Scripture: John 2:1-11
Coming out is hard.
I can only speak from my own experience, but I am willing to bet most people would agree.
Being vulnerable with others about who you truly are is a nerve-wracking experience, even if you are pretty sure how they will react.
There is always the what if.
What if it doesn’t go well?
What if they don’t accept me?
Before you get anywhere even close to that, there is coming out to and accepting yourself.
While in retrospect I can see obvious clues that I was gay from when I was in High School, it was not until my sophomore year at Manchester that I admitted to myself that I was not straight. And I did not accept that I am gay until the year after I graduated.
The uncertainty was safe.
If no one knew, least of all me, I could keep living my life as I already was.
I didn’t have to take any risks or face any backlash.
You may not have had to grapple with your sexuality as I have, but I’d be willing to wager that
there is something in some sense universal about being vulnerable and sharing part of your identity with another person.
At the least, John shows us in today’s scripture that Jesus had his own coming out experience.
Traditionally in the western church,
this passage was read on the second Sunday after Epiphany,
a holiday which falls on January 6th.
The revised common lectionary continues this tradition during year C of its three-year cycle. Epiphany celebrates the manifestation of Jesus as the incarnate God.
In western Christianity, this holiday focuses on the visitation of the magi.
In the eastern church, it is known as Theophany and honors Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist. Regardless, this passage’s placement in the lectionary
situates it within a season when the church celebrates Jesus’s divine coming out story.
To be clear, I am not making any claims about Jesus’ sexuality.
We do not have enough information to know that for sure,
it is not really the point in the arc of the Gospel narratives.
That said, during the wedding at Cana, Jesus comes out as divine in a way I would argue is familiar to many in the LGBTQ+ community.
How is it familiar?
Jesus is initially hesitant to come out,
is intentional about who he comes out to,
and his coming out is an ongoing experience.
At this point in John’s Gospel, Jesus’ ministry is just beginning.
He’s encountered John the Baptist,
who proclaimed him “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,”
and begun gathering his first few disciples.
But right now, Jesus and his newfound band of disciples attend a wedding.
We are never told who’s wedding it is, but Jesus’ mother is there (John never tells us her name is Mary), so I don’t think it’s going on out too much of a limb to imagine it as a family friend.
Someone Jesus has known his entire life.
If so, it seems likely that he knew several of the other attendees as well.
When the wine runs out, his mother tracks him down and infers that he should do something about it.
She knows who her son is.
Leaving aside the Christmas stories
or the child Jesus staying behind in the temple,
which is found in other Gospels,
there have already been hints.
In the previous chapter, John the Baptist told everyone who would listen that Jesus is the son of God.
Jesus displayed supernatural knowledge, proving himself to Nathanael with information about events he could not have seen.
But, as far as we know, he hasn’t worked any miracles yet.
When his mother prods him, Jesus responds, “My hour has not yet come.”
His hour is his crucifixion.
For better or worse, we don’t know what will happen when we come out.
Starting down this path leads directly to the cross.
He will be rejected, persecuted, and ultimately killed.
Of course, without the crucifixion, there can be no resurrection, no salvation.
But I don’t blame him if he’s hesitant to start this road.
Ultimately, he does and turns water into wine to keep the party going.
John tells us this was Jesus’ first sign.
He “revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
While Jesus reveals his true identity at this wedding,
it is important to note he is intentional about who he reveals this identity to.
He doesn’t jump up on a table and demand everyone’s attention as he shows who he is.
Or, to adapt one of my pervious therapist’s constant refrains
when I started navigating coming out myself,
he doesn’t go around to shaking everyone’s hand and saying,
“Hi! I’m Jesus of Nazareth, and I am the son of God!”
No, it doesn’t seem like most of the other attendees at the wedding banquet know what happened.
At least, they don’t know yet.
Maybe later down the line, they are able to look back and put two and two together.
Growing up I had always assumed everyone at the wedding
knew that Jesus had turned water into wine for their celebration.
I remember a Sunday school project in elementary school
where we took on the role of news reporters,
interviewing the couple, other guests,
Mary, the servants, and the disciples to
report on just who this Jesus guy is.
But in the text itself, it doesn’t seem to be the case
that the rest of the attendees find out.
When the chief steward assumes the bridegroom has
been holding back the high-quality wine,
Jesus does not correct him.
Only his mother, his disciples, and the servants who filled the jars
and took the wine to the chief steward know what happened.
This self-revelation is for a particular group.
We don’t know why Jesus wasn’t more public about his miracle during the wedding,
but if, as I suggested, the couple and other attendees were people he knew well,
I can imagine he would have a good reason.
After all, John later records a group
attempting to stone Jesus after her told them
“before Abraham was, I am.”
But at Cana, Jesus was not coming out to the wedding attendees.
His mother indicates she already knows his identity.
We don’t get a lot of information about the servants and their feelings about what has been revealed.
While they do know what happened, they aren’t who Jesus is intentionally coming out to.
Through his sign, Jesus was coming out to his disciples.
Despite what the public setting of this first miracle may at first lead you to believe,
Jesus is not starting his public ministry by coming out to anyone and everyone.
They will find out, be we are not quite there yet.
Instead, he comes out to a select group of close friends, his disciples.
It is not until they know and support him that Jesus begins revealing
himself to the world.
Personally, I am still in the process of coming out as a gay man.
When I admitted my sexuality to myself,
I knew I would have to figure out
who I would tell and how.
I am someone who doesn’t keep very many things close to my chest, not feeling able to
share what I was processing with my loved ones was driving me crazy.
I was meeting with a therapist and that helped a lot, but it was not the same.
Slowly, I began sharing this new aspect of my identity with close family and friends.
But there are still loved ones
I’ve known my whole life
who don’t know and
probably never will.
As much as I know they care for me,
they would not be able to accept all of who I am.
But those I have told are vital to me being able to move forward.
While everyone’s coming out experience is different,
and my situation is certainly not the same as Jesus’,
in both cases, we were very intentional about choosing
who we shared this part of our identity with.
Again, scripture says Jesus “revelated his glory; and his disciples believed in him.”
But I wonder what they thought at that moment.
At this point, they haven’t been following Jesus for very long.
They know he is the Messiah, “him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets write,” but what exactly does that mean?
And what did Jesus feel?
He was trusting his friends with a profound truth about himself.
Was he scared of how they might react?
Did anyone reject or abandon him, deciding this wasn’t what they thought it was going to be?
How much did the disciples understand what Jesus was showing them about himself?
Did they realize then and there that he was divine,
or did that come into focus when the looked back
at everything that happened after continuing to follow him?
Finally, Jesus’ coming out was not a one and done event.
John calls it “the first of his signs,” which infers there are more.
Each of these signs points to who Jesus is.
As early as the next chapter, Jesus is explaining his identity to Nicodemus,
who comes to him at night, leading to the famous verse John 3:16.
Throughout his ministry, Jesus continues to encounter new people and work new signs,
continually coming out as the divine son of God.
You are never finished coming out.
Just because you tell one person or one group of people does not mean that it is suddenly public knowledge.
Thank God it does not.
You will always be meeting new people,
finding yourself in new environments,
and deciding what needs to be shared and what should be kept private.
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus is continually encountering new people and revealing who he is.
And he continues to do this today.
After all, none of us were at the wedding at Cana.
Jesus continues to reveal himself as the Messiah, the son of God, and the Word made flesh
through the Holy Spirit’s movement.
In the reading of scripture and ordinances of baptism and Love Feast,
Jesus comes out personally to each of us.
This revelation calls us to a deeper relationship with him
and the Holy Trinity.
At the wedding at Cana,
Jesus came out as the divine son of God
in a way that resonates with the LGBTQ+ experience.
He was hesitant to come out, knowing the persecution he would have to face.
He intentionally chose who he revealed his identity to,
coming out to his disciples
but not necessarily everyone attending the wedding.
Turning water into wine was the first sign of his identity,
but coming out as God’s son is a never-ending experience that continues to this day.
As we honor our LGBTQ+ siblings’ lives and experiences,
may the one who was and is and is to come
be with us in our own journeys of self-discovery and vulnerability.