Saturday, 16 January 2010

Stone Jars

Sunday Gospel - John 2-11

There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee. The mother of Jesus was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited. When they ran out of wine, since the wine provided for the wedding was all finished, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ Jesus said ‘Woman, why turn to me? My hour has not come yet.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’There were six stone water jars standing there, meant for the ablutions that are customary among the Jews: each could hold twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water’, and they filled them to the brim. ‘Draw some out now’ he told them ‘and take it to the steward.’ They did this; the steward tasted the water, and it had turned into wine. Having no idea where it came from – only the servants who had drawn the water knew – the steward called the bridegroom and said; ‘People generally serve the best wine first, and keep the cheaper sort till the guests have had plenty to drink; but you have kept the best wine till now.’

This was the first of the signs given by Jesus: it was given at Cana in Galilee. He let his glory be seen, and his disciples believed in him.


Sometimes words are just not enough; I would love to have been there when Jesus ‘rebuked’ his mother: the body language, the exchanged glances. Mary’s head held high as she goes over and speaks to the servants gesturing back to her son ‘ Do as he tells you’. Then Jesus’ raised eyebrows and tiny shake of the head and the ‘sigh’ because ‘it’s his mum’. If there was ever any evidence that this was a real, human, mother and son relationship then this tiny unspoken ‘pause’ is it.

Ok, we are three or more days into this wedding party and, obviously, a good time was already being had by all; and, culturally, it was not proper for a woman (even a mother) to approach the men in public. And maybe, you could even argue, that this is not the most appropriate of times for Jesus to be making his debut.

Or maybe it was? Maybe, Mary, knowing exactly who her child was, saw this as precisely the place for his first public miracle; a place outside the Temple; outside the Law; with the common people, with communities celebrating relationship.

If you are going to be different – you may as well start now. If you are going to be where people need you – it might as well be here, and why? For the simplest of reasons - there need never be the thought ‘why would God be bothered with my tiny problems?’ Why would God be refilling wine jars at the end of a wedding feast? Because He wants to.

‘Know your place Son; know your people; know I believe in you.’

Mary acts as the precursor for all the others who call out to Jesus; who demand attention and healing; who shout after him; who touch his clothing and anoint his body. The people who will take themselves to Jesus knowing who they are and who he is; people who Jesus will allow to argue with him and challenge him.

And Jesus will allow himself to lose; to be persuaded; to be talked into and out of decisions – in public, by the lower classes, the outcasts and the women; to be criticised by those around him, including his own disciples.

Not a thing a Rabbi would allow – certainly not something God would allow – you would think.

We have a different kind of God.

And this same scenario tells us everything about needful prayer; maybe especially where Mary is involved. Because so often when we pray we not only tell God what the problem is but how to solve it.

We have to bring ourselves to God as we are; knowing that something has ‘ran out’ - there is something lacking in our life, that our life has run dry leaving empty jars of stone or clay. We may share our human problems with Mary, but Mary is not going to sort it out for us – she may listen sympathetically – but then she will gesture to her Son and say ‘Do what he tells you.’

But to simply expect God to refill us with wine, to solve our problem ‘just like that!’ is to expect magic and God is not magic.

‘What Jesus tells us’ - Jesus asks us to make the effort - to fill ourselves with water; the basics of prayer, meditation faith, action and fellowship, to be and to belong to ourselves, to others and to God. Then, with his help, the presence of the Holy Spirit and the Grace of our Father we again become more than we were by ourselves – we become filled with wine, with the fullness of life.A miracle – and it happens every day.


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