In the gospel of John the life of Jesus is presented to us in a very special way. The narrative is intricate. There is layer upon layer of narrative, of symbolism, of reference and they are all somehow and very cleverly interconnected. So cleverly in fact that it is quite easy to lose your way in all those layers and become overwhelmed by the richness of the text. Those of you who have familiarized themselves with the gospel of John over the years will know that there always seems to be more when we read John, and more, and even more, that there is breath taking depths and widths and heights in text and interpretation. While the text at the same time is able to profoundly touch readers that are new to the gospel.
The wedding at Kana one of the most profound stories of the whole gospel.
We are plunged into the deep end immediately at the very beginning of the story. On the third day it says, directing the thoughts of any Christian immediately to the resurrection day. At the same time Jews would know from their scriptures that important things usually seem to happen on the third day.
So the scene is set: Something important may be expected to happen in this story, something that might have something to do with the resurrection.
Then there is the wedding. Is it coincidence that the coming together of God and his people and the beginning of a time of peace and salvation for all people is in the Old Testament time after time pictured as a wedding feast with food and drink in abundance?
Not just a story of a miracle, but a story with cosmic proportions seems to be heading our way!
And then there is a bit of an anti climax. The wine gives out. Why is not clear. Were bride and groom poor or stingy? Did more guests come then were expected? We dont know. But the feast that got so promisingly introduced seems to run out of steam before it has even started .
They have no wine.
And to immediately go a couple of layers deeper: Who are they?
Is it the bride and groom whose party is heading for disaster? Or is it the apocalyptic feast that has been prophesied about for God and his people that has run out of wine before it has even properly started?
What is it to me woman? or to you? My hour has not come. Answers Jesus to Marys anxious words. What is it to me?
Again a sentence pregnant with meaning. The only other time Jesus calls his mother woman is when she is standing under the cross and Jesus entrusts her to the care of his best friend. Again the very important events that will conclude the gospel are called into mind here.
No concern of you or mine.
Strictly speaking it isnt. It is not their party is it?
But what if it is? What if we are talking about that other wedding feast at the same time? The one of God and his people?
What do these words mean then?
What is it to me woman, or to you? My hour has not come.
The hour all through the gospel of John that moment where the Son of man will be lifted up on the cross, the moment where God will change the world through the suffering and death of his beloved Son. The hour for John that specific moment in time where the ultimate wedding of God and his people will be sealed in blood.
My hour has not come then saying that it is neither up to Mary or Jesus to decide when the time for salvation has come.
Marys reaction to this is at least odd, she doesnt seem to be put of by Jesus rather terse words at all. And she seems to be expecting something to happen as well!
Do whatever he tells you, says Mary. And they do. 6 stone water-jars are filled with water to the brim. 6 stone water-jars which are there to fulfil the laws for cleansing the wedding guests at their arrival. 6 Stone jars that could be seen as a symbol of the old religion, of the laws of Moses, 6, not 7, designating that with these 6 jars, with the old religious commands the perfect number of seven has not quite yet been reached. The water of the old religion waiting to be transformed into the wine of the new.
But maybe that is taking the symbolism all a bit too far ..
500 litres of water, and that is a conservative estimate, are waiting for a miracle. The trust and daring of Mary is impressive. What if hed done nothing? Is it because she knows him as no other? Or is it a gamble? Or even: is she trying to draw him out?
But she sets the scene.
The trust and courage of the servant again impressive. What would they have said if the steward had asked why they were re-filling the jars at a party that was drawing to an early finish? They did not have phase two water restrictions on, but water was a precious commodity in those days and water fit for cleansing even more so.
We did this because one of the women has said to do what this man tells us? Were they expecting a miracle? Hoping for one?
Reading the story this time the faith of both Mary and the servants struck me. As did the question why there was no wine. If this is not only a story about a wedding in Kana, but also a story about the wedding feast of God and his people where does that put us in the story?
It made me wonder: Are we endangering the availability of wine for the feast that God wants to have with his people in any way at any time? And then of course I am not thinking of the grape juice we provide in those little cups here on the table, but of all those things that could help us be people in whose midst the love of God for his people is celebrated on a permanent basis.
Do we think that bad wine and only a little of it will see us through? Are we stingy when it comes to providing for celebrating Gods love for us or warm hearted and generous? Do we dare to throw a party? Or do we wait and see, cautiously investing only at the last minute waiting for others to go first?
Are we anywhere near like Mary in our attitudes? Prepared to gamble on something we cannot yet see? Believe that something way beyond our imagination and understanding may happen if we start setting up for it? Leading others into daring to go with us on it? Acting on a hunch, or even less then that, trusting that Jesus will supply us with abundance, that God will make available whatever we need and more as long as we make a start at trusting it will happen?
Would we, in the place of the servants, have done the outrageous and filled up stone jars with 500 litres of water at a party where the wine was running out?
Draw some out and take it to the steward.
The poor steward, who was at that stage undoubtedly not feeling too happy about the course the party was taking.
His is genuine relief and amazement: There is more wine and it is better!
So: A wedding party saved, a miracle performed, and everybody going home happy and quite tipsy? Is that what this story is about?
I dont think so. In fact, if that was all, it wouldnt amount to much would it? A wedding party saved two thousand years ago. A miracle worker on the loose. What is it to us? Nothing really. It would be something to ooh and aah about, but nothing more.
John finishes the story by pointing us in another direction he says: Jesus did this, the first of his signs in Cana in Galilee and revealed his glory and his disciples believed in him.
Not a miracle, but a sign. Meaning were not there yet. It is only a sign, like the sign Melbourne 1000 km when you leave Sydney definitely doesnt mean youre there yet, but does put you on the right track to get there, so this sign is not "it" but is a sign, a pointer to where we are going to go. Jesus revealing his glory for the first time, but more of it yet to come.
Wine has flowed in abundance where there wasnt any. On the third day there has been salvation, a wedding feast has taken place that, through the abundance of good wine, calls forth images of the wedding feast that will be at the end of times when God and his people will be one.
Today the wine will also flow, in our midst, or rather the fruit of the vine. We eat and drink together as a symbol for that which is still to come: A feast of rich foods and aged wine on the mountain of the Lord. We eat and drink together to remember that His hour did come and that heaven and earth were married forever when His blood flowed like wine and His body was broken like bread.
We are guests at the Lords table, He has called us here as we are.
We may feel it is but water what we have to offer. Although, sometimes, through the Holy Spirit, as the body of Christ we will surpass what we are and be able to offer the world of his wine through faith. When we become like Mary and dare to go and do what has no warrant to it. When we become servants and do the illogical, and outrageous things the Lord asks from us without question. Filling what was empty to the brim.
When we use the gifts Paul talks about, serve and are active in whatever the Lords gives us to do, daringly going the way he has pointed out to us.
Leaving caution and worldly wisdom behind to shape the celebration of Gods reckless and unlimited love into a abundant wedding party for all.
Let us look at the story one more time. Now through the perspective Paul offers us in his writings to the Corinthians: There are varieties of gifts, but there is one Spirit, there are varieties of services, but the same Lord, there are varieties of activities but it is the same God who activates them in everyone.
The Church is full of gifts, services and activities. The Church abounds with people with different talents, skills and inclinations. And it has all been given by God. It all has its place.