SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (2019)
Psalm 96:1-3, 7-10
1 Corinthians 12:4-11
Johnny Carson, the king of late night television for some thirty years, was interviewing an eight-year-old boy who had rescued two friends from a coal mine outside his hometown in West Virginia. As Johnny questioned him, it became apparent that the boy was a Christian. Johnny asked him if he attended Sunday school. When the boy said he did, Johnny inquired, “What are you learning in Sunday school?” “Last week,” the boy replied, “our lesson was about how Jesus went to a wedding and turned water into wine.” The audience burst into laughter and applause. Keeping a straight face, Johnny asked, “And what did you learn from that story?” The boy squirmed in his chair. It was apparent he hadn’t thought about this. But then he lifted up his face and said, “If you’re going to have a wedding, make sure you invite Jesus and Mary!”
Jesus’ miraculous turning of water into more than 120 gallons of wine must have surely made him the most popular of wedding guests. In the Gospel of John, after a theologically magnificent Prologue, an introduction to John the Baptist, and the gathering of those who would be called apostles, Jesus begins his public ministry at a wedding celebration in the nearby town of Cana. John has already established that Jesus was viewed as the Messiah, and any sense of oddity about beginning something as important as Jesus’ public ministry at a wedding reception is dispelled by the natural and charming story that has His mother Mary as a primary actor. For John, this first of Jesus’ miracles is thought of as a “Sign,” a wondrous deed whose significance is far greater than the details of the story. At the outset of Jesus’ ministry John wants his readers to view this transformation of water into wine as the replacement of Jewish ceremonial washings, and it symbolizes the entire creative and transforming work of Jesus. Jesus makes all things new, and not only does He rescue a married couple from the embarrassment of running out of wine, but He also provides a super-abundance of the fuel necessary for a true celebration. Jesus is the quintessential “life of the party” in John’s Cana story.
There is no sense in John that the action of Jesus was meant to impress. Indeed, it would appear that only the servants knew what had happened, and the questioning of why the best wine was saved until last highlights the ignorance of those in attendance about the miraculous work of Jesus. This would be the first of several signs that were intended to reveal “His glory,” and it was meant to bolster the faith of Jesus’ disciples. The story of the wedding feast at Cana was also meant to encourage the faith of all those who heard John’s story.
Jesus was no “ordinary” wedding guest, and, with the encouragement of His mother, Jesus performs His first miracle which was intended to reveal something about why the “Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The ordinariness of the wedding celebration highlights the rather ordinary circumstances of Jesus’ life until this moment . Yes, there were angels and voices from heaven at the beginning of Jesus’ earthly existence, but the moments of “simply ordinary” far outweighed the miraculous. In John’s gospel, those ordinary moments would be made extraordinary, and, as Jesus shared himself with the ordinary people that populate His world, they would come to recognize by His words and deeds how extraordinary this ordinary carpenter’s son from Nazareth truly was.
With Jesus something new had begun, the old order was passing away. Water jars for “ceremionial washings” would become oversized decanters for wine, and in subsequent Johanine “signs” the lame will walk, the blind will see, and the dead will be raised to life. As in Cana, it is Jesus who continues to provide the fuel for all of life’s celebrations, and His unconditional and super-abundant love sustains and nourishes us, especially when the challenges of life threaten to overwhelm us. May our faith in Jesus grow stronger with the passing of each day, and may our hearts be filled with gratitude for all the Lord has done for us.