As some of you may know. Last summer I had the opportunity to take as art class that focused on the Holy in Washington D.C. I almost felt a little guilty getting credit for the calls because I was able to spend the week looking at various sacred images in museums such as the National Gallery, icons at the Orthodox churches as well as the mosaics at the National Cathedral and the Shrine at the Immaculate Conception in North East Washington. For centuries Christians have been making images of God, Heaven and Jesus. I would like to share a few with you this morning.
The image of "Christ Pantocrator," the "ruler of all," was developed in the Byzantine period. The Byzantine Empire replaced the ruling gods of Rome with a regal Jesus, an all-powerful imperial image, haloed, awesome, just, unchanging in majesty. That image continues to pervade Western consciousness.”
“Rembrandt's profound insights into human character met the emotionalism of the Baroque period. The combination allowed his genius to flourish and produce the image of Jesus that is still accepted by many as the "real" Jesus, an agreed-upon image that is seen as both comforting and incontrovertible.”
“Warner Sallman produced a modern popular image of Jesus that became one of the most-reproduced paintings of all time, showing up in countless church parlors and classrooms and on devotional materials. It became the dominant image of Christ in the 20th century and the one people most often recall when asked what Jesus looked like.”
There are many reasons why we try to create and memorialize the image of God but I think primary is an innate need within each of us to want to know God more fully and by putting a human knowable face on that which we can’t see or fully comprehend, somehow projecting our beliefs, our needs onto God we somehow feel more connected to our creator.
My mother a number of years ago gave me a picture of Jesus that she loved. I didn’t want to offend her but when I first saw it I was a little aghast. It seemed almost sacrilegious, kind of kitschy. I laughed because I had never really thought of Jesus in this way and as we look for God in the upcoming weeks I ask you to consider this possibility.
Today’s gospel writer tells us “Nobody has ever seen God. And the only one that can even bring him to light is the only-begotten God, who is intimately close to the father. It is through Jesus, Jesus revealed in scripture that we can begin to catch a glimpse of the character and nature of God and how God wants us to live our lives.
Today we meet Jesus at a wedding, and while a wedding is a big event in the life of a bride and groom, their families and in the life of a first century Jewish community it is not where I would expect to encounter God. Especially the different images of God we hold dear. This is not who I expected. ( hold up laughing Jesus) This Jesus, a man who laughs, a man who goes to parties, a man who enjoys good food and conversation and the company of his friends and family and the Son of God, who transforms lives and lives the day to day human experience to its fullest. But it is precisely in the ordinary that we meet him and by him showing up at this typical Jewish wedding in Cana he gives us an example of abundant living and invites us to enter into his joy and live the type of life that God wants for each of us. It is at this wedding Jesus provides us with a glimpse into the character and nature of God and it is here that he shows us how he can transform a situation heading south quickly into a new reality and it is at a wedding where he demonstrate the glory of God and it is at a wedding where he makes believers of his disciples.
In the first century, Jewish weddings went on for as long as seven days. After the ceremony all the guests went to the reception for days of partying where the bride and groom were expected to provide food and drink for all their guests. Wine was an important part of the celebration because it was the beverage of choice for festive celebrations in the ancient world. Abundant wine was a symbol of the new age to come and in the Hellenistic culture of the time the powerful God Dionysus was present in the wine. If it ran out before the celebration was over, it was not only a huge embarrassment for the bride and groom but it was a social disaster that the family would have to live with for a long time to come it would also be a sign that married life would not bode well. Jesus Mother, grasping the seriousness of the situation asks Jesus help and instructs the servants to do as Jesus tells you. And while he acknowledges that his time has not yet come Jesus chooses to change the reality of the situation and by the miraculous act of transforming water into wine he reveals himself as the Son of God and his disciples become believers.
What is amazing is that he doesn’t change a few small jars water into wine, he provides an abundance of the finest wine. He took 6 water jars, used for Jewish purification rites, jars that each held 20-30 gallons of water and through this transformation shows that God is doing something different and new among God’s people. That is 180 gallons of Wine. Some scholars think that Jesus is seen as reinterpreting Jewish ritual by replacing the water of purification with a fine wine of celebration. With the coming of Jesus the need for purification before God is replaced with direct access to God. Heaven is opened and the power of God’s love to transform bursts into the present world. A new reality comes into being when Jesus is present
He shows compassion and generosity when people are in need and he shows us that he wants to meet our needs in the most abundant ways if we follow him.
This first sign, one of many, this first miracle shatters conventional explanations and expectations and the abundance of fine wine is a sign of God’s presence pointing not to the miracle itself but rather to the glory of God, God’s generous nature and what is possible with God. This first miracle or sign is just a glimpse of greater things to come when God’s kingdom is a full reality
Brothers and sisters, Jesus came to pour grace and abundance on all humanity that we might live full, rich, vivid and sparkling lives and we have a choice, we can choose to live dull and flat lives where the possibility of transformation is non-existent and a meager and grasping subsistence is all we have to look forward to or we can say yes to Jesus, do what he tells us, just as his mother instructed the servants at the wedding and then all is possible and God’s abundant and extravagant love that no need on earth can exhausts will abound. So what will you choose? Will you love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and love our neighbors as yourself. Will you love your family like he loves you? Will you be abundant in your love for them and others? Jesus affirms his earthly family and friends by joining them at a wedding and in doing so underlines the importance of every family and the need to spend time together laughing and sharing meals and finding joy in each other’s company. Where two or three are gathered he is present. The unforeseen help offered to the wedding couple as their reception began to go south shows us that he when we are in need we should expect the unexpected from God and he gives us a model for helping others in Jesus. NT Wright an Anglican Bishop says “that the transformation of water to wine is meant by John to signify the effect that Jesus can have on people’s lives”  I would like to demonstrate the difference in our lives when we choose to do what Jesus tells us. I need an adult volunteer who is not allergic to red wine or wheat. (Give the cheap wine and stale bread, and ask what it tastes like? Then the good wine and fresh bread ask what that tastes like) Without Jesus Life is like this bread and wine, it is adequate but is dull, ordinary and flat. But when we say yes to Jesus it like the great wine and fresh bread that are abundant with flavor and fullness and excitement. So what kind of life do you want to live? The choice is yours. Stale bread and cheap wine or a rich and abundant life where you will meet God in unexpected places and faces, experience joy and laughter as well as tears as you become Christ for others. It’s not that complicated but the difference it makes in the world is transformational.