On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.”
A little more than a year ago, I climbed off the bus with a group from our diocese, in what is now the modern town of CANA of Galilee. Everywhere along the street were signs: Here is where Jesus performed his first miracle. Come and buy wine here!!!
I have to admit that standing in the streets of Cana was not as memorable as seeing one of the very early (probably even from the time of Jesus) stone jars that was used to keep water for ceremonial purification purposes. This was an immense vessel, ABOUT THE SIZE OF AN AVERAGE 30 GALLON GARBAGE CONTAINER. The religion of the day held that the faithful, would be cleansed, ritually speaking, by pouring water over their hands.
These huge stone jars, in our gospel lesson, become a symbol of HOPE, of God’s abundant grace and transforming love and most certainly a sign of NEW BEGINNINGS FOR JESUS' MINISTRY.
What we know from our gospel reading is this: here was Jesus, his disciples and his mother …. all at a wedding. And weddings in the first century typically lasted at least seven days. This wedding may have been in its third day – so there were a number of days left for celebrating….. and most embarrassing for the host and hostess, THEY HAD RUN OUT OF WINE!
Jesus may have told his mother something like this: ….”Now mother, don’t drag me into this mess, I didn’t have anything to do with it, and this isn’t my time right now.”
Put yourself in Mary's place. Some scholars think that Mary may have been related to the wedding hosts. SO WHAT COULD MARY DO? There were no grocery stores or Coscos down the street in which to run in and choose from shelf after shelf of various wines. Instead, Mary puts her hopes on Jesus, as she says to the steward, "Anything at all that he tells you..do!"
We are told that the stone water jars are empty; and Jesus directs that the jars be filled with water, which they did…..TO THE BRIM…..and the jars, once filled, turn into wine. Jesus substitutes the legal function of purification in order to save a bridal banquet.
Then our gospel says: “ and his disciples believed in him.”
The writer of the gospel emphasizes the large water jars and their ritual function, which is of the Law, and the unexpectedness of the transformed water, which we recognize as a sign of becoming something new. All this as a beginning – not an ending!
The Miracle at Cana points to a new day: Definitely a “transformation”. What Jesus ushers in is something miraculously new and different from what anyone might have imagined. The Cana miracle and the multiplication of the loaves early in church history... become symbols for the bread and wine of the Eucharist.
At any wedding, then as now, there are bound to be tears of sadness and joy. After all, there is a change of status and new relationships about to take place. We are approaching a time as well…. at St Michael’s, when we will be experiencing a change … a time to experience new relationships and a change in status of a long time relationship with our rector. And of course there are tears of joy and sadness all mixed together.
I think our gospel story might move each of us today, in this very important time of transition, as well as the time of discerning how we are to proceed with the “Who is My Neighbor” ministry. Just as the abundance of God’s grace and love is a theme that can flow out of these huge stone jars, so too can an abundance of God’s grace and love flow from St. Michael’s in the coming year. It's a time as our rector minded us last week: a time to say YES to NEW BEGINNINGS!
We aren’t called to try and keep our frame of reference in terms of how things always are, or how things have always been done, or even whether we believe what things become possible with God ……rather we are called to recognize how active the holy presence of God is when we are open and willing, as Mary says, to do whatever he tells us. This means to move forward!
I absolutely love this quote by Valentin Tomberg that Cynthia Bourgeault quotes in her book “Mystical Hope: Trusting in the Mercy of God.”
Hope is not something subjective due to an optimistic or sanguine temperament, nor a desire for compensation in the sense of modern Freudian or Adlerian psychology. Rather, it is a light-force which radiates objectively and which directs creative evolution toward the world’s future. It (HOPE) is the celestial and spiritual counterpart of terrestrial and natural instincts of biological reproduction…In other words, HOPE IS WHAT MOVES AND DIRECTS SPIRITUAL EVOLUTION IN THE WORLD.
As Cynthia reflects on this concept of hope she says:
“the nature of hope is to move, and to move forward. “ As we let ourselves yield and go with the current flow of hope, it will open us toward the authentic unfolding of our being. The opposite is also just as true; any form of resistance, be it nostalgia, clinging, bitterness, self-pity, or self –justification, will make it impossible to find that current of hope, impossible for hope to carry us to our true becoming.”
I believe that this is not the time to be skeptical about the hope of new beginnings, but rather a time of celebration with the community... in a continuing transformation of ourselves as St. Michaels'.
Hope, like the Greek word “arche” used in the gospel, (meaning a beginning) reminds us that HOPE lies at the beginning as we are to move forward; and it does not come at the end, as the feeling that results from a happy outcome.
Hope is not imaginary, or illusory, any more than our gospel story of turning water into wine was an illusion. Like the steward who tasted the “new wine” and said…”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.” I don’t think the steward had any idea where the wine came from, but the reality of it was he recognized this as being new wine!
What we are called to do and to be in these months ahead is a willingness to focus on our continued journey of transformation. Our lives, the life of this parish, is to be like the jar of water transformed: Each of us, this parish, unique, yet the expression of becoming ALL that we are called to become.
There is an old Hasidic tale that reminds us of how things are able to happen when we open our hearts.
The pupil comes to the rabbi and asks "Why does Torah tell us to place the wisdom of these holy words UPON our hearts? Why does it not tell us to place these holy words IN our hearts? The rabbi answers, "It is because as we are, our hearts are too often closed, and we cannot yet place the wisdom of these words IN our hearts. So, we place them on top of our hearts. And there they stay until the day our hearts break open, and the words of wisdom, fall in."
As we open our hearts, we too will discover the spirit and wisdom of BECOMING who God has called us to be. The huge stone jars, EMPTY, BUT WAITING, a symbol of HOPE AND TRANSFORMATION, …ARE most certainly a sign of NEW BEGINNINGS for us this day and in the days to come.