January 13, 2016
By Shepard Parsons.
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.
After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples; and they remained there for a few days.
At the end of the rehearsal, I like to remind the wedding party no matter how well they've rehearsed, someone will miss a cue, forget a line, or drop a ring; but in the end they'll be married and have a great party to celebrate.
I did a wedding once at the Embassy Room. The bride and groom were very young and working hard to make ends meet. The groom found the DJ through a friend of his brother's sister in-law. It was his second gig. As soon as the couple declared their intent to marry, and before they had spoken their vows, the DJ started the dance music -- and everyone jumped to their feet dancing. Why wait for the Amen? This is what they'd been waiting for!
Several years later, while serving a downtown church, homeless folks were protesting the loss of beds in local homeless shelters by camping out around the Meeting House. At the wedding rehearsal, the bride was livid. How dare they ruin her wedding! The next day she arrived early for the ceremony. Walking around the perimeter of the Meeting House she invited everyone who had slept there the night before to join in their celebration. Several accepted her invitation. Joy was abundant.
It must have been quite an affair, that wedding in Cana, to have servants, a chief steward, and all. It was not uncommon for weddings back then and there to go on for days. What a great gig for a DJ! But in 1st century Judea, a wedding was more than the joining of two people, or families, or clans; it was much more than a party. It was resistance, an exercise in hope in the face of Roman terror and domination. If you are going to resist Caesar with a party, let it be big and joyful with really good wine -- and sparkling water.
But something was amiss; either the groom and his family had misjudged how much their guests would drink, or they had many more guests than they had expected. Either way, they were out of wine. Here is the perfect imperfection! "Jesus, the wine's run out," calls his mother. And he, "leave me alone, Mom." And thus is set in motion the first of Jesus' signs pointing to who he is: the light of the world, the word made flesh, the one in whom life is filled brimful, the truth, God's beloved, the Anointed One. Thank heaven the hosts at Cana were poor party planners. What if there had been plenty of wine at the wedding? Where would be the miracle?
In the Bible and our lives, miracles arise out of brokenness and need. With the Egyptians at their backs, Israel somehow had to get to the other side. The barren Hannah wanted a child and God needed a prophet. Thousands of people had nothing to eat so Jesus provided the picnic lunch. The disciples were afraid, so Jesus calmed the sea. And when all hope had been sucked out of the world, God raised Jesus Christ from the grave.
If you want to witness miracles, embrace the broken heart. Seek out those who are hungry, grieving and afraid. Go to where folks have run out of life and hope. Follow those roads and sleep in those towns. And go to parties; parties that have lost their reason and energy, parties that have run out of wine. The next miracle is around the corner.
I've never been to a perfect wedding. An inexperienced DJ could not contain his joy and the real party started early. A hardened heart was molded overnight in to the shape of compassion and an exclusive party becomes the inclusive feast of God's reign of love. I think Leonard Cohn says it well in his song Anthem:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
In hopeful expectation of Jesus' return
O Lord God Almighty, help us to see all the cracks around. Fill us with your light and love so we may be part of the miracle. This we ask in the name of the one who fills us brimful with his love, Jesus our Savior. Amen.
Spirited Wednesday: January 13, 2016 , by Shepard Parsons.