Epiphany 2C                      January 16, 2022               John 2:1-11

 

This last Monday, January 10th, Pam and I would have celebrated 52 years of marriage. And even though it happened over 50 years ago, I remember that day like it was yesterday. We got married at St. Paul’s UCC church outside of Wells, MN. Pam had entrusted me with the job of driving my groomsmen, (my brothers), out to the church for pictures before the wedding. I, of course, had been to the church a few times before that but, by no means, had I bothered to get the route recorded in my memory. How hard could it be, you head north out of town and turn left after a few miles and after another few miles the church would be on the right. But without local supervision, I soon learned that each mile road in south-central Minnesota looks exactly like every other road. And even though I was headed in the right general direction, it took me much longer than expected to find the church, thus making us almost late for the wedding, much less the pictures. Do I need to tell you that somebody wasn’t too happy with me by the time we showed up? Still, it all worked out and by the end of the afternoon we were, indeed, married, pictures were taken, and a wonderful reception was enjoyed at the Golden Bubble Dance Hall. It seems like no matter how detailed wedding plans are made; something always goes wrong.

 

And the wedding in Cana was no exception. Something went wrong. Whoever was in charge of providing the wine had miscalculated how much was needed and as the party really got going, the wine was running out. What to do?

 

I don’t know why Mary thought her son could solve the problem, maybe when he was growing up he showed signs of having miraculous powers. At any rate, Mary tells Jesus to do something to keep the party going. Perhaps the most troubling words in this story are the words Jesus uses in response to her request: “Woman,” he says, “what concern is that to you and to me?” Not “Mom”, not “mother”, but “woman”. What is that all about? Maybe he has had too much wine already and inebriation brought out his snarky side. Maybe he was trying to put some distance between them to keep from getting involved. Who knows! At any rate, he knew what concern it was for them. This was their neighbor, possibly a good friend of the family, and they were about to be humiliated when the guests learned that the wine was gone, and the party was over. “What concern is that to you and to me?” “Come on, Jesus, show some compassion, some appreciation for the predicament our friends are in. You were raised to know better than to ask a question like that.”

 

And you know the story, upon Jesus’ instruction, servants fill six stone jars with water, they bring it to the chief steward, who tastes it and finds it to be the best wine he has ever had. This, of course, is not how it is supposed to go. You serve the best wine first and then, after everyone has had plenty to drink and their taste buds have dulled, the cheap stuff comes out and everyone is too drunk to notice. This is unheard of and yet, here and now, late into the night, the best is served whether the guests are sober enough to enjoy it or not.

 

Such is the nature of love, which, of course, this event is celebrating. The very best of love comes late in lives lived together when it seems like the party is almost over. Yes, the passion of young love is gone, and the newness of love has worn off. Yes, the routine has replaced the spontaneity, a look of the eye and a touch of the hand replaces words, and the best conversations happen, communicated now with a head nestled in the arm of the other. Who would have guessed … who could have imagined that the good wine of love is kept until then?

 

Of course, this miracle isn’t just about water being turned into wine. All the signs Jesus performs in John’s gospel reveals something about our human condition and points us to Jesus’ true identity. It is interesting that Mary only appears twice in the gospel of John, and she is never mentioned by name. Here in the beginning of Jesus’ ministry we find her and at the very end – at the cross – we encounter her again. And neither time is she mentioned by name when Jesus commends his mother into the care of his beloved disciple. The mother of Jesus brackets his earthly ministry. At the beginning we see Jesus keeping the wedding celebration alive when the wine has run dry and at the end we see him supplying an abundance of life when his blood is poured out for the world.

 

We are a people where things never go as planned, something always goes wrong. We probably don’t need what would amount to an extra fifty cases of win for a wedding party, but we do need an abundance of love to fill our regrets, we do need an abundance of grace to forgive our sins, and we do need an abundance of mercy to move us past the dead ends we keep running into. Jesus is there for us sitting in the background, waiting in the wings. Jesus is there to abundantly surprise us with more than we have a right to expect or deserve.