Reflections

A reflection for the Third Sunday of Epiphany

Bible Readings: John 2.1-11          Revelation 19.6-10

On Wednesday of this week, we saw Joe Biden become the 46th President of the United States. At the beginning of his first term of office, how might we judge what kind of president he will be? We might look to his past voting record as a Senator, we might look to his work as the Vice President, his campaign to get elected or even his words about being the President of the whole nation as he gave his speech at his inauguration. We may want to judge him based on his actions, on the first things he has done as president, the executive orders he signed on a day one. It is this combination of past context and present action that paints a picture of the presidency that will unfold.

In our reading from John’s Gospel today, we encounter Jesus at the beginning of his public ministry. Our expectations of what he might have come to do are shaped by all that God has done in the past, revealed in the prophets, written in the pages of Israel’s history and shaped in the worship of the psalms. But what will Jesus’ public ministry reveal? Who is this Messiah?

I want to focus in on one movement of this miracle. The transformation of water into wine, but specifically, I want to focus on the jars themselves. The huge great vessels that hold all this water. The miracle of water into wine isn’t a small affair, verse 6 tells us that the water used fills ‘6 stone water jars, the kind used for ceremonial washing’ these jars holding a hulking 150 gallons of water in total. The description of these jars draws our attention to them. John could have written that Jesus ordered some water be brought, but we have all this detail about the size and shape of the vessels. When we have this type of careful prose, the evangelist is usually trying to tell us something.

 

 

The jars are described as being made of stone. This is a specific description as many jars of this size would have been earthenware. It’s cheaper and easier to manufacture, but these jars are stone. This relates to their purpose as vessels to allow ceremonial washing. You see earthenware was forbidden in being used for ceremonial washing. Leviticus 11:33 infers that earthenware vessels are capable of holding onto a corrupt sinfulness in some way, that if something unclean touches the pot that the pot must be destroyed. So, that would make earthenware useless for the purpose of ceremonial washing. The ceremonial washing that is intended to be undertaken using these jars is a ceremonial washing before dinner. They were intended to make unclean people clean. But the 6 huge jars is a vast amount of water to support this ceremonial washing, even for a large banquet crowd.

Does this remind us that all people are unclean? Does this hint at the problem that Jesus came to address? Or perhaps it simply points to the extravagance of the miracle that will follow.

It is this water set aside to deal with people’s sin that Jesus takes to perform his first miracle. He transforms this symbol of uncleanliness into a symbol of hospitality and celebration. He takes what was rejected and uses it as a tool of welcome and celebration as he open the door to this new relationship with God. This moment of redemption that culminates in the heavenly banquet we heard about in our reading from the book of Revelation, where the messenger declares ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the lamb’

John describes this miracle as the first of Jesus’ signs, a pointer of what the direction of Jesus’ ministry will bring. Jesus came to offer reconciliation and transformation, the forgiveness of sins and the restoration of relationship with God. In this season of epiphany, as we glimpse who Jesus is, here, at the Wedding at Cana we glimpse in that moment of transformation the redemptive nature of Jesus’ coming.

We live in a world that is in desperate need of transformation, in desperate need of redemption. Jesus’ coming offers a pathway for the world and each one of us to follow. He embodies the hope that we will be made clean, have our sins forgiven and find our way back into relationship with God, that our journey will culminate at the heavenly feast.

As we reflect on that journey, I feel God is asking us to reflect on where we want to see that redemption breaking out in the world. Is there a situation, or a place, where you want to see transformation and hope? Maybe there’s a name or a place in your mind now. I’d like to invite you to pray for that place now, just a simple prayer of ‘God bless and transform Barrow’ or wherever it might be. Jesus came to a ministry of reconciliation and transformation for the whole world and he calls us to join him in that work. We carry that work in our prayer lives, seeking hope and transformation.

But as much as Jesus was born to transform the world, he also came to transform each one of us. That we might eventually echo the words of the steward when we find our place in the heavenly wedding feast, ‘You have saved the best until now.’ But what in this moment is God challenging you about? How is he trying to transform your life? What in our lives is still water in the stone water jar and needs to be transformed into the wine of heaven? Our lives as Christians, as followers of Jesus, are supposed to be full of encounters with Jesus, that’s one of the things we hope for when we worship, when we meet with Jesus, but meeting Jesus changes us. As we draw near to his light, a little of the darkness in us is illuminated in his radiance. So, where in your life do you ask that light to shine?

When Jesus went to that wedding in Cana, he showed the arc his ministry would take, to carry us from sinfulness to salvation. It is the journey each one of us are called to make, and in our taking that journey, the whole world is redeemed. So today, as we bear witness to this epiphany of what Jesus has come to do, let us pray that his ministry would take place in our hearts today.