Epiphany 2 – Do whatever he tells you!

And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee;
…. And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.

Epiphany is manifestation or showing forth or revealing.  In this season of Epiphany, Jesus is revealing God in Himself.

First as an infant, revealed to Jewish shepherds and to Gentile magi from the East as the Saviour of his people and as the King for all nations.  Last week we heard of him being found by his parents at the age of 12 in the Temple in Jerusalem, sitting and listening and asking questions of the rabbis and all were astonished as his understanding and answers.  He is revealed as the Wisdom of God.

This morning, Jesus reveals himself at his first miracle of turning water into wine at a marriage in Cana of Galilee [St John 2:1-11].  It is a miracle full of prophetic meaning.

Last year I emphasized the choice of a wedding as pointing to the Messianic age that has begun.  Jesus shows us by this first miracle at a wedding the end to which God is bringing us: a mystical marriage union between Christ and his bride, the Church; a mystical marriage between God and the soul.

Jean Vanier, in his meditations on John’s Gospel, notes the significance of the timing of this event.  Notice that our Gospel begins by saying, On the third day.  Of course this has Resurrection resonance, since every other time in the Gospels this phrase “on the third day” is used (4x in Matthew and 6x in Luke), are all in reference to the Resurrection of Jesus.  But there is more.  In the context of John’s Gospel, in the first chapter, John is narrating the events that happened as Jesus began to appear and gather disciples around him – so far there have been three references in the first chapter of John to “the next day” and chapter 2 begins with “on the third day” – so that is the seventh day, or the day of Sabbath rest, if we count from Creation (think of how John begins his Gospel – In the beginning was the Word!). [Jean Vanier, Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John, Novalis Press, Ottawa, 2004.]

God rested on the Seventh Day, mosaic, Monreale Cathedral, 12th century

So again, Jesus is showing us at the very start of his ministry, the end to which he is bringing us – it is to a joyful celebration of love, in community, in unity of heart and mind, the simple enjoyment of loving fellowship.  Think of the experience of a marriage feast, there may have been a lot of planning and preparation, but now it is time simply to rest and enjoy, to dance, to speak, to get caught up, to celebrate.  Think of the state of mind of people attending a wedding, so many different ideas and perspectives, but all united in the hope of the best for the couple, all celebrating in the gift of love and our shared humanity, all coming together with good will towards one another.  That is a taste of the life of heaven we are being promised, a community reconciled, and in a state of active, loving, joyful rest, God’s rest.

We catch a glimpse of that rest, our end in God, this morning, on our Sabbath day of rest, which for us here is the first day of the week, [the eight day,] the new Creation in Christ, where we will soon participate in the wedding feast.  We will bring first before God our sin and trust in His perfect forgiveness, we will share that peace of being reconciled with God, with our neighbours, and then we will participate in the Holy Communion of Christ’s Body and Blood – both an assurance of our forgiveness, a healing of our souls and bodies from sin, and given new strength, the renewal of joy and love.

Jesus renews our hope this morning as we are united afresh with Him.

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Mary pleads with Jesus, Wedding of Cana, Nicolas Correa, 1693

But the Gospel begins today with a strange dialogue between Jesus and his mother, Mary.

When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

It is a strange dialogue, maybe we wonder does Mary know something Jesus doesn’t?  It might make us wonder what sort of conversations they had in private with one another as Jesus was growing up and in his twenties about his calling, about when it would begin, about how it would begin?  Did Mary share with Jesus the intimate things that she pondered in her heart as the shepherds came and the wise men came bearing gifts, and Jesus’ words as a boy and young man that surprised her?

Jesus had just begun to gather disciples to himself, through the recommendation of John the Baptist and by his own words, and in God’s providence they’ve now been invited at the end of the first week to a wedding.  Now the time is perfect to reveal the end to which he is bringing them.  But Jesus’ hour has not come, the Cross still awaits, but it is appropriate that they and we should see the end before we see the means, so that we are not discouraged on the way.

All of us today come here sort of joyful, sort of sorrowful, sort of united, and also not united on many questions.  But we have held before us a Gospel we can all agree on, an end to which we all are unanimous – we want to be one in Christ and one with one another, celebrating together in love when this earthly life is done!

Between now and that time, all our brokenness is still apparent, all our disunity is apparent, all our hurts and griefs are still here.  And we have opportunity to bring those things before Jesus today and to ask for His healing (healing ministry will soon be offered), as well as his strength to bear with the particular cross each of us must bear between now and the time of the fulfillment of our hopes.

We have already been united with Jesus through our baptism and faith, the marriage bond is there.  And through that union, Christ is taking what is the water of our daily lives, the ordinary in us, and transforming it by His grace into the wine of joy.  Jesus is taking from us the drudgery of duty and replacing it with a new passion of love.  Our natural gifts are being infused with a divine energy that He promises to supply.  Like the servants that day at the wedding, he asks us to fill up to the brim the water pot that is our soul and body, and to offer all of ourselves to Him for His transforming grace.

St Paul says [Romans 12:6-16a] that with this hope of a celebratory marriage feast of love in heaven in mind, and with the grace Jesus supplies, we can manifest that heavenly vision even now in our lives:  we’re to use our gifts at God’s disposal, “Love one another with brotherly, with sisterly, affection…be fervent… show hospitality…be patient…bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them…live in harmony with one another (not expecting it automatically, but as something we actively seek – not all being the same but making beautiful music together)…do not be haughty but associate with the lowly (humility, humility, humility is key).”

The Epiphany happens in us as we follow the advice of Jesus’ mother, Do whatever he tells you.

Amen.