The greeting from our United Methodist wedding liturgy includes these lines:
With his presence and power
Jesus graced a wedding at Cana of Galilee,
And in his sacrificial love
Gave us the example of the love of husband and wife.
Every time I say those words at a wedding, I feel like it’s a bit of a stretch. Not the sacrificial love part, but the part about Jesus at the wedding in
All we really know is that Jesus was a helpful, if somewhat reluctant wedding guest. Jesus didn’t say much about marriage. He talked about divorce, but didn’t encourage or discourage marriage, beyond sticking with your vows once you made them. We assume that he was never married, but as the Da Vinci code has pointed out, there has long been some speculation on the matter.
Marriage is not an original Christian idea. It’s a longstanding Jewish custom to be sure, but the first 1000 years of Christianity didn’t value marriage. After all, Christians were concerned with the quick return of Jesus and personal holiness, and all the trappings of marriage and family were distractions and if not downright evil.
Paul said it was not a good idea to marry unless the alternative were burning alive with passion (1 Corinthians 7:9). But he really thought it’d be better if everyone were single like himself.
But I digress. This story about the wine at the wedding, isn’t really about a wedding and certainly isn’t about marriage. Instead, the wedding is a backdrop for Jesus’ first miracle. John chooses to show us Jesus’ first sign of turning water into wine. At first blush, it seems like a party trick, but Jesus is rather discreet about it, and not at all interested in doing it at first when his mother pointedly tells him that they are out of wine and Jesus says “what’s it to you or me? Who cares, it’s not the end of the world.” It’s certainly not healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, or feeding thousands, it’s giving wine to a few hundred wedding guests, helping the host to save face. In the grand scheme of things, a fancy wedding is not a big deal, then or now.
Can you just imagine, you’re one of hundreds of guests at a wedding, you’re at a reception, and the Embassy Suites has run out of wine and it turns out that Christ is there and he lends a hand?
Can you just imagine being in an earthquake, in say, Haiti, and it feels like the entire world is falling apart and crushing you and it turns out that Christ is there, but the world continues to collapse?
What does it mean that Jesus saves a wedding celebration but not thousands of innocent people in
As I was watching the events unfold, and reading the news, I kept wondering if Pat Robertson would say anything ridiculous. And sure enough, he didn’t disappoint.
In case you missed it, the evangelist who famously declared 9/11 and Katrina to be acts of divine punishment for the gays and lesbians in our country, for our acceptance of abortion, and for our overall level of immorality has stated that the Tuesday’s earthquake in
And obviously for Pat Robertson, this abundance of badness has something to do with the poor people of
And I’m sorry for going after him, because Pat Robertson is a child of God too. And while he’s extreme, there are still lots of people, even me sometimes, who think that we deserve either our bad or good fates, at least sometimes, and we do, sometimes, but not always or usually and certainly not when it’s an earthquake instead of say, ruining a life because you decide to drive drunk. There are differences.
And this passage, while about God’s extravagance, isn’t really about the injustices of the world either. At it’s heart, the gospels show us over and over that God wants abundance for us: delicious feasts and flowing wine. The kingdom of heaven is after all like a wedding banquet, and Jesus is happy to provide the wine of salvation. That every day on earth is not a feast day is certainly a tragedy, but it’s not God’s fault. It’s not God’s fault that we don’t enjoy our lives to the fullest, that we don’t stop to enjoy a good meal nearly as often as we should, that we don’t cultivate enough deep and lasting friendships, that we don’t spend enough time with our families, that we don’t read enough good books, or take as many good, deep breaths as we should.
And it’s not God’s fault that tens of thousands of God’s children are dead, wounded, scared, hungry, thirsty, mourning, and in so much need. Tragedy is not God’s design. God’s intention is for those of us who are safe and fortunate to reach out to others because we are all meant to live abundantly good lives whether we live in the
When Jesus shared the last supper, he used delicious foods to represent his body and blood. He didn’t offer up a cup of vinegar and say drink from this all of you, this is my blood of the new covenant, instead he chose a cup of wine—something tasty and rich with imagery of grapes and harvest and vines, as he is the vine and we are the branches.
God gives to us out of radical abundance, sacrificial love, flesh and blood, grace and mercy. Thanks be to God.