Last year Rebecca and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary, 20 years since our special day on the 22 June 1996. It was a fantastic day: warm and dry; all our family and friends were there; the church was a lovely place to get married (St Helen’s Bishopsgate, one of the most historic churches in the heart of the City of London); the reception was in Middle Temple near to where Rebecca worked; and it was very romantic as we left on a motor launch going off down The Thames into the sunset. We couldn’t have asked for the day to have gone better! But it did very nearly go badly wrong because: the double decker bus taking some guests to the wedding got lost; the bus then broke down between the reception and the church; the service then started 45 minutes late where I thought Rebecca wasn’t coming; and finally, just as Rebecca arrived at the front, my nephew was sick, nearly all over her dress, but saved by the quick action of my brother in law! I guess most weddings never go exactly according to plan, but ours was one which very nearly went horribly wrong, but in the nick of time was saved.
In the bible, the first miracle of Jesus was to save a wedding when they ran out of wine, by miraculously turning about 30 gallons of water into some more and of the best vintage. By my rough calculations, 30 gallons is about 683 litres, or 911 bottles, or 5466 glasses which (at say £20 a bottle) is about £20,000 pounds the cost of an average wedding today, but just on the wine! When the wine was tasted by the person in charge of the wedding, he said to the groom: “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheap wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best until now!” You can read about the whole event in John 2v1-11 ‘The Wedding at Cana’.
So, what does this first miracle have to tell us about Jesus and Christianity? The last verse says that this first miracle was not just a miracle, but a ‘sign’ (a signature theme) of the main thing Jesus came to show us about himself and the Christian faith – that God is offering us through his son an abundant life, in both quantity and quality. The water he turned into wine was no cheap ‘chardonnay’ or ‘sauvignon blanc’, but I would like to think the equivalent of the best Chablis, or Pino Noir, or Bordeaux Claret, or maybe Spanish Rioja, my favourites!
What did Jesus come for? He came to make sure we haven’t got the wrong idea about God; to show us that he is the master of the party of life and to invite us to come and join in. He came to take away the shame of where we have tried to make our own ‘party of life’ but it has gone wrong, and instead give the real thing through him. He came to give up his life so we might get ours back. To be a Christian, is sometimes made out to be mainly about: the things we cannot do; the negative; the religious or the boring; not having life or a party. But to be a Christian is to rediscover life, not to lose it. To find not dullness of life, but as Jesus said ‘I have come to bring you fullness of life’. To be a Christian is like going from watching TV in Black and White to Full HD colour! In the real life of Jesus, he was criticised for mixing with all the wrong kind of people and going to too many parties, but he did this, along with his first miracle, to show us what he really is all about and wants us to experience – that real life come from him and our maker who invented life.
So, in June, or coming summer months, if you are going to a wedding or maybe see a bride and groom, or hear some wedding bells ringing out, I hope it will remind you that Jesus came to bring us back to experiencing abundant life in both quantity and quality!
With my prayers
James – Rector of St Peters with Blessed Mary
15th June 2017