Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ.
Text (John 2:1-11):
This, the first of his signs, Jesus did in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
Cu Yecu nyuuthdɛ min jio̱l ɛmɛ la̱t kä Keena ro̱o̱l Gɛ̈-lɛ-li, kä cuɛ puɔ̱nydɛ nyuɔ̱th naath. Kä cu ji kɔaarɛ jɛ ŋäth.
Prayer: O Lord, open my lips, that our mouths may tell of your praise. Amen.
I have heard it once said, “Religion is all fine, but as long as it stays out of my bedroom!”
I have also heard it once said, “Religion and politics don’t mix!”
But here’s the problem – marriage has an awful lot to do with bedrooms, and an awful lot to do with politics!
And in our gospel reading today, Jesus performs his first miracle at a wedding. He adds to the celebrations. He gives a wonderful gift, a wonderful wedding present to a bride and groom.
And it’s not just any miracle that we’re talking about today. This is Jesus’ first miracle!
And there’s something very significant about the fact that Jesus performs his first miracle at a wedding.
And when he blesses a wedding with this wonderful miracle, he encourages people to celebrate marriage. And he commands that 6 stone water jars full of water be brought, each holding 2 or 3 measures. This is the equivalent of about 840 bottles of wine. There is no way that that volume of wine could have been consumed on one night! He’s even prepared to allow people to celebrate weddings a little bit too much, and to go a little bit overboard! And there’s nowhere where it says that Jesus didn’t hop in and have a bit too! (Do we think he sat by himself with a diet lemonade?) Remember Jesus was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard! When he fasted he fasted, but why do we think that he couldn’t also enjoy himself? Why do we think that the God of heaven and earth who has become a human being can’t immerse himself in human joy and human celebration?
Isn’t it strange that Jesus’ first miracle should have to do with celebration? With wine? With laughing? With happiness? And with marriage and weddings?
But when he does this, he blesses the most foundational of human relationships, he blesses something that taps at the core of what it means to be a human being, he blesses something that hits at the centre of each and every culture throughout the world, and each and every human being.
But we know that not every person in the world will get married. But that doesn’t mean that people are not independent. Your belly-button is proof that you are not as much an individual as you once thought!
But Jesus celebrates at a wedding, because he celebrates life! He is the living God, the God of life, and he promotes the way of life. In fact, he says, I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. If he is the Life, it makes sense that he loves life, and wants to celebrate it.
Jesus is a strange chap in that respect! There’s another passage in the gospels where he walks up to a coffin in the street and raises the boy from the dead.
That’s because he’s the God of Life. He celebrates weddings, and he wrecks funerals!
And weddings and funerals are so fundamental to the fabric of a culture. Every culture does its funerals differently. And every culture does its weddings differently.
In another part of the Gospel of John, we read that Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, and when he came to the tomb, he wept. It deeply concerns Jesus that the man is dead. Death was not a part of God’s original plan. It only came into the world through sin. “The wages of sin is death”, says St Paul.
But marriage, on the other hand, was part of this original plan. In Genesis we read: “Therefore a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and they will become one flesh.”
Marriage is fundamental to how we understand culture. But one thing we all have to be clear about – especially in our parish with different cultures – is that no one culture has ever naturally embodied the Christian teaching on marriage. What the bible has to say about marriage, and the fact that Jesus comes to a wedding and blesses it, goes against every single culture. There is something about the bible’s teaching on marriage that goes against the grain in every single generation of people in every single country.
The problem with western culture is that we are resting on the laurels of the past. Marriage is becoming something of yesterday’s culture for us in Australia and in America and in Europe. And to say that marriage is the life-long union between one woman and one man is not part of our culture naturally, but has come from years and years of saturation by the bible and the church.
Western culture is a big fat overweight gluttonous pig that has been basking out in the mud for too many years, and now the blessings that have come to it through the Christian faith are rotting beneath its feet. Jonah said that “In 40 days Nineveh will be destroyed” and Christ says, “The gates of hell will not prevail against the church.” Many ancient cultures have died out since the time of the apostles, but the church has continued despite the collapse of empires and cultures.
And then other people from different cultures, like Sudanese people, come to Australian shores and see what? Not a Christian culture, in fact, far from it. In fact, one where boys get girls pregnant and then leave them with the kids, or else make them get abortions. It’s not uncommon for young people by the age of 20 to have had 5 sexual partners. And we wonder, we wonder, why there is so much youth suicide.
The bible tolerates no sexual relationships outside of the bonds of marriage. And people think that this is a restriction. It’s only a restriction if people love unhappiness, and are happy to leave the next generations without any encouragement and hope. What we forget is that in order for sexual relationships outside of marriage to work, we need a society that provides abortion. And then people say, then why don’t we promote contraception? But then half of those who turn up to abortion clinics are there because contraception has failed. People have wanted the short-term fun, without the blessing of children, and our society has tried to push sex and children as far from each other as possible. In order for our culture to work like this it has to import death into marriage where it doesn’t belong, in fact having to import death right into the wombs of women. Death doesn’t belong in marriage – only life does.
What then do we think about certain policies and agendas of people who are shocked and horrified at the number of teenage pregnancies who then say that children need graphic detailed sex education in schools? And then after a few years, people wonder why nothing has changed, and that there are now more teenage pregnancies… So people think that the children need to be educated younger. And so children throughout the country are being taught in schools everything they could ever want to know about how not to get pregnant, while never being taught a word about what it means to love a person, marry them, live with them for life, and build a family.
We wonder why there are so few young people in church.
It doesn’t have anything to do with music, it has nothing to do with tradition, it has nothing to do with the bible and its own message. It has to do with this fact: Young people are raised and educated in a culture of death, and the church worships the God of Life. And the culture of death, and the God of Life are two mutually exclusive things.
St Paul says in Romans 1, writing to people who grew up in Ancient Roman culture: I am under obligation both to Greeks and barbarians. (It doesn’t matter what culture you are from, the gospel is for everyone.)
I am under obligation both to Greeks and barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
The gospel is the power of God: it changes cultures. In fact, it builds a new culture, a new culture which is not divided by colour or race or background, but one in which people are united into one body, into one Christian church, as the bride of Christ Jesus our Lord. Notice that St Paul says that the culture is not changed through the “influence of Christianity” but through faith in Christ. “The righteous shall live by faith.” It is not our job to create a Christian state, but to invite people to become citizens of the church.
The Ancient Romans by the way also tolerated widespread homosexuality and paedophilia and public sex parties and orgies. It was Christianity in a sense that made sex a private thing.
Now people form their partnerships without public weddings, and without public celebration. And it only takes you to go down to a petrol station, newsagent, video shop or on the internet and find sex and naked human bodies publically and suggestively displayed when it should be private. But sex should be private and wedding should be public. That’s why Jesus blessed the wedding at Cana with so much wine – he wanted them to celebrate weddings.
But remember that the Gospels, the letters of the apostles, St Paul, and St Peter, were written to cultures that were dying. In the midst of life, we are in death. We are citizens of God’s church, and all around us the fabric of society is dying. And we have all been part of a dying culture, and we are all contributors to it too. Now if you think I’ve spoken too bluntly about this topic, then I say the words of St Paul: “I do not [say] these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children.” The church is not here to be moral police, but to forgive the people in a broken and suffering world their sins. Just as God made a mother out of a virgin through his word, he continually makes virgins out of us through his word of forgiveness.
Now every culture has to have funerals. That’s because everyone dies. But why is it that so many people say to me that they go to so many funerals? Sure, there are a lot of old people in the parish with a lot of old friends. But wouldn’t it be great if our society were full of half as many weddings! When our society pulls the plug on weddings, it pulls the plug on an enormous amount of happiness and celebrations! (And they don’t have to be expensive to be fun!)
Even if a person is not married, it’s pretty difficult to understand Christianity, without an understanding of marriage. And if you’re a young person, don’t join yourself in any way to the culture of the death around you, but foster and build yourself up with prayer in purity, friendship, respect for the other sex, and love. Holding the Christian view of marriage is part of what it means for us to be part of the kingdom which is not of this world, because being a Christian means being married to Christ.
Christ is the one who prevents the wine running out at the wedding. He wants to celebrate too! He wants to show to us what a generous groom he is to you, his beloved bride.
And his is the only marriage which doesn’t end at death. In fact, our marriage begins when he dies and sheds his blood for us on the cross to forgive our sins, and also when he washes us with water and the word in Holy Baptism and presents us pure and blameless, as a pure virgin, free from sin because we are forgiven. And so its no wonder that in the book of Revelation, heaven is compared to a wedding feast, a wedding banquet, where we join and celebrate in our own wedding around Jesus Christ, the Lamb that was slain, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
And it’s no wonder that when we gather together we are also celebrating our own wedding every Sunday in the Lord’s Supper, as our Lord Jesus gives us his own body, just as married couples do to each other, and gives us his own precious blood – because he is the Lord of life, and there is no death in him.
This, -- when Jesus changed the water into wine -- the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee – at a wedding – and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
Lord Jesus Christ, you are our bridegroom and we are your bride. We thank you for performing your first miracle of turning water into wine at Cana. We thank you for blessing marriage with your own blessing, and for blessing both single people and married couples. Keep us pure and holy, and create in us a desire to promote marriage as undefiled. Send us your Holy Spirit to forgive us all our sins, and to increase in us holy love. Amen.