John 2:1-10, Epiphany C2 Wedding at Cana, Extravagant Abundance, St. Mark’s, January 20, 2019
Are you having any difficulty understanding any of the details of this most famous of all Jewish wedding feasts? If so, come with me to make a visit to Mary, Jesus’ mother, to find out what really happened. Let’s travel back to the late first century. It is many years after the resurrection. We must journey to Ephesus, the capital of the Roman province of Asia, now in present day Turkey. We hear that the disciple John/ brought Mary to Ephesus when the persecution of the Christians in Jerusalem became particularly severe.
Our guide leads us to a very small stone house on an uneven plateau near the top of a hill just to the left of the road from Jerusalem.1 The door is already open for us, and we are escorted in by a young woman. The main part of the house is divided into two by a fireplace in the middle.. We sit by the fire, but then stand when Mary slowly enters from the door to the right.2
“Mary, thank you for seeing us. We have made a rather long journey from Arkansas just to find out a few more details about what really happened at the wedding at Cana.”
Mary motions for us to sit down. She ponders our question for several minutes, and then speaks.
“ Our whole family went to this wedding at Cana, a dot in the road about 10 miles north of Nazareth. He was thirty when it all happened.
There was no warning;
He had never done anything like that before at other gatherings,
But this was a really big wedding.
It was our friend, Isaac Levinson’s daughter
who was marrying Jacob Abramson from the nearby big city of Sepphoris,
and everyone in our village was invited.
So, I say to him,
there’re going to be a lot of nice girls at this affair.
You’re 30,/ and you’re not getting any younger.
So, don’t be backwards about being forward
just because your old mother is there.
I’ll not be watching and checking up on you.’
Well he just rolls his eyes the way his father used to.
So, I say no more.
We get to the wedding
and into the reception,/ a huge crowd, probably more than the bridegroom expected, so we eat first.
What a spread:
roast quail in pomegranate sauce,
mushroom omelets for the vegetarians.
Everything is magnificent,
except for the olives.
Now personally, I don’t like olives
but everyone who ate them said they were very salty.
So between the salty olives and the heat
(It was close to 90 degrees.)
there were a lot of thirsty people thereon this third day..
We must have been sitting at the table for hours.
People were talking at the top of their voices./
And then I notice it gets distinctly quieter./
So I turn to Jesus and say.
‘I have a feeling that the wine has run out.’
He just turns to me, rolls his eyes and says,
‘Mother, your powers of observation are beyond priceless.’
But I know from the way he says it that he must be up to something. I know if I had noticed it, he would have sensed it long before me;
so when I see him rising from the table
and going into the kitchen,
I say to one of the waiters,
‘You see that man walking towards the kitchen,
that’s my son.
Follow him and do what he tells you.’
Well, exactly what happens after that, I don’t really know.
There are about a dozen different stories.
According to Jesus,
he just asks
for the big water jars to be filled “to the brim.”
Then he helps lift them one at a time,
gives them to the waiters
and tells them to take them to the chief steward.
I can still remember the delicious sweet taste of this new wine,/ but I did not crave more. I was satisfied with what I had at that moment. Its aroma was earthy. I stayed in the present moment as I drank it and was filled with thanksgiving and gratitude.
Well, in no time at all, the noise level is back at its peak
and everyone is congratulating Jacob
on the Beaujolais nouveau./
When Jesus comes back to the table,
I say to him,
‘Jesus, how come with all the water jugs in my own kitchen,
you’ve never turned your hand to this wine-making before?’
He just rolls his eyes the way his father used to
I just wanted the family at this wedding to experience a taste, just for a moment, of the miracle of joy and thanksgiving,/
just as you know every day in your own kitchen/ the miracle of a joy filled life/ of gratitude and forgiveness/ with no need for the wine.’2
Now Mary is quiet. We can tell she is going more deeply into the past. She holds onto her heart and proclaims in a voice louder than we thought was left within her, “ This whole miracle can only be described as extravagant abundance, extravagant abundance3./” Then she begins to giggle.
We ask, “Is there something else you remember?”
Mary speaks again intermittently through her laughter, “Jesus miraculously made 180 gallons of wine in those six stone jars “filled to the brim” that day. There was so much wine left over after Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding feast at Cana that the bridegroom, Jacob Abramson, quits his job working with his father and becomes an alcohol distributor for all the wine in our area of Galilee!”
Mary becomes more serious and cries out again, “extravagant abundance,3 extravagant abundance in the most unexpected places.”
Mary continues, “ Do you realize that from then on at every meal where Jesus is present, the many banquets, the feedings of the thousands, even and perhaps especially at his last meal with his family and friends, that Jesus always provides extravagant abundance/ especially when it is least expected it!
Later writers have sensed this. Do you remember in in The Brother KaraMAzov where Dostoevsky describes A/exei Karamazov falling asleep and dreaming about this wedding at Cana, It is a dream for him of indescribable joy. When he wakes from the dream, he throws himself down on the earth and embraces it. He kisses the earth/ and among his tears that are in no way sentimental, he forgives the earth and begs its forgiveness and vows to love it forever.4”/ Did you like Alexei become aware of God’s extravagant abundance in a dream or maybe on your trip here as you looked into the night sky, or as you walked outside and saw the majesty of the trees and the rolling hills around you even on this crisp, cold wintery day. Are you aware of God’s extravagant abundance of forgiveness? Is there something you think you have done for which God cannot forgive you? Listen to me, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, which we might do that God will not forgive us,/ and by the way God asks us to do the same./ This is the miracle of extravagant abundance./
There is long silence. We now decide to get a little braver in our questions. “We have always wondered why John, who takes care of you so well never mentions you by name in his gospel. He only refers to you as the mother of Jesus.”
Mary lifts up her head and looks us in the eye. “Well, you must ask John about that. I can only say that this story about Jesus and his mother at this wedding at Cana is only in John’s gospel, so perhaps John alone knows the depth of the extravagant love relationship between a mother and her son.’ /
Mary is quiet again and then speaks, “Well, that is all in the past.2
But after that day
There was a constant flow of invitations
from people who wanted Jesus to come to their weddings.”/
We can then see that Mary is thinking out loud,/ “Now, I have heard that at St. Mark’s you have many weddings, but you especially honor relationships and birthdays and marriages as people come every sabbath to your altar to pray on the anniversaries of birthdays and marriages.”/
Another long silence. Mary then motions for one of the women to come and help her up. As she rises,/ she bows and unexpectedly gives us a kiss, and softly says, “And as I take your leave, I only ask you to remember this story of God’s extravagant abundance3/ that God constantly offers us in the special events but also in the very ordinary parts of our lives,/ just as Jesus reminded me about the abundant joy I experience every day with him in my own kitchen.//
I ask you always to remember/ to invite Jesus into your special days, your birthdays, your weddings, your anniversaries,/ but also invite Jesus into your ordinary days, into your homes;/ invite Jesus into your kitchens;/ invite Jesus into your everyday lives/// ….and be ready/ for the miracle.”
Iona Community, The Wild Goose Worship Group, “The Wedding,” pp. 54-56, Present on Earth .GIA Publications, Inc. 2002.
Donald Carroll, pp. 1, 44, Mary’s House. Veritas 1843.
3 Ernest Hess, “John 2:1-11,” Feasting on the Word, p. 265, Year C, vol. 1.WLK. 2009.
4. Frederick Buechner, “The Wedding at Cana,” pp. 93-94, The Hungering Dark, 1969.