January 21, 2024

The Hour at Cana

This sermon was interpreted into Farsi live and preached at Sepas at Liverpool Cathedral

Reading: John 2:2-12

“My hour has not yet come.”

May I speak in the name of the living God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Who has been to a wedding recently?

When I’m at weddings, I often find myself sat with a critical eye.

I think to myself, “Oh, I wouldn’t dress the bridesmaids like that.

Or, “I’d definitely have that reading.”

“I’d have a dress like that but maybe with different sleeves”

I wonder if this is what Jesus was thinking during the wedding at Cana.

Was he examining proceedings and deciding what his wedding might be like?

When the wine runs dry, Mary tells Jesus.

His response is curious, “my hour has not yet come”

What hour is he talking about?

An obvious reading might be: “it’s not time for me to do miracles yet.”

And here we would imagine Mary hastening the time of signs and miracles.

But at the end of this miracle, it isn’t clear that Jesus’ hour has come.

So what else is this hour is he talking about?

Whenever Jesus’ “hour” is mentioned in the rest of the gospel of John, it refers to the hour of his death.

More generally, “the hour” often refers to the end of the world.

So we have these four hours:

the first hour of Jesus’ signs and miracles

the hour of crucifixion 

the hour of Jesus’ wedding

the hour at the end of the world.

What we see in this wedding is the combination of all  of these events.

And all of them are shot through with the theme of abundance.

The wedding at Cana is the hour of his first miracle.

The setting is a place of celebration, of community, of coming together.

The bridegroom’s error, or poverty, or stinginess means that the wine runs short.

But Christ’s generosity steps into this gap and the abundant wine of celebration flows.

The bridegroom is able to continue celebrating his wedding.

And he does so by taking credit for what Jesus has done.

This overabundance of wine is the first miracle Jesus performs in this gospel.

But we should be careful about miracles here.

John doesn’t call them miracles, but signs.

For John, the point of this overabundance isn’t just for a good wedding in Cana.

It is for a good wedding in Cana, and it is also to point towards the future.

The hour of his crucifixion is the second hour indicated here.

When Mary says the wine has run out, Jesus recognises a lack on the bridegroom’s part.

To say “my hour has not yet come” is to say “this is not my crucifixion.”

For his crucifixion is the place where all human lack is dealt with.

The crucifixion is the hour when our error, our poverty, and our stinginess are overcome.

The wedding at Cana sets out a mode for understanding this.

It isn’t that Jesus accepts the punishment for the bridegroom.

Jesus doesn’t provide an excuse and take the social shame for not providing enough wine.

Just as Jesus doesn’t simply take the punishment for our sins.

That isn’t justice. That is a trick.

What really happens is Jesus meets our error and poverty and stinginess.

And in that very place he produces abundance.

Because the wine that flows at the crucifixion is the blood of Christ.

And it is only in that blood that we can be whole.

It is only by taking credit for what Jesus has done that we can be good.

So what about Jesus’ wedding and the end of the world?

These two hours are one and the same.

The sign at the wedding points to it.

The hour of crucifixion enables it.

In the end, as we see in the book of revelation, Jesus gets married.

And we are the bride.

Was Jesus sat, like us, at that wedding imagining his own?

Was he thinking about his bride?

As he looked around that community gathered to celebrate a union

was he thinking about the unity of his church with himself?

When the wine ran short

Was he thinking about the overabundant wine at his wedding?

I wonder how well the bridegroom knew Jesus.

Did he know what he was taking credit for?

As for us, how well do we know Jesus?

Are we taking credit for his overabundance, or are we trying to get by on our own tiny offering?

In the end, when we know true intimacy with Christ, what will that be like?

What will it be to embrace that true abundance?

So, for now, let us live in this hour of Cana.

Let our error, poverty, and stinginess be overwhelmed by Christ.

And let us look forward to that beautiful day.

When we will be decked as a bride,

And united with the one who brings us abundance.

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