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  • Writer's pictureRev Kalantha Brewis

Mary at Cana

Looking at the Miracle at the wedding at Cana- from Mary’s end- the second chapter of

John’s Gospel:

2 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there,  2  and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.  3  When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

4  “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each

holding from twenty to thirty gallons.

7  Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.

Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so,  9  and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into

wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the

water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside  10  and said, “Everyone brings out the

choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink;

but you have saved the best till now.”

11  What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed

his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

The wedding of Cana- the first miracle in John’s gospel, and the moment at which Jesus

reveals his divine nature to the first of his disciples. Of course, we rightly focus on Jesus in this account. Jesus providing such an astonishingly lavish quantity of excellent wine for the wedding.

And the imagery is so rich.

  • Jesus takes water- the ordinary stuff of life, and turns it into something special and beautiful.

  • Jesus takes the water from the purification jars- the jars used for ritual and regulation keeping, the very symbols of restriction and law; and fills them with the stuff of freedom and celebration and feasting.

  • Jesus doesn’t just rescue the bride and groom from a minor embarrassment by

So- yes- we can go long on Jesus and all the symbolism here, and if you have heard me

preach about this passage in the past, you will have heard me doing just that. But there are two other people in the story I want to focus on today, because I think they have something useful to tell us about prayer and about recognising God’s work in our lives and receiving God’s consolation. As I was saying last week, we may usefully be called to focus not only on what Jesus does for us, but also on how we fit into the tapestry of God’s greater plan, what our part is in the story of loving salvation which we are called to tell and re-tell in every generation and every place.

One of the things that intrigues me about this passage is the part Mary plays. It's Mary who points out to Jesus that the hosts have run out of wine. Perhaps Jesus is already aware of the need, but Mary expresses it, she brings it to his attention, and clearly with the expectation that Jesus will do something about it. When Jesus says “what’s that got to do with me, my hour has not yet come” she doesn’t argue with him- but she does call on other people- the servants in the household, to follow Jesus’ instructions, whatever they turn out to be.

I think that’s really interesting- we believe that Jesus is fully human as well as being fully

God- is it possible that here Mary is encouraging Jesus to have confidence in his calling, and to move from what he has done so far- gathering a small band of followers around him as he teaches- into a much more public ministry. Is it possible that Jesus, humanly, needs that affirming word, the opportunity to try on a larger persona, a fuller expression of holiness and godliness? I wonder about that.

Are there people we know who need that extra word – a bit of a nudge- to step more fully into who they really are, to find the depth and breadth of their god given identity? Can you think of someone who is maybe half in and half out of fulfilling their potential? Mary gently pushes Jesus into the limelight here, and he responds by giving the servants their instructions to fill the water jars.

So, here’s another thought- thinking this time of Jesus as fully divine. Mary is the one who points out the need. As Jesus’ followers, those who believe in his power to transform lives and mend hearts here and now, are we bringing the needs of the world to him in confident prayer? And what is our part in the work of grace? What would have happened, do you suppose, at the wedding at Cana, if Mary hadn’t turned up? Or if she hadn’t had that conversation with Jesus? Just- spend a minute thinking about that- what if Mary hadn’t been there?

There are several possibilities of course, and we can imagine any number of them, but it

must be at least possible that the hosts would have run out of wine, and everyone would have gone home miserable, and no miracle would have been performed, and the family throwing the wedding would have been so horribly embarrassed that they would never have been able to show their faces again. It’s an often repeated encouragement from St Teresa of Avila

Christ has no body now on earth but yours, No hands, no feet on earth but yours,

Yours are the eyes with which He looks with compassion on this world,

Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good,

Yours are the hands, with which He blesses all the world.

Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,

Yours are the eyes, you are His body.

As Christians we are necessary agents of God’s grace- just as Mary is a necessary catalyst on this occasion, actively bringing God’s mercy and generosity into a situation because she was stirred by a spirit of mercy and generosity.

Is that how we think of ourselves? As necessary parts of the story? As necessary parts of

God’s plan to bring love and reconciliation and restoration to our communities and our

world? I think this gospel passage tells us, loud and clear, that in fact this is what we are.

So- don’t leave church today imagining that you are dispensable, unimportant, or that the church or the community can manage without you- the Lord has a particular purpose for each and every one of us- nobody’s life is an optional extra- every life is precious and valuable, a note in the tune that God is improvising.

The other person I wanted to mention is the steward- the steward in the story tastes the

wine and, without knowing where it comes from- although of course the servants who have drawn the water know- approaches the bridegroom and says- what a brilliant job you’ve done on producing such an excellent vintage- you have saved the best til last. Two things to notice about that.

The first is that the steward congratulates the bridegroom, who actually has had nothing to do with providing the wine. How often we miss the fact that God has blessed us, given us some amazing gift, or provided for us in some gracious way, because there is someone else, or something else, who seems to be a more obvious recipient of our praise. So we thank the doctor who treats us, which is a right thing to do, but without giving God thanks for the doctor’s skill. Or we thank the person who brings us the bunch of flowers, which is a right thing to do, but we neglect to give God thanks for the beauty of the flowers which he created, or the generous spirit he placed in the heart of the person who gave them to us.

In every good gift we receive, God is at work, and we would do well to remember that the miraculous, life giving love of God is dynamic, woven into every breath we take, seeking us out and filling our world.

And of course that famous line “you have saved the best until now” or “you have kept the best until now”. If this morning you are feeling that the wine has run out, that there is nothing left but dregs, that God has forgotten you; if you are feeling discouraged, crushed, disappointed and let down by life, see here what it is that the Lord Jesus does- he comes to a family, throwing a wedding party, whose resources are exhausted, who fear being humiliated and exposed as failures to their neighbours, and he brings an abundant, overabundant, extravagant gift of blessing and joy. That is for each one of us. That is the promise we receive as Christians, and the power to save and transform with which Christ by his Holy Spirit blesses us. That is the truth if we can only open our eyes and see it.

We all go through times of emptiness, pain and loss, times when we feel hopeless and heartbroken, as Christ himself did on the cross. We all have our Good Friday times. But we are all invited too, into the resurrection life that Christ brings, and that life is the light of the world, the joy of the world, and a wonder which cannot be extinguished by our present pain. So if your heart is heavy this morning and the sky feels grey, take heart- in Christ the best is saved until last.

So, I wonder how this lands with us this morning- are we reflecting on our roles as

necessary agents in God’s story, as Mary was? Are we looking afresh at the blessings we

receive, and acknowledging God’s work in them? Are we taking comfort in the promise that the best is saved until last?

I pray that, however this gospel passage speaks to you, you will find time this week to turn it over in your mind, to offer it up prayerfully to the Lord who loves you, and that, in it, you will find challenge, joy and hope. Amen

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