The couple that are getting married are responsible for putting on a wedding feast that lasts a few days; and they are responsible for entertaining their guests; and that means there needs to be lots of wine. This couple isn’t rich, and so they run out of wine. It would be an embarrassment to them and their families to have the wine run out, so Jesus steps in. These jars of water hold anywhere from 20 to 30 gallons each, so that makes for a lot of wine. And it’s not just any wine; it’s the very best wine. And the servants know what has happened and who is responsible. I would love to hear the conversations among them.
So why is this story a big deal? When I think of this story, the word that comes to my mind is, abundance. A wedding feast is a celebration of new life between two people, their families and God. Having all of this amazing, high quality wine at a time when most people would be serving wine that wasn’t all that great, is a symbol of celebration and abundance. The wine was so plentiful, it would be hard to drink it all. But, that’s how God’s love and grace works; it is abundant; it is overflowing; it is being poured out in ridiculous amounts to whomever comes because God’s love and mercy doesn’t discriminate. What we learn in this season of Epiphany, is that even those who are not originally part of the covenant (that’s you and me, for those keeping score) are now grafted in; as I said at Christmas, we are adopted children of God who have been adopted through the will of God; and there is nothing we can do to separate ourselves from that love and grace.
Our response to this lavish giving of love and grace is to do likewise. The Spirit gives us gifts in order that we might do the work Jesus has given us to do. And, using the gifts we have been given means that we have to be vulnerable. I don’t like being vulnerable. I don’t like doing something that might show my weaknesses. But here’s the thing; when Jesus told his mother his time had not come yet, I think maybe that’s what he was thinking too; maybe there was some human reluctance there to begin to show his glory as the Son of God. But, as the signs in John’s gospel go, this one is pretty tame; only a few people really understand what has happened. What could be more vulnerable than God giving up being God in order to be human? But he changes the water into wine; he puts his foot on the path to Golgatha, one sign, one miracle at a time. For us, doing the work that the Spirit has given us, will likely not end in our crucifixion; but it might make us uncomfortable or unpopular. Speaking against injustice, feeding the hungry, freeing captives… none of this is work that is easy or is the kind of work that results in accolades. Those little kingdom moments like slipping a 20 to someone who needs it, or buying the homeless guy and his dog some hamburgers at McDonald’s are not the kinds of actions that others are going to see; but they will speak volumes to the people who experience them. And it seems to me that the kingdom of God is about relationships and experiences as it is about anything else. If we have relationships with people, it becomes harder to be unkind to them, it becomes impossible to ignore them. It is out of our experiences with others that our relationships deepen, and in that deepening, kingdom work can be done. And it doesn’t take much. Jesus turned water into wine, and the servants knew it, his mother knew it, the disciples probably knew it… and I would be willing to bet Jesus was uncomfortable about it… but he did it. When you look at the whole story, it’s a small thing really, but we all have to start somewhere and that one small act became the vehicle for some relationships to start forming. And all these centuries later, the symbolism of the act still speaks to us. It is an act of foolish, overflowing, abundant, love that lets us know something about who God is… God is THE source of abundant, overflowing love, who has brought his kingdom to earth in order that all people might experience the foolishness and abundance of God’s love.
Paul tells us that we are all given gifts that manifest the Spirit in the world. These gifts of the Spirit are also given to us in order that they might overflow and be abundant, especially when we put our gifts together. I wonder what kind of foolishness God is asking us to be involved in? What are the experiences and relationships that God’s gifts are pushing us towards? Whatever they are, they will involve change, and they will involve vulnerability. No amount of vulnerability on our part will ever equal the vulnerability that God showed in becoming human, so, we might as well get to work and use the gifts we have been given. Like the water that turned into wine, we are called to be poured out in order that we might be given in some way to others in order to bring true joy. May we not hold back the “good wine” that we can be. You and I are God’s own beloved, and it doesn’t get any better than that. So let’s allow ourselves to be poured out, knowing that God will feed us in word and sacrament, and that we will never be allowed to run dry.
Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.