when we direct our mind’s eye to look not just on what God has done in creation, or what God has said in the past, but it happens as we look in quiet, straining to see the face of God, it happens in this continual conversation of love (that’s what prayer is – a conversation of lovers) – speaking and listening and asking questions.
- And in that conversation, the character of our love changes – just as we are moved by the virtues of our spouse, so are we moved by the virtues we see in Jesus Christ.
- As those gifts are revealed and we put them into practice – prophecy, service, teaching, exhorting, a generous heart, leadership, acts of mercy – and the water of our natural lives, infused with grace, becomes wine – the best wine!
And here is some especially Good news!
God is in us now, through our baptism and faith. Just like in earthly marriage – we do not need to wait until we are perfect before we enter marriage. The union is not as deep at the beginning as it will be in 5 or 10 or 30 or 50 years, but the marriage is truly a reality as soon as we make the vows. Even so, with our marriage union with God, we do not need to wait until all is perfected in our souls, but God comes to us in all our messiness, agrees to unite Himself to us as we commit ourselves to Him. And we will be changed over time – water becomes wine – the best is always yet to come.
Some people call the Lord’s Supper the “Holy Eucharist”, which means thanksgiving, it is a biblical and ancient term. But I like the words “Holy Communion,” as it speaks about that marriage union – it is about the consummation of marriage – an intimacy with God. No one but you knows what is happening in your heart and in your private communication with God in Communion – it is very personal. Although it is very personal, one of the fruits of Communion with God is our drawing closer in communion with one another – because Love enters our souls and that affects all our relationships and all our work and service in the world.
Let us prepare ourselves now for that deeper Communion and fellowship with God and man through our marriage union with Jesus Christ…and may joy be the consequence!