Scripture Readings: Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 36:5-10; I Corinthians 12:1-11; John 2:1-11
Theme: God transforms ordinary things into extraordinary things by the power of the Spirit – including water into wine and ordinary people into the gifted people of God.
The changing of water into wine is certainly the attention grabber among this week’s readings. The preacher could choose to ignore the I Corinthians passage and preach on weddings and marriage for the Isaiah passage would certainly provide links to such a conversation.
Couples wanting to get married come to churches asking that the minister perform the wedding. These couples may have no connection with the church and congregations and ministers get frustrated with these requests. But in my experience of doing weddings even couples who have limited or no background in church are overwhelmed by the reality of their decision to marry and are looking for God (however they may define the deity) to bless their marriage. Thus a sermon could quite easily begin with a celebration of weddings and marriage and the ways in which marriage opens us to God’s presence in the other (our spouse) and God’s presence in the difficult moments of marriage (when the wine runs out). God in Jesus takes the water of our marriages and transforms them into wine – a better wine than we brought to the marriage in the first place. Such a sermon could be an opportunity to challenge a congregation to find ways to support the couples who get married in the church – even if those couples are not part of regular worshiping community. Such a sermon could also remind people of the extravagant love of Jesus who made 150 gallons of top quality wine and gave us human sexuality – both of which are for our pleasure. (Yes, there are temptations to abuse both alcohol and sexuality – and the preacher needs to tread carefully.) When the church is often accused of being kill-joys this week’s texts invite a celebration of pleasure.
Preachers who want to include the I Corinthians passage will need to walk the road suggested by the quotes from Vanier and Bruner. God takes the ordinary things – water – ordinary people – bride and groom – and changes them by his Spirit into extraordinary things. By God’s extravagant grace and the working of God’s Spirit wine comes from water – love to meet our deep needs comes through an ordinary human being who by a covenant blessed by God has been bound to us – a body working in harmony emerges from a rag-tag group of diverse and often argumentative individuals. None of the things or persons God transforms showed signs of having this greater end somewhere hidden in them. They were ordinary things – nothing special about the people the Spirit gifts. Rather God pours his transformative grace into non-descript clay jars and the world is changed. God’s Spirit is poured into ordinary people and they are gifted to do extraordinary things by the Spirit. An inclusion of I Corinthians opens the door to two questions: “Where am I to use the gifts given by the Holy Spirit? And who around me has gifts that I should encourage to use their gift?” The unity that the Spirit brings to the diverse community called the church is one of the most powerful evangelistic tools at the church’s disposal. And our disunity is damaging to the spread of the good news of Jesus Christ.
“The modest water saw its God and blushed.” – Richard Crashaw (17th century)
“The conscious water saw its God and blushed.” – John Dryden (17th century)
“For – in fact – like every natural joy, “the wine failed.” The natural joys of life which – truly understood and received – are a parable of the joy of God’s kingdom, all come to an end. They do not themselves lead out into joy in its fullness. They fail.” Lesslie Newbigin
“Jesus came to renew all things, to change our broken humanity into a new unity as he changed the water into wine. If he brings the disciples first of all to a wedding feast, it is not only to affirm the importance and beauty of the bonding…in the oneness of human sexuality, but also to reveal to his disciples and to each of us the deepest thirst in us: our desire and need to love and be loved.” Jean Vanier
“Minimally, our text can teach us that Jesus uses what is at hand, what is there – ordinary creation realities – in order to do his extraordinary re-creation signs. A Gnostic Christian would not like Jesus’ use of material means to do his spiritual work. But a God who takes on and becomes human flesh (and not merely disguised by it) is not a despiser of matter, of the physical, of the ordinary, or of the available.” Frederick Dale Bruner
- “When love is found and hope comes home” – Brian Wren
- “Like the murmur of the dove’s song” – Carl Daw
- “Come to us, creative Spirit” – David Mowbray
- “Come, join in Cana’s feast” – Herman G. Stuempfle
- “Sing of a God made manifest” – Carl Daw (This is a contemporary Epiphany hymn)
- “Jesus, come! for we invite you” – Christopher Idle
Collect from New Zealand Prayer Book:
in Christ you make all things new;
transform the poverty of our nature
by the riches of your grace,
and in the renewal of our lives
make known your heavenly glory;
through Jesus Christ our Redeemer
who is alive with with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever.
Prayers of the People from Bruce Prewer, http://www.bruceprewer.com/
God of wedding parties and new wine,
of love and laughter, dancing and singing,
we pause to pray for those among your worldwide family
who today may be feeling left out in the cold.
Bless the many people who must toil for such long hours
that there is no time or energy to laugh or sing.
Bless your children who feel so demeaned and exploited
that they view even angels of mercy with suspicion and fear.
Bless the many folk who are caught in vicious circles of evil
and can see no way to escape.
Bless those among your children whose every waking hour is spent in pain,
and whose sleep is at the best fitful.
Bless those people who are drawn to Christ and new life,
yet who fear the scorn of family, friends or workmates.
Bless your children who once tasted the new wine of Christ
but have now slipped away into indifference, or maybe despair.
Bless those folk who with much trembling,
hand their lives over to you this day.
May they find faith and courage for the days to come.
Bless the people of your church,
that abundant love may flow in our prayers
and our prayers flow into generous words and deeds.
In the name of the Christ who makes all things new. Amen!
A Readers’ Theatre setting of The Wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11) for two voices. (from re: Worship website)
One: The next day there was a wedding celebration
in the village of Cana in Galilee.
Jesus’ mother was there,
and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration.
The wine supply ran out during the festivities,
so Jesus’ mother came to him and said,
“Son, they have no more wine.”
Two: Dear woman, that’s not our problem.
My time has not yet come.
One: But his mother told the servants,
“Do whatever he tells you.”
Standing nearby were six stone water jars,
used for Jewish ceremonial washing.
Each could hold twenty to thirty gallons.
Jesus told the servants,
Two: Fill the jars with water.
One: When the jars had been filled, he said,
Two: Now dip some out, and take it to the master of ceremonies.
One: So the servants followed his instructions.
When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine,
not knowing where it had come from
(though, of course, the servants knew),
he called the bridegroom over and said:
“A host always serves the best wine first,
Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink,
he brings out the less expensive wine.
But you have kept the best until now!”
This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee
was the first time Jesus revealed his glory.
And his disciples believed in him.
Peter Bush is the minister of Westwood Presbyterian Church, Winnipeg, Manitoba. He is the co-author of Where Twenty or Thirty are Gathered: Leading Worship in the Small Church (Alban).