Epiphany 2, C
Today, a wedding. Can you believe that some people don’t like weddings? All that that rejoicing and feasting and dancing and some people just don’t like it. My father actually offered at one point to pay me to elope – he was that anxious to avoid the whole wedding hoop-dah-lah. I think I was in junior high at the time. Even some clergy don’t like weddings. The chance to participate in one of the momentous times in two peoples’ lives, and they just don’t..like…it. It’s not the marriage – that is a joyous sacrament – it’s the wedding. It’s all the emotion and conflicting expectations wrapped up in that focused, brief period. It’s the extraordinary expense and extensive planning and endless preparation dedicated to one day – a day as subject to the capriciousness and foibles of life as any other day.
A wedding today, a wedding and wine. Not just some wine. An enormous amount of wine. Six jars – each of those jars would have held about 20-30 gallons of wine. A wedding, and about 180 gallons of very good wine.
But the story isn’t really about the dress or the flowers or the lovely music or even the couple at all. The story is about Jesus.
The only place this story appears is in the book of John. More than any of the other Gospel writers, John is all about mystery and meaning, symbolism and metaphor. John persistently emphasizes Jesus the Christ over Jesus of Nazareth; divinity over humanity. John tells us stories of Jesus’s words and actions – not so that we know what Jesus said or did, but so that we might know what Jesus means.
Somehow we go from “In the Beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” to John the Baptist’s prophetic voice in the wilderness crying “Behold the Lamb of God” to joining Jesus at an ordinary wedding in a dusty little town, resisting his mother’s attempts to make him help out an unfortunate couple with the misfortune to run out of wine.
Now, Mary was a good mom. We don’t know what Mary’s relationship to this couple was. There is an old legend that she was the bride’s aunt. Maybe she just felt bad for them. Running out of wine at a wedding was an unforgivable sin. You think today’s weddings can become crazy big complicated affairs, but in first century Jerusalem, these events lasted for days – they were THE break in the meager fare of ordinary life. Running out of wine was unforgivable – the couple would be done before they had even ever begun.
“Jesus. Fix it.”
“No, Mom. It’s not time. This is not the time for me to show the world what I really am”
Mary gives Him the Mom look. You know the one. The bible doesn’t tell us she gives him the Mom look. I’m not sure there is a good Greek translation for the mom look, but you know she gives it to Him. Because He fixes it. And she knows He’s going to fix it.
This is hardly on the level of healing the sick, feeding the 5,000, curing the blind, casting out demons. It’s about wine, about extravagance, about plentifulness. The story is about Jesus.
Marcus Borg wrote, “The story of Jesus is about a wedding. And more: it is a wedding at which the wine never runs out. More: it is a wedding at which the best wine is saved for last.” (Marcus Borg, Jesus) Jesus, importantly, does not follow His own timetable. In this, the first of His signs, He responds, not to His own preferences, but to the real and ordinary and present need of others. The story, the Gospel is about Jesus, yes. Jesus is about abundance for all, about joy and love, about responding to the ordinary realities of human life.
I don’t know how much attention you pay to the worldwide Anglican scene. It turns out that we (by “we” I mean The Episcopal Church, USA, not Holy Trinity in particular) are in a bit of trouble within the Anglican Communion, our parent church – trouble at least on par with running out of wine at a wedding. Appropos to this morning’s reading, it is weddings, or rather, the church’s stance on marriage, that has landed us there. The Episcopal Church has made it possible for same-sex couples to be married within the church. The Anglican Communion does not agree with that decision, and has sanctioned TEC for a period of three years because of it. Whatever your thoughts on the subject of same-sex marriage (that is one of the joys of the Episcopal Church – we can all worship together while holding wildly different views), what I’m interested in right at this moment is the response. TEC could have repudiated its stance on gay marriage. Presiding Bishop Curry instead confirmed it saying “Our commitment to be an inclusive church is not based on a social theory or capitulation to the ways of the culture, but on our belief that the outstretched arms of Jesus on the cross are a sign of the very love of God reaching out to us all.” Bishop Curry, an African American, went on later in his response to say, “I stand before you as your brother. I stand before you as a descendant of African slaves, stolen from their native land, enslaved in a bitter bondage, and then even after emancipation, segregated and excluded in church and society. And this conjures that up again, and brings pain. The pain for many will be real. But God is greater than anything. I love Jesus and I love the church. I am a Christian in the Anglican way. And like you, [as we have said in this meeting], I am committed to ‘walking together’ with you…” TEC could have turned on its heel and walked away with its membership and considerable financial support. Instead, it reached out to the hands that had smacked it and said, let us walk together. It is not water from wine, but it is the Jesus way.
Jesus brings abundance in scarcity, joy in despair, light in the darkness, a body of believers where divergent individuals stood before.
“True love is delicate and kind, full of gentle perception and understanding, full of beauty and grace, full of joy unutterable. There should be some flavor of this in all our love for others. We are all one. We are one flesh in the Mystical Body as man and woman are said to be one flesh in marriage. With such a love one would see all things new; we would begin to see people as they really are, as God sees them.” (Dorothy Day)
May we open our eyes and hearts to the abundance of love. Amen