Reflection for the 3rd Sunday of Epiphany 2021

Mature Wine

The Gospel Reading – John 2.1-11 – The Wedding at Cana

“1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it.  9 When 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 10 and 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 best wine until now.”  11 Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. ”

The Coded Messages about Salvation

In John’s gospel, there are only 8 miracles recorded, and these are called “signs”.  The Greek word is semeion, from where we get our word “semaphore”.  They are not just  miracles; they also signal a deeper promise for you and me.

Sometimes, the key to the deeper message comes through what looks like unnecessary details.   John tells us there were six stone water jars – used for Jewish purification laws.  In the Bible, the number 7 is a symbol of perfection or completeness, so 6 means imperfect or doesn’t work.  By recalling the number six, John is telling us that even the most meticulous keeping of religious law; disciplined and pious religious practice, cannot bring the restoration needed in the human heart.

Transforming the Decay of the Past

“It may very well be the most moving thing on British television. .If you’ve seen it, you’ll know. In a thatched barn kitted out with bare wood and fairy lights, a team of expert craftspeople are given a number of careworn items to repair.

The items are usually very old, often one of a kind and almost always hold enormous sentimental value for their owners. It might be a portrait of somebody’s mother, or a clock, a train set, a teddy bear or a teapot. The owners explain the family significance of these heirlooms, then the team set to their transforming work: cleaning, fixing, brightening, burnishing. There is no noise or fuss, just lots of quiet intent….”  (from The Guardian)

John’s gospel lays before us the same repair shop.  In Ephesians, Paul says of the Lord:  “We are His workmanship”  In 1 Corinthians, he refers to the Lord as the architekton – the “master-craftsman.”

More than Water to Wine

For me, the most important detail in John’s first sign is in the conversation in v9 where he refers to Jesus’ craftsmanship as the “best wine”  – only a detail, but the essence of the sign.  Jesus is able to take water and transform it not into wine, but into the best, mature wine.

What Jewish law can’t do; this man can do.  He can transform insipid human existence; even the most toxic experiences, into the bubbling up of eternal life.

Somebody You may Have Heard of….

Goodfellas is a 1990 crime film focussing on mafia gangs in New York.  It is very violent, telling the true story of lives and crime in an Irish-Italian syndicate.  One of the real life characters portrayed is Mikey Franzese, who was the son of mobster Sonny Franzese.

Mikey has an extensive catalogue of violent criminal activity and prolonged periods in prison.

In one prison, a guard gave him a Bible.  Later he also met, and fell in love with a lovely Christian  woman.

Michael Franzese has now worked for almost 30 years as a minister to young people, and  as an inspirational Christian speaker in prisons across the USA and the world.

Quite naturally, we question the validity of this story because of the intensity of deep-rooted, deliberate, and habitual evil in this man’s life.

Yet, the same Jesus who transformed H2O to very best vintage wine, took hold of this sadistic criminal, and transformed him into a minister of the grace and love of the Lord.  Our question must now be, what can Jesus do in me?  Have I underestimated the power of the Son of God?

“…you can change.  But change is temporary; transformation through Christ is permanent.”

Michael Franzese

Almighty God, whose Son revealed in signs and miracles the wonder of your saving presence: renew your people with your heavenly grace, and in all our weakness sustain us by your mighty power; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.