The readings on which this sermon is based can be found at:

s169g13  Second Sunday after Epiphany  Halswell   20/1/2012

'Woman, what concern is that to you and to me?'   John 2.4

Poor Mary, it must have been hard to be the mother of God!   There is a good deal of evidence that Mary struggled, along with Jesus' brothers and sisters, to understand what he was on about.   Mary had faith in her son; she realised that Jesus could remedy the shortage of wine at the feast - and where was the harm in this little act of kindness towards some of their good friends, relatives who had been kind enough to include them in the invitation list to the wedding?  Surely he would be grateful to have his reputation cemented amongst his wider family.

Another time she and Jesus' family were less convinced; perhaps they had been persuaded that Jesus was just a deluded nuisance.   The two incidents are put together: '"Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin" -- for they had said, "He has an unclean spirit."   Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him.   A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, "Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you."   And he replied, "Who are my mother and my brothers?"   And looking at those who sat around him, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers!    Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother."   (1)

We need to hear Jesus' frustration with, and rebuke, of his mother.   In this story John tells us that very early on Jesus had to confront even his own mother with the gospel which meant that Jesus wasn't a personal possession of anyone else, any family in preference to any other, any town in preference to others, any nation in preference to others, or any religion in preference to others.

The gospel of inclusiveness is not just Jesus' alone.   Mary should have realised that her proper concern should not have been for the individual needs of these close relatives, importunate though they might be, but for all people.  (2)

Faith in Jesus is not that Jesus can fulfil all our desires, it always involves others.   We don't do Jesus any favours by our insistent expectations of answered prayer, nor God.   I sometimes wonder if God is not the archetypical schizophrenic who keeps hearing voices :-)   Sometimes I have thought that the image that the church projects is of a 'god' who needs our worship to convince him or her-self that he or she still exists :-)

So Jesus demonstrated beyond doubt that he is not concerned with the importunate wedding party, who if they were reasonably well prepared would have had enough for most to have already had enough.   One or two extra bottles would have been sufficient for the 'stayers'.   But no, Jesus provides 120 to 180 gallons of wine, and @ 6 bottles to the gallon - 720 to 1080 bottles.   That is not the sort of quantities anyone wanted - least of all Mary.   How embarrassing - the focus would have quickly shifted from the homely wedding celebration to what to do with this sudden surfeit of good wine.   And since it was not bottled, they had no option but to do this quickly.   Suddenly anyone who turned up would be welcome!

In my experience, the catering for a wedding reception is always a nightmare.   Who should be invited?   How many guests can the families afford?   What about those long lost relatives who no one really knows?   And do we really have to invite .. ?

Suddenly all this becomes irrelevant.   It's all in, a free for all.

And this is what the kingdom is like, an inclusive 'free for all'.   Social niceties are put to one side, there is no place for these in the face of the shear extravagance of the gift.   We join in or we miss out!

But I suspect, more to the point, intricacies of belief are also put aside, there is no place for these in the face of the shear extravagance of the gift.   We join in or we miss out - whatever we believe or not, whatever name we call God, or not, and irrespective of the person with whom we choose to share physical intimacy!   In fact we need to be importunate to realise the extent of the gift.  (2)

And this is the message to the church, for surely it is the church that needs to hear the gospel in its fulness, otherwise individuals will inevitably take the message personally and no one will ever be in a better place.

Tradition, amongst 'cartholic' :-) believers, Mary is the type of the church herself.   (3)

The church has to learn that her existence doesn't depend on satisfying the needs of near, if importunate, relatives - say the Abrahamic faiths - but extending her vision of sacredness to all of humanity.

And this leads me to see the importance of that story in Luke of the person who has that unexpected guest at midnight and goes to a friend to get provisions.   It is not just the friend's needs that God satisfies, but those of the unexpected guest.   It is not just that God is charitable to those of the Abrahamic faith, but that God's provision extends to all who might happen to seek refuge in a place of faith.

We need to see the Eucharistic implications to the provision of this vast quantity of wine, which is in complete contrast to the unholy ex-communion that churches celebrate most Sundays.

For why on earth is this miracle recorded - for us to worship God all the more?   Surely it is for the Church to take notice, to exit her holy huddles and be open to others.

(1) Mark 3:28-35

(2)  'importunity'  Luke 11.8 KJV

(3) 'As St. Ambrose taught, the Mother of God is a type of the Church.'