showing the way – Epiphany 3
20th January 13 Epiphany 3 Wedding at Cana
When I was teenager, or possibly even younger I remember my mother giving me wedding guest etiquette advice, probably stemming from discussion about what I wanted to wear!…
“don’t wear white, don’t wear anything that would upstage the bride, no one will be looking at you anyway behave, be quiet, don’t draw attention to yourself…”
come to think of it, that might have been her general advice (minus not upstaging brides) through a lot of my teenage years –
Most of us will have heard similar and we have most of us a built in behaviour code that means we know how to behave at certain events –
I don’t know precisely what the fine detail etiquette at a Jewish wedding in the 1st century might have been. But I have a feeling that the events of today’s Gospel reading didn’t conform to Cana’s premier Wedding Planner’s check list.
To begin with, the wine runs out.
Social death for the hosts, panic for the servants, who knew full well they’d be the ones incurring the blame & the wrath.
Whispers among the guests perhaps as they see the scurrying or become aware of empty cups.
Jesus is there, with Mary his mother, and his disciples, perhaps it was a family do, perhaps friends, we’re not told the connection, Weddings were community events, with whole villages and extended families involved – but whatever the situation Mary felt the need to do something, so she mentions to Jesus that there is no wine…, I don’t think she’s necessarily asking for him to do anything, perhaps it’s just conversation
Jesus’s initial reply to her seems a bit rude, perhaps that’s the use of “woman” in English, but whatever his tone, he simply says “ my hour has not yet come”
What does that mean? It has the feel to us of “not my problem, I’m on a break, it’s my day off… ask someone else…” but then of course the story continues…
Maybe somehow Jesus did need a prod to get involved here, or as some commentators have suggested this is not the negative statement it seems, but can be translated “ isn’t my time here now?”
Maybe it’s a reminder that Jesus always acts, but not always on our terms or in our timescale.
Whatever he meant, Mary clearly knew he’d act because she simply says to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you”
For Mary to be involved at all is a little unusual, for her to be giving the servants orders is even more so, and it’s not excused or explained in some way by John telling us that its close family or that there was some other reason. Provision of wine at a wedding was the responsibility of the Bridegroom – very definitely male territory.
Instead we have a woman stepping forward, taking a lead
And what does she say?
“ do whatever he tells you” -She points to Jesus,
The story continues, as we have heard, the servants at Jesus’s request fill up the large washing water jars with water, and when they take it to the steward, lo & behold it has turned to wine,and good wine at that, much to everyone’s surprise.
There is so much that can be said about this miracle, this sign.
Its context in a party, the celebration of life, the over abundance of provision, illustrating God’s overwhelming grace & love for us, all these things are important,
But today I want to concentrate on another aspect of this story, this seemingly small part that Mary plays in the proceedings, her actions as she points towards Jesus…
Mary’s role as the Mother of God, as we’ve heard over this Christmas season is a continual pointing towards her son, God incarnate.
She is the God bearer, the carrier of God with us, and she also shows us the way to him who IS the way.
Looking back to our advent candles, we have a roll call of those who pointed the way, The Patriarchs of the OT, The Prophets, John the Baptist and finally Mary.
And here right at the start of Jesus’s public ministry, she stands in public and says.. “ do what he says”
Pointing the way.
There is a style of Orthodox Icon of Mary which is called Hodegetria –literally She who shows the Way.
It always depicts Mary with Jesus, sometimes a child rather than a baby and she is pointing to him, indicating who he is., drawing the focus to him – They are beautiful reminders that everything we do is to point to Jesus.
Do you know that feeling when you’ve been searching for the answer to a problem or a dilemma, and gradually you realise that there are many separate things all indicating the same answer or solution –
God in his grace has given us so many signposts to Jesus,
We’ve mentioned already the Old Testament, Patriarchs & Prophets, then John , Mary.
In our Epistle reading today we hear Paul writing about the Gifts of the Spirit, more signposts, pointing the way, the wisdom, and prophecy, the worship, the service the miracles –ultimately the point of all these is to point to Jesus.
The Role of the Holy Spirit herself is to lead us into truth, to point us again and again to Jesus, God with us, God incarnate.
Our worship, our reading of The Word, or celebration of the Sacrament has at its heart that sign post to the one who came..
Sometimes we can tie ourselves up in knots about our role, about our mission, about who we are and what we should be doing, whether as individuals or as a Church but at the bottom of it all is one thing, -we need to be pointing to Jesus,
This should be the question we ask ourselves about our lives, about the decisions we make in church, our activities our work in our community.
Are we pointing to Jesus?
Because It is in an encounter with him,
It is in understanding that He is God, come among us, walking through life with us
It is in experiencing his forgiveness and love,
And knowing his His healing and his grace for us and for our world
that we, and all around us like the wine in the jars, are completely transformed.