Dinner Guest

Jn. 2:1-11
Epiphany 2

What can I say about the wedding in Cana? I’ve preached on the passage before, but I can’t use old material. It has been written on extensively. What can I say that is new and relevant? When I voiced my confusion to my wife, she shot back, “Well I think its a miracle you can marry a perfect stranger and live with him for forty years!” “Excuse me dear,” I queried, “are you saying I am a perfect stranger?” “No,” she replied, “when you get married you don’t know who someone really is, and he doesn’t know who you really are either. You don’t know who is really coming to the party. I think it is a miracle that you can do that and have it last at all.” “Okay dear,” I answered and hurried to the safety of my study. Upon reflection I noted that the Gospel of John deals with the issue of what is really real. It deals with the dichotomy between appearance and reality, what is hidden and what is revealed, where there is light and where there is darkness. St. John consciously plays with language and employs images, metaphors, symbols and signs to probe the nature of reality. His gospel is a meditation on who Christ is. St. John reflects upon what has happened in the miraculous revelation in Jesus (the Christ event) and the meaning of that revelation for you and me. He organizes his gospel around a series of signs, events which are pregnant with meaning and symbolic in the life of Christ. Like the miracle stories, these signs point to God and what God is doing in the life of Jesus.

One such sign story is that of the wedding in Cana where Jesus turns water into wine. It is the genius of John’s stories that they recapture real events. A wedding is such an event. Sometime in everyone’s life he or she goes to or observes a wedding. Now a wedding in the near East is not a drive-by event. It is an EVENT, often lasting three days or more. A wedding reaches back, for it involves all the relatives. It also reaches forward by including young children. There is lavish spending even in a culture of scarcity. Everyone attends, and the women gather in the yard to cluck over everything. Mary, Jesus’ mother, naturally attended and, like mothers everywhere, managed things. The young men stood off to one side making comments about this and that. It was just like my picnic last summer when Faye grabbed my son, Michael, and told him we were running out of propane and to do something, so Mary grabbed Jesus and told him that they had run out of wine. Whereas Michael said, “So, that’s not my problem,” Jesus said, “What’s that got to do with me?” Faye said, “Fix it,” and Michael replied, “I’m not ready yet.” In a similar manner Jesus said, “My time has not yet come.” The dialogue and reactions in St. John’s narrative ring true. They are basic in our experience. But St. John is not trying to be a camera. Rather he attempting to show the deeper significance of who Jesus really is.

Jesus is the man who came to dinner. Lots of others came, but Jesus is the one who counts. Each person who joins a group changes the dynamics of a group and causes things to happen. You saw that all the time at my picnic last summer. Some people brought food, others humor, others a listening ear, some others a helping hand. At Cana Jesus solved the problem. He provided more wine. In fact His wine was better than the host’s original wine. Jesus made the party. Jesus saved the party. Jesus provided lots and lots of wine. Hot diggity dog. Now they could party for three more days!

We don’t know how the marriage turned out. Did it last for forty years? Did each spouse find out who the other really was? Who knows? St. John tells the story because it was at such moments as this that people began to understand who Jesus really was. His action (the nature miracle) was not simple legerdemain or sleight of hand. Jesus was beginning to be understood not only as a teacher, preacher and healer, but as one who had the power to make things happen. Just as you and I sometimes do not understand who someone really is until we see him or her interact with others in a group, so too Jesus’ disciples began to see who He really was over against others in such a setting as this festival wedding.

Jesus was the man who came to dinner and made a difference. His actions at Cana not only pointed to who he really was, they also elicited associations that nourished others’ understanding of Him and of what was happening. Notice, this single legend is loaded with overtones, allusions, parallels and implications. The water/wine recalls the water in the wilderness and the wine of the Passover meal. It also foreshadows the Last Supper and the Eucharist. There are echoes of the actions of the prophets, Elijah and Elisha, who “miraculously” provided food. The wedding at Cana echoes all of the weddings in the Old Testament as well as the heavenly feast of the long desired messianic banquet. St. John tells us that this is the first sign. There will be others in the unfolding gospel story. This wedding story lays bare both the reality of who Jesus is and the reality of the lives of His townspeople: their need for abundance, joy, hope, fruitfulness, dignity and new life.

Jesus makes a difference now. The reality of the story of the wedding at Cana is that it is an ongoing event. Because you and I desire fuller lives, to live beyond appearances, to transcend the superficiality of our secular and material lives, you and I seek nourishment, understanding, forgiveness, salvation and sanctification. You and I know that we cannot handle the matters of the workplace, society, the community, the home and our own mortality by ourselves, by our own wits. We need someone to come to dinner. We invoke Christ’s presence with us that we might become who we were meant to be in order that the “real me” and the “real you” might be full-bodied and not a two dimentional stranger to others and to ourselves.

Today, this second Sunday in Epiphany, come to Christ’s dinner. Open your heats and minds once again to the revelation of Christ’s true nature and your true nature as well. Remember, you and I bear the image of God and are marked with the seal of baptism as Christ’s own. Come to the Eucharistic table where the bread and wine are the body and blood of Christ, and receive those elements made new. Receive release from the fetters of guilt, doubt and despair. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ comes to this meal and through faith and this sacrament Christ dwells in us and we in Him.

As St. John reminds us, when Christ comes to the party He makes a difference. Therefore you and I can go forth into the world with Him assured that we can make a difference as well. After all, have not you and I come face to face with reality? Have we not feasted at a mysterious and heavenly banquet which gives you and me forgiveness, power, new vision, joy, and new hope? We can allow ourselves to “Get real.” Like the water at Cana we are transformed and can make a real difference whether in vestry meetings, at Hospice, in school, or at St. Luke’s Lifeworks. You and I can make a difference in our own lives, the lives of others and in the world. Go do it. Amen.