On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ 4And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ 5His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ 6Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. 8He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So they took it. 9When 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 10and 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.’ 11Jesus 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
People love parties. It's a chance to get people together, have a good time, dance, play games, and enjoy good food and good drinks. It's usually somewhat hectic for the host and hostess, who have to make sure that everything is just right. The house has to be perfectly clean, there has to be enough food, there has to be just the right ambience with music and table settings and what have you, and there's a need to make sure there's enough to drink. Now whether the host is serving eggnog or punch or mixed drinks or even wine, they have got to figure how many people they will have, how much each one is going to drink, and then figure how many servings that can be gotten out of a bottle so that the host knows how many bottles of wine to buy. It's hair-raising, but it's part of being a party giver.
Today's story is a familiar one about the wedding at Cana. Jesus and his mother were present at this party, which, in those days, often lasted more than just one day. The party was rolling along merrily when Mary comes to Jesus and tells him they're almost out of wine. This must've been a family event, because why else would Mary be telling this to Jesus? If they were just guests and not family, would have been so common for her to go and say, "By the way, we are out of wine.". They had already gone through a number of 20 or 30 gallon water jars of wine, and now they were looking for more. Why was it Mary's and Jesus' problem? I'm not sure I have an answer to that, but I have a feeling it was a family affair.
Mary approached Jesus about the wine problem. Did she already know he was a miracle worker? Did she think he was going to run down to the nearest shop and have them toddle up with more vats of wine? And who was going to pay for it? Jesus told her that it was his time to be doing stuff like this, but Mary took no notice. Like a typical mother who thinks her kid can walk on water, she turned to the servants and said, "Do whatever he tells you." And of course we know the result. Suddenly a much better grade of wine filled those existing water jars and everybody was amazed. It isn't normal to the best stuff until everybody's already probably past the point of being able to make distinctions as to the quality of the wine there drinking.
The important thing was that Jesus changed the water to wine, not the quantity or quality of the wine that Jesus miraculously made. Jesus would be any hostess' star guest. Run out of wine? Ask Jesus. Out of food? Jesus could probably do something about that. After all, he did take two loaves and five fish and fed 5000 people, and that was just the men, not counting women and children. Anybody that can produce all of that certainly would be welcome at just about anyone's party.
So what lesson are we supposed to get from this story, and what is supposed to mean in our own lives? I can tell you it's probably not to expect someone at a party that you are giving to make up any deficits that may occur. Maybe it's that no matter how well you plan, there's always the unexpected, something like running out of an important ingredient. Maybe the lesson is found in the words of Mary when she told the servants to do what Jesus told them to do. Jesus had already tried the "Oh, Ma!" but Mary, like a good mother, paid no attention. She had confidence her boy could solve the problem. "Do whatever he tells you."
We've come a long way from "do what he tells you." It's hard now to see such a confidence and also such obedience. After all, Jesus may have been God's son, but he was also Mary's, and when mama says to do something, it's probably best to just do it, whether you like it or not.
"Do whatever he tells you." Jesus told us a lot of things that we should be doing, like a loving our neighbors, doing good to those that may seem like the rottenest people on earth, caring for the sick, the elderly, the disabled, the prisoners, and most of all, loving God enough to do what God wanted you to do. It seems like lately we've forgotten a lot about that. It's become more of a case of "Do unto others before they do unto you." I don't think that's what Jesus had in mind.
If I were approached at a party and told that they were almost out of wine, or maybe tiny beef cocktail sausages, or some other comestibles, I would probably go down to the store and pick up a reasonable amount of whatever it was and then bring it back to the party. Don't ask me to produce it out of thin air, or clear water. I'm not Jesus. Maybe my job is to be Mary, who reminds people to do what he tells you. Maybe that's the job I need to consider. It doesn't preclude me doing something myself, but it does mean that I have a mandate to remind people that Jesus gave us a lot of lessons and a lot of ways to be God's people. One of them is to do what Jesus told us to do.
Nobody said is going to be easy, and it usually isn't. It's not just being a guest at a party, but sometimes being a servant, or someone who makes sure everybody is served and cared for -- like any good host/hostess. Like Mary -- and Jesus.
Originally published at Speaking to the Soul on Episcopal Café Saturday, January 7, 2017.