John’s Gospel begins with one of the most striking passages in Scripture: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” It’s hard to get any higher than that. We’re at a cosmic level. An ancient and epic battle between good and evil unfolds before us, and we’re told that God will be victorious in the end. John’s readying us for an incredible ride.
But what we hear in today’s gospel lesson doesn’t exactly match up.
The creator of the universe, the light of humankind, the Son of God himself goes to a wedding. In the space of two chapters, we move from contemplating the heavens to watching what should be a moment of domestic bliss begin to unravel.
The wine has run out.
And that’s a disaster. People would talk. They’d gossip about how bad the groom was with his money; and they’d take bets on whether or not the bride’s family would sue. There really is no more melodramatic problem that Jesus could walk into.
But he did. And rather than walking away from the worldliness of it all, he brought the power that formed the universe to bear on this family’s crisis of hospitality.
Where there was lack, he brought fullness. Where there was despair, he enabled rejoicing. Where there was water, he made wine.
When we take a step back from this story and look at the entirety of John’s gospel, the soaring introduction, the mysterious dialogues and beautiful prayers, the reasons for including this strange little tale at Cana in Galilee don’t immediately come to mind. Why does it matter that the Light of the World was a guest at this wedding? Why does John care that Jesus — who walked on water and raised the dead — would intervene so that one foolish man’s hospitality might not run dry?
Because the God Jesus reveals is the very definition of radical hospitality. He doesn’t withhold blessing until we somehow deserve it. He doesn't wait until the situation is appropriately grave or religious. No, he’s a God of extravagant generosity, lavish hospitality. He’s the manager who pays his workers a full day’s wages for one hour of work. He’s the father who throws a party for the son who squandered his inheritance. He is the God that the world cannot understand because his generosity won’t stop even at the giving of his own son.
This is the God we worship.
Mary told the servants to do whatever her son said, and Jesus asked for water. And what they brought him were six stone jars dedicated to the Jewish rites of purification. The water Jesus received was the water of the old covenant, the water that might make a sinful person clean for a day but could never do anything about the hardness of our hearts. Jesus asked for that water, and he changed it to wine, wine that offers us a taste of heaven, for it is the blood of the new covenant.
And that is why the wedding at Cana matters. We worship a God who stepped down from his throne, who did not refuse to join us in every facet of what it means to be human, who would sacrifice his own life so that he might welcome us to another wedding banquet, where the Lamb of God is no longer a guest, but the Bridegroom himself.
Again and again, God gives us a share in his hospitality. When we taste of his wine and eat of his bread, we are united to him and to each other. We become his very body. We become the hands and feet of he who is hospitality incarnate. Thanks be to God for his glorious Gospel. AMEN.