Christ Church Cathedral, Grafton
20 January 2019
[ video ]
All around the world today, the Gospel reading in all the mainline churches today will be that story we have just heard: Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding celebration in Cana, a village quite close to Nazareth.
For Kefr Kana, this is their day.
Anyone who can do that would certainly attract a strong following.
How many “likes” would Jesus have scored on Facebook that week?
And how many letters to the editor would have demanded that he should stick to religion and stop undermining the moral fabric of the community?
The point of the story is not the quality of the wine (the best ever tasted by the MC on the night) or the staggering quantities produced: 600 litres of wine!
This is a symbolic story, a story of transformation, together with the promise that the best is yet to come (“you have the best until last”).
So let’s tease it out briefly to see what spiritual wisdom there may be for us in this ancient story today.
Jesus was at a wedding
A Middle Eastern wedding is a big deal and they last several days.
There was lots of catering, and the host could not run short of food or wine. Haraam, Shame, for the groom’s family in such a situation.
What I like most about this story is simply that Jesus turned up at family events and major community celebrations.
It would have been perfect for us today—as we baptise Isabella, Isabell and Ivy— had this story been about Jesus turning up at a Baptism, or at least to the party afterwards.
No shortage of wine, folks.
And he was a pretty deft hand at coming up with extras food as needed; provided you like pita bread and dry fish.
Do not get distracted by the miracle.
The headline here is that Jesus hangs out with regular people and does ordinary stuff.
As these girls grow up that is the mindset we need to share with them: Jesus is with us, even when everything seems ordinary. Especially at such times.
Water turns into wine
We would pack this place several times a day on Sunday if I could promise to turn your containers of water into beautiful fine wine.
A friend of mine whose kids I baptised many years ago, used to say every time we caught up at a BBQ: Fr Greg, when you get a licence on Sundays, I will be in church.
In the Gospel of John this transformation of water into wine is called a sign.
It is not about the water, or even about the wine: although it was really good wine and there was lots and lots of it. Around 800 bottles of wine!
Even the Bible says this is a sign, a symbolic story, and not something to be taken literally.
In the story, Jesus turns water into wine.
Every day, Jesus turns our ordinary lives into something else, something more.
If people really understood that we would indeed be packing this place every Sunday, because what happens here is better than any other ‘upgrade’ available around town.
Again, this is the secret to a fantastic life that we all need to share with these three girls, with everyone around us, and indeed with that toughest audience: ourselves.
We are going to share that secret recipe for a good life with them, and we are signing up for that today. All of us.
Keep the best until last
There is a great little punch line in that ancient story.
When the MC tastes this extra wine that has suddenly turned up at the wedding, he calls the groom over and speaks with him:
‘Hey, mate. What is going on here. Most people serve the best wine first and when folk are already drunk they bring out the cheap stuff. But you have kept the best wine until last. You are crazy man!”
Well, it was something like that. It’s a rough translation.
Sometimes we feel like our best days are behind us.
Old folks can feel like that.
So can young marrieds.
And new parents can feel like that as well.
We cannot do what we used to enjoy …
Guess what, the best is yet to come. God keeps the best until last. Now.
For the parents, godparents and extended families of these three girls the best is yet to come. There is so much more to experience, to learn, to share, to celebrate. The best has been kept until last. And last starts now.
Let’s go baptise these girls …
Oh Greg, when I saw the title of the email, I thought it was an order from you to our vineyard for 800 of our best! Then I realised it was your sermon
Hope all is well with you,Val