San Juan Presbyterian Church, Trinidad
January 20, 2019
Scripture: John 2:1-11
I have to confess that I’ve never been to a wedding here in Trinidad. But back home in Canada, a wedding is a BIG DEAL. The planning for a wedding usually takes a year, expectations are high, budgets are extravagant. Much thought is given to where to hold the party, what colour the decorations and dresses should be, what type of flowers to have, what style of dress the bride will wear and how her hair will be styled.
Expectations are so high that even before the invitations to the wedding are sent out, the couple will usually send a “Save the Date” card to the guests that will be invited, to make sure that the guests will be able to attend. If you are invited to a wedding, you will go out of your way to attend, even if it means flying across the country or half-way around the world.
And then at the wedding, there is food, there is music, there is dancing. Weddings are an opportunity to visit with friends and family members that you haven’t seen in a long time. Weddingsare a time to celebrate. Just last week, one of my cousins posted a picture on Facebook from the wedding of my father and stepmother 12 years ago, and that picture triggered a long thread of memories and reminiscing about that day.
And what is a wedding but a joyful celebration of love and family?!
And so I love that Jesus’ first sign, his first miracle in the gospel of John, takes place at a wedding. Jesus, who is the embodiment of God’s love, gives us a sign of God’s joy and abundance when he transforms water into wine at a wedding, which is a celebration that is full of joy and love.
But I found this week, as I was reading this familiar story once again, that I was drawn especially to the mother of Jesus. She is there at the wedding, along with her son and his followers. Maybe it’s the wedding of one of their relatives; maybe it’s the wedding of one of their neighbours. But she seems to feel some sort of responsibility to make sure that the celebration goes well, to make sure that the correct level of hospitality is extended, and so I like to speculate that this is the wedding of one of her family members.
And the mother of Jesus notices that the wine has run out. She notices that the expected hospitality will not be extended. She notices that shame is going to be brought on to the whole extended family. But she knows that her boy, the son that she raised, this child that she watched grow into a man – she knows that he can do something about this.
And so she tells him, “They have no wine.” But Jesus, at first he brushes her off. “What do you want me to do about that? What does this have to do with me?” But his mother, she doesn’t give up. She pushes back. She persists. She didn’t take no for an answer. She tells the servants to do whatever her son tells them to do; and then before anyone else at the party noticed the problem, there was an abundance of excellent wine, more than the party would ever be able to drink.
I wonder what would have happened if she hadn’t persisted? What if she had accepted Jesus’ first refusal, and just walked away? Would the wine have run out? Would the celebration have turned to anger? Would the joy have turned to despair? Would shame have been brought to the whole family?
But the mother of Jesus persisted. She knew that the God that she worshipped was a God of joy. She would have known and sung the psalms that told her,
“Joy comes with the morning.”
“God has turned my mourning into dancing;
God has taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.”
“Taste and see that the Lord is good!”
“All people feast on the abundance of God’s house,
and God gives them drink from the river of God’s delights.”
She knew that the God she worshipped desired joy for all people; and she knew that her son could do something about it.
And so she persisted. She persevered, and water was turned in to wine. And the joyful celebration continued.
When I read this passage from John’s gospel this week, it was the mother of Jesus who stood out to me. The mother of Jesus who wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. The mother of Jesus who ensured that the party would continue.
And I think that each one of us can learn from the example of the mother of Jesus. We know that the God that we worship is a God who celebrates love and joy. We know that later in John’s gospel, Jesus will say that he came so that everyone might have life and have it abundantly. And we can learn from the example of the mother of Jesus and notice where the joy is missing, notice where the love is missing, notice where the abundance, the fullness of life is missing. And like the mother of Jesus, we can persist until the world is better aligned with God’s vision for the world.
I am a visitor in your beautiful country, so I don’t know what the specific issues are here. If I were speaking to my congregation back in Canada, I might point out issues like the poor conditions that Indigenous Canadians are living in. I might point out issues like the salary difference between women and men. I might point out issues like discrimination against our LGBTQ community. I might point out issues like the damage that we are doing to God’s creation by our dependence on oil and gas and other fossil fuels. These are some of the issues that we are facing in Canada that separate us from the fullness of life that God desires for all people.
I don’t know what specific issues are present here in Trinidad and Tobago, and I’m not going to pretend to know. But the question that this passage of scripture should raise for all of us is: where can we see joy being denied for all people? Where can we see the fullness of life being taken away from all people? And once we have noticed these places, like the mother of Jesus, we can persist. We can persevere. We can never give up, until the whole world is living in the abundance that God desires for all of creation.
God’s Word has become flesh.
Water has been turned into wine.
Transformation is possible.
The same God who ensured that the wedding celebration could continue in Cana calls us to be agents of that transformation. By the Holy Spirit, we are being transformed into the image and likeness of Christ, we are being drawn into the endless dance of God. The joy that God desires, the abundance that God promises, the fullness of life that Christ gives to us – all of this can bubble up in us and overflow to the world around us.
We are called.
We are gifted.
Let us go and do the work that God has given to us to do.
May it be so.
Let us pray,
God of limitless love,
let your joy bubble up in us
like the finest wine,
and let it overflow to the world around us.
Help us to proclaim your message of abundance –
that there is always enough for all people –
to the world.
And continue to blow your Holy Spirit through our lives,
transforming us more and more into the image of Christ,
so that we might be the hands and feet
and eyes and ears and heart of Christ,
as we continue the work of Christ in our world.
I pray all of this in the name of Jesus Christ,