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2-C Epiphany

  • To:
  • Subject: 2-C Epiphany
  • From: Grant Mauricio Gallup <grant73@turbonett.com.ni>
  • Date: Sat, 13 Jan 2007 17:50:54 -0600


by The Rev. Grant M. Gallup

January 14, 2007

Isaiah 62:1-5 Changing Names, Changing Games.
Psalm 96 Cantate Domino = a New Song
I Corinthians 12:1-11 Showings of the Spirit for the common good.
John 2:1-11 Dionysius Revividus

Ever since I can remember, when the story of the wedding at Cana is
read in church, or talked about in Bible class, or when it is dragged
into the discussions on the role of women in church ("do whatever he
tells you"!) the subject of Jesus' rudeness to his mother comes up.
Low churchmen used to like to point to this story to help them "put
Mary in her place." After all, she was only the mother of the earthly
Jesus (low churchmen didn't much talk about Mary as Theotokos, as
Mother of God). 

John's gospel invites us to a wedding at Cana in Galilee--and the
mother of Jesus is there. She loved a party. Weddings lasted seven
days, and they were usually held in the harvest season so there would
be plenty of food and wine to last for all the guests, with new ones
arriving every day and all would plan to stay a few days. This helps
to explain the piggish quantities that the evangelist John remembers
them swilling on the occasion--a Dionysian banquet. Poor Nicaraguans,
too, know how to party and it's hard to slow them down once they get
going. They party "like there's no tomorrow." Of course they run
short of rum, doesn't everyone? This isn't a Baptist Sunday school
picnic, fevven's sake. The story is told in the second chapter of
John, immediately after Jesus had made a visit to Galilee with the
new disciples whom he had decided upon: only a few just yet--Andrew,
who had got his brother Simon to come along and get him a new name,
and there was probably John, the one to whom the gospel is
attributed, and there were Philip and Nathanael. Jesus has just been
recruited himself into the Kingdom movement by his cousin John, and
had now chosen some students, from among those who had been the
Baptist's coterie. So Jesus at this point has a half-strength cadre
with him; the full number of the Twelve has not been fleshed out. And
John begins the episode by saying that "and the third day there was a
marriage in Cana of Galilee." The third day after what? The third day
after the appointment of Nathanael, and about six days after
Jesus'own baptism, according to John's chronology. But John is not so
interested in the historical facts as he is in the mysterious and
mystic meaning of these events. His whole evangel is a carefully
designed recasting of the Jesus Christ phenomena, and their
theological meaning. There is always more than meets the eye or
reaches the ear in John's telling of the tale.

So let's take our invitations and go to the wedding ourselves and see
this thing which has come to pass. Our Catholic religion has always
celebrated this story as an Epiphany--indeed, in places it was THE
Epiphany story par excellence, the special revelation of God, of the
celebratory Dionysian diety who hosts the universal banquet of wine
bibbers and sinners called the Kingdom of Heaven. Even Muhmmad  would
have wine in abundance on the menu of Paradise, 'though along with
Baptists disallowing it in the present dispensation. Sneak previews,
John loves to give them to us--sneak previews, which show us how the
play will all turn out in the end if we stay long enough. The wedding
at Cana is a kind of sneak preview on the Film and Arts Channel of
all that will be coming to pass this season in the gospel --of God's
plot outline for the smash hit of all time, the story of the rescue
of the universe, and the everlasting rave that is the unending
celebration of Life.

All that is in there? in the gospel for today?

The mother of Jesus only said, "they have no wine." If she said that
as I arrived, I'd have excused myself.

The whole history of the human race is spoken in that rubric. It is
not just Mary of Nazareth, but everyone standing behind her all the
way back to feckless Eva, our first mother, and her spouse in his fig
leaf drawers, not knowing how to make hard cider just yet, from the
fruit of the tree in the garden east of Eden.

The nation, its heritage of Torah, of the Law and the prophets, of
the codes of right conduct and right cult: and all religion of every
nation and every land without celebration and sacrament and joy:
"They have no wine." You've arrived at a kool-aid party, and there is
nothing here in the way of refreshment for all those who have turned
to the Law and the Prophets for help, or the philosopher's stone, or
the analects of Confucius or the koans of Buddha, or the Kabbalah,
and found them without a psaltery, organ, or shawm--without a vintage
wine, without a party, without a song. The capacity of a religion
based on our human efforts to be good, and to do good, runs out and
the guests need something more. "Roll out the barrel," Jesus mother
says: "Let's have a barrel of fun."

The mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine."

The point that is missed so frequently here, when Jesus' apparent
rudeness is mentioned, is Mary's real pushiness in this request. Mary
is provoking Jesus to ministry--he already has a few disciples, and
she knows this. He is, after all, 30 years old and she's saying here,
"Son, get a life. Be a party animal." She's been waiting these 30
years treasuring in her heart the hopes and fears of all the years
that met in her infant one starry night, and she treasures the old
gold, the sweet old frank incense, the mystic ancient myrrh--gifts
she had stashed away somewhere under the tool chests in the carpenter
shop, in a half finished cabinet, maybe with a few bottles of Mogen
David. Building chairs is a nice job for a son, but for someone whose
son has been knelt to by Persian wizards? Sought for by philosophers
> from afar?

Mary knew that Jesus was destined for greater things than artesania,
making "chunches" from scrap lumber on a side street in Nazareth.
John Chrysostom writes that "she had heard that (his cousin) John had
given testimony of him, and that he had begun to have his own
disciples. She began from then to have confidence."

One of the Nicaraguan peasants in "The Gospel in Solentiname" (by
Ernesto Cardenal) says that Mary is a revolutionary mother. She urges
her son to take part in the revolution. She wants him to get on with
his commitment to change the water of the world of want into the wine
of the revolution of abundance for all. Capitalism's antigospel is
that there isn't enough to go around and that the poor should be
sterilized--(they have too many kids), so that the rich can have "the
wealth of nations." Mary wants to kick them downstairs, to put down
the mighty out of their seats, and invite in the poor. Every
stumble-bum in town will be let in to the party, every young girl
with a hungry baby dandling on her hip. There's plenty to go round.

Jesus knows what she wants, and it may be that she has been urging
him for along time to "go for it." "Oh, woman," he moans: "What have
you to do with me? My hour hasn't yet come." Now the phrase "my hour"
in John's gospel refers to the hour of Christ's glory--it is his hour
on the cross that Jesus must hang into, and that is his "hour" in
John's story. It is the hour of confrontation with all the force and
power of stinginess and evil, not only with all that has gone wrong
with the struggle in Galilee but in all the wrestling with the world
of selfishness and greed, to wheel it around to eschaton. And Jesus
says, "Mother, I am not ready to fight that battle here at this
wedding party." "Do whatever he asks of you," his mother then says to
the deacons. And there are there six stone jars, twenty or thirty
gallons each, ordinarily used for washing up before meals, splashing
a rinse on the dishes, or on the kids, or washing the feet of guests.
Jesus asks that they be filled up again--from the well? from the
pila? We still do that in Managua, in case the city water suppply
dries up: we keep the pila full, and great barrels of extra water on
hand. Some of the old sermons from the ancient church say that these
six water pots represented the six ages of humankind, and that all of
them had run out, and were empty. The new dispensation was needed
now, and so Jesus was to refresh the human race with a new vintage.
He does not say, "Go down to the wine shop and buy more". He doesn't
take up a collection and send out for make-do. He asks no one to look
elsewhere for help. Right here is the solution--nearby. Fill up these
same old waterpots that we are familiar with. The solution to our
human needs is not to be found in marketing.

But not everyone is let in on the story of the New Wine. Only the
deacons, the servants, who had poured in all the water of the old
dispensation, only they are fully aware of what is happening when
they are asked to draw out wine now, out of water bottles. The wine
which will intoxicate the human family with joy, with a festival of
abundance, is now on tap. The master of ceremonies, the toast-master,
is now ready, and is delighted. He tastes the cup and says that it is
better than the champagne they started out the week with: it is the
best wine we've had at this party. "You have kept the good wine until
last." No one does that! But it is what diaconal service can provide.

John tells us that this was "the first of the Signs" and that in it
Jesus is epiphanized, manifested, shot through with glory and dignity
and magic. This story is still happening, for this was a sneak
preview of the life of Christ and his disciples dancing and drinking
together until this day. Come to the cabaret, my friends, come to the
cabaret! The preview has told us that what God has in store for us in
Jesus/Doionysius is a party--a celebration of abundance. The present
world domination system (i.e., the U.S.A. domination system) tells us
that there is abundance only for a few and scarcity for the
multitudes. The wedding at Cana of Galilee tells us that this is
coming to an end. Someone's in the kitchen with Mary now.

The compassionate Mary, the compassionate disciples, the thirsty
guests at the wedding--all are helpless without the New Wine that
Jesus brings to mix swith the our watery humanity, our emptiness.

The Liberator himself is reluctant, for the change that must come is
demanding, and taxing, and costly. The wine that is to fill the
waterpots will be the blood of the martyrs of the Nuevo Pacto. "This
cup is the New Alianza in my own blood," Jesus is to say. Our own
service, our diaconal service, is called upon to fill the waterpots.
We need to use all the available old institutions around us to bring
about the miracle of change--fill them up with what is available--the
mystic water of our own Baptism--and they will spill over with what
God will work in us and in them. Look to God to be the Wedding Guest
who will always change our water into wine.

St. Paul tells us in the epistle that there are all different kinds
of gifts, which are all of them inspired by the One Spirit. The way
in which this mission is to find its fulfillment, the strength to do
the work that God is calling us to do, is to bless each of our
various gifts and use them. We need to fill up our empty waterpots
and bring them to the toastmaster of our party, Jesus, the head of
our church, and find the first of miracles here in our own Galilees.