Summary: Our lives are turned upside down at times and things are not as they appear to be.
This morning’s reading from the gospel of John details a very familiar story, the wedding at Cana. But as I have done in the past with many of our scripture readings, I ask you to travel back to this wedding feast to see exactly why it so important to us. But before we can put ourselves among the wedding guests that day we must remove any ideas we may have in our minds about what we understand about weddings in today’s culture. We need to understand that weddings in Jesus’ time were completely different. Not different with respect to the two people getting married but different with regard to the preparation, different with regard to the length of what we would call the reception and different with regard to how families and friends gathered and how long they stayed before venturing home again. Most of Jesus’ family and friends probably walked to the site of the ceremony. There were no quick ways to get anywhere in those times even if a person was lucky enough to have some beast to ride. Usually people only traveled in the daytime due to robbers and thieves found along many of the well-traveled routes, and even then it was a dangerous journey much of the time. And since families rarely had the opportunity to gather, when they did have the opportunity to assemble, they usually stretched the visit over a period of time before leaving.
Imagine a wedding today where the entire family of the bride and the groom decided to stay for a week or two before traveling back home. Not only would lodging be an issue but how do you feed all those people for that length of time. And in Jesus’ time the welcome mat of hospitality was always extended, especially to family members.
So here we are at the wedding at Cana. Jesus is there. The disciples are there. And Jesus’ mother is there. Scripture doesn’t tell us if a family member of Jesus is getting married or if Jesus and his family and friends were just guests. But everything is proceeding as planned until Jesus’ mother says to Jesus, they are out of wine.
Now Jesus’ mother Mary was concerned about the shortage of wine. Now a shortage of does not seem like a big deal but if you examine the culture of the time you will se that it was necessary for the groom to have adequate provisions at the wedding and it would be extremely embarrassing for him and his family to run out of food and wine. History also tells us a family guilty of this could actually be fined by the government. To run out of wine could be costly both financially and socially.
But Jesus answers the plea to help with the wine with an almost sarcastic tone, what business is that of yours. What do you want me to do about it? And we see Jesus’ mother almost ignore Jesus’ remark when she tells the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them to do.
But things at the wedding are turned around or upside down aren’t they? We can see that by the wine steward’s statement when he asks the bridegroom why he has saved the best wine until now. Things are not as they are supposed to be. Things are not as they seem.
I will bet that almost everyone in this room can draw some type of parallel from this story to their own lives or situations. Things are not as they seem or things are turned upside down. Things are proceeding fine and then wham; you are going in a completely opposite direction. I know many of you have been there or are there now. You may have had that perfect job or perfect relationship and one day that idea of perfection is gone, alone with the job or relationship. Or you or someone you know is healthy one day and experiencing unexpected illness the next. We surely have had our share of illness in the past few months in our communities, as well as the deaths of many who are dear to us. Lives have been turned around and upside down. Things are not as they seem. Sometimes something you least expected becomes a reality.
A week ago I stopped to see one of my best friends and his wife, whom I had not seen for a few months due to conflicts in our schedules as well as the interruption of the holiday season. When I entered their house I could sense something was not right. Something in their speech and actions told me that I had entered an environment different than what I would normally expect. After exchanging our usual small talk about spouses and children, I was given the reason for the chill in the air I had felt when I first entered the house. My friend’s wife of twenty-five years had decided to leave their marriage and she was moving to another state in a few weeks. She was also leaving their two children and her mother, who is confined to a nursing facility due to poor health.