Field of Dreams: if you build it, they will come!


The wedding at Cana
January 20, 2016, 12:05 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Sermon preached at All Hallows, Easton, 17th January 2016

The Prayer Book Marriage Service reminds us that marriage was instituted by God in mankind’s original state of innocence, and that Christ adorned and beautified it with his presence and first miracle at Cana of Galilee. Together with the coming of the Magi and his Baptism by John, this incident makes the third Epiphany or Manifestation of Christ: “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory.”

When you think about it, it seems a bit odd to say that Jesus “manifested his glory” in the incident. After all, what exactly happened? At a village wedding, the supply of wine gave out. One of the guests, Mary, noticed the agitation of the waiters, and had a quiet word with her Son. He gives some instructions to the waiters, and the supply of wine is restored. Nobody else is aware of this, but the head-waiter notices that the wine is better than what was served earlier. The bridegroom and his guests remain entirely ignorant of the crisis. So how does Jesus “manifest his glory”? Who to? What glory?

Let me offer a personal thought. Perhaps we look for the glory of God in the wrong places, and in the wrong things. Signs are not necessarily impressive- the first sign mentioned in Luke’s Gospel was that promised by the angel: “This shall be a sign to you: you shall find a baby in a manger.” The shepherds went, and saw. Saw what? A poor young woman and a new-born infant, with a tired husband standing by (never leave Joseph out of the picture). To human eyes, a sight deserving compassion, but hardly revealing the glory of God. Yet the shepherds went away glorifying God.

John tells us that he and the other disciples present at the wedding- no more than half a dozen- believed in Jesus because of what they saw; and what they saw was quite unobtrusive, something that happened “behind the scenes”, so to speak. Nothing was “on stage”, visible to the public at large. And even behind the scenes, all that they witnessed was the manifestation of a human need- quite a trivial one, in point of fact- the concern of Jesus and his Mother for that need, and instructions to the servants to pour some water. And of course, they witnessed the fact that, as far as the public was concerned, nothing exceptional had happened at all. That was the point. Jesus had prevented a scene, he had allowed to happen what everyone expected to happen, when it could so easily have gone wrong.

A point of application to ourselves. We are at the same time disciples of Christ, and servants at God’s banquet. It is for us, first of all, to be on the look-out for the needs of others (as Mary was) and to present them to the Lord. It is for us, then, to carry out the actions that he prompts us to do; nothing extraordinary maybe, just the routines that are our normal responsibility, but done for him. It is for us, as disciples, to believe in Jesus and in his power, whether or not others take any notice. Part of the miraculous transformation that he brings about will be in us, in our sensitivity to others, in our whole manner of serving them, in giving them the experience of having received from God (whether or not they realise it), through our ministry (whether or not they thank us), the good wine that cheers the heart of man. The wine of God is the life-blood of Christ, poured out for the salvation of the world. It is the love of Christ which motivated him to give his earthly life so that we might share his divine and heavenly life. It is the wine of loving service and self-sacrifice that we offer to the world. This is the glory of Christ, which he invites us to share with him.

The greatest manifestation of Christ’s glory is of course the Cross. It is this that finally makes clear what God’s idea of glory is. It is not shown in power, but in weakness. It is not shown in what the world thinks of as glory, but in what the world regards as disgrace. Jesus died as a condemned criminal: that is his glory, because it is in showing just how far he would go in order to rescue us, you and me, the people he loves, that he deserves and morally demands our thanksgiving and praise. That is why this Eucharist, this thanksgiving, is a commemoration of his death. Death is the end, as far as the world is concerned. Jesus had to die, and on the third day rise again, to show that it is not the end. Christ’s death was the end of death, as the world thinks of it. We shall all die, but not for ever. We shall be with the Lord, and we shall rise again.

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