Homily: January 17, 2016
January 17, 2016, YEAR C; Rev. Vant Washington, Deacon
Those of you who know me, know that I have dabbled in many different professions. You may not know that I worked for a time as a chief executive steward, which meant I was in charge of large events at one of our local large hotels. I did graduations, I did anniversary parties, and I did plenty of wedding receptions.
As you probably know, the most interested party when it comes to wedding receptions is the mother of the groom. This is because the groom’s family isn’t paying for the event. The bride’s family is footing the bill. The bride’s mother is all wrapped up in how her daughter looks and the clothes she wears. The bride’s father is usually three sheets to the wind mourning the fact that he is losing a daughter and gaining very large bills that will take years to pay off.
The groom’s father is in the comfortable position of sitting back and judging the quality of the food, the drink, the music and the entertainment—none of which he is paying for.
Now, in my experience, it takes very little to turn a wedding reception into a disaster. Think of all of those Allstate commercials where the figure of mayhem rears his head. In the passage we just listened to, mayhem is about to strike. But someone steps in and puts things right. That someone is a woman. Whenever disaster strikes, trust a woman to step up to solve the problem. That is one of the lessons we learned today.
By the way, did you know that the Bible tells us explicitly that it is always the man’s responsibility to make the coffee? All you have to do is look at the book of Hebrews. It says it right there—“He brews.”
Don’t groan. I’m just trying to do my job here.
What can we learn of real significance from this passage? First, we learn that Jesus, for most of his life, was just one of the guys. No one looks to him to be a miracle worker when he shows up for the party. He is just Mary’s son. He is just Joseph’s son. Like the rest of us, he goes to parties, laughs, dances and spends time with his friends. He is as human as human can be.
One of the gifts of the Gospel of John is the degree to which John lets us have some insight into Jesus’ family. If you think about it, weddings are all about families. That’s who attends and that is what the ceremony creates—yet another family.
The ceremony at Cana also reminds us that, in all the gospels, table fellowship is a constant. Jesus even gets criticized for not living an austere life like John the Baptist. Jesus dines with friends and with strangers throughout the gospels, he even has a picnic with the loaves and fishes. His last meal is with his disciples. It is a sadir, a sacred Jewish meal that is all about the family, friends and guests. One tradition involves inviting some one to that meal who is a stranger, for you were once strangers in a strange land.
I think we should regard ourselves as guests at the wedding at Cana. We are invited to celebrate. We are invited to become, not strangers, but intimate friends with Jesus, his mother and his friends—just as we are invited every time we gather here to cease being strangers and to become family.
That word “family” is not universally positive for everyone. Some of us come from families that were abusive, neglectful or toxic. That’s a sad truth. But all of us still seek a positive experience of family. I once attended a wedding on the banks of Lake Superior in the Duluth Rose Garden. The officiant was a Dakota elder. He began by welcoming us as family, then proceeded to announce that all of us are members of families in to which we were not born. We make families as we go along, collecting beloved, nurturing relationships that can only be characterized as family.
For many of us the best comes last, just like the wine Jesus served the guests at the wedding. What comes first in our career as family members can be challenging, even crippling. But when we join the family of Christ, we are served the best. The love we receive refreshes and renews. We do not hunger. We do not thirst. We are made whole and are ready to minister to the world.
One of the most interesting parts of the story of the wedding at Cana is the sense we have of a certain amount of tension between Jesus and Mary. Jesus resists Mary’s call to perform a miracle. Why would he do that? Was it because he didn’t want to be ordered around by his mother or was it because he knew that once he acted in the world in a way that displayed his power he was setting in motion events that would lead to the crucifixion?
I’m inclined to think Jesus wanted to live just a few more minutes as one of the guys because he knew that a miracle would set him apart and set in motion the events that would be painful and even humiliating. Wouldn’t most of us prefer to linger a little longer at the party?
But Jesus couldn’t and we can’t. We are fed here by the spirit when we gather in this sanctuary. But we are not fed so that we can linger. We are fed so that we can go out and serve. Sometimes serving means hosting a party, sometimes it means hoisting a cross. Whatever the challenges we face outside the walls of this sanctuary, we go forth knowing that the spirit is with us and the best party is yet to come when Jesus will greet us at the door to eternity.