On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. When 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 and 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.” Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
Question for discussion:
Can you remember a time when you were either
A) made to feel welcome
B) felt that you were unwelcome or an outsider?
*This also doubled as a commissioning service for a friend entering a new congregation in a new ministry.
If you’re ever going to be a magician you need to learn the art of distraction, for when everyone else is looking right you’re able to do something left, for with magic nothing is what it seems.
The art of distraction it seems is also extremely handy if you’re an author of fiction, especially thrillers or mysteries for you don’t want people to solve the puzzle too early, so you have them looking in one direction while the mystery sneaks up behind them.
This same skill is often practiced by the authors of the various books of the bible, especially the Gospels and within that by Jesus in his telling of parables. Parables have you expecting one conclusion only to have your world turned upside down by the parable’s surprising ending. The Gospel writers often do something similar, and we regularly seem to find it difficult to focus away from the distraction.
Take this week’s gospel reading from John 2:1-11 as an example.
We often talk about this story, the story of Jesus’ first miracle as the turning of water into wine, after all that’s how it’s often read and the punchline of “but you have kept the good wine up until now” has us completely overwhelmed by the action of Jesus.
But that’d be a distraction, and we need to look more closely to the story to understand what else is going on.
It seems strange that Jesus would choose this miracle as his first, it’s no healing or raising from the dead, it’s an action that means a party can keep going for another few days, was there something else going on, something else that hinted towards Jesus’ intentions and mission that our distraction keeps us from seeing?
Let’s turn our eyes from the wine for a moment and back to the story at hand.
By now many of us would be aware that these types of celebrations would last for days on end during which much wine and food would be consumed by the community as they celebrated the joining of the newly weds. The running out of wine before the celebration closed would have been a huge embarrassment to the host, and it would have also meant that there’d be many empty wine jars in the area, but it’s not the wine containers that Jesus asks to be filled, it was the “six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification.”
These six huge stone jars would hold the water that was used in purification rites, and we should know by now that Jesus has an issue with these rites, in fact he deliberately flaunts and challenges these rites a number of times, (as an example he heals a bleeding woman before moving into a religious leader’s house). These rites have been used to make sure people know who is “in” and who is “out” it’s these rites that kept certain people out of the temple, it’s these rites that set up a number of cultural divides, that set up the haves from the have nots.
So, he takes these sacred jars, fills them with water and turns these purification jars into wine containers.
See what John did then?
Not water into wine, but sacred purification jars into wine containers…
That’s Jesus’ first miracle, a miracle that shows right from the start that he’s out to disturb the status quo, that he’ll question the religious practices of the time, that no longer would people be on the “out” because of the ritualistic purification laws
A miracle that turned something religious and divisive into something ordinary, and in turn created something holy.
And this is where we come to today and I ask you to think back to your stories of being made welcome or unwelcome and forward to the ministry that you’ll be sharing with Hannah.
Our churches and communities have a number of things that are like the stone jars, they seem to be monuments to who is in and who is out.
What are the religious things that need to be recreated as ordinary so you can experience the holy?
What are the things that define who’s in or out that need to be broken down for your community to truly experience the gospel of Jesus?
How do you welcome Hannah into this community, do you approach with hesitancy & judgement or do you open your lives and prepare for the possibilities?
And are you as a community ready to welcome the other, even if it means turning what’s religious to you into something that’s ordinary to them in order to experience the holy in the other?
Hannah will, inevitably turn some of your sacred things into ordinary things in order to welcome others… that’s often our task, our mission. What I’d like to ask you is how open will you be when this happens? How will you join in with the ministry that Hannah brings and help her in our mission?