There are Weddings in both our readings today!

RAMBLING RECTOR

A reflection on the Sunday bible readings

 

 

SUNDAY 24 January 2021  

 

Revelation 19.6-10
6Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunder-peals, crying out,
‘Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. 
7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready; 
8 to her it has been granted to be clothed
   with fine linen, bright and pure’—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

9 And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are true words of God.’ 10Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, ‘You must not do that! I am a fellow-servant with you and your comrades who hold the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.’ 

 

John 2.1-11

1On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ 4And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ 5His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ 6Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. 8He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So they took it. 9When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.’ 11Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

 

REFLECTION

There are Weddings in both our readings today!

The Gospel of John was written towards the end of the first century and The Book of Revelation, most scholars agree, written prior to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD. We’re familiar with wedding customs in our own time, but it helps us understand the readings if we understand customs in those days. It was a three-stage process.

 

First, a marriage contract was signed by the parents of the bride and the bridegroom and the parents of the bridegroom or the bridegroom himself would pay a dowry to the bride or her parents. This began what was called the betrothal period, what we would today call the engagement.  This period was the one Joseph and Mary were in when she was found to be with child (Matthew 1:18; Luke 2:5)

 

The second step in the process usually occurred a year later, when the bridegroom, accompanied by his male friends, went to the house of the bride at midnight, creating a torchlight parade through the streets. The bride would know in advance that this was going to happen, and so she would be ready with her maidens, and they would all join the procession to the bridegroom’s home. (This custom is what is spoken about in the parable of the 10 virgins in Matthew 25:1-13)

 

Then the third phase was the marriage ceremony itself, hospitality shown to guests, feasting which might go on for days, as in our Gospel reading today.

 

The Book of Revelation sees Christ as representing the bridegroom and the Church as his Bride, so our first reading is the wedding feast ie, that third phase. The implication is that the first two phases have already taken place. We have been symbolically ‘bought’ if you like, and our dowry has been paid through the death of Christ, we are “betrothed” to Christ, and, like the wise virgins in the parable, should be watching and waiting for the appearance of the Bridegroom.

 

There is symbolism too, in the account of the wedding at Cana, as the traditional water jars for Jewish purification customs symbolically become the containers for new and delicious wine, The wine of the kingdom of God, a generous supply for all.

 

I want to leave you with an interesting additional thought!

 

Think about the fact that those servants on the edge of the celebration were the only ones who actually witnessed the miracle.  Yes, of course, the chief steward tasted it – he was able to savour the fine quality of the wine.  The bride and groom and guests enjoyed the gift of the miracle. Yet, it was the ordinary servants who had the privilege of seeing this wonderful miracle of abundance right before their eyes, but who most likely never actually even got a sip of the 180 gallons of beautiful wine now being stored in those stone jars.  The servants, those who go mostly unseen and un-noticed by the rest of the guests are the ones who went home with a story that night. They are the ones who first glimpsed the promise of Jesus.  They are, indeed, as we hear throughout the Gospels - they are the ones for whom the gifts of God are especially meant. 

 

And so whether they ever tasted that wine or not, they must have gone home with the dawning recognition that in the simple act of 'saving' a party, the world itself was about to change dramatically through the ministry of the man Jesus.


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