Saint Margaret’s Anglican Church Budapest Hungary 16 January 2022 Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 36:5-10; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; John 2:1-11 “Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.” Hungarian folk wisdom has it that too many priests and ministers in their sermons and homilies end up preaching water to their flock; but in their own lives go on drinking wine. Vizet prédikál; de bort iszik, in the original. I am not sure of the source of the adage; perhaps a disgruntled parishioner in a village pub somewhere unhappy with his local priest. But the meaning is clear enough in any language: Too many people, upholders of society’s norms and rules too often in particular, have one standard for others and an entirely different one for themselves. And you can guess which standard is the more stringent. I am not sure if this Hungarian maxim also applies to Anglican clergy, by the way. I suppose you will have to decide that for yourselves. But it certainly does not seem to apply to our Lord, as our passage this morning from the Gospel of John makes clear. The story is straightforward and familiar to all of us: Jesus, his mother, and his disciples are invited to a wedding festival in a town called Cana. For reasons not explained, the wine runs out. But through his mother’s mediation, Jesus has the six stone jars located there filled with water. The wedding steward then tastes the water and, in doing so, discovers that it has become wine, and not just any wine but fine wine indeed. Our Lord thus reveals his glory, the Gospel tells us, and the disciples believe. Jesus, in other words, preaches wine. This, our Lord’s first miracle or sign, as the Gospel of John calls it, is simple enough, we must think. So simple in fact that we might be tempted to discount it as the story of a magic trick, almost comical at first reading; almost, we might even be tempted to think, unworthy of Scripture. After all, what is the big deal...? Any clergyperson can tell you that things go awry at weddings all the time. But in dismissing this short passage describing an event which occurs at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, we would be missing as well its beauty and deeper meaning.
Note that John describes the event as taking place “on the third day,” which should be our first clue to its significance; for it is also of course on the third day that our Lord rises from the dead and ushers in the new creation which he has come to inaugurate and proclaim. The festival at Cana already anticipates that new era which our Lord establishes and which we celebrate each Sunday at Eucharist, as we are doing today. As common ordinary wine is here transformed upon our modest altar into the blood of our Lord, the blood of the Covenant, the Incarnation is made real in our world today, and the age to come touches our lives. The wedding feast at Cana is in other words the heavenly banquet to come made real in time and place, experienced in the here and now, in each celebration of Christ’s blood, in each celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Cana is accordingly not only about transformation but about abundance as well; the abundance of God’s love shared and multiplied among his people; as are the lives of ordinary people forever changed in the love they share in marriage. In their commitment, water is once again transformed into wine. What was scarce or even missing becomes at once plenteous and precious. No wonder wedding feasts are such a common motif throughout all four of the Gospel accounts. No wonder Jesus preaches wine. In his first miracle recorded in the Book of Exodus, as you will recall, Moses changes the waters of the Nile into blood, bringing with it death and dread. Jesus’ first sign at Cana transforms water into wine redolent of his blood poured out upon the Cross and so brings delight and hope. And the Church, represented here by Jesus’ mother who remains nameless in this account, becomes the instrument of this transformation; becomes the instrument of the Lord’s abundant love. “Do whatever he tells you,” proclaims the Church with Jesus’ Mother, once again fulfilling its mission of bringing about the age to come. What appears to us at first glance to be a kind of situation comedy, the tale of a wedding near-mishap given a made-for-television happy ending is in fact the very story of creation; the story of God’s love at work in the world today. For, truth be told, God loves the ordinary; after all that is why he made so much of it. That is probably why he made us as well. It is surely the reason the disciples, seeing the glory revealed in our Lord and his actions, come to believe in him. After all, as God sees things there is no ordinary. And that is why he sent his Son to preach, not water, but wine; not dearth but abundance, not death but life. Amen. The Rev. Dr. Frank Hegedűs