Before indulging in the Johannine wedding feast we ought to set this story in its January context, why it is told during epiphany. We begin to celebrate the Epiphany on 6th January, a festival which arose in the second century, largely in response to Greek and Hellenic festivals noting the position of the star Sirius, the many purification rites and rituals around washing; and the birth of Dionysus, the Wine God. Against that background in Christianity the stories were brought together celebrating the star leading the magi to the child Jesus with their gifts. – the baptism of Jesus and the wedding at Cana. Birth, Baptism, Marriage. Hatches, Matches and of course you know the third in the rhyming triplet – Despatches – look forward then if you will to next week – not quite, but as they say – our death is in our life. Epiphany does begin to tell the whole story the revelation of who Jesus was in these few short weeks culminating at the Presentation of Christ – Candlemass the celebration of the light. So back to the wedding – what does it tell us about this Jesus we are supposed to be discovering. There is something almost unique about this story and something quite ordinary – yet extraordinary too. The unique first – More wine? Is there really a pressing need for this.. ah yes, more wine, sorry – my mistake! Beyond saving the bride and groom of the humiliation that they had not provided enough wine for the party, no one is dying, no one is ill or paralysed or blind. There was no pain or suffering. No one is in need of emancipation. No one is told to go and sin no more. It seems that it was an act simply for the joy of the party. Perhaps why Jesus suggests to his mother – …”what concern is that to you and to me?” But perhaps saving the Bride and Groom from the humiliation of appearing inhospitable was enough which leads us on to the ordinary. For you might not notice, but despite what John tells us at the end of the passage we have just read, there is no great reveal of what Jesus has done, our text tells us plainly that only the servants knew where the good wine had come from. There is no great prayer of transformation by Jesus, no ceremony, nothing which anyone might suspect was out of the ordinary until the steward tastes the wine and takes it to the groom to ask why he saved the best till last. The extraordinary ordinary act, quietly with no fuss and pretence Jesus transforms what might have been a humiliating end to the wedding feast. The small miracle of joy, the little things unannounced and unexpected which transform the situation. That’s miracle enough for me. We could do with a few of those. In fact there’s no reason why each of us couldn’t be part of one, quietly providing an unexpected gift where it is needed. Offering words of encouragement, comfort and support. Sending a message to those having a hard time. The transformation our small actions have may not be seen immediately, nor will everyone know who has been responsible, but that’s the point. Jesus doesn’t want or expect recognition and actively avoids it. Yet for the bride and groom instead of what could have been seen as a lack of hospitality they receive the credit. Instead perhaps of a celebration remembered for the lack of drinks it is remembered for the ordinary yet extraordinary. What might that look like for us? A tin for the food bank collection. A welcome to the stranger. A kind word on the street. Even a gift as simple as a smile. Don’t pass those moments when we have the opportunity to do the smallest ordinary things which for others become the extraordinary.
These are the three things that Ian Bradley in Colonies of Heaven says that we need to do in worship suggesting that:
We need above all to have more sense of heaven in our worhip and to make the places where worship, whether churches or homes, colonies of heaven in which earth and heaven meet, the glory shines through the grey, ordinary things are rendered extraordinary and hope keeps breaking through. Then perhaps people will come to worship with a sense of excitement and expectancy rather than out of a sense of duty.