Sermon; Epiphany 2C; John 2:1-11
Last week was the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord. Because the snow kept most of you away, I want to give a brief recap. For those who were here, be patient for a minute.
Think back to last summer/fall when our gospel lessons came primarily from Mark. Back then I said that almost every passage had a particular focus. Do you remember what that was? It was focused on the cross. And when I preached the series on Ephesians, I pointed out that that letter had a particular shape. Do you remember what that was? It was a funnel. I brought up Mark and Ephesians because I wanted to remind you that, while you may not remember specific sermons, you do remember themes.
Epiphany also has a theme which I will touch on throughout the season. That theme is one of revealing, manifestations, sudden revelations, and of God moments that are used to point out who Jesus really is. On Epiphany it was the manifestation of Christ, the recognition of Jesus by the wise men. There was also a God moment in their dream and avoidance of Herod. Last week it was obviously the baptism of Christ, the descending Holy Spirit, and the voice from heaven. It was also a recognition that the chaff which is to be burned with unquenchable fire is not bad people, or non-Christians, or the wrong kind of Christians, but is the outer shell of our fallen humanity that hides the wheat, the “who we really are in Christ.”
This epiphany, revealing, God moment theme will continue all through the season, so pay attention. And now we are caught up.
Today we have the story of the miracle at the wedding in Cana. This is traditionally the first miracle attributed to Jesus and is one that makes every college student wish they knew Jesus. This is one of those big revealings, epiphanies, and God moments I'm talking about. But God moments aren't always big and obvious, so we need to look a little deeper.
In one of my recent Wednesday Words I ruminated on our new clothes hanger. So far we're actually using it for what it was intended. While I was running on it last week I was listening to a podcast called, “At the Intersection of East and West.” It's a series with a Protestant pastor and an Orthodox priest and they look for areas of commonality. The episode I was listening to dealt with liturgy. In particular with the pastor's discovery of liturgy, liturgical resources, chant, etc. In other words, everything we consider normal. The priest talked about liturgy as something that washes over you and helps orient your life.
He told the story of one particular confession he made that he wasn't saying his morning prayers as he should. He told his confessor that he just didn't have the time because he's busy getting ready for work – showering, shaving, dressing, brushing teeth, etc.
“Why do you do those things?” his confessor asked.
“Because if I don't, I feel dirty. I mean, not brushing your teeth is gross.”
“What you do, then, is perform your own liturgy of getting ready for the day.”
In other words, everything you do on a routine basis washes over you. It shapes you. It can form you. You can have good liturgies and bad liturgies. But as they wash over you, they don't always make an immediate impact or change in your life. Sometimes it takes awhile to see any results. Like the liturgy of the elliptical, or the liturgy of daily prayer. These aren't quick fixes that change us in an instant. That's magic. These are things we do that shape and form us over time. So as we perform these liturgies – whether the liturgy of the elliptical, the liturgy of the Daily Office (Morning and Evening Prayer), the liturgy of the Eucharist, or some other liturgy we perform – we are slowly shaped and transformed into a new creation.
Jesus and his disciples were invited to a wedding in Cana. This is well-before Jesus began doing Jesus-y things, so I'm going to say that he and the disciples were invited simply because it was a small town and everybody knew everybody. I've lived in a small, rural town and events like this can seem like everyone is there. Which makes it plausible that the wine for the party ran out.
Either way, Jesus is there with his disciples and, apparently, his mother. And it's Mary who tells him the wine has run out. There's a little back and forth between the two with Jesus eventually relenting and doing something about it. That something is this miracle. What he does is have six jars filled with water, then he orders some water drawn out and taken to the chief steward. By the time the water gets to the steward it has been changed into wine.
This is the epiphany. This is the revealing. This is the God moment. Not that water was miraculously changed into wine (although there is that) but that the water was transformed into a new creation. In other words, we can see the results of the miraculous, but we can't describe how it occurred.
In today's story, we are the water. In today's story, Jesus is calling for the water to be brought to him. Like the water, we are being called into his presence. And when we come into his presence we will be changed into something good. We will be transformed into new wine.
When, exactly, this happens (like with the water) we don't know. But, if we pay attention, I do think we can describe how it happens.
It happens by being called into Christ's presence. It happens by participation in the liturgy. It happens by our daily, liturgical routines – prayer, worship, study – that wash over us, shape us, and transform us.
As we look at this first miracle, don't get so focused on the miracle that you miss the God moment. Because the God moment isn't necessarily the miracle as it is the transformation over time from being called into Christ's presence.
Communion is often referred to as being a foretaste of the great wedding banquet of Christ and the Church. This liturgical act of participating in Holy Communion is the wedding in Cana. Christ has been invited to the party, and he himself is calling us into his presence.
How are you being transformed? Because that's the real epiphany. That's the real God moment.