|Calvary Episcopal Church, Rockdale
January 14, 2007
The Rev. Robert C. Granfeldt
You’ll recall I said last Sunday we would be having a Baptism, today, which would have dictated the content
of my sermon’ But sometimes real event get in the way of our intentions, and this morning turns out to be a
perfect example of what the great Scots poet, Robert Burns, was talking about when he wrote, “The best
laid plans of mice and men gang aft aglee.”
Some of the family of the baby that was to be baptized thought that, with yesterday’s funeral of a member of
their extended family, this would not be a great day for a Baptism.
Liturgically, actually, it would have been a perfect time to celebrate the cycle of life – birth and death,
Baptism and Requiem – but liturgy is not all-important, and I would never argue with the mother of a child
anout when her baby ought to be baptized!
So instead, we move on to a different part of the same cycle: a middle part; that part that is celebrated in
We just heard one of the best known stories in all of Scripture – the story of Jesus at the wedding in Cana
of Galilee, as told by St. John the Evangelist.
The story takes place right at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry – “on the third day” after his Baptism by John.
Jesus has brought the small handful of disciples he’s gathered so far, with his mother, Mary, to a wedding
in a tiny, insignificant town not far from where they live, called Cana. The marriage feast is apparently
progressing nicely, until the wine runs out, which was, as you might guess, no happier event, then, than it
would be at a wedding reception today! The people running the party are beside themselves, until Mary
steps in and calls on Jesus to do his thing! At first, he seems to refuse, saying, “Woman, what have you to
do with me?” – a line that has been preached about countless times, though it doesn’t say that. The next
time we hear these verses read in our Lectionary, it will be read from the New Revised Standard Version of
the Bible, and we’ll read, “Woman, what does that have to do with you and with me?” – which is not only a
more accurate translation, but which sounds considerably softer to our modern ears.
But Jesus quickly gives in, and orders the servants to fill the water jugs that happen to be standing by for
the rites of purification with fresh water, then directs them to draw some and take it to the Steward of the
feast to check out - and the Steward is astounded to be tasting the finest wine yet, so that he exclaims to
the groom, “This is amazing! Most people serve the good wine first, and then, when people are all drunk,
bring out the cheap stuff, when no one can tell the difference! But you have saved the very finest wine for
John tells a good story, giving us a number of details – not necessarily very important in themselves, but
serving to bring the whjole scene to life. Nevertheless, some of those details do matter. In the response
Jesus gives to his mother’s request, for instance, one thing that does not change with translations is that
she is not identified by name! Indeed, Mary is not identified by name ANYwhere in John’s Gospel! In fact,
she only actually appears twice in this whole Gospel, and both times she is addressed by her Son as,
“Woman.” That term, itself, sounds to the modern ear more than a little abrupt, and rather disdainful, and
especially when used by a young man to address his own mother! But in fact in the language of the day, it is
a term of great and deep respect! Nevertheless, his answer to her does seem a bit “short,” and Jesus does
not address her as his mother again, here, or anywhere in John’s Gospel. Indeed, John never mentions her
name at all, and Mary never speaks again, not in this Gospel; not in the scriptures. And the next – and last –
time we see her she is standing at the foot of the Cross, as Jesus turns her over to the disciple whom he
loved, saying to her, “Woman, behold your son,” and to the disciple, “behold your mother.” So both times
when Jesus addresses his mother he calls her “Woman;” a term of great respect, perhaps, but not very
personal however we may cut it!
Another important detail – or two, actually – has to do with the wine jugs. One of the more important details
of the whole story is the issue of why the jugs are there in the first place. They don’t just happen to be
there, but are present for the rites of purification that are part of the marriage rite – a details that points us
in the direction of the meaning of the whole story! And I wonder, too, how Many of us have ever stopped to
think about the very magnitude of what John tells us happened next. There were six stone jars, there, for
the Jewish rites of purification, and each held – does anyone remember how much? Each held “20 or 30
gallons”. Has it ever really occurred to you how much wine that came to? 6 jars, 20 or 30 gallons, each? 120
to 180 GALLONS of wine!!!!?
That’s a LOT of wine! That’s enough wine to get everyone in that whole REGION drunk! Not grape juice, as
our evangelical brethren would have it – but WINE! And this, as the Steward points out, is when the guests
were already on their way to being drunk!
And then there was the little detail from the very beginning of the story: that this took place, in John’s
words, “on the third day,” which is to say – the third day after his Baptism – the third day of his ministry!
But “The Third Day” is virtually a code term in the Gospels –a term that inevitably evokes the Resurrection,
Now when we put these various elements together, what do we come up with?
Well, since we know that the Writer of the Gospel was not an eyewitness to the events of that wedding, we
can never really know the details of what happened, there, but when we put together the elements John
has reported, we have to come to some pretty strong conclusions about the meaning of the story in John’s
In fact, John has told the story of the wedding, not as a factual report – he couldn’t – but as a kind of
PARABLE: a story that points beyond itself to something much deeper, much more meaningful than “just the
The “three day” reference makes this a resurrection story, which is John telling us, by putting it right at the
beginning of his Gospel, that the whole of the Gospel is about Resurrection; an idea confirmed by the
appearance of Jesus’ mother – and his addressing her in the same way: on the Third Day after his Baptism;
and at the time of his death – which is the Third Day BEFORE his Resurrection! The Third Day!
You’ve heard it said that Jesus Christ was born to die; that He came into the World to give his life for us. I’
ve said those things, myself, many times. But you know something? It’s not REALLY true.
Jesus didn’t come into this world to die! He came into this world to be resurrected! Dieing was just what he
had to do along the way!
The meaning of Jesus Christ is NOT the Crucifixion, but the RESURRECTION – and His symbol should
probably not be the CROSS, but the EMPTY TOMB!
And He came into this world not to be a son to a mother: he came into the world to walk away from his
earthly family in order to be one with the children of God, the people of God, proclaiming that his mother,
his brothers and his sisters are all those who do the will of the Father. He came into the world to be my
LORD, indeed; but he came, as well, to be my brother – and yours!
And he came into the world to declare the profligate love of his Father. Like a rich bridegroom at a feast,
pouring the finest of wines in limitless quantities, the Father of Jesus the Christ pours his love into the
world, copiously! Love overflowing. Love never ending. Love without measure!
The story of the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee is not just a miracle story, about Jesus magically turning
water into wine! That would be a story worthy of a wizard or a magician. The story of the wedding at Cana of
Galillee is nothing less than the story of the Purification of the World in the Incarnation of the Word of God –
and in the showing forth to the world the Word of God, incarnate in Jesus Christ!
What a wedding! And what a story!
In his name. Amen!