Our Gospel today gives us the story of the wedding in Cana: the first in a sequence of “signs” (as the Gospel of John puts it), where Jesus reveals his glory. As John’s Gospel unfolds, Jesus heals the sick, feeds the hungry, calms the waters; he gives sight to the blind, and he raises the dead. It all begins, in John’s Gospel, with the miraculous conversion of water into wine that we’ve just heard about.
John tells Jesus’ story through a total of seven miraculous signs that punctuate his Gospel. The point of the signs, as it says in our reading, is to reveal Jesus’ glory. The mention of glory takes us back to the Christmas message, from the beginning of John’s Gospel, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth” (Jo. 1:14). This glory is the light that shines in the darkness, which the darkness has not overcome, as John writes in the first chapter (Jo. 1:5).
For John, a “sign” is an action that does not stand alone. It’s “a wonder with a meaning in it,” as someone said: that is, it’s not just a miracle, astonishing as that is, but it also signifies something else. In terms of Jesus’ miracle at the wedding, the meaning is multi-faceted. Jesus supplies what we lack: when our resources are exhausted, and the wine runs out, he’s there to provide what’s missing. What’s missing is grace, God’s wide margin on which we human beings exist. The truth is that we were dependent on him all along: whatever we’ve got was his gift too, but now that truth comes home to roost.
Water into wine reminds us of Jesus’ power, and our own need of transformation. The encounter with Jesus doesn’t leave us in our original state; like the water turned into wine, we become something more than we were before. The miracle at Cana underscores our need for transformation; the absolute requirement that we change, and the absolute necessity that God works that change within us. God is at work in our lives, fitting us for his purpose, for the wedding banquet that lies ahead.
The “signs” that lie at the heart of John’s Gospel are meant to reveal Jesus’ glory; through them the disciples believed in him, as it says in our reading. But the signs are also for our benefit, for those of us who come after. “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book,” we read at the end of John’s Gospel. “But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name” (Jo. 20:30-31). The signs are performed, and recorded, so that we too may believe.
The point of the revelation, the manifestation of Jesus through the signs, is that we might have faith; that we might believe in the one who has revealed his glory. Faith is how we discover God’s grace in our lives; faith is the way our lives are transformed. Faith is the way we discover Jesus and enter into relationship with him. There really is no other way. The miracle at Cana takes place through faith, in order to lead us deeper in faith.
God the Holy Spirit continues this work of faith, here and now, in the community of the church. In fact, St. Paul uses this same idea of manifestation or revelation, in our reading from the First Letter to the Corinthians, in talking about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7). Paul continues with a long list of a variety of gifts of the Spirit: “the utterance of wisdom;” “the utterance of knowledge;” “gifts of healing;” “the working of miracles;” and so on (1 Cor. 12:8-10). Again, the power of God is manifested, revealed to us now through the ministry of the church. Prophecy, discernment, interpretation: all are included in Paul’s list, as active manifestations of the power of the Holy Spirit.
It’s not too much of a stretch, on this Martin Luther King weekend, to remember that God’s power is manifested in the life of the church. People catch a glimpse of the glory of God in Jesus Christ as we manifest his glory in the world. The power of the Spirit is revealed in the lives of men and women who are moved by the Spirit. “All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses” (1 Cor. 12:11), as St. Paul writes.
If God the Holy Spirit is being manifested in our midst, how is this reflected in the life of Holy Trinity Church? How are grace and faith manifested today, and how are we being transformed? How is the life that abides in the Son of God being lived out here and now? The answers will be many, and will be as multifaceted as Jesus’ own miracles. There’s no doubt in my mind that God the Holy Spirit is still at work among us, manifesting the glory of the Lord, and leading us deeper in faith.
At the beginning of our liturgy, we prayed God to grant that we “may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshiped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth.” That is my prayer for all of us at Holy Trinity Church, in the weeks and months ahead, as we move forward together in mission and ministry. May the power of the Holy Spirit be manifested, and the glory of the Lord revealed!