In the past Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding in Cana has puzzled me and I have blogged about it here before. Earlier this week I was re-reading sections of Michael Frost’s excellent book Exiles and was reminded that Frost asked some of the same questions about this event. He also goes on to make a great comparison to the Communion table.
The table at Cana is an affront to us at many levels. Simply the presence of alcohol disturbs many Christians, but at another level the miracle is a disconcerting one. We later see Jesus heal incurable diseases, cast out legions of demons, and alter natural elements-feeding thousands from a few small portions, calming a raging storm at sea-with authority and power. His decision to dramatically and conspicuously raise Lazarus from the dead right under the noses of his detractors was the final straw for those who saw him as a religious and political threat to Israel. These miracles all seem necessary and important. But to inaugurate his public ministry with a party trick in Galilee does seem frivolous, even indulgent. But that’s only to us Westerners, who have never been embedded in Jesus’ culture. The table at Cana reminds us that Jesus is as much interested in our social embarrassment as our infected bodies or our empty stomachs. The miracle is a perfect one to begin with, really. It shatters the age-old partition between the sacred and the profane. It sacralizes the everyday wonder of being part of a community that celebrates and eats and drinks together. It includes hardworking, nonreligious “sinners” in the circle of God’s care and protection. Is it any wonder that the one accused of being a glutton and a drunkard should give his followers something remarkable to do to celebrate his ongoing presence with them even after his death and resurrection? He tells them to eat and drink in remembrance. Now that’s cheeky.
The Christian communion table, then, is not a holy, untouchable artifice, but rather a feasting place, a place to enjoy the presence of the one who eats with us. Today, however, we have turned it into something like the jars used for ceremonial purification rites that Jesus found in Cana. The communion table now represents the separation between the holy and the unholy rather than a place where everyone can share in the bounty offered by the falsely accused drunkard and glutton. Just as Jesus filled those jars with rich, full-blooded red wine, likewise he dares to fill the communion table with a satisfying, nourishing, luscious feast of love and hospitality.*
May the gatherings of our faith communities around the communion table of our Lord reflect the holy abundance found in Jesus. May the extravagance of the feast be seen as we invite others to share along side us and eat in the presence of Jesus.
*Michael Frost, Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006), 45.