Today we find ourselves in the Ordinary Time – kind of a small piece of Ordinary Time that wedges in between Epiphany and Lent. We get to hang out in this time for just a few weeks before we are in full-blown Lent. It’s an odd time, so our Lectionary composers have given us a little taste of John. Last time we had John was that first Sunday after Christmas and we won’t be in John again until close to the end of Lent when we get the story of Lazarus.
John is a very complex Gospel and today’s reading from it is no exception. There is a lot of layer and symbolism built into what sounds like at first listen a very straight-forward story.
Did you notice that in John’s gospel, Jesus’ mother is not named? In fact she’s only mentioned twice in this Gospel: here and at the crucifixion – no name either time. From the first sign to the last breath. Take a second with that. If John was the only Gospel you had ever studied, you would not know anything about His birth or about her – you would know that Jesus had a human mom – that’s it. Yet the writer gives her an important role – she seems to push Jesus into doing something. Or she believes so strongly that he will, that he does it. Either way, she is the instigator of the “sign.”
Did you catch that also? John doesn’t call it a miracle – instead it’s a sign. There are 7 total in the Gospel of John. Maybe – Probably - because 7 is a Holy Number – the Holiest – Perfection - the Completeness. On the 7th day God rested. Most weddings lasted 7 days – and it is important that this event is a wedding. In Jesus, Heaven and Earth are married, in the Christ God and Man are married (Bp Andy Doyle).
On the Third day, God created… On the third day there was a wedding… on the third day Jesus arose… More symbolism in the story. New creation maybe? Jesus is creating a new community of disciples. In John’s gospel, he’s already gathered a few and will gather more. He himself is the new creation, and will be again after the Resurrection.
The six pots made of stone for the Purification Rites – Six is incomplete - not perfect – not Perfection. Again – a sign that points to the new creation that will culminate in the perfection of Jesus Christ.
Who is the Sign for? Bride and Groom and their families certainly benefitted – otherwise at their 20th wedding anniversary someone would have said, “remember when y’all ran out of wine at the wedding?” You know someone would remember. But they don’t know how the wine got there; they may not have ever even known there was a shortage. The guests certainly enjoyed the really good wine – better than what they had been drinking for the first few days. The Steward certainly appreciates the wine, but doesn’t know how it came to be either.
The only people in the story who knew were the mom, the servants and the disciples – and the disciples believed. This is not Mark, remember. Signs are done for a few people only - not for the general public.
And now we know. John has recorded the story, so obviously it got out and we are the latest ones to get to see this sign – we are now part of the inner circle here.
Now we enter into the work of Jesus. Now we must believe just as the disciples did. I came across a quote this week as I was doing my exegetical work from St. Augustine. This got my imagination fired up in this Ordinary Time of Epiphany – how this text can be unpacked for us this time – in this space – this week. St. Augustine is quoted as having written: “Our Lord’s miracle of turning water into wine comes as no surprise to those who know it is God who did it. At the wedding that day he made wine in the six water pots that had been filled with water; BUT HE DOES THE SAME THING EVERY YEAR with the vines… only that does not amaze us, because it happens every year.” Every year, rain gets turned into grapes, which get turned into wine. And we know who the true vine is – whom it is we should be growing alongside so that we don’t wither away.
In this season of Epiphany, I forget to look for the sacred among us – the sacred that happens every day. God’s abundant and extravagant love is on display all the time, yet I sometimes just wade in the water and forget to savor the wine offered. I’ll give you a few examples of looking for the sacred in the ordinary, and I hope you will think of 100 more this week…
- A married couple truly laughing and communicating after so many years – living into the sacrament of marriage in their everyday life
- The smell of a newborn baby’s head right after bath time – so fresh to this world
- Glancing up from your morning coffee and devotional to see the birds take flight by simply flapping their wings
- Seeing those among us begin to recover and regain strength after so many prayers and so much time
- Holding the hand of another as they breathe their last breath in this world
I offer up those to you – I pray that you will think of others. Mundane, ordinary stuff that could escape us in the day-to-day existence we live; daring to look for the extraordinary – to live in extravagance – to seek the Holy and Sacred.
Every Sunday in the Eucharistic prayer, we pray some version of: “sanctify us also” – we pray for the wine to turn into the blood of Jesus and the bread to turn into his body and we believe that happens - we pray for the sacred to become part of our ordinary existence – do we watch for where that happens every day? Watch this week for the water becoming wine all around you – talk amongst each other about it. Tell those who do not yet believe… point out God’s abundant and extravagant love… and witness the ordinary becoming sacred as God works among us. Amen.