a priest's musings on the journey

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Sermonette: Epiphany 2 C The First Sign of the Christ: The God who Transforms

John 2:1-11 [ English Standard Version , © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers ]
“1On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." 4And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come." 5His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." 6Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. 8And he said to them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast." So they took it. 9When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now." 11This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.”

The story of the miracle at the wedding at Cana is the telling of Jesus’ first public miracle, presumably the third day after his Baptism. Of course the Evangelist does not see these events as “miracles” per se. That is to say, he is not so concerned with the fact that Jesus was a wonder-worker who performed mighty deeds of power. Rather, John is more concerned with the significance or meaning of these mighty deeds. He sees these acts as signs that point to who Jesus is and what he has come to accomplish. The miraculous change of water into wine is the first of seven signs in the Gospel of John. Unfortunately, unlike his treatment of the other signs, John does not explain the significance of this first sign. He merely notes that this was the first of Jesus’ signs, whereby he manifested his glory, enabling his disciples to believe in him.

So, we are left with a greater interpretive burden with this sign than we are with the others. Perhaps a key to its interpretation is in viewing the entire story as a sign, and not merely the moment of the miracle. This story, following the story of the Baptism of our Lord, continues to manifest Jesus as the Incarnate God, who is among us as one of us, not only uniting us to God in Himself, but also experiencing the human condition. What I am immediately struck with in this reading is how human Jesus is in this story. When Blessed Mary asks him to help their relative who is about to be humiliated because the wine is running out, Jesus acts as if he is being bothered. Perhaps as he was beginning his public ministry he was struggling with how to be an independent adult and how to separate himself from his mother, who was used to directing his life. The embarrassed Jesus coldly replies to his mother’s request to help, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” Of course for John Jesus’ hour is the Passion; it is on the Cross that the reality to which these signs point is revealed. It is on the Cross that the Incarnate God is glorified and all creation is reconciled to God. Was, then, Jesus confused about his mission? Did he not realize the work God had called him to do among the people before the coming of that hour? Did he expect to be handed over to the death of the cross immediately? Of course we can not know; but, this entire episode reminds us that God in Christ truly is a human being- faced with the same emotions, concerns, fears and doubts that we face.

His Mother, Blessed Mary, is not dissuaded by his coldness and unwillingness to get involved. She goes to the servants and instructs them to do whatever her son instructs them to do. John does not tell us why Jesus changed his mind, but upon noticing the six empty water jugs which had been used for the Rites of Purification before the Feast, he asked the servants to fill the jars with water. Jesus then asked the servant to draw some of the water from the jars and take it to the Master of the Feast. When he tasted the water, which had now been transformed to wine, he commended the host for saving the best wine for last.

The disciples, knowing what Jesus had done, saw Jesus not merely as a human or even a great Prophet-Teacher. Now, he is revealed as one who can create and transform all things, even water into wine. His transformative powers point to his divinity and to his mission among us as the Savior-Redeemer-Reconciler who will also transform our hearts so that we may be one with God. The Eastern Church Fathers beautifully taught that God became a human being so that human beings would become God. That is to say, as the writer of the Second Epistle of Peter wrote, that we would be able “to become partakers of the divine nature” (1:4). In the West this same idea is expressed in the silent prayer the priest prays as water is mingled with wine in the Chalice: “Through the mingling of the water and the wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” From the beginning of his ministry, Jesus’ actions point to his ultimate mission to reconcile us to God and to re-unite us to that union of love and one-ness with God that we lost from our rebellion against God. From the beginning the water transformed to wine point to the blood and water that would gush from his pierced side at the time of Christ‘s ultimate Glorification, opening up the fountain of life from which all are able to drink. From the beginning the water transformed into wine point to the sacramental signs of our salvation: the waters of baptism and the wine of the Eucharist, both transformed by the Holy Spirit to feed us with the very life of God and both becoming the conduits by which we are transformed to be the Body of Christ, united not only to God in heaven, but to the images of God on earth.

Consequently, this miraculous deed is also a sign of our own mission in the world as members of Christ’s Body, as the hands and feet of Jesus in the world. It is a witness to our call to work for unity and reconciliation, peace and justice, and freedom and dignity for every human being. It is a sign to our call to be participants in Christ’s ministry of transformation. Our union with God is not a reality merely meant to be known and enjoyed in the life to cone in eternity; we are united with God in order to welcome and embrace those estranged from God with the same arms of compassion that received us into the heart of God. We are called to be united heart to heart and soul to soul with the oppressed, the lonely, the unlovable, the destitute, and the miserable ones of the world. We are called to offer them the bread of life, the water of salvation and the wine of gladness; but more than taking them to the liberating Savior, our mission is to show them where Christ may be found in their (our) midst. And where Christ is found, hope and redemption is to be found. Where Christ is found, God’s mission of renewing the entire world is found to be in action. This first sign of Jesus’ manifestation as the Savior-God points to God’s continuing mission to change the world and to liberate all human beings from the oppression that enslaves them. Those of us who have put on Christ in Baptism have been commissioned with the same charge- to be agents in transforming the world as we bear witness to the in-breaking Kingdom of God. We participate in this mission by offering ourselves and our lives in self-giving love to others, following the way of the Cross by which our Lord was Glorified and through which the old order of the world, dominated by sin and death, was/is transformed to manifest God’s Reign of freedom and life- a world where every person in all conditions of life are valued, accepted, and loved with the dignity that is theirs as the sons and daughters of God.
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 12:04 PM


Just wanted to say great sermonettes. I really appreciate your thoughtfulness.
Blogger toujoursdan, at 6:24 PM  
*copying and pasting this from MySpace, so more people can give their opinion*

What a beautiful sermonette, Rob!

I remember I always used to compare yours to the sermons I follow on sundays. TOday, I read yours after all of them (yesterday, our Ecclesia Ministries sermon, and today the sermon at my parish and at the mission I'm serving)... And it's always wonderful to see that each one of them is different.

I'd like to add just another thought, based on what we were discussing about Lancelot Andrewes' and his concept of the "baptism in the cross". Basically, his idea was that Christ's way to the cross is the "ultimate baptism".

"He identifies these immersions as the immersion in the Gethsemane during Christ's agony, the immersion at Gabbatha when he was scourged and the third at Golgotha at the Crucifixion. In the last, there met the two streams of water and blood, the true Jordan, the bath of laver wherein we are purged from all our sins... And therefore are we baptized into it; not into his water-baptism, but into his cross-baptism..." In; Stevenson, Kenneth. The Mystery of Baptism in the Anglican Tradition. Morehouse Publishing.

I see, in this first public miracle, Christ's desire to define what would be the common practice of all of us Christians: the baptism. But not just a water-baptism, like St. John the Baptist's. It was a baptism where water and blood were met (as Andrewes defined)... Water, the symbol of purification... and blood, the symbol of Christ's sacrifice for us, in this case, represented by wine... which takes us to the Eucharistic Mystery.

This way, Christ's path on Earth is set. He starts showing us that, in order to have a prolonged feast, there was a need for the transformation of waters into wine... His blood. And every time we share His blood (and His bread as well), in rememberance of His first coming, we prolonge this feast: the feast of our Lord, who came for us to have abundant lives.

The Baptism and the Eucharist: Jesus' sacraments, open to all those who share this same faith, regardless of our differences.

That's how I see it... Just a few thoughts, though.
Blogger Luiz Coelho, at 5:17 AM  

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