January 20, 2019 – The Second Sunday after the Epiphany
John 2:1-11, The Wedding at Cana; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11
The Rev. Dr. Susan Kraus
According to the account in John’s Gospel of the life and ministry of Jesus, the transformation of water into wine at the wedding in Cana was the first of Jesus’ miracles. John always calls the miracles “signs” because they point to something about Jesus that is more significant than the actual physical miracle. And in this case what is highlighted is abundance, the abundance of grace that comes from our Lord.
The setting is a wedding, a normal event in human life, one that celebrates human relationships and the promise of new life. In Jesus’ day a wedding celebration lasted for about seven days, and it was expected that wine would be served throughout. The best wine was served first, before the guests were too drunk to notice the quality of the wine. Jesus, his mother, and his disciples are guests at this wedding. Mary notices that the wine has run out. She seems to prod Jesus into beginning his public ministry, and she expects him to do something – “his mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’” And Jesus did. He turned the stone jars full of water into what would have been approximately a thousand bottles of wine, the best wine served extravagantly at the end of the wedding feast.
This is a miracle of abundance. It is also a sign and a miracle of promise. At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry John foreshadows the promise of the end – nothing less than the resurrection of Jesus. Our lesson begins “On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee.” We know that on the third day after his crucifixion, Jesus was raised from death to new life. And that was the beginning of an age when countless followers of Jesus would pattern their lives after him, filled with the Holy Spirit. We are among those followers. Our lives have been blessed by an abundance of grace through Jesus Christ, and the best is yet to come.
Paul writes to the Christians in Corinth about some of the gifts given to the followers of Jesus by the Holy Spirit: “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”
At St. Giles, haven’t we been blessed by the gifts given to us by God and offered for the common good? There is healing going on here. There is teaching and growth in knowledge and understanding. There is ongoing prayer and deep faith. There is worship and growth in our love for God. There is service of all kinds – parish administration and finances; fundraising; preparations for the Holy Eucharist, care of the altar, and participation in worship; cooking and hospitality; building maintenance and care; musical offerings; knitting of prayer shawls and gifts for children; cards sent to people who are homebound or ill; there is work of many kinds to assist our neighbors in need. Friendship and help are given freely here. We rejoice with one another. We bear one another’s burdens. We give our time, talent, and treasure to support this church. We are truly blessed! And we are here to be a blessing to one another, to others who may find a church home at St. Giles’ in the future, and to other people near and far.
This is a challenging time to be a small parish in the Episcopal Church, and it is easy to feel discouraged about the future. We face financial challenges in 2019, as you will learn at our Annual Meeting next Sunday. We will all need to give all that we can and to work cooperatively with one another in order to keep going and growing, “for the common good.” I believe that we can do that. And I believe that the key to our ongoing life is in the words of Mary to the servants at the wedding, “Do whatever he tells you.” We need to listen to Jesus’ instructions about how to be the church, his body in this place and time. That may require using our resources differently, giving up some activities we have been doing in order to do what Jesus says is important. “Do whatever he tells you.” It is, after all, what Jesus wants that is most important.
We have been blessed by God’s grace, and our Lord promises even more abundant grace: water for washing transformed into excellent wine for celebrating, our lives here on earth for new and unending life in him. Strengthened by his promises, may we work with glad hearts in his service here at St. Giles’ Church. Amen.