Blogging Towards Sunday, January 17th
Water into wine: is that a big deal? It almost doesn't seem to be when you read the gospel text for this coming Sunday. No one draws attention to the sign or miracle - that Jesus performs at the wedding he is attending with his friends and family in Cana. It's only when the wine is tasted that the miracle is revealed. It seems like there are two conclusions to the story: the first in verse 10 - a remark that the best wine was surprisingly served last (post-Jesus-intervention) and then a second one in verse 11 - by the narrator telling the story, informing us that the real miracle was that the disciples put their faith in Jesus and believed. So what is the miracle: the water into wine, or the 5 disciples present moving from followers to believers?
I think we most often get stuck on the whole wine bit, it can almost seem a bit trite. In the face of all the suffering in the universe here is one, we claim to be Messiah or God incarnate, who chooses not to stop feed the hungry, free the enslaved or heal the sick - but to turn water into wine so that the wedding party can continue. The other response is to say that it's all allegorical, a metaphor proclaiming that Jesus is the promised one come to replace the old way of doing religion via purification with a new one of making God's glory visible in life. That's cool, yet what does it do for our day to day life today?
I read a commentary on John by Jean Vanier who says that Water is the element of everyday life, the mundane, the drudgery, the suffering that we cannot escape. Wine is the element of the extraordinary, the out-of-the-ordinary, the best in life we want to celebrate, share - the party. We too often seek to avoid the inescapable hardness of life and our consequential brokeness through alcohol, drinking to forget and avoid. So we can get caught up on that. Yet here this wine is about celebration, an invitation to faith not as a religious system or do's and dont's, but as a banquet, a party of human-ness - who we are and what God wants for us. Less about maintenance than about liberation. More about affirmation than condemnation. That's the God that Jesus points to and reflects.
The best part of this story is that John, in his telling of the whole store, asserts that this is merely the beginning, the first of the signs that Jesus performed. It's not the end, but the open door at the beginning of the path, the e-vite to a party of discovering a God that is out-of-the-box, beyond our expectations, and ready to party. I wonder what worship on Sunday should look like if we really wanted to experience the word in this text? Maybe a surprise party with a crazy good band, good food, and of course some wine.