Water into Wine? Why?

This week’s gospel reading is from John 2:1-11 the wedding at Cana and the miracle of turning water into wine. I don’t know about you but this miracle always seemed a somewhat unworthy miracle. It’s just not the same as other miracles- feeding thousands, healing the sick, casting out demons. Nice wine for a wedding doesn’t seem to be a real miracle.

marriage-at-cana-2440519_960_720On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.’ Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

John 2:1-11 NRSV

What others call miracles, John calls signs. I find that helpful. The point of the miracle is not necessarily the act itself. The point of the miracle, the sign, can be what the sign points to. Thinking of this event as a sign, rather than a miracle, helps me get past my unhelpful ideas of what constitutes a miracle. What is being pointed to in this story? The Kingdom of God, certainly. But I keep thinking about Mary.

The wedding has run out of wine. Mary thinks Jesus should do something about the lack of wine. Was she concerned that the wedding couple (or their families) might be embarrassed? Or did she just want some more wine? We don’t know.

But Mary thinks Jesus can and should do something about this. This is a small event as biblical miracles go.  But Mary realizes that small miracles matter. Small miracles also point to God and God’s Kingdom. Mary realizes that God knows that small miracles matter. Mary is more wise about miracles than I am.

Mary knows better than most that small signs, small miracles can happen in small places and to those who society thinks are small, unimportant people. Mary knows that miracles can unfold in unexpected ways because God can act in unexpected ways.

Mary believes in Jesus, even when he seems to dismiss her request outright.  Mary, of course,  has been believing in Jesus a very long time. She was the first to believe in Jesus, She believed when the angel spoke, before there was an incarnate baby Jesus. Mary believed in Jesus when others did not, through pregnancy, through a little boy’s childhood. Mary believed before others knew they could believe in Jesus.

I wonder if her request to Jesus, before he feels ready to act is final act of motherly guidance? Is Mary gently telling Jesus, “You’re ready now. You have your disciples. It’s time. ”

Mary helps to create the conditions that allow the sign to happen and she prompts others to pay attention. “Do whatever he tells you.” Keep your eyes on Jesus and follow. Mary understands that we need to be watching for unexpected sign of the Kingdom of God.

Mary has the imagination to see what the Kingdom of God is like. Remember how many times the Kingdom of God is likened to a feast, a wedding feast? Remember how many times God tells us that in God’s kingdom not only will there be enough- there will be plenty. She knows that no place- no matter how small and obscure is outside the Kingdom of God.

And so I wonder, do I notice the times I am supposed to help with a sign pointing to the kingdom? How many miracles do I miss because I’m not looking small enough? Or am I not seeing how big the small things really are?



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