Scripture for the week: Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 36:5-10; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; John 2:1-11
Jesus went to a wedding: an ordinary, family wedding, in a small village. Things were simple. Until the wine ran out. Then, in this nondescript place and time, the first of seven major signs of the intersection of heaven and earth recorded in John’s gospel took place, and Jesus transformed ordinary water into rather good wine.
It seems an odd way to begin a major religious reform movement, but perhaps that’s the point. The full impact of God would be too much for human beings to grasp, as we were reminded by the words of two characters who both died this week at the age of 69: David Bowie (in the song Starman: “He’d like to come and meet us / But he thinks he’d blow our minds …” – yes, I know that is out of context, but it is still a theological statement!); and Alan Rickman (as the angel Metatron in the film Dogma: “Human beings have neither the aural nor the psychological capacity to withstand the awesome power of God’s true voice. Were you to hear it, your mind would cave in and your heart would explode within your chest.”)
That is why Jesus comes as a human being, accessible and approachable.
The wedding at Cana is also a reminder that Christian faith is formed and fashioned not so much in dramatic events as in one small act of care and compassion at a time.
Which leads to the matter of Anglican Primates meeting in Canterbury, and agreeing to continue to walk together, acknowledging differences, at the cost of asking the Episcopal Church of the USA voluntarily to step aside from certain representative functions. The churches of the Anglican Communion form a loose network of affiliation without formal organisation or structure, so 37 Primates do not, in fact have much clout over one another’s provinces, nor can they “suspend” anyone, despite the excesses of over-enthusiastic headline writers.
The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Rt Rev Michael Curry, showed great dignity, grace and wisdom in reminding his own province and the rest of us that the Anglican Communion is about relationships, not structure, and these remain intact; the work of the church goes on. He also wisely and eloquently observed that this might be a time for some to be called to lead in helping to move the Communion into a more inclusive era. This echoes the point of the miracle at Cana: the jars for purification water are put to a new use, because in Jesus, a new thing is happening. Perhaps a new thing is meant to be happening in our time. Perhaps we are being offered the sight of an intersection of heaven and earth.
This would be a spiritual gift, or a gift of the Spirit, one of a diverse range, all of which are meant to be used to further God’s purpose (not our prestige, as Paul reminded the Corinthians), even in such small places as Cana, where heaven and earth might just happen to intersect in surprising ways. This is what happens when people follow what Mary told the servants at the wedding: “Do whatever he tells you.”