Sunday of the Wedding Feast in Cana: Sermon of the Rev. Dr. Walter Baer (January 15, 2017)

Sunday of the Wedding Feast in Cana / Second Sunday after Epiphany
15 January 2017
(Rev. Dr. Walter Baer)

1 Chr 16:8-17 / Ps 96:1-2-4,6-7,10 / Rom 8:15-17 / Joh 2:1-11

Today in the Old Catholic Churches we remember each year on this Sunday the Wedding Feast in Cana.

It has a particular importance in the Old Catholic tradition because it closes out the Christmas Season (which is a week later than in Roman Catholic or Protestant traditions). The story of the Wedding Feast in Cana in John 2 is the first miracle story or “sign” that Jesus does as he begins his “Epiphany”, his manifestation of himself in his public ministry. It is also one of the few appearances of the Mary his mother in Gospels.

It is a story, which is very rich, and is interpreted in so many levels in the life of the church.

  • It has great significance for many Christians who see this text as an example of the intercession of Mary. Mary was the closest to Jesus in his earthly ministry, and thus continues to be seen as the most powerful intercessor today.

  • Some see this story as symbolic of Mary as the new Eve. They see the early chapters of John’s Gospel as echoing the creation story, with today’s Gospel as showing forth the new and perfect male and female image. It is connected with the idea of Mary as the Queen of Heaven.

  • Many see in this story the biblical justification of the sacrament of marriage. The story is often mentioned in the marriage rite. In the Anglican rite we say: “Jesus adorned this manner of life by his presence and first miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee.” It is seen as the basis for viewing Christian marriage as deeper and more special than other kinds of marriage, because Jesus transforms the relationship and makes it sacramental.

  • Many see this story as showing the power of Jesus to transform things in subtle and profound ways without calling attention to himself. Jesus can turn something common to something special. This is perhaps the most wide-reaching interpretation of the story.

There are also many other meanings that Christians have found in this story over the centuries. All have truth in them and can touch our lives in profound ways.

Today, I’d like to focus on the six empty jars. These large clay jars were, according to the story to be used for the Jewish rites of purification. They were to be filled with water. At the request of Jesus they were filled with water, and as the servants bring these to the head of the wedding feast, the water has become a fine wine. It has been transformed. Each Sunday, we do something similar. We bring something common to Jesus. We bring bread and wine, and it is offered to him, and he gives it back to us transformed, as his body and blood. Of course, Christians have fought for centuries about how and what actually occurs, but all agree that Jesus feeds us with himself in the Eucharist.

But, at each Eucharist we also present ourselves, and aspects of our lives to Jesus, and he touches that and transforms it.

Today, as at every Eucharist, Jesus asks us to place things in these clay jars. I would ask you to look at things, which we might want to place in a common clay jar. His healing power can touch and transform these things.

  • First, as at the wedding feast at Cana, we are called to place our relationships, our marriages, our partnerships, in the clay jars. Yes, Jesus does transform these into life-long and life-giving relationships, which God uses to bless us and bless those around us.

  • Second, we place our families and friends and those in need or in sickness into another of these clay jars and ask Jesus’s powerful love to touch and transform these concerns and to give us direction on how best to be helpful and be a blessing to all.

  • Third, we place our work, our careers, our vocational aspirations into one of these clay jars, and ask Jesus to touch and transform these into something that will bring a blessing to us and to others.

  • Fourth, we can place the concerns about the common life of our societies in another of these common jars, especially our difficult political situations in many countries. We place our concerns about hate and exclusion into these jars. In my home country of USA a new president will be inaugurated this week. It is a great concern to many of us, and we place this new administration into such a jar as well.

  • Today, in the Roman Catholic Church is the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. It was instituted by Pope Pius X in 1914, and today is the 103rd such commemoration. We live in a time where new waves of migrants and refugees are being forced to leave their homes, such as we have not seen since the 1940s. Christians in many countries have responded to the needs of Migrants and Refugees in profound ways. Others have chosen to close their hearts and their borders out of fear. We also place this great concern into a clay jar.

  • Finally, we place those who have died or who are dying in the hands of Jesus. The most profound transformation for each of us will be precisely that. Those who have died in Christ will be raised to eternal life. This jar will produce the most wondrous wine of all.

Jesus touches and transforms life. The events at the wedding feast at Cana of Galilee are a foretaste of his healing and transforming power. It is a power that Jesus displays in the most common aspects of life, and often it is noticed only by those who are closest to the action.

The mother of Jesus, the servants, and the disciples were those who saw what Jesus did that day in Cana of Galilee, and the text tells us, “they believed”.

May we also believe and know, that those things that we place into these clay jars, can also be transformed by Jesus.

May peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, this day and always. Amen.

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