Sermon preached at St Giles’ Godshill and St Mary’s Hale, the wedding at Cana
Most sermons I have heard relating to the wedding at Cana, indeed most I have preached relate to the actual miracle itself but this morning I want to concentrate on relationships. There are a number of relationships in this passage, Jesus to his mother Mary, Mary to the servants, Jesus to the servants, the servants to the steward and then the steward to the groom, and finally Jesus and the disciples and his brothers. Each relationship makes the story work.
It doesn’t get off to the most auspicious of starts really, or at least it appears not to. Mary notices the wine has run out and knowing what she does about Jesus, she decides he has to do something. This appears to be one of those conversations I and my mother might have had when she was embarrassed by something and felt I had the power to resolve it and would say “don’t just stand there, do something!” If I had replied “why me, you do something” she would have simply got even more cross with me. Mary on the other hand just says to the servants “do as he tells you”. This implies to me that she knew what he was capable of already, that somewhere in the last 30 years they had spoken about what was to come. Could it be that Mary had jumped the gun? For Jesus replies “don’t tell me what to do, it isn’t time yet”.
I had been the servants and anyone else standing nearby I would have tried to sink into the background lest I should be witness to an embarrassing confrontation. But fortunately for everyone Jesus bites his tongue and realises he has to do something. But his point is – I’m not doing this publicly because this is not the given point for me to reveal who I am, I suspect for one thing he didn’t want to upstage the event. It’s a bit like the Queen turning up at your birthday party and becoming the centre of attention rather than the person with the birthday. Proclaiming “I’m the Messiah” wasn’t the thing to do here, and in any case most of the guests were very merry already and I suspect they would have replied “yeah, right and I’m the Emperor of Rome” and laughed in his face.
Mary obviously has insight because even after this exchange she says to the servants “do as he says”. So Jesus says, ok, fill up those empty jars with water and they do – now they aren’t his servants so why do they take notice – the must feel something about him. Then he says – right go to the steward and get him to taste the water. If I was one of the servants at this point I think I might be thinking out my life plan from here – “So Ok, I filled the jars, fine, but now you want me to take a cup of the water to the boss and get him to taste it, are you serious, he will have me strung up for insubordination, insolence and stupidity – not me mate – you take it to him”. Jesus of course doesn’t want to do that because he doesn’t wish to be “outed” as the miracle worker. But again the servants do as they are told – maybe Mary has influence over them – it has been suggested it was a family wedding, but we don’t know that. So why did they do as they were told?
So the steward then proclaims this to be the finest Chateau Lafite he has ever tasted and the servants no doubt sigh a huge sigh of relief. The steward then calls out, presumably publicly, to the bridegroom and says, “hey man, you have style, this van rouge is amazing – where did you get it from?”
We don’t find out what the bridegroom said in reply, and maybe that’s the point, the bridegroom has no idea what has happened and nor have the guests, the only ones who know are the servants and they have no ability to tell the gathering what has really happened. But of course the disciples have seen what he has done and this caused them to believe in him. It then says that they left as a group with Jesus and Mary and went to Capernaum where they stayed for a few days.
So what can we learn from this, well, even if Jesus was annoyed with Mary he respected her and found a way to do as he was told without compromising himself – the option would have been that embarrassing row. So they clearly had a good understanding of each other which is why I suggested earlier that Mary was fully aware of Jesus’ mission on earth, but he was telling her, I’m not here to fix social disasters, I’m here to save the world. Which is why he comes up with this plan which will solve the problem but not expose him to the world. Who knows, maybe Mary knew the disciples needed a nudge to understand; maybe she engineered this seeing the opportunity. Jesus clearly cared for the servants because if the steward had tasted water they would have been for the chop and they understood that it would be ok. They trusted in him. As a by-product the steward and the groom’s relationship also flourishes and everyone else just has a great time.
But of course the real relationship that is built is between Jesus and the disciples with whom the penny drops a little bit further, if not yet all the way, and they all go off for some peace and quiet together.
So what on earth has this to do with the epistle which talks about us all having different gifts. There is probably a much more theological overlap than the one I’m going to consider, but for me it is quite simple. Paul tells us we are all different and we can all do different things. You’d be much better trusting Bill Templeton in a balloon than me for example, as I have absolutely no idea how to pilot a balloon. Mary, Barry and Alice both have amazing talent with music and again, you wouldn’t want me accompanying you.
And the point Jesus was making was simply this – use your gifts for their best purpose. If Barry only ever played the piano in a soundproof room they joy he could bring would be lost to everyone but himself. So he says to Mary – yes I can do this but that’s not what I came for. I have been given something really precious and it wasn’t intended to make me the local off-licence, it has been given to me to do my father’s work here on earth.
And the challenge to us all – use your talents for the greater good. I know a number of musicians who have wonderful talents but are too shy to use them. I know people who have real wisdom but who cannot bring themselves to stand in front of others to impart it. Our gifts are from God and we should use them to his use. And if you are sitting there thinking “I don’t have any special talents” I suggest to you that you do – they don’t have to be spectacular. You may have the ability to listen or to comfort; you may do something quite un-noticed – Tony putting the heating on at Woodgreen – we all benefit from his talent for remembering to do it.
And I’m going to finish by revisiting the end of the Gospel – then they all went away for a few days – and it was only then that Jesus revealed his glory to them, in the private space they had created and I suspect he told them, I’m not here to be hailed as a great king, I’m here to serve in any way my gift can be used. We do well to follow that example now and again – to go off together and discover more about our relationships, who we are, what we can do, and then use them to work out God’s purposes.
Jesus took the humdrum of life – a wine crisis, he turned it into something beautiful and that enhanced the experience of all who were there. He added flavour, fragrance, strength and beauty to situations which benefitted those he touched greatly. In relationship together we can do the same in his name. Amen.