Lectionary: Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 36:5-10; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; John 2:1-11
I was raised in one of the church denominations that frowned on drinking ‘adult’ beverages of any kind. As Methodists, I’m sure this idea rose from our deep history of social work with the most vulnerable, hurting people, most of whom were broken by rampant alcoholism in eighteenth century England.
Of course teaching total abstinence requires some exegetical gymnastics when we see that both wine and beer are in verse after verse in the Bible. Wine in particular is a common thread throughout Scripture, is the subject of Jesus’ first miracle, and is central to one of the most important practices in all of Christendom (Eucharist / Holy Communion / Lord’s Supper) which Jesus himself instituted and asked us to practice.
But in today’s reading, the wine is neither a dangerous poison nor is it a ritualistic sacrament – it is simply something good.
That’s why this story of Jesus and his family attending a wedding is sometimes difficult to translate to our ears. It comes from the early part of Jesus’ ministry and is written in a light, triumphal manner that seems to be saying something all too simple and obvious: God loves celebration and joy!
The next day there was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus’ mother told him, “They have no more wine.”
“Dear woman, that’s not our problem,” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.”
But his mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Standing nearby were six stone water jars, used for Jewish ceremonial washing. Each could hold twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” When the jars had been filled, he said, “Now dip some out, and take it to the master of ceremonies.” So the servants followed his instructions.
When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over. “A host always serves the best wine first,” he said. “Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now!”
This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
New Testament weddings could be rather extravagant and prolonged celebrations and even the thought of running out of wine would have been an inconsolable embarrassment to the host family. Jesus’ mother presumes that his role in this situation is as a good friend and helpful guest so she leans on him to do the generous thing and find a way to help their hosts.
We’re not told whether Mary expected this kind of miracle or whether she simply knew Jesus to be a good problem-solver. In any case she seemed to be oddly confident that her son would see the importance of ensuring that the party was successful and fully enjoyed by all. At his instruction the large water jars are filled and produce what I suspect was the finest wine ever made on this planet.
In Scripture wine can be used to describe restoration of justice and goodness (Joel 3:18) or as an invitation to a joyful, fuller life (Isaiah 55:1-2).
Regardless of what subtext may be lurking in the reading, the story itself is plainly a reminder that Jesus is not a stodgy, ruminating, furrow-browed Son of God. Neither is he from a Father who scrimps or cheaps-out or holds back when it comes to giving good gifts. The picture here is of a willing, generous, extravagant giver of good things.
Think about it: Jesus’ first miracle highlighted the pure enjoyment of life’s celebrations and blessings.
Quickly: ten things you are thankful for in your life. Go!
Have you grasped the idea that God celebrates you and wants extravagant good for you?
Is there a situation where your heart (God’s Spirit) is telling you to be generous, even extravagant, with your abilities, time, money?
Show me that all I am and have are gifts from You.
Help me to be generous as You have been generous with me.
May I live in the exuberant joy of receiving and giving in return.
Show me that the world needs those who are generous in Your name.
I pray in the name of the Giver of good gifts,