So bearing all that in mind let's think about this wedding. We don't really get to know anything much about it at all do we? We are not told who got married, what they wore, what the food was like, how many people went - Hello magazine just would not know what to do with this wedding- and we have no photos of course! The truth is that all those things are wholly irrelevant to the Gospel writer, who is telling this story at the symbolic level. Remember our first reading today from Isaiah? It describes the relationship between God and Israel as a marriage, " as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you." This is a common image, especially in the prophets. Think of Hosea 2 for example, "' I will betroth you to myself for ever, betroth you with integrity and justice, with tenderness and love' says the Lord".
But the wine of that relationship is running out; the old ways and laws of the Old Covenant need transforming, and so the water that is turned to wine is from the stone water jars for the purification rites of the Jews. Symbolically the water of the Old covenant is turned into the wine of the new. The old relationship with Israel is turned into a new wedding - as Gregory of Nyssa pictured it - Christ enters paradise bringing with him his bride, humanity, whom he has wedded on the cross. This story foretells that wedding feast, so that when Jesus tells Mary ' my hour has not yet come' he is referring to the time of his crucifixion, when on the cross earth and heaven, humanity and Christ are wed.
Which brings us to Woman. Now much ink has been spilt on the question of why Jesus is so rude to his mother. Certainly his is not a response I would advise to any child here when Mum asks them to do something - 'woman my hour has not yet come, tidy my room yourself' might not meet with too happy an outcome! We need again to look to the end of the story, when on the cross Jesus once again speaks to Mary as Woman, pointing to John and saying 'here is your son', and thus providing her with a kind of resurrection, with love and care beyond his death. These two stories, the first sign and the crucifixion are part of the one great story of transformation, in which Mary stands for all humanity redeemed by the cross, and that is why Jesus calls her woman. Moreover calling his mother 'Woman' signals a change in Jesus himself, as he moves away from fidelity to home and family, and into his public vocation and ministry.
Which brings us finally to the wine. Now John's gospel contains no account of the institution of the Lord's supper. It does not need to because the whole Gospel pre-supposes that rite,which was well established in the church by the time John wrote. In this story the new wine is the very best, and it is super abundant, far more more than could be needed, and in that way reminiscent of the feeding of the multitudes. The wine of the new covenant, the wedding wine of the church is never going to run out. This story tells us that we can be fully confident in the generosity of God and the abundance of God's provision for us.
This is what we need to bear in mind as we come to a new year of ministry and mission in our parish and take time to review our progress with our Mission Action Plan this week. We have listened over the years to the guidance of the Spirit in this parish, and we are beginning to see the fruit of that, especially in the increase we have seen in the last year in our children's ministry, and in the use of the St. Luke's site by key community groups in need. As we focus next Saturday on how to take further those key areas of family and children's ministry, welcome and discipleship and the role of this site as a place of welcome and inclusion in our city, I hope that we can trust the promise of this gospel story - that the wine of God's abundant provision cannot run out for those who trust. God has gifted us, as God gifted the church in Corinth, abundantly, with all that we need to fulfil our mission. For our own part, as individuals and as community we need only to pray and trust, keeping our eyes on the simple aims we have established in our mission statement, seeking to be (everybody, do you remember?) - focussd in Christ, joyful and inclusive, compassionate in witness.
For the true miracle of today's Gospel story is that it teaches us the power of God's transformative action in our world, and that we, self-seeking human beings can be constantly transformed into those who will put others' needs before our own. This was the first of Jesus signs, and it is a sign constantly repeated in you and in me, in our parish and our wider world. May we trust ourselves to that transformative grace, and begin this new year in faith and trust.
In the name of Christ, Amen.