John 2: 1 – 11
I wasn’t here too long before I got the reputation for being a lover of prosecco. In fact, my reputation preceded me, and when I was handed my first glass of fizz within moments of being licensed, I knew I was in the right place. But I’m no wine connoisseur. And I say that tentatively because I am aware I now live in wine country. Fortunately for me, I am now married to one! Craig and I spent our delayed honeymoon in Margaret River, touring several breweries. On our first stop we had no idea what we were doing. We basically liked what we liked…and got smashed.
On our second stop we did the same until this one night, where I went to sleep, next to a non-wine-expert but woke up next to a top-class sommelier! Craig, being unable to sleep, had done some research and now knew vast amounts about wine. And our search for the Cape Mentelle 2018 cab sav began. Because that’s the best wine in WA. Suddenly our wine tasting became about notes on the nose and something about the front of the tongue. Craig’s appreciation grew…and I continued to get smashed…just on better, posher wine. And I’ve been thinking about that as I’ve read this week’s gospel reading. And there is so much that is good in this passage.
My favourite thing is that we are on day 3 of a 5-day wedding festival; everyone has been drinking; Jesus could’ve served vaguely fermented grape juice, who would’ve noticed? But, instead, Jesus’ miracle serves up the best wine in the land. And that is what God is like – abundant, extravagant, generous, always giving, always outdoing us with grace and mercy and blessings and good things. We come grovelling for a drop of vinegar, almost, and Jesus pours out bottles of Cape Mentelle upon us. Isn’t it wonderful to worship a God of abundance, who gives more than we can ever ask or imagine?
And as another act of abundance…
Jesus changed water into wine for EVERYONE, not just the few. He didn’t just make a couple of bottles for the 1st century equivalent of the top table. He made 180 gallons of wine – that’s around 900 bottles – so there would be enough for everyone; enough for this party, and the next – enough to give away – enough for everyone to enjoy…and to hear where it came from.
But here’s the clever bit…In this story we have water, and we have wine – water, the symbol of humanity and wine, the symbol of divinity. In this miracle we see an audacious claim from God – the source of all miracles – we see that as simply as Jesus can change water into wine, so God can change Jesus’ humanity into divinity and that, in turn, we too can be changed from our brokenness and sin into a person of holiness, wholeness and beauty.
That is the real miracle: not that Jesus changed water into wine, but that Jesus can change us from broken to whole, from fearful to bold, from hurt to healed, from alone to belonging, and that all this happens in and through the relationship we are offered, from Christ, every single day.
This gospel story is not really about weddings or alcohol. It is a signpost that points to who Jesus is, what life will be like with him, and what his kingdom stands for. Jesus is one who offers transformation. And he begins with the transformation of water into wine.
Water is good, of course. We need it for life, we are made of it, and we can’t live very long without it. It is the most basic of necessities, but wine…wine is a symbol of more – in the bible, wine is used to symbolise life and abundance, extravagance, joy and celebration. So Jesus has come to transform that which is good and important, into something that is even better. Life, but life in abundance.
The six stone water-jars that Jesus instructed the stewards to fill with water were there for ritual purification and washing. They were there so the wedding guests could keep Jewish law. Jesus takes that ritual water and turns it into something beyond the law. The Law isn’t bad. It is good, and pure. But Jesus came to transform it into something that was not just good, but joyful, God-centred, grace-filled, welcoming, loving, accepting. Because of Jesus, ceremonial washing was no longer needed. We are already clean. We are already good enough. We don’t need those water jars any more. We can use them for wine – the best wine – because being accepted by the Living God is a real cause for the best sort of celebration.
This is a message for those whose life is like water–good, nourishing, and life-sustaining. And the message is ‘it’s good to be good, but it’s even better to be great and joy-filled and to know the unconditional love and acceptance of Christ’. Come on in; the wine is delicious!
God wants so much more for us than our dutiful commitment. God wants us to live fully; to laugh and enjoy life. To look into the ritual water-jars that we think are needed to make us acceptable in God’s sight, and to find that they are full of wine, and it is for us.
God is full of divine extravagance. The absolute scandal of following Jesus is the discovery that when we go to the source of living water, and choose to drink, we find that it becomes posh, expensive, delicious wine as it touches our lips. Our God is not interested in duty or ritual purification; our God offers us abundant life, filled to the brim and overflowing with love. We have already been washed in the waters of baptism – we are clean, once and for all; the future is wine!
And I wonder how often people look at Christians and don’t see this abundant life, this unconditional welcome, this huge outpouring of love. I wonder how often people look at us and think that our faith is one that looks more like something that turns wine into water, not the other way around…and that is why we need to repeatedly return here, to this altar, to mass, and ask Jesus for a top-up, a refill, of His divinity, in exchange for our humanity. In every mass, we have the opportunity to have the water of our lives, transformed into the abundance of wine.
May we be transformed, and may we be agents of transformation in this world, because we have tasted life in abundance, and now have abundant life to offer, unconditionally, to all. Amen.