Sunday 1 June 2008

A wedding homily

by Kim Fabricius (from a recent wedding in Swansea)

Reading: John 2:1-11

There’s this couple, right, the guy’s around sixty, the woman around fifty (purely coincidental!), and they’ve just gotten married, and they’re at the reception, and they’re having a quiet moment alone, when all of a sudden a beautiful little silver-winged fairy appears. She says: “For being such an exceptional couple and loving each other to bits, I will grant you each a wish.”

The bride says: “I would love to travel around the world on a long cruise with my wonderful husband.” The fairy waves her magic wand and – presto! – two tickets for the Queen Mary II appear in the bride’s hands.

The fairy then turns to the husband, who thinks for a moment and says: “Well, this is all very romantic, but an opportunity like this won’t come along again. My wish is that England re-take the ashes from the Australians.”

“Give me a break,” says the fairy, “I do wishes, not miracles.”

“Okay, okay,” says the husband. Then, guiltily turning to his bride, “Sorry, darling, but I wish you were forty years younger than me.” The bride and the fairy are very disappointed, but a promise is a promise and a wish a wish, so the fairy waves her magic wand and – presto! – the husband is suddenly ninety years old! Moral: Men who are ungrateful bastards should remember that fairies are female (and in this case Italian).

Michael and Francesca, what a great day! For Christians, after your baptisms, no doubt the greatest day of your lives. So it’s right and good that, with a church service, you’ve invited Jesus to your wedding and into your marriage. Oh God, I can hear some of you thinking, lose the Jesus bit!

But hang on – check out the story of the wedding at Cana. Big reception, great food, lots of booze – but, alas, not enough: the wine runs out. The waiters are in a state, and – Mama mia! – Jesus’ mama mia! – she has a word with her bambino. Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Jesus calls over the waiters and tells them to fill six stone jars with water, each holding over twenty gallons. And they’re thinking, “This guy’s nuts!” And what’s more, they’re freaking out about health and safety, because the jars are used for Jewish rites of purification – people wash their hands in them! Nevertheless, the waiters do as they’re told, they fill the jars to the brim. “Now,” Jesus commands, “fill the carafes and take one to the high table.” With trembling hands the maître d’ pours a glass for the host to taste. “Fab!” exclaims the host. “An excellent Shiraz! Capernaum ’23?”

One more thing: a calculation. We’ve got these six (let’s say) 25-gallon jars. That would make how many bottles of wine? Well, 75 cl. to a bottle, 56.8 cl. to a pint, 8 pints to a gallon, so that makes 454.4 cl. to a gallon; so 150 gallons (from the six stone jars) equals 68,160 cl. of wine, divided by 75 cl. per bottle, equals 908.8 – round off to 900 – 900! – bottles of wine! Let’s say that, like today, there are around 100 guests at the reception. That comes to nine – nine! – bottles of wine per guest. Talk about binge drinking! And – the punchline of the story – by producing this excellent vintage in such copious quantities, Jesus “revealed his glory.”

So, yes, of course, the Jesus bit! But, of course, the point isn’t just the vino. The vino, we are told, is a “sign”. A sign of what? Well, what happens? The wine runs out. And that’s life. One way or another, the wine always runs out. Whatever the gains, life inevitably entails losses. We grow up and old. Children lose their innocence. Parents see their kids leave home. If we’re lucky enough never to become unemployed, still, one day we will have to retire. Women’s boobs and butts eventually lose the battle against gravity – however much gym-time! – while men lose hair where they want it and gain it where they don’t. Aches and pains become more frequent. And no one gets out of here alive. The wine always runs out. Add all the technology you like, human resources come to an end. That’s the bad news.

The good news – the great news: at human extremity, the resources of God. New energy springing out of weariness, new opportunities emerging from failure, and new hope arising even in the ashes of doubt and despair. There is no marriage that does not encounter times when the human resources run out. And the contemporary strategy is: keep your options open, draft a pre-nup, have a get-out clause, follow your fickle heart, re-invent yourself and move on.

This church service is itself a “sign” that Michael and Francesca will swim against the stream of this cultural banality as they give themselves to each other, to be responsible for each other, with no fine print, and in ways that will redefine their very identities, as they grow old together, care for each other, and, yes, one of them finally grieve a loss that only God can make good. But to your promise to each other today God adds his promise that he will be your invisible go-between, a resource that will never run out, and that no one, no thing, can ever take away. Michael and Francesca, may you live forever in the grace of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Amen!


Chris TerryNelson said...

I just read this to my wife as we were heading to bed. It was beautiful. I appreciate how you just "say it like it is." Thanks for sharing it with us!

S. Coulter said...

I don't think I've given much thought before to the quantity of the wine. In Jesus' Kingdom Feast, the wine never runs out. Thanks for that insightful point.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Kim,

I read it to my wife as well. Glad you left "the Jesus bit" in---and spoke it well.

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