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SUNDAY SERVICE 16th January 2022

Water into Wine

Last Sunday’s gospel recounts Christ’s baptism and was the beginning of His ministry, it was also His introduction to those being baptised in the river Jordan and to the world.  Today we heard about his first miracle and His reluctance to get involved.

Just outside Nazareth in the north of Israel is a small town called Cana.  It is one of the villages of interest that you stop at when you visit the Holy Land.  In the middle of the village is the church known as the wedding church.  It is run by the Franciscans and is dedicated to Christ’s first miracle, when He changed water into wine.  Nowadays it is very popular for Christian weddings, or to rededicate marriage vows in the eyes of God.  The exact location of this first miracle is not known but I don’t think that that really matters.  I must say that those Franciscan monks produce a fantastic sweet red wine which is very moreish and is known as Cana wedding wine.  I do like the odd glass of red wine, maybe you do too?  But this wedding wine is really good, a little like ruby port but sweeter.

So what can we gleam from this morning’s reading from John’s gospel.  Well, Jesus was from the very beginning focussed on His mission to save the world, I suppose the greatest mission in the history of mankind.  Yet with His family and disciples took time out to attend a wedding in the local village of Cana.  I believe that Jesus used these social occasions as part of His ministry, as there are many times in the gospels when He sat down and ate with sinners.  Thinking about it, Jesus was a people person, He valued those occasions because it was people He came to save.

Weddings in the time of Jesus could last up to two weeks, just think about all the planning and preparation that was involved.  The whole time would be spent celebrating the new life of the married couple who would be treated like royalty.  The whole of the village would normally be invited, and it was customary for everyone to contribute something, such as food and wine.  To run out of anything especially wine was more than an embarrassment, it actually broke the strong unwritten laws of hospitality.

I don’t think that Mary was asking Jesus to perform a miracle, I believe that she was simply hoping that He would help solve the problem.  Jesus’ answer to Mary is difficult to understand, but maybe that is the point.  Mary had no idea what Jesus was going to do, she may have thought that He was going to help the other men find some more wine.  But Mary trusted Jesus to do the right thing.

Those of us as believers often run into difficulties and situations that we don’t understand, but we must continue to trust that Jesus will in the end work things out in our best interests.  We may think that we know how He should tackle the problem, but He may have a completely different plan.  We have to submit to Him and allow Him to deal with the problem as He sees best for us.

Mary was sure that Jesus would do something to help the bridegroom out of the embarrassing mess that had developed.  Mary told the servants, “If Jesus gives you any instructions, just carry them out”.  That also applies to us.

Jesus told the servants to fill 6 stone water jars that were normally used for ceremonial washing, each jar held up to 30 gallons.  They drew off the water and found that it had turned to wine.  Taking a sample to the master of the banquet, who was the chief steward, he was amazed that the best wine had been saved till last.  For when Jesus turned the water into wine, He turned it into the best wine possible.

Man’s need in this story becomes an opportunity for God’s power to work.

When the disciples saw Jesus’ miracle, they believed.  This miracle showed his power over nature, and the way that He would go about his future ministry.

Miracles are not merely superhuman events, but events that show God’s power.  Almost every miracle Jesus did was actually a sign of renewal.  God’s wonderful creation is all around us, we just need to pause and take a look.  St Augustine noted that Jesus changed water into wine at Cana in Galilee and everyone was amazed.  But God changes water into wine every day in vineyards around the world and we hardly notice.  Jesus at the wedding in Cana cut out the middle processes, as the water was changed instantly into wine, proving that God has complete control over the natural world.

So to conclude, just as the wine ran out at the wedding feast, so can our wine run out.  We often experience ‘dry times’ in our life and ministry.  When that happens, we need to run to Jesus for He is the one who can turn our sadness into joy.

Someone once said, “don’t focus on the stone water jars, and miss the whole point, for Jesus is all about transformation.

For He, turned water into wine, frowns into smiles, whimpers of fear into songs of hope, deserts into gardens, sorrow into joy, sin into grace and death into life.

The sign that we have seen in our gospel today teaches us that Jesus offers an abundance of new life.  For Jesus is all about our transformation, changing people, that’s what it’s all about, changing us into the people of God.  Amen.

Rev’d Ian.