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Wines and Spirits at Cana of Galilee

Cana in Galilee will always be, for most Christians, the place where Jesus turned the water into wine. The wedding which took place is remembered as the feast at which the wine ran out - we’ve forgotten who was getting married, but we do know that the catering department let them down.

It is a favourite story of the church and an important one, well worth a closer look.
First of all, lets think about where it is in the church’s year. First we have Christmas, when the Word of God became human flesh in Jesus, revealed to the shepherds by the word of an angel. Next we have Epiphany when the Christ became known to the three wise men by the leading of a star. After that comes the baptism of Jesus, where John recognises him as the Christ by the voice from heaven. Today we have the sign of the water changed into wine, where Jesus glory is revealed to his disciples.

Next week we will hear how Jesus declared himself in the synagogue of Nazareth, while January 25th celebrates the conversion of St Paul, where Jesus is revealed to him on the road to Damascus in a blinding light.

So our wedding is part of a series of revelation stories, how Jesus was shown to be God incarnate in the world. That is the purpose of the story, so lets dig a little deeper, because all John’s stories about Jesus, so deceptively simple, are full of symbolic meaning.

We might like to see the wedding feast as a symbol of the Eucharist, and wine, we know is important at any party - here it might stand for the Holy Spirit. Without wine, the party falters, the laughter stops and the guests start thinking about leaving. Without the Holy Spirit, the church’ s celebration is merely words, words without meaning, and people start wondering what on earth they are doing.

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.” Jesus, at Cana of Galilee still has many miles to travel before his revelation on the cross at Jerusalem, he still has many hours to go before the hour of his death, and we now understand that the final hour of Christ’s revelation is not yet here, the end of history is not yet.

But Mary provides a response to this problem, “Do whatever he tells you.” she says to the servants at the feast. Whatever stage of history, whether Christ is among us as flesh or spirit, we, who are the servants of God have one responsibility, and that is to do whatever Christ tells us to do.

Do you see how the story that John tells is not only the story of the wedding at Cana, but the story of our own community and its celebration?

At Cana, the servants responded to Jesus command by filling up the six stone water-pots used for Jewish purification rites - they were filled to the brim with water, a total of 810 litres. And this water is transformed into wine, and not just ordinary wine, but the very best wine available. That’s 1080 bottles of wine. And the disciples saw this as a sign of the revelation of the glory of God and believed in Jesus Christ.

John remembers this story because it shows Jesus revealed in the middle of ordinary life. A family wedding is a time of celebration and joy, whether in the first century or the twentieth. John reminds us that Jesus reveals himself now as well as then, in our celebrations as in those of the people of Cana. It is also possible, now, as then, for the wine to run out. It is possible for the church to lose sight of the Spirit of God and to lose its direction. What then, what if we have no wine?

We might look at our own church, here at St Luke’s and ask the question of ourselves. Is the party in full swing? Are people coming to ask what is going on? Is there joy here, is there the Holy Spirit, is Jesus in our midst?

These are not easy questions to answer, neither are they as simple as they sound, and we would be very wrong if we answered “no” to any one of them. However, if we want to answer a resounding “yes” to those questions we, and the whole church, will need to set ourselves again to follow Jesus’ mother’s advice - “Do what ever he tells you.”

The shepherds left their flocks in the field and went to the stable, the wise men journeyed from the east to Bethelehem in Judea, the servants at the feast had to leave their other duties to fill water-pots. All God’s servant must do the same.

And God’s response is always astonishing. At a wedding feast in a little place like Cana of Galilee, God produced 810 litres of the finest wine, and that was when the party was half over anyway. If anyone has the courage to respond to God they will find the same - not perhaps 1080 bottles of Grange Hermitage, but in other ways surprising and generous. Now I don’t want the wine to run out in Enmore and Stanmore any more than you do. So we’re setting up the party, it’s called Digging Deep, and it starts on Tuesday. And there will also be our Lenten Studies and the Annual Vestry Meeting, both of which are opportunities to listen to Jesus.

Let’s take a message from the people of Cana and have the courage to look carefully at what we are doing, drop everything that is not important and try doing what Jesus tells us. It worked for the people of Cana in Galilee; is there any reason why God should not do the same and more also in Enmore?

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