Weddings are joyous occasions. They are just as special today as they were in antiquity. †In Jesusí time a wedding was possibly the most joyous event in a coupleís life. It included a feast, vows, and a lot of celebrating. Afterwards, the couple would be escorted to their home through the neighborhood on the longest route possible. This so that as many people as possible could congratulate them. Then for the next week they were king and queen of the neighborhood receiving visitors with gifts.
But the couple was responsible for the success of their wedding. This is what worried Mary. Hospitality in the near east to this day is a sacred duty. Any failure in hospitality was a disgrace. At such an important celebration to run out of wine was a breach of hospitality. Mary, who must have had some connection to the couple and some authority over the wedding, did not want them to start their new life together in disgrace.
So like the mother she was, she asked Ö actually ordered Ö Jesus to fix it. Jesus pushes back. Heís not ready for his public appearance and didnít want to get into it. But he knew his mother was right inasmuch that the couple should be cared for.
So he discretely turned water into wine so there would be enough for the reminder of the evening.
But more happened than Jesus just offering a simple helping hand Ö
He asked for the six 30 gallon jars to be filled with water. This he turned into the best wine. Now if you do some simple arithmetic, thatís 180 gallons of wine Ö far, far more than was needed. And as the steward pointed out, the best wine wasnít really expected either.
Was Jesus just showing off how powerful he was?
Jesus walked among the guests more than just a simple human being making a living as a carpenter. He was on the verge of expressing his divine nature as God incarnate. Before him stretched a ministry that would change the world forever.
But here in this moment, the world was a couple being married and celebrating in the midst of poverty. In this moment, a couple who would have children and who would probably live poor, were starting off with joy that would hopefully sustain them through the days to come. It was this moment that was the most important moment. It deserved no less than the great moments to come. It deserved no less than the feeding of the 5000 and the resurrection of Lazarus.† Jesus realized this and so he gave it his best Ö
He was coming to proclaim the superabundance of Godís grace, forgiveness and compassion. In a world where simple abundance was reserved for the rich and for the rulers, it was revolutionary to suggest that this young couple and this neighborhood deserved Ö even had right to Ö Godís generosity.
The author of this gospel knew that in this simple, mundane place Jesus had already started Ö maybe despite himself Ö that everyone was in Godís care.
And it wasnít skimpy care Ö it was care given in superabundance.
When we think of abundance, we think of having an abundance of food, money, clothes, energy and so forth. We think in very materialistic terms. When we talk of having an abundant society, it is a society that can provide all of these material needs and wants. We donít often look for abundance of grace, forgiveness and compassion.
Yet as Jesus will show in his ministry, an abundance of these immaterial things are needed to provide an abundance of material things. Without grace, forgiveness and compassion no matter how much material we have, someone will go without.
But it is hard for us to grasp the notion of abundance of these very immaterial almost ethereal things.† We canít touch grace. We canít smell forgiveness. We canít put compassion in the bank to have it available when we need it. Itís hard, indeed, impossible to measure when we have had enough.
And add on top of that, that God offers us more and better than we need, just as Jesus did at Cana, we have a very difficult time imagining how it would even fit into our rather stingy world.
Yes the immaterial is all around us and if we look we will see we have the abundance of some immaterial things.
Take for example, advocating. Step back and listen. When donít you hear someone advocating? We hear on the TV and the radio minute by minute someone advocating for this or that either a political opinion or the benefits of some product. We advocate for ourselves. We write resumes to advocate how well we would do a job. We advocate for our children.
In hospice we advocate for our patients to be sure they are comfortable or receive something they need or want.
We teach our children self-respect so they can advocate for themselves.
Advocating is all around us. And thatís ok. Itís a good thing if used respectfully and honestly. But it is immaterial. You canít see it. You canít taste it. You canít smell it. You only know it by its consequences: the delivery of an opinion, the success of getting a job, a patient receiving comfort.
Likewise we cannot see, taste, or smell grace. But we know it by its consequences: of the passing on of love and care freely and with joy. We see it when we bring light and love into some strangerís life. We sense it when something wonderful happens out of the blue.
All too often it is fleeting. But in it Godís light does shine through to us now and then.
Thomas Kincaid is referred to as the painter of light. If you know his paintings they are often of homes with light shining out from them. His paintings are warm and comforting visions of ordinary life. But his unique use of light raises these ordinary places to the divine. One senses that Godís abundant light is always with us, always nurturing us.
The immaterial is just as important or more important than the material in our life. We seek necessarily for abundant material Ė food, housing, health care Ė to support ourselves and our families.† But we also need to embrace immaterial grace in our lives and make it as abundant as the advocating we do.
The superabundance that Jesus offered to that young couple is available to us, to our neighbors, to the whole wide world. Godís love, grace, forgiveness, and compassion are free and unlimited.
And like advocating where we learn to do it as a matter of course to improve ourselves, so living a life full of grace and forgiveness is learned. And like any learning it requires discipline. We need to each day intentionally decide that we are going to be generous and forgiving.
We are going to be generous with our thoughts, actions, and words. We are going to be optimistic. We are going to be forgiving. We are not going to think the worse of someone, but we are going to give them the benefit of the doubt. We are going to listen before we respond. We are going to understand before we judge.
We are not going to ration our good spirits by offering them just to friends and family. We are going to offer our good spirit to all we encounter, friend and stranger together.
As Mary had faith that Jesus would find the means to rescue this young couple, we are going to have faith that God will shine a light on the path we thereby choose to follow. We are going to have faith that our good spirits, our generosity of the soul, our willingness to forgive, our effort to walk in the moccasins of another will indeed bear good and nurturing fruit.
We are going to have faith that by passing on Godís superabundance of grace to each other, our lives and our world will shine out with the light of the divine.
Godís grace and peace be with you all Ö