The Real Presence of Christ
[These are comments I made when my sister, Mary Ellen Sailer, married my brother-in-law John Loos]
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” [And] Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told them, “Fill the jars with water.” So they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it. And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from (although the servers who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroomand said to him, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.”
John 2, 1-10
“Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.”
John 2, 10
Our narrative of the wedding feast at Cana ends here, with the headwaiter speaking to the bridegroom. It’s the end of the narrative, but it certainly isn’t the end of the story. Certainly there is more. No doubt, the wine was served to the guests, and the guests marveled at how good it was, and then an astounding tale started to circulate about what Jesus had done, after that the bridal party – I’m sure – looked for Jesus to tell him how happy they were with his contribution. Then the party really got going and it might have been quite a while before the guests left for home. All of this is part of the story as well; but the best part of the story, I think, happened when the bride and bridegroom finally got a quiet moment with each other to reflect on how very glad they were that Jesus had been present on their big day.
Is it any different for us, right now, as we celebrate the union of Mary Ellen and John? We’re gathered for the same reason those folks in Cana gathered. We’re here to salute love, and family, and good times. Once our party gets started, we’ll want it to go on, and on – but it can’t go on forever and when it ends Mary Ellen and John will have their quiet moment together (not too quiet, I hope!). Will they tell each other how happy they are that Jesus was present for their celebration? How will they even know if Jesus is present? I shall tell you.
If the day we’re about to have is a day for us to take delight in our bridal couple and to take delight in each other we will know that Jesus is present. If happiness, and hope, and good cheer abound we will know that Jesus is present. If pettiness is driven away by generosity we will know that Jesus is present. If loneliness is defeated by companionship we will know that Jesus is present. That’s how we can tell.
Sometimes, if you ever have occasion to listen to preachers, you might hear mention of the ‘Word of God’. Believers venerate the Word of God, they even claim that Jesus is the word of God. But what, exactly, is that word? It’s actually pretty straightforward. The word is ‘Party On!’. There’s a Latin word, too, that we know and that word is Gaudete. It’s in the imperative form, so it’s a command. The command is, “Be joyful!”. Be joyful together. Draw joy from each other and spread joy to each other. Get down to the business of being human and that business is to radiate delight just for being alive – for we are made to be joy manufacturing plants. The things that keep you from being joyful are the things you need to let go of – those things are regret, and resentment, and self-reproach, and fear, and jealousy, and self-pity, and striving for your own good at the expense of others. Be done with it. Be done with it and celebrate.
The marvel at Cana is said to be Jesus’ first miracle. It’s the first miracle he performed, and it’s every miracle he performed. It’s the miracle he’s been performing throughout the universe since the beginning of time. Water into wine. What’s that about? Theologians tell us that water symbolizes the human, and that wine symbolizes the divine. To turn water into wine is to transform that which is earthly into that which is heavenly – it is to make gods of men – it is to make mere ladies and gentlemen daughters and sons of the Most High. Pretty good trick, huh?
Daughters and sons seek to follow in their parent’s footsteps. What does that mean for us now? How are we to take God’s cue today? What we have to do is to know the truth, and the truth is that God is delighted with John, and delighted with Mary Ellen and delighted with the love they share. We’re most like God, we’re most divine, when we see things as He does – so let’s delight in Mary Ellen and John. Let’s be filled with joy, but not with inferior joy, not with hum-drum joy. Be filled with joy that is untethered, and reckless and dangerous. Let’s give when there’s no guarantee that we’ll be given in return; let’s be honest and authentic when there’s no guarantee that we’ll be understood; let’s forgive when there’s no guarantee we won’t be hurt again.
Let’s not be slackers. Everyone let’s do our part to celebrate this joyous occasion, and then – in a quiet moment later on – we’ll know whether Jesus was present with us today.