Spot the miracle happening in the bottom right hand corner!
There was no way this family at Cana could do anything about their shortage of wine. They faced shame and disgrace in a culture where you were judged on your hospitality. They would never live it down. Jesus’ action rescued them from a situation where they had no resources to draw on.
We may never be in a situation where we need water turned to wine, but my guess is that most of us will have been, or will one day be, in situations where we are aware that our lives are watery and thin, when we know that we haven’t got the resources we need to respond adequately to the challenges that face us.
If we look around us at the moment, we see plenty of examples of that. Take Brexit. What’s the answer to the dilemmas that poses? What’s the way ahead? No one seems to know. Or the perennial challenges of poverty and injustice? It often feels like there is nothing we can do to make a dent in the sorrows of the world. In our personal lives and families too there are often problems that just don’t seem to have any solutions within our grasp. We long for a magic wand, but there is no such thing.
This story of the Wedding at Cana is the story for those moments when we have to own up to the fact that “we have no wine” – we have no answers, no resources. We are stumped, beaten.
In particular, it seems to me that the Wedding at Cana has four suggestions which might help us to cope when we come to that moment.
The first is "invite Jesus to the party". The story tells us that “Jesus and his disciples had also been invited”, and that’s just as well, because if he hadn’t been there, there would have been no miracle. It’s tempting to compartmentalise our lives, to put faith in one box and everything else – “real life” – in the other. People will often tell us that “faith and politics don’t mix,” or faith and sport, or faith and money or some such. That’s nonsense. Either our faith is about everything or it is about nothing. It is either for all times and places in our lives or none of them. Compartmentalising can also mean keeping God for Sunday best, not letting him into the bits of our lives where we are ashamed, or struggling. But that’s just where he wants and needs to be most of all. Invite Jesus to the party.
The second insight from this story is “Do what he tells you” in the words of his mother. I don’t believe that God tells us what to do on a micro level very often – choose this parking space rather than that, shop in Sainsbury’s today and not Tesco. I don’t even think he is necessarily going to tell us what job to do or what person to marry. But there is a general sense in which he tells us how to live. “Love one another”. "Do justly, love mercy, walk humbly". He tells us that , when in doubt we should do what benefits most those who are most vulnerable and least powerful. If an apparent “solution” to our problems involves lying, cheating or stealing, if it oppresses or exploits others, it isn’t what Jesus tells us, and it will lead us into more problems in the long run. “Do what Jesus tells you.”
The third bit of guidance this story gives is in Jesus' instruction to the servants - “Fill the jars with water”. They must have been very baffled. What good would that do? They couldn’t serve people water. That would be worse than serving them nothing. But they did it anyway. They used what they had. They did what they could, and Jesus did the rest. So often we decide that if we haven’t got what we need we can’t do anything. We see a bereaved friend and we know we haven’t got adequate words to comfort them, so we cross the road to avoid saying anything. Actually we could have just said, “I don’t know what to say, but I wanted you to know I was thinking of you” and that would have helped immensely. Fill the jars with water – do what you can, offer what you have - God will do the rest.
The fourth and final point from this story is “be the servant.” When the water that has been turned to wine is brought to the steward, he has no idea where it has come from but, we are told, “the servants who had drawn the water knew.” What a wonderful privilege they have, to have witnessed this miracle and known that it was Jesus who had done it! The guests may have got the wine, but they got the message, and that meant that, when their lives felt “watery” in future they would know where to go and who to go to. They found not just wine for a day, but wine for the whole of their lives. For us too, it is often when we take our eyes off ourselves, and do something for others that we find the presence of God at work in our midst. “Be the servants”, says this story.
So – invite Jesus to the party, let him be involved in the situation, whatever it is, that feels so insoluble to you. Do what he tells you. Fill the jars with water – give what you have, but don’t worry about what you don’t have. And be the servant.
Those are the keys to this story, the keys which enable us to find God at work and join in with him, turning the water of our lives into rich and satisfying wine that will make our hearts and the hearts of others glad. Amen