Today friends, we are being asked to consider our lives as Jesus’ followers in the context of a wedding—the commitment of two people, one for the other. We all love weddings; or at least, we love the idea of weddings. Weddings signal new life—new hope—a time of promise; two people being willing to trust and commit their lives to each other—two individuals becoming one in their gift to the other. Those of you who are married or have a significant relationship, or who have watched your children or friends marry; know the hope and promise of such times.
Wedding vows speak of “loving in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad—until death.” The commitment speaks of intimacy. A wedding, for all these reasons and more is simply a time of great joy, and a promise of hope. It is a time of deep emotions for parents, family and friends.
Today we find ourselves at the wedding feast in Cana. Being that Jesus and his disciples were invited; we can assume as does Marjorie Holmes in The Messiah that Jesus probably knew those getting married—they were probably friends or extended family members. The fact that Mary, his mother, could say to the attendants, “Do whatever he tells you,” and as a woman in that culture, be listened to, only makes sense if in fact as guests, Mary and Jesus had some importance. This was early in Jesus’ public ministry—Scripture tells us that this was his first miracle, so it wasn’t his fame that caused the attendants to follow his commands and in fact, if he had been famous, he probably wouldn’t have been invited due to his presence morphing the event.
On a purely human level, that time for Jesus, his mother and his disciples had to have been very moving—not only the intimacy of a wedding, the love expressed by people that Jesus and his mother no doubt knew, but the beginning of his public ministry of miraculous love shared for all.
The reading from Isaiah also speaks of our God’s love for each of us in the context of a wedding. We are told that God loves us in just the same way, with the same intimacy that a newly married couple have for each other.
When you think of the love and caring of a newly married couple, when everything is very dear, tender, hope-filled for all that life will bring and reflect that this is how our God loves each of us, as the prophet tells us today; this is quite an awesome thing!
When you think too of some of the best love stories you know of; there is many times a reckless moment when the one in love will just throw caution to the wind and blurt out their love because now it finally has to be said, even if the love is turned down.
For those of you who are fans of the British Series, As Time Goes By, you are aware of two main characters, Sandy and Harry. They love each other, but never quite get around to saying it until Harry; a rugby-playing police officer gets a promotion and is being sent to Canada. He can’t imagine leaving Sandy behind and wants to take her with him as his bride, but is a man of few words and waits until the day before he is to leave and in fact within hours of his flight to blurt out, and now he has no lack of words, his love for Sandy and the fact that he really can’t live without her. She is thrilled of course that he has finally found his voice and she says, “Yes.”
My friends, this is how, we are told today, our God loves us—as a lover in search of the beloved, always keeping her/his eyes on us. But our God, says the prophet, loves us even further—our God will not rest until justice happens in each of our lives. Our God is relentless in this the prophet proclaims. In this I am reminded that in the State of the Union address given on Tuesday night by our president, Barack Obama; we heard the same message—he will be relentless in pursuing justice for all those in this country who need it—for healthcare, for education, for safety from gun violence, for care of our planet, for peace between nations, for safety from terrorists. He challenged his hearers and especially his opponents in Congress to do the same because, “it’s the right thing to do.”
He will be thwarted in his push for justice just as Jesus was in his time, just as we will be in ours—that is the push and pull between good and evil that our free wills afford us. Jesus’ task, our president’s task (and political parties don’t matter here), and our task will be to constantly keep speaking truth to power for justice for all.
And our God will keep pursuing us relentlessly so that we know that we are loved. We know the history of the covenants or promises between the Israelite people and God—the promises were made, but the people always fell short of their commitment to God. But we see that God is always willing to take them, and us, by extension, back. As Isaiah tells them, tells us; we are God’s delight. Just as spouses trust in one another and give freely of their love and their lives to each other; our loving God gives to us.
God takes great pride in us—we, each of us, are the apple of God’s eyes, and our loving God will go to any end to show that to us. We will see sign after sign as we move through the Church Year of a God who considers you and me so important that leaving the 99 behind to search for us when we are lost, will not be out of the question. We will see the face of God in the woman who turned her house upside-down looking for the coin that was lost—looking for us!
The example of this great love that God has for us is clearly shown at Cana—Jesus is not only aware of the shortage of wine, which, by the way, I always need to point out, his mother informed him of—but he supplies it and most generously—a wonderful example to me of “couple” or co-ministry each doing their part, one seeing what the other doesn’t and supporting each other for the good of all. In addition; we need to be aware, and not miss the deeper meaning of the wedding feast. In John’s gospel, the miracles are all called “signs” to indicate to us and make clear this deeper meaning.
In Celtic spirituality there is an idea known as a “thin place.” This can be a time, place or event where for a very brief moment our humanity is embraced by the mystery of the divine and we are filled with the wonder of God. It can happen when we least expect and in the most ordinary of times. A wedding feast could be one of these times.
Couple love, in whatever way that is found—love unselfishly given is always a wonderful sign of God’s love for us. Jesus chose such an event to perform his first miracle—a sign showing the abundant love of God for each of us. God’s love and compassion for each of us is not just enough, but it is over-the-top as shown in Jesus’ gift to the new couple. How embarrassing it would have been had the wine ran out. Jesus supplied the wine—made enough and more than enough. God always wants the best for us. When we trust in our loving God, we too will receive all and more than we need.
And what is it that we might need? Most of us look for meaning in our lives—what is it that I am to do? Where is my place? Earlier, I said that Jesus showed us signs that had deeper meanings that we must not miss. The wedding feast at Cana, the first of his signs lets us know that new life abounds in the Spirit of God.
The stone jars filled with water were for ceremonial washing—Jesus takes something common to the people and makes it into something new—free flowing wine was a sign of eschatological fulfillment that was expected in the end times. Jesus is signaling that the fulfillment can come now, in our lives.
My friends, each of us is important; each of us has a God-given task to perform—to bring new life and love to our world. This is the fulfillment that Jesus points to. Paul tells us in his letter to the Corinthians that the Spirit is “manifested” in each one of us for “the common good.” We think back to the Epiphany celebrated a few weeks ago—the manifestation or “showing forth” of something great.
Let’s pray together today that each of us will have the strength in this New Year to do our part to make life more abundant for all. My friends, our Christian faith calls us to make a difference where we are now—it is what we are called to. Our world is in need of more of those “thin places” where the wonder of God shows through! May we all be blessed today and may we be relentless in seeking justice for all. Amen? Amen!