Six Stone Jars


John 2:1-11     –     The Rev. Helen Havlik

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time     –     January 20, 2019

The word epiphany means “revelation” or “manifestation” or “showing forth.”  It’s when an answer to a question suddenly comes to us and a mystery is solved. For Christians, Epiphany takes on special meaning as we think about the way God is revealed to us in Jesus Christ. Through him, God’s love, mercy and grace are given flesh and form and some mystery is solved.

John ends Ch. 1 of his Gospel with Jesus calling his first disciples, Simon Peter, Andrew, Philip and Nathanael. Andrew hears Jesus speak and is so excited, he tells his brother Simon. Then Jesus asks Philip to become a disciple, who in turn tells Nathanael. Though Nathanael is skeptical that anything good can come out of Nazareth, he joins the group anyway. A few days later, Nathanael is a believer, because of something that happens at a wedding reception. I’m reading from John, Ch. 2, beginning with vs. 1. Listen with me to God’s holy word.

Last Sunday night I caught the first episode of Victoria on PBS—afterward they aired part one of a documentary about Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s wedding. Apparently it was the event of the year 1840! And a major public relations coup—the young queen had a rocky start to her monarchy and the wedding drew public attention in a more positive direction. Many of the wedding customs we still have come directly from Victoria’s choices. The music, the cake, her dress—brides typically wear white now because she did. It took awhile for that to catch on here in America—during and through the Civil War, brides in the US commonly wore blue or brown, depending on the season. And, maybe as a leftover from our Puritan ancestors, during the 19th and early part of the 20th centuries, weddings usually were attended only by close family and friends and followed by simple meals. Can anyone imagine anything like that happening today? Like yours, my experience with weddings is considerable. In 27 years of ordination, I’ve probably presided at 60 weddings. I stood up as maid of honor for my sister and have been a bridesmaid a few times, and I’ve attended many others as a guest. Most of these weddings were much more elaborate, but the one thing they all have in common is the expectation of hospitality.

And that has never changed. As this story begins, everything seems to be going smoothly. Wedding preparations in Jesus’ day would have taken awhile because the wedding lasted a whole week. By tradition, the marriage ceremony itself would have taken place on a Wednesday night, with the couple escorted the long way home afterward, to give the greatest number of people a chance to wish them well. After a good night’s rest, the couple would spend their “honeymoon” at home, entertaining well-wishers of all kinds for the next week. This was a big deal, with the groom’s parents expected to provide an abundance of food and drink. Their hospitality and generosity were judged on such occasions and woe to anyone who didn’t plan ahead. So important was this feast to the family and the community, running out of anything could lead to lifetime humiliation.

Which may be why when the wine runs out, Jesus’ mother goes to him. This is a huge social crisis in the making and she appears to believe Jesus can avert it. Maybe he had a cooler stashed somewhere? Maybe he could send Andrew to the store? Notice that John leaves most of the details to our imaginations—he doesn’t even say that Jesus did anything, in fact Jesus vetoes the idea of his helping at all! All Jesus does is ask the servants to fill the six stone jars with water—which had to have taken a lot of time, given the lack of running water. But changing that water into wine? The way John reports it, this happens every day. Or does he have something else in mind?

Because of Jesus’ reluctance to get involved in solving this problem for his hosts, I wonder about the “something else in mind.” What if the real miracle here is not that water becomes wine but that we learn something about Jesus himself and about who we are in relationship to him? What if as the water changes to wine, the newly chosen disciples—and only these disciples that day—begin to see the glory of God? It’s just a glimpse and then the shade is drawn, but what if it’s enough for them to believe and follow? And what if that’s just the beginning? What if more and more miracles follow until the biggest and best miracle of all, resurrection?

Three days before the wedding, John the Baptist sees Jesus coming and declares, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Two days before the wedding, Jesus calls Andrew and Simon Peter to be his disciples. The day before the wedding, Jesus finds Philip and says to him, “Follow me.” And Philip finds Nathanael, and as skeptical as Nathanael is about all of this, he joins in anyway. And on that third day, the day of the wedding, he sees what the others see—the glory of God reflected in Jesus—whose generosity, whose abundance is made clear in changing the water into more wine (about 180 gallons worth) than anyone at that wedding feast could possibly drink, spilling out even as God’s glory and grace spill out over us.

Because God’s glory and grace still continue to pour into our lives and even now miracles of all kinds reveal Jesus Christ to us: the medical miracle, the relational miracle, the educational miracle, the economic miracle. When the test results are clear; when the one we love returns that love; when something, anything happens that shouldn’t have, but we’re glad it did, do not these reveal Jesus to us and open windows to God’s glory? And while Jesus does the miracle, what if it doesn’t happen unless the community fills the jars?

Later Christians would think of this wedding feast as they gathered around the table to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. In the bread and the cup they saw God’s gracious hospitality and generosity poured out again and again in the miracle meal.  When we gather to worship and to share in communion, we gather in the presence of God, joined to Christ as couples become one with each other, to share in the feast prepared for us. Six stone jars remind us that because of Jesus, the miracles will continue to unfold and the cup we share will never be empty—we will have more than enough to offer to all who gather and even more to share with the world. The question is will we, like those first disciples, see Christ’s glory and believe? And are we ready and willing to fill the jars?

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