5Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.
6Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your judgments are like the great deep; you save humans and animals alike, O LORD.
7How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
8They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
9For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.
10O continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your salvation to the upright of heart!
This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” 5His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
6Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.”
9When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from 9(though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God.
Don Koran approached me some time ago about officiating over the renewal of their vows. I was honored and thrilled to be asked to lead a service that marks a remembrance of their sixty years of marriage. To me, marriage is the kind of covenant relationship that points to the abundantly steadfast love of God. I’ve had some opportunities to participate in worship services at the beginning of a marriage, but to renew that covenant after so many decades is a special opportunity.
I joyfully agreed, we picked a convenient date that wouldn’t conflict with other special elements of worship.
But that was some time ago, and I had not yet chosen the scripture lesson for this morning. When the time came to planning today’s worship service, I looked at my calendar of suggested scripture readings, figuring I’d pick the ones that would most lend themselves to proclaiming the Gospel through the unique commitment of marriage.
Let’s see, Psalm, yes, lots of love in that, that’ll work well. What’s the gospel passage for that morning. John 2? Wait, is that the wedding at Cana?
Oh God, putting these things together in your most holy and divine providence. I love it when you show off like that. Moments like that are like God giving us a knowing wink, to remind us of who really runs this show in spite of all our planning. “Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.”
I talked over this text with our lunch bunch crowd, as well as with my clergy group. I don’t remember which group said this, but someone remarked that “I think we set the bar too high for miracles.” A miracle can be as grand as raising someone from the dead, or as humble as a coincidence that points us to God. We’ll see every manner of signs in our walk with Christ.
John’s story of the first of Jesus’s signs is rich with meaning. The author of John’s gospel has a reputation for filling his stories with metaphors and symbols, all of which serve to point to who Christ is on as many layers as a human author can manage. Each reading of the story of the wedding in Cana of Galilee pulls out another noteworthy moment, another built in testimony to Jesus as the Word made flesh.
But at its heart, this is an ordinary celebration made extraordinary by the presence of God. “On the third day was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.” The story is set up for a very human moment. This is a celebration for the whole community, marking the joining of two families. Jesus is not the guest of honor, he’s not the center of attention, he’s almost an afterthought, a last minute addition to the guest list because his mother was there.
Then, just as the party is getting really wild, the wine gives out. Commentators have guessed at why, ranging from the poverty of the bride and groom to the length of the party, to poor planning from the steward, to an unforeseen accident. But whatever the reason, a wedding without wine in first century Palestine is a problem.
Jesus and his mother, whom we know as Mary from other gospels, have a very curious exchange that indicates that Jesus wants to stay firmly in the shadows. After all, he’s here to save all humanity, not just to save one wedding reception! His mother seems to totally ignore him and puts the servants under his instruction. “Do whatever he tells you.”
Then the miracle comes. It’s almost a prelude to the story of the feeding of the five thousand. It’s almost a revision of the story of Moses bringing water from a rock. Yet this time, Jesus calls for the waters of purification and transforms them into wine for celebrating. “Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your judgments are like the great deep; you save humans and animals alike, O LORD.” The power of this Father’s Son extends into the most ordinary water and lifts it up from its mundane purpose to an article of joy. All creation is under our Lord’s command.
That command is love. In an ordinary setting and blessed with an extraordinary grace, the signs of God’s presence remind us that God’s love is steadfast and abundant. "The nature of God's love and faithfulness is woven into the very fabric of the universe; the whole of the world is dependent upon it. Humans too have a place in this love, poetically described as being under the shadow of God's wings.” From beneath the shadow of God’s wings, we can catch the occasional knowing wink from the God who loves us so much that he shows up even at a simple wedding in Cana of Galilee, or in the life and worship of this community of faith as well.
But in that community-wide wedding celebration, more than a faith-shaped coincidence was happening. “When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom…” and I imagine Jesus giving that long slow wink to the servants who had drawn the water. I wonder if the servants who knew, or the disciples who believed, or even the mother of Jesus, remembered the words of the psalmist, “They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.”
For in a wedding in Cana of Galilee, God’s abundantly steadfast love was poured out like water, but drawn out as wine. And in 60 years of marriage, Dn and Nancy have seen their share of winks from God, reminding them that they are loved by a Lord who serves good wine even when we can’t taste the difference, just because he loves us.
Abundant grace doesn’t have to make headlines, but it always makes a difference. In this anxious world, the abundant grace of God reminds us that we are loved beyond measure, and that there’s no way we can lose that love. We are joined to a covenant of grace that will change us the more we learn to trust it, it’s a covenant that never expires, but renews us each moment of our lives. God’s abundantly steadfast love reaches from the beginning of the cosmos to a wedding in Cana of Galilee, through the cross and empty tomb, and holds the people who are the Presbyterian Church of Lowell safely under the wings of our God.