Because Grace

An excerpt of a reflection on John 2:1-11 by Andrew Stephens-Rennie, originally preached at St. Brigids Vancouver

On the third day there was
a wedding in Cana of Galilee,
and Mary was there.
You remember Mary, of course,
The one, who when the angel
showed up, sang:

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit rejoices in God
my Savior,
For he has looked with favor
On the lowliness of his servant…”

Jesus’ mom was there,
and she got how awkward it
was when wedding plans
didn’t work out quite
how you’d imagined.

But she knew Jesus, she knew
the angel’s promise, and she
knew just where she was.
In Cana of Galilee, a village
whose industries included
fishing, hunting,
farming. Maybe wine tourism
too. But Cana of Galilee, like
much of the region was under
encroaching occupation,
and experiencing the bigotry,
and violence that come with it.

Nobody could remember a time
when the community’s elders
weren’t mocked or harassed
by occupying forces.
In fact, there were times,
and maybe you’ve heard of them,
when students – the officers’ entitled
children – would come by
caravan and add insult to injury,
standing in the way of
the elders, blocking them,
jostling them, mocking them,
looking smug
and entitled at them.

Because that’s exactly
what they were. With no
concern for the grace-filled
humanity before them.

Even still, the elders would sing
to the steady beat of the drum.
Like a heartbeat to keep them
firm and grounded in Creator’s
rhythm, the one that tells all
Creation who we are, in the
face of all the world throws
against us.

The elders, they
would sing the songs of the ancestors,
would tell the rich stories
of Creator, and Creator’s love
for all creation. Birds of the
air. Fish of the sea.
Creatures of the land. Including
this beloved people. Even here. Even now.
Beloved. In the face of this monstrosity.

Even still, the elders would sing,
Songs carrying dignity in the face
Of thievery, in the face
of those who would
overturn the economy of gift,
replacing it with the idolatrous
and rapacious currency of the
colonising forces
of the Roman legionnaires.

While every creature on earth
bears Creator’s imprint,
Creator’s spark,
Creator’s voice,
all those lifeless coins can do
Is weigh you down.

If you remember Mary’s song,
You’ll also remember these lines:

“He has shown strength with his arm;
He has scattered the proud in the
Thoughts of their hearts
He has brought down the powerful
From their thrones,
And lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel
In remembrance of his mercy,
According to the promise he made
To our ancestors.”

Which is all a long way
of getting back to the wedding
and the ask.

They’re out there in
Cana of Galilee,
a small settlement
off the beaten path.
Resources are scarce,
especially under occupation
especially now.

There had been a time,
of course, when the fish were
plentiful, and the vineyards hadn’t
been plundered by the invading
But that was then.
And this is now.

They were getting married,
they invited the community,
who showed up, as was custom,
with gifts of food and drink
to share.

Mary sees what’s about to happen,
and she can’t even. She can’t
let this happen, and so she prompts
Jesus to be who she knows him to be.

If God is the God of miracles.
If God is the God of the oppressed,
then by God, they are going to dance

If God is the one who fills
the hungry with good things,
there is no better time than this
to experience that joy.

Mary won’t let these two young
members of her community
be put to shame. Not after all
they’ve been through.

Occupation and expropriation of lands,
decimating crops and aerable land,
clear-cutting forests to build ever
bigger cities. And a few too many walls.
It’s all there. And these peasants
continue to push back.
And they continue to fight.
But for now. For tonight, what they
really need is a party. What they
really need is to celebrate.

And so Jesus takes the jars,
those jars whose waters
and whose ceremonies were
used to mark the difference between
clean and unclean,
insider and out,
and he uses them
as if to say:

the source of all goodness,
the source of all life,
the source of living water,
is for all of you. It’s for all of us.

In sharing this cup, we will be made whole.
God calls us beloved. God will lift up the lowly.
Even in this era of domination,
it is possible to secede, to pull back,
to resist, to stay strong, to find reason to sing,
to abandon all reason and dance.

Because grace.

Creator’s grace, which was
extended from the
beginning of the world,
is being reawakened here
tonight. In this covenant,
in this community.
In the face of hatred and bigotry,
in the face of rising oceans, and melting ice,
in the face of all that ails this world,
and all it throws in our face, and the faces
of countless others,

Because grace.

God’s grace speaks a new
and resounding truth, a truth at times hidden
and masked, yet present from the dawn of time.

So remember:
All Creation is Beloved.
Tonight we celebrate.
Tonight we feast.

And tomorrow we return to the fight
For the world of God’s dreams. And ours.

Andrew Stephens-Rennie on FacebookAndrew Stephens-Rennie on Twitter
Andrew Stephens-Rennie
Andrew is a writer, dreamer and organizer with a keen interest in developing leaders in faith, compassion and justice.

He currently serves as the Director of Missional Renewal for the Anglican Diocese of Kootenay on the unceded territories of the Sinixt, Syilx, and Ktunaxa nations. He previously served as the Director of Ministry Innovation at Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, BC.

Andrew is cofounder and contributing editor at, and co-editor of "A Sort of Homecoming: Essays Honoring the Academic and Community Work of Brian Walsh" with Marcia Boniferro and Amanda Jagt.

Leave a Reply