The Wedding at Cana
I don’t know if this is familiar to you, whenever I spend time with my parents, I always regress. Not all the way back to being a teenager, but a fair bit of the way. Too often I’ll lie about, as if I expected somebody else to pick up after me, I’ll probably expect to be given first choice, just because I’m the youngest, or at least I was. And I’m almost certainly less polite. But then parents can be known to overstep their boundaries with their adult children as well, even if sometimes unintentionally. I can remember, as a young adult, going home to visit my parents. We went to church on the Sunday, the church where I had grown up, but while there were some familiar faces, there were many new faces. A young woman, carrying her baby, came over to speak to my mother and I. Almost immediately she felt she needed to tell me how wonderful my mother was with this baby, and how much my mother would like to be a grandmother. I was not, as far as I recall, as courteous about this as I could have been, not so much with the mother and baby as I was with my own mother. It is somewhat inevitable that we are programmed to think about ourselves, to put ourselves first in most situations. It’s part of what makes us survive.
But it is interesting that for all the focus on survival of the fittest among animals in the wild. Some animals will still put their own lives at risk to save others.
When I joined Airbus in 2002, just under 12 months after the horrific events of the 11th September 2001, many of my friends were surprised Airbus was still taking on so many new graduate employees when the industry was in the midst of a major downturn. One of the first things we were shown in our induction was a graph which showed the sale of aircraft per year over the previous 50 years. There were, of course, a number of dips mostly after major air tragedies or after significant economic downturns. But however much the line dipped, after a few years it returned to the same trajectory it had originally been on. And sure enough, after a few years the industry had recovered again. The company knew it was playing a long game and for various reasons it was investing in the future it believed would come about. If we believe in something, we will be ready for it when it comes. like Kevin Costner in the film ‘The Field of Dreams’. Who builds a baseball field in the hopes that the ghosts of baseball’s past will come and play on it, using the motto: ‘If you build it they will come.’
The way Jesus responds to his mother in today’s Gospel:
‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me?’ feels like the pestilent teenager I regress into. I can imagine Jesus and his mother walking on their way to this wedding. Jesus is around 30 and his mother is getting concerned… ‘why aren’t you showing everybody who you are?’ ‘God sent you to show us the way, make yourself known.’ ‘Do something, bring a blessing for this couple at the wedding, get the angels to sing – they sounded so magnificent at your birth all those many years ago.’ And now she sees her opportunity:- ‘Jesus, they have no wine!’ But Jesus doesn’t want to be seen as some conjurer of tricks. We see it in the other Gospels as well. The son of God wasn’t born into the world just to heal a person here and help another person there. That would be a mockery of the idea that this was the God of all creation come into the world for its salvation. But, at the same time, the God we meet in Jesus is enormously empathetic, caring, merciful and generous. So, no, Jesus doesn’t want everybody to think of him as a conjurer of tricks, but he realises he can be generous. And that generosity, flows out from Christ as if beyond even his control. And so we hear the story of his miracle of the wedding at Cana, where he transforms water into wine, and not just a little water, 150 Gallons of it. That’s something like 900 bottles of wine. No, this is no simple conjuring of tricks, Jesus is making a point, he is demonstrating the idea of super abundance – abundance far greater than what they needed. This is the God who created all things and
who can make more than we can ask or imagine possible.
Of course it is easy to feel like that is all great in a story, but what does it mean when we really feel we are lacking. Liberation theologians in South America rightly questioned what does a story like this mean to somebody who is starving, unless we can offer to help them eat. The church in this country has, for many years, gone through a crisis of confidence. A loss in the belief that God will provide and a kind of acceptance in the narrative that the church is dying out. But, in the last decade, I think there has been, particularly in London, a rediscovery of our hope in God to provide. It is easy to get set back and to believe that things won’t get better and like there’s nothing more we can do. But if we put our trust in God, what has been found is that things can change.
There was a report produced at the end of last year, studying church growth in seven London churches described as Anglican Catholic churches (not unlike All Saints) and in what are described as poorer areas of London (Hammersmith, Kentish Town, Tottenham, Hoxton, Catford and Woodside). The report shows that confidence in the the good news of God’s love, expressed through the mission of the church, and while looking for places where God is active in a community, can lead to the flourishing of God’s church. So, like the guests at the wedding in Cana, we are guests at the ongoing celebration of God’s union with us, his church. So let us celebrate with joy and hope for a future full of the love of God.
The Reverend Robin Sims-Williams