The Presence of God is Here
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Second Sunday in Lent
2 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” 5His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. 9When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10and said to him, “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.” 11Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
The six stone jars stood just off to the side, silent as sentinels who watched over all the goings on at the wedding. Earlier, people had crowded around the stone jars, waiting their turn for the ritual cleansing. A wedding, after all, is at its heart a worship event, and the purification laws must be observed. As was the custom, just about everyone in town had been invited to the wedding, along with many friends and relatives from journeys of a day or more away. People laughed and hugged as they moved toward the cleansing water, reaching forward for the servants to pour the water over their hands and feet. Fingers darted like tiny fish through the cascade of water that sparkled in the sunlight. Children crowded around the jars, curling their fingers over the edges when the servants weren’t looking, daring to peek over the rim to catch a glimpse of their undulating reflection in the cold water.
The jars were made of stone, not the porous clay that might lend itself to contamination. One uncle surveyed the jars and slapped the father on the back and said: “Why, there’s enough water here to clean up the whole world. How many people are you expecting?” The father laughed nervously, still afraid that there wouldn’t be enough of everything for his guests. Anxious that he might be an embarrassment to his whole family, he had spared no expense to make sure that this wedding was long remembered for its abundance and he for his generosity and hospitality.
Jesus joined the rest of those gathered at the jars, feeling the cool of the water on his travel hot hands, listening to his mother’s happy chatter as she caught him up on family gossip. Later Jesus would listen intently to the Rabbi as he read the Hebrew scripture, savoring those words from Isaiah which spoke of their land in terms of a happy marriage. He would close his eyes in prayer, and again when Jesus saw the look that passed between bride and groom, a look so intimate and full of joy that he could not intrude on their privacy with his eyes. Jesus would laugh with the rest of them as the couple kissed under the canopy and he would dance in a circle and sing well into the night alongside the friends and strangers who were drawn into the light of the happy couple.
For Jesus, this would be no ordinary wedding. Breathless from dancing, he would sense his mother at his side before he saw her. He leaned over to hear her hoarse whisper: “They are out of wine.” John does not tell us whether they ran out of wine on day one two or five of this week long celebration. We assume the urgency of a serious social faux pas. “They are out of wine.” Well versed in the nuances of his mother’s unspoken expectations, demands, requirements, Jesus picks up on something. Perhaps it is just the tone of her voice, something he has heard before. They have a history together, you see. And Jesus shoots back, in a tone we can not read: “So, what’s your point, Mom?” His over-functioning mother can not tolerate the potential shame of the host, she enlists her son in coming to save the day.
Suddenly, something shifts, and we realize that we are not in the middle of a simple family tiff. This is much more than an annoyed son psychologically distancing his overbearing mother. The room spins and the veil drops and we see that much more is going on here. An archetypal moment has descended upon them, and Mary seems to be the new Eve, urgently pressing the new creation into being, and Jesus, now the Christ, the new Adam, is on the verge of bringing this new world into being. But only on his terms. More than just an interaction between mother and son, it is now a divine-human drama, where God spins out a new creation that is beyond our control or comprehension. But in an instant, the light shifts and once more they are mother and son. The mother simply ignores her son’s dismissal, overrides him, if you will, and tells a nearby servant “Do whatever he tells you.” Jesus may be the son of God, but Mom Rules!
And so it begins for Jesus. There will be no turning back. Soon the rumors will fly and Nicodemus will seek him out in the night and the Samaritan woman at the well will have her life changed forever and the blind will see and the lame will walk and the hungry will be fed and the whores will stop turning tricks and the tax collectors will not only stop stealing but give back fourfold what they have stolen and the brokenhearted will feel the faint stirrings of hope and the priests will be offended and the rulers threatened and the disciples will turn their backs and Judas will betray for such a small hand full of coins and the cross will hang ugly against the darkened sky and the tomb will be carved out of cold stone. Soon. But for now, we have six stone jars. And the servant waits, looking first at Mary, and then at Jesus, uncertain of what is happening, unaware of the great God-drama that is being played out underneath his nose. And Jesus stares into the dark night as if he sees it all spread out before him. The hour has come and now is, Jesus, it is time to test the waters.
“Fill the jars with water,” he says, “All of them, right up to the rim.” “But,” the servant begins, but his protest dies on his lips when the sees that strange, haunted look on Jesus’ face. He might have said: “But, we have already been purified, we need no more water,” or “There was already enough water to purify the whole world, what more is needed.” Instead, the servant fills the stone jar up with water, and staggers under its weight as he carries it to the wine steward, unaware that the water sloshing over the rum runs red over his hands like blood from a fresh cut.
The reign of God is among us! The reign of God is among us! The reign of God, will all of its joyful abundance, is right here, beside us, in front of us, right under our nose. The presence of God is here, as the bride and groom look with hungry love into the eyes of the other, God is looking at us. The presence of God is here. But some think it is just another wedding. We may think it is just another day, just another job, just another worship service, just another relationship, just another moment in an endless series of moments. When suddenly, in a flash we see, we sense, we know: the presence of God is here, enfolding us in God’s passionate embrace.
And the wine steward lifts the dipper of water, now wine, to his lips, and for a split second wonders if he is going crazy. And the bride dances a wild dance of joy while the groom looks on. And Jesus hears the faint crow of the rooster in the distance. Amen.