Sunday Sermon 23rd January - The Wedding at Cana
The Wedding at Cana
Call to worship
Hymn 186: Father God I wonder
Time for all Elaine
Hymn 180: Give thanks
Reading: John 2: 1-11 John
Hymn: In Cana at a wedding feast
Prayer of Dedication
Hymn 336: Christ is our light
Welcome to our reflection for 22nd of January.
Today we look at something spectacular, a wedding.
A wedding nowadays takes a lot of organisation.
The same was true of weddings in Jesus day.
Imagine organising a wedding when you have no refrigeration to store food, no watches to give exact timings.
How do you know when to cook the meals?
How do people know when to arrive for the wedding?
It becomes a logistical nightmare.
So when a wedding went well it was a very good sign for the marriage, because it reflected the support structures within the family working well.
Always a good thing when the real crisis in any marriage comes.
Equally when things didn’t go well then that was a bad sign...so no pressure then.
But what messages are there for us in this passage.
We will find out after John gives us the reading for today.
So you need to organise a wedding with no refrigeration and no clocks.
Also it is completely dependent on the weather being good because it will be mainly outside.
What a nightmare to organise.
So you start off by having a betrothal so that people know to expect a wedding in the next spring/summer.
When the weather starts to be predictable in the late spring you let people know that it will be soon.
On the day of the wedding you kill the food and start to prepare it.
And there will be so much food because everyone is invited.
My son married a Sri Lankan and at the wedding the uncle was telling us about his son’s traditional wedding in Sri Lanka, it had over 2000 people there.
This isn’t just a wedding; this is a statement about the families.
About how much they can look after this couple, so there is generosity in abundance.
At the same time that the food was being prepared you also send out servants to let the people know the wedding will be that day.
Once the food is nearly cooked you send out the servants again to let people know it is time for them to arrive.
There are so many cogs in the wheels that can go wrong.
So when the wedding went well it was a sign of the support and help that that couple would have throughout their marriage, it was a very good sign. And it was also a very good sign to the community that all was going well.
But if things went wrong...well what chance did the couple have against the unpredictability of life when the support structures couldn’t cope with a wedding that was so predictable?
And even today so many things could go wrong.
When my son James got married his fiancées visa didn’t come through the first time so everything had to be postponed.
When it did arrive we discovered that you can’t get married on a Tuesday because that is bad luck...don’t ask me why, that was a new one on me.
On the day itself Oshini, his wife, was late because the person booked to do her nails just wouldn’t be rushed.
So it should be no surprise that at this wedding in Cana something goes wrong.
The family haven’t catered for the thirsts of the invited guests, the wine is running out.
You can’t go to the local Coop and get some more, there is no Coop.
The way you got the wine was by ordering it months in advance and having it made.
So what to do?
Have you ever noticed that wives, and mothers for that matter, have a shorthand?
My wife will say something like, ‘Alexander and Asia are arriving at Edinburgh airport on Tuesday.’
That’s all she will say.
But that’s not all that she means.
The reason I know that is sometimes I have taken her literally and found out that is a mistake.
Like when I reply, ‘That is nice. It will cost them a lot in taxi fares to get here.’
If I was ever stupid enough to say that I would get such a look.
The statement that I was meant to hear was, ‘Alexander and Asia are arriving at Edinburgh airport on Tuesday AND YOU HAVE TO PICK THEM UP.’
Or if Roseanna says something like, ‘That ceiling looks a bit tatty,’
I am not expected to take that statement literally, as just a statement of fact.
I am not expected to look up and see the tatty ceiling and say, ‘You are absolutely right.’ In the same way as if she had said, ‘That is a nice sunset.’ and I look out and say, ‘So it is.’
Because Roseanna’s statement was not a statement, it was shorthand, shorthand for, ‘That ceiling looks a bit tatty, AND YOU NEED TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.’
Mary uses the same shorthand.
Mary goes to Jesus and says, ‘They have no wine left.’
That’s all she says.
But we know it is shorthand because after that comment Jesus tells her why he isn’t ready to do anything and then she just ignores him and tells the servants to ‘Do whatever he tells you.’
So Jesus sorts it out and all is well.
There are two messages in this passage that we could take out of it.
One, I think, would be a mistake.
And the mistaken message would be to look at this passage, and particularly the interaction between Mary and Jesus, and imply from that that when we are in trouble maybe God doesn’t want to help.
That God is reluctant to help.
Wasn’t it the case here that Jesus didn’t want to help this couple in trouble?
That he was kind of forced into it?
That he was pressurized into it by Mary?
I think that would be pushing the meaning of the passage too far.
What Jesus is saying to Mary is that the centre of attention on this day was the couple that were getting married, not some initiation of his public ministry.
If Jesus wanted to, and maybe what Mary was seeing, was that this was an opportunity for Jesus to make his first public outing as the messiah.
Just before this incident Jesus has been collecting his disciples. People would know that meant Jesus was setting himself up as a rabbi of sorts. Mary might have been suggesting to Jesus that this was his big entrance onto the world stage.
Jesus saves the day, everyone hears about what Jesus did at the wedding in Cana and his ministry starts with a huge bang. Everyone in the area hears about it and his following goes from a dozen men into thousands instantly.
In effect Jesus is saying, ‘I am not going to use the crisis of this couple for my own advantage. I am not going to use this couples wedding as a stepping stone to my success.’
And to be fair, he doesn’t.
Only the servants that have to do the heavy lifting, and the disciples who would have been following him everywhere, see what has happened.
As far as the couple and all the guests are concerned, the wedding is just a great success.
So if we are NOT meant to get from this passage that sometimes God is reluctant to help, if we are NOT meant to get from this passage that God needs to be forced to help, maybe with our prayers;
then what are we meant to get out of this passage?
Maybe that just because we can’t see God at work, doesn’t mean that he isn’t at work.
The families, the guests, were part of a miracle of God, and they were completely unaware of it.
Just because they couldn’t see God’s hand at their wedding, doesn’t mean that God’s hand wasn’t there, helping away.
And I think we need to be reminded of this truth again and again.
It is so easy to believe that we are alone in this world,
so easy to believe that God is distant,
so easy to believe that we are too small to be part of God’s care.
And because we can’t see the miracles all around us, we think that no miracles are taking place.
Especially at this time of year when we are still tired
and the nights are still long
and the strikes are on and the future for the church looks bleak,
we need to reflect on all the miracles that we fail to see.
Every friendship that keeps us sane,
every time someone makes us smile,
or someone reminds us that life isn’t all bad,
or that we feel supported by someone.
All those people that volunteer in our organizations and keep the larder up and running, or the community cafe, or who visit those who are struggling.
The fact that there are people that have more than others and are willing to share of their abundance to help others.
All those that give time to support others by going to the shops
or popping in to keep them company,
or even taking them to hospital appointments.
Every good deed is an act of defiance in a world that is dark and bleak and ever tempting us to think of ourselves first.
If only we could start to look for these acts within ourselves and within others, and see these miracles that would encourage us.
Maybe that was the first thing that Jesus was teaching his disciples, to see that God is always working away, even when they couldn’t see it.
If that is the case, then maybe it is something we need to start to learn in our own discipleship...just trust that God is always working in this world, even when we can’t see it.
Let us pray
whose name and whose essence is love,
you have made us so that we become more fully ourselves in loving relationship with you and one another.
We give thanks for all the many ways in which self-giving love can be experienced and shared:
within families, with neighbours and friends, in special settings both formal and informal.
We celebrate those who create homes, churches, workplaces of kindness and respect,
open to friend and stranger alike.
We give thanks for the faithful that not only talk about your love, but show it in the warmth of their welcome.
Our prayers of concern are the flip-side of our reasons for thanksgiving.
We pray for couples in loveless marriages;
for children living in homes where conflict and violence are the norm;
we grieve with those who have lost a loved one,
and think, more sadly still, of those who have never known what it is to have another person’s face light up when they enter a room.
As members of church, society and the wider world,
we pray for communities that do not function as they should…
for situations where power is abused and prejudice confirmed;
where difference is feared and inequalities are reinforced.
Loving God, may your transforming love break through somehow, and may we be part
of the change for which we pray.
This we ask in Jesus name.