Last week at CCC we celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany. The word epiphany means manifestation. It’s one of our ‘moveable feasts’ and can be celebrated either the Sunday before, on or after January 6th. There was an alternate gospel last week for churches who’d celebrated the feast of the Epiphany on either Jan 2nd or on January 6th. The story we might have heard last week was Jesus baptized by his cousin John in the river Jordan. We’ve gone in 4 weeks from Jesus’ incarnation to the Epiphany with the wise men, to Jesus, as an adult being baptized to his first sign.
Let me read a small part of last week’s Gospel to set the stage: In the baptism John let the people know that he would “baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. When Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in and a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
Jesus’ baptism is different from the others. His was not about repentance. In this baptism Jesus was identified as the Beloved, the Son of God. This began Jesus’ public ministry.
Jesus’s birth, wise men appearing, and baptism are manifestations of Jesus. When wise men came from the East we understand that Jesus’ birth was not just for the Jewish people but for everyone.
The miracle in Cana was his first miracle (or sign as John says) and part of a very festive occasion. John calls this a sign as it has to do with Jesus’ power and is a foreshadowing of what is to come.
Wedding feasts lasted up to a week at which time the host was expected to feed and supply drink for all the guests. Running out of either would be humiliating. We don’t know how Mary became aware that the host was running low on wine. What she knew was Jesus could help. After all, God working in her life was nothing new. Mary knows full well the power of God. Jesus doesn’t speak very kindly to his mother when she suggests he do something. Mary doesn’t back down. “My hour has not yet come.” Was Jesus saying he didn’t care about earthly things? Was he distancing himself? We hear at the Last Supper as Jesus is washing the feet of his disciples that ‘now his hour has come.’
Mary had total trust and confidence when simply telling the servants to do whatever he tells them to do. Mary seems to be prodding Jesus along to get busy with his earthly ministry. If only I always had the faith and confidence the servants did! Imagine what we could accomplish if we were all more like Mary and believed.
The servants, in following Jesus’ command were putting themselves in danger. After all, the water they were using was used by people to wash their hands and feet. They obeyed anyway. Jesus transformed water into wine, an abundance of wine, a manifestation of Jesus’ divinity. Jesus gives a lavish response to the need presented. The abundance of wine shows God’s abundance. When Jesus changed common water, into the best of wines we understand that Jesus can transform all Jesus touches. So when we allow Jesus to touch us we are also transformed. The miracle wasn’t only to do with the water being changed into wine, it was also what happens to people when they believe. Notice the end of the Gospel says ‘and his disciples believed in him’.
Only a few people were even aware what had happened. This was done so that the disciples would understand. They were the only ones outside of the servants who witnessed this. Putting this into context, Jesus had only recently called the disciples to follow him. They didn’t yet know who they were following.
Have you experienced a miracle in your life? They help build our faith the same as it built the disciples’ faith. I have had miracles in my life. The most recent was when I had a stroke last April. I was driving to the Cathedral and had to stop for a red light. My foot was on the brake only because I was at a light. My foot stayed on the brake even though I had no control over what my body was doing in that moment. Without a split second of warning I slumped over without the ability to do anything. Had I been driving rather than stopped I might have hit someone or been in a car crash that might have ended my life or someone else’s. AND, I’ve no lingering signs of a stroke. Some might say luck was with me. I say it’s by God’s grace. It was a Cana moment in my life. It was an epiphany, a manifestation of God’s power.
During our lives we have experiences that build our faith and serve as watershed moments, AHA moments, so that when things aren’t going well we have something to look back on to hold onto. We need those times we can look back and know that God is with is as God has been with us before.
The host of the wedding was running on empty. We can all relate to that. There are times when we just don’t feel like we can do one more thing. There might be a problem we can’t solve, loss of job, an illness or a pandemic that just won’t quit. We can be so exhausted we are running on empty. What can we do? Well, we can turn to God and hand the situation to God. Sometimes just realizing God’s presence is with us can refresh us enough to keep going. God gives us life full of abundance. This does not mean a life of ease or absence of suffering. It does mean that with God’s grace we are sustained. If we trust in God’s abundance we will have the grace to live full lives.
Do we know why Jesus helped out at the wedding? Not really. He certainly didn’t do it to impress the crowd because they weren’t aware of what Jesus did. It wasn’t Jesus’ reputation in jeopardy so Jesus wasn’t under any obligation. I believe Jesus did what he did that day to show he cares as part of that wedding community.
During this season of Epiphany we will experience Jesus’ ministry with the community of those who follow. Jesus is manifest in the lives of the people he is with; he’s part of the community. As we hear the stories we can put ourselves in them. Jesus teaches us how to live in community and care for one another.
As we come forward for communion today let’s remember Jesus is fully present in the consecrated bread and wine. Jesus is made manifest in us. When we truly understand that we will be able to leave this place and participate in acts of love and healing in our broken world, our community.
As we heard in Paul’s writing to the people in Corinth we are all given gifts to be shared for the common good. We don’t earn or deserve our gifts. What gifts have you been given and how are you manifesting those gifts for the common good?