Saturday, January 9, 2016
A wedding like no other
(The following questions are related to my guide to Law and Gospel preaching, Afflicting the Comfortable, Comforting the Afflicted, available by clicking on the image on this site.)
1. How does the Word function in the text? This is a classic law/gospel text because the Word functions to both lift up our need for Jesus and to present Jesus to us. If we understand this wedding scene as a parable of the human condition, we see immediately that "running out of wine" is a metaphor for our mortality, our brokenness and our sin. In many and various ways, we "run out of wine": we lack faith, virture, love, well-being, wholeness, etc. Our condition as humans is that we are continually experiencing lack. Jesus, the source of abundance, enters the scene, and taking common elements, ends our lack. Using merely water, he transforms our lives from lives of scarcity to lives of abundance.
2. With whom are you identifying in the text? We are the guests, the steward, the servants, and the bridegroom. We are all those who experience lack. We are those who have invited Jesus to the wedding, not even realizing who he is.
3. What, if any, call to obedience is there in this text? The call to obedience is the Word functioning to say, "Follow Jesus." In this text we have, to my mind, no such word. This text reveals the glory and identity of Jesus, and through this revelation we, like the disciples, believe, but this is not the call to discipleship. The second reading assigned for the day, I Corinthians 12:1-11 speaks about the "manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." This is an example of a text about following in the way of Jesus.
4. What Law/Gospel couplet is suggested by this text? Couplets for this text are easily imagined: scarcity/abundance, water/wine, fear/joy, dying/living.
5. Exegetical work: There are many fine commentaries on the gospel of John, but for my money, few are as helpful as Craig Koester's Symbolism in the Fourth Gospel. Here are just a few insights that Koester offers: "Jewish tradition associated the outpouring of wine with the advent of the Messiah." (84) See Joel 3:18. "Greeks... would have understood that the miraculous gift of wine revealed the presence of deity." (85) "The divine favor revealed by this gift of wine was a prelude to the gift of his own life." (86) Raymond Brown, in his classic commentary on John's gospel, seems to agree with Koester as he points out that during the feast of Dionysus, the god of vintage, the fountains of the pagan temples spouted wine instead of water. (101) Brown asks, "How did Cana reveal the glory of Jesus?" He answers, "Messianic replacement and abundance." (104) Brown points out that the disciples may well have known the prophecies regarding the abundance of wine as a sign of the arrival of the Messiah, and this is why "they believed in him." See Amos 9:13-14, Hosea 14:7, and Jeremiah 31:12. (104) Other insights from Brown: The wedding feasts are always signs of the messianic days; "they have no wine" is a commentary on Judaism's barrenness; the abundance of wine is the joy of the final days. (104ff).
Blessings on your proclamation!