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The Wedding at Cana of Galilee
A sermon preached by the Rev. Dr. Gale Davis on January 20, 2013

Epiphany II

Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 36:5-10; I Corinthians 12:1-11; John 2:1-11

The Wedding at Cana of Galilee

This story of the wedding at Cana of Galilee has very special personal meaning for me and for my husband Ernie.  As you may know, we were married last June 22nd in California, and this is one of the three gospel lessons that were preached about at the service. Yes, three sermons for one wedding!  But what would you expect from a priest??? We have so many friends who are great preachers it was difficult to get it to only three!

We chose this particular story because of something I had read on the listserv for the Bishops and House of Deputies General Convention Discussion Group about it. The conservatives were using this particular lesson to explain why marriage was to be between a man and a woman only -- as Jesus had chosen a marriage for his first miracle.  The liberals pointed out that nothing was ever said in this reading about the marriage being between a man and a woman and the two camps went on and on arguing back and forth.  Finally someone (I wish I knew who, but I don't, so I give credit to “anonymous”) said, “You are ALL wrong! This story proves only three things:  1) No matter how old you are, you should do what you mother says. 2) Only serve good wine, Jesus doesn't like the cheap stuff. 3) A wedding that lasts less than three days is not worth Jesus’ time.”  So, because my mother had been saying “Just marry him!”, I did. And we served very nice wine that my son the wine expert chose, and we planned three days of wonderful parties and outings for all of our families and friends. It was pretty wonderful -- and we are pretty sure that Jesus was there, too.

But this week, as I read commentaries and prepared to preach this morning, I got stuck on the first premise of Anonymous. “No matter how old you are, do what your mother says.” 

I am the mother of four now-grown children, grandmother of six, ranging in age from 2 to 13. I know that if my children and/or grandchildren would just do as I say when I say it, their lives--and mine --would be (or would have been) a whole lot easier.  But that, of course, really only speaks to the surface level of parental /child interaction.  All of us have experienced teenagers or two year olds who are snippy or even rude when we ask the simplest of things of them.  It is a part of their growing up and a part them becoming their own person. 

The conversation between Mary and Jesus in this lesson could sound to our ears like one of those common exchanges we have all had: “Sweetie, please take out the garbage.” “No Mom, can’t you see, I am busy?”  

“Jesus, the wine has run out.” “No mom, it’s not time yet.”

But I think this exchange, which comes out of a 30-year mother/child relationship, is much deeper than that.  And, I would posit, representative of the intimate knowledge that not only mothers and fathers have of their children, but any of us have of another with whom we have shared life: friend, spouse, partner, companion.  Such intimacy with other human beings allows us the opportunity to get a glimpse of how God knows them -- and, by extension, how God knows us and sees us most profoundly for who we really are.

Often when we say we know the real person “under the facade” or “we know who they really are”, we mean in the negative sense.  But I would like to suggest that, in truth, intimacy also and more often allows us to know the fullest good and best of another person, the way a mother knows her child and sees in that child all the potential and possibility and goodness that child is capable of.  I believe such intimate knowledge is how God knows us and see us too, for the fullness and goodness in each of us.  It is also why God loves us so much when our actions are so out of sync with our potential. God ignores the snippiness and tantrums and sees us as our fullest self -- not the one with “warts” and mistakes and flaws that we see when we look in the mirror. 

God -- and sometimes mothers or fathers or friends or spouses with whom we have intimate long term relationships -- sees us fully ourselves, sees us living into our potential regardless of what we say or do or try to put off.  I believe in this moment when Mary said to Jesus, “the wine has run out”, she knew him fully, and for her there was no difference between that full knowledge and that moment despite the fact that he had not yet done any miracle or begun his public ministry in any way. For her, the trust and belief she had in him and trust in who he was called to be was no different, even though he had not yet let anyone else know. Because she knew him, she could say to the servants, “do as he says” and know that all would be well.

Of course, turning water to wine may seem more like a parlor trick than a miracle that proves the divinity of Jesus or the sanctity of marriage, but it was a way of doing what Jesus did best, making the extraordinary out of the ordinary--subtlety--in a way that might go unnoticed if one did not have eyes to see. 

Few of us are able to guide another human being into living as their fullest selves, and most all of us stand in our own way of doing so -- the way a two year old having a temper tantrum does, or a teenager who doesn't do their homework, or a spouse who stays stuck in an unfulfilling job, or a friend who keeps repeating the same mistake over and over again prevents them from being able to see themselves the way we do, the way God does. 

Yet this lesson, this conversation between Mary and Jesus, invites us -- I have come to believe --invites us to try; invites us to be a catalyst in the lives of those we love, not to nag or to get the garbage taken out or even water changed to wine, so much as to truly allow those we love to see themselves as we see them and treat them as if the potential we see for them is already being fully lived out.  This means, of course, that we can only speak of them with love and approval. It means we can only have a positive attitude toward them and about them when speaking of them to others. “Do what he says.”

But beware, seeing those we love and with whom our lives are intertwined -- as a parent sees their child – is to see them for who they are, not who we want them to be. It is to encourage their gifts and praise their genius when they exhibit it, even if it is not what we would have chosen for them.

One of the great blessings of my life is that my two married children have each married a person who saw them as I did, who believed in them and not only gave them permission to grow into their best selves, but encouragement and love along the way.  I am so grateful for those in-law kids and what they have brought to my children. I feel a kinship with them for seeing my beloved children as I do.  And they have taught me, as this behind-the-scenes wedding conversation between Mary and Jesus has taught me, that love means seeing the good, the best, the uniqueness of our loved ones and encouraging them to thrive in that uniqueness of who they truly are, not who I want them to be. 

A marriage based on such love will change not only the couple in the marriage but begin to have an impact on the whole world.  It matters not, as anonymous tried to point out on the listserv, if the beloved is of your gender or not.  What matters is if you can see them with eyes of love, eyes that look beyond what is and into the depths of their soul and psyche to the fullness of who they are --their uniqueness, their goodness, their calling, and love them even when they are human and cannot, or choose not, or stubbornly as a two year old, get caught in the tantrum of not. not. not.

This lesson calls me to “see” differently...see others, see life…especially to see those I love with God’s eyes of love. This lesson encourages me to believe in possibility, to hope, even when the facts say “there is no wine left”, because it is then that faith has a chance to show us a different way, a different person, a new wine, far better than what we had already had.

May your wine always be the best vintage and your eyes seeing those you love as God sees them. Amen. 

Last Published: January 25, 2013 12:15 PM