The wedding at Cana
Weddings were much on my mind during 2020.
As you will all know, our daughter got engaged during the summer and, despite lockdown, we set a date for her wedding in December: December 12th.
She had got used to the idea that the wedding would be small, that many of our and her friends and relations would not be able to be there.
Its a fairly usual response in these times to say to the father of the bride, ‘Lucky you – much cheaper!’ But, actually, many of the costs of a wedding occur, however many guests you invite….And then of course they are looking forward to a party when the pandemic is over….so not so much of a cost saving there!
But having married off two daughters now, I can tell you that whether small or large, we all want weddings to be perfect. Of course, Christenings and funerals are also significant life events, but weddings are perhaps even more significant: Not only for the couple but also for the two families, and across the generations.
A wedding more than any other event in our lives makes a statement as to who we are…and who we will be. They reflect our identity, as the preparations are made in one great final co-operative act between parents and children (particularly between mother and daughter) the future post parenting relationship is prepared for….new relationships are forged between two families and commitments made for the future.
A wedding is bound to be memorable and we all try our level best that every detail is right and that every little item is significant, because everything that happens that day has often been imagined for years in advance, either by parent or child and will be remembered and talked over and over again and again within the two families and amongst friends.
In our case, from wearing her mother’s veil to the man who led the service, Daniel, Hugo’s youth leader during his teenage years, to the green vintage MG to reflect the colour of the engagement ring, to the cousin who played the entrance music and Marina’s friend who sang the hymns, to the cheese from Holland (to remind the grooms family of their Dutch heritage). Every little moment was thought through, discussed in detail by Lucy and Marina and Hugo and his family. Its always the same. When we go to a wedding, we should always look out for the detail….
And then there was the wine, given as a gift to Hugo and Marina by the vineyard in Bordeaux because it was the vintage that Hugo had worked there as part of a summer job years ago gathering the grapes, which would become the wine, drunk at his wedding!
Some aspects of weddings probably haven’t changed much in 2000 years. There wasn’t much chance of running out of wine at our reception with only 15 people present, but I can quite imagine how acutely embarrassing it would have been if we had….
Whenever I am conducting a wedding, I always try to calm the bride (who has so often been the organiser of it all) and who can be easily rattled if something is not exactly as it should be, so I tend to say at the rehearsal ‘Don’t worry if something isn’t exactly as you have planned it……something always goes wrong at weddings….just relax, allow yourself to be carried along by the event….be present in it….and enjoy it’.
Weddings are really the pinnacles of effort that we make for our children to make things perfect for them….I can imagine that it was the same for the families organising the wedding in Cana 2000 years ago.
But things are not always perfect, however much effort we make. However much we want to control them and make them perfect, things happen which are outside our control…
I don’t know why the bridegroom (responsible for the wine at weddings in those days) didn’t have enough wine.
Was it incompetence?
Did the Wine Society produce a duff order?
Did one side of the family drink too much?
Did he skimp on what he ordered or did the vintage from the family vineyard fail that year?
Whatever the reason, he is faced with the excruciatingly embarrassing situation of running out of wine during the celebrations.
If weddings are so often overlaid with identity, what did that say about him? We can only imagine what the father of the bride was thinking about the bridegroom and his family. Humiliating….
What on earth is he to do?
Somehow Mary the mother of Jesus gets to hear about it….
What does she do…?
Now we have to look very carefully at the text….
What does she say?
She just tells Jesus the problem ‘They have no wine’
Why? Why does she tell Jesus? Is he a wine merchant?
One commentator describes her question to Jesus as: ‘A habit born of long years of family dependence’. What Mary says is described as a model of intercessory prayer, how we should speak to Jesus also. Not stating the solution, requiring him to act in a particular way….like some divine slot machine: as in ‘Jesus will you go round to the off licence and get some more wine?’ But simply stating the problem ‘They have no wine’
It seems that he is not entirely delighted by this request. He replies ‘Woman why do you involve me…My hour has not yet come’. In other words….‘I am following my Father’s time table now’,’Not my mothers…’ Is his effective reply.
She then tells the servants ‘Do whatever he tells you’
And then we have the miracle. As the water is turned into so much wine that it would be enough for a dozen weddings…..
You see, we want our weddings, we want our lives, even, to be perfect and we work so hard so that they can be, but there is always going to be something that goes wrong, because we are fallen, broken. We live in a fallen and broken world.
Whenever we try to make something perfect, it is just water…….and not wine…
But everything is transformed in totally unexpected and delightful ways if we invite Jesus to our wedding feast and into our lives and trust him with them. Because nothing we do is ever perfect, however much effort we make……..unless Jesus is present.
When we invite him into our wedding feast, into our lives, we find ourselves….(using the mantra in Lectio 365 – the daily prayer app Lucy recommended on our website recently), we find ourselves ‘in the path of blessing’. And even when things go wrong, we can cope because He is with us, His presence is enough to make everything, even the difficult…wonderful, even if things go differently from what we had planned…
Lucy and I have found with both the weddings of our two daughters that we have at stages been way beyond any possibility of being able to cope by ourselves…..
In the case of Marina’s wedding it was the constantly changing lockdown regulations and the very, very wet weather – both totally outside our control, beyond our ability to make perfect. And both Lucy and I spent the weeks and months running up to the wedding beginning and ending each day with desperate prayers to our heavenly Father God pouring out all our anxieties and begging that the Lord would be present at Marina’s wedding, that it would all be alright on the day.
We are all now in a state of crisis.
You may have started, if you didn’t already earlier in the year, to lose friends and relations to this terrible pandemic. One of my former partners at A&O, Geoff Fuller, a lovely guy, about five years younger than me died a couple of weeks ago of Covid, having started the symptoms on New Year’s Eve.
So many of you are home-schooling your children which is so challenging….
So many of you are really concerned about your businesses….others of you are desperate about relations and friends who are ill….
We can of course do our social distancing ‘Hands face space….’, but it is all starting to feel a bit like Russian roulette….whether we catch this thing or not.
We cannot make things perfect in a pandemic. They are bound to be tough.
But we can invite Jesus into our situation.
We can invite Jesus into our lives and plead with him to help us. To help those we love….
As we stood in St Swithun’s Martyr Worthy, on 12th December on the single day of sunshine between downpours on the Friday and Sunday, as I looked at my daughter as she said her vows to her new husband, her face was lit by sunlight pouring through the stained glass window, and I knew that He was there with us…..and that everything was going to be alright…
2 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 good 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 Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Jn 2:1–11). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers