Reading: John 2:1-12
Grace to you and peace in Jesus Christ, the Word become flesh. Amen.
For the next few months, as we move through the Narrative Lectionary, we’ll be following the life of Jesus as it comes to us in the Gospel of John. Before Christmas, we read the first chapter of John, and we heard John proclaim to us, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” It’s a famous line. But what does it mean? What would it look like, for the Word to become flesh, and dwell among us?
Well, today we get a glimpse of that. “And the Word became flesh, and he was invited to a wedding with his mom.”
Jesus’ mother only appears twice in the Gospel of John. She’s never called Mary, just “the mother of Jesus.” She’s there at the end of his life, at the cross, and she’s here, at the beginning of his ministry, cheering him on, and encouraging him to get out there, and be the best rabbi he can be.
So here they are, sitting at a table together, enjoying this wedding feast. And the wine runs out. So Jesus’ mother says to him, “Jesus, did you notice? They’ve run out of wine!” And Jesus says, “So what?’
It’s almost like he’s saying, “O come on Mom. Don’t embarrass me. Just let me have a good time. I don’t have to be the Messiah all the time, you know!”
But Jesus’ mother won’t take no for an answer. So she calls the servants over, and says, “Just do whatever he tells you to do.”
Now Jesus is committed, whether he wants to be or not. So he says, “See those six stone jars in the corner? Bring them to the well, and fill them with water.”
So the servants do it. They bring these six, huge stone jars – 30 gallons each! – and they fill them to the brim.
Now we know what’s going to happen here. The water is going to turn to wine. But just stop for a second, and picture how much wine. Six jars, thirty gallons each. We’re talking one hundred and eighty gallons of wine! That’s over a thousand bottles of wine! And we’re not just talking about your $10 Copper Moon here. We’re talking about a thousand bottles of the best Mediterranean wine you’ve ever tasted.
The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us…
And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
Not just grace. Grace upon grace. What does that even mean? Grace upon grace…. The guests at the wedding that night got a taste of grace upon grace. It tasted like the best wine, and more of it than you could ever want or drink.[i]
The servants take this wine to the steward. And when the steward tastes it – the best wine he’s ever tasted – he calls the bride and groom over. Now the bride and groom know that they haven’t ordered enough wine. They are embarrassed beyond belief. They know that for years to come, everyone in this little town of Cana will remember their wedding as the one where they ran out of wine. Can you imagine their surprise, when the steward takes them aside, and says, “Everyone else serves the good wine first, and when the guests are drunk, they bring out the cheap wine. But you, my friends! You have saved the good wine until now!”
What does it mean, to trust in a God who saves the best wine for last?
What does it mean, to trust in a God who says, “Just wait. The good wine is yet to come.”
As we hear this story today about a wedding – a party, a celebration – I have to admit, it reminds me of how much I miss those kinds of things we used to take for granted. Parties, celebrations, weddings… dancing, singing, feasting, sitting around a table with a bunch of friends and a bottle of wine. Seems like those were the good times, doesn’t it? After two years of pandemic, in the midst of another wave, and another round of restrictions, I miss the simple pleasure of just getting together and having a good time. Sometimes I’ll come across a video from a few years ago of a concert, or a choir singing, and I’ll find myself longing for the past, longing for a time when I didn’t think twice about walking into a crowded room, a time when the only masks I owned were for Halloween, and the words “social distancing” weren’t even a part of my vocabulary.
Or I think about climate change. I think about the fires, and the floods, and the droughts that we’ve witnessed this year, even here in Canada. And I long for the past. I wish the world had a giant “REWIND” button, so I could press it and go back in time a few decades, to when the glaciers were still intact, and the Arctic ice sheets were still full and thick, and terms like “heat dome” and “atmospheric river” weren’t in my vocabulary. Sometimes I long to go back to a time when the world just didn’t feel so heavy.
In the midst of all of this, in those times when we long for the past, what does it mean to trust in a God who says, “The good wine is yet to come”? What does it mean to trust in a God who saves the best wine for last?
Perhaps it means that, even in the midst of all of this, we are called to live with a sense of hope, with a sense of expectation. A sense of hope and expectation that, despite all evidence to the contrary, God isn’t done with our world yet. A sense of hope and expectation that the God who created stars and galaxies and planets, who brought light from darkness, who took a dead planet and filled it with life, the God who created Douglas firs and coral reefs and elephants and arctic foxes and salmon and salamanders… that the God who billions of years ago got into this whole business of giving life and giving it abundantly, that this God isn’t done with us yet. That maybe this God is saying to us:
“You will taste mercy. You will taste grace upon grace. And it’s gonna be like huge jugs, filled to the brim with the best wine you’ve ever tasted. Because I am a God who saves the good wine for last.”
[i] Karoline Lewis, John. Fortress Press, Minneapolis MN, 2014.