“New Wine Divine” John 2:1-11
Delivered to Church for the Highlands
The Second Sunday after the Epiphany, January 16, 2022
We have a wedding coming up in our family and things have been busy around my house. I’ve forgotten how much planning goes into a wedding. Even for the groom, there’s a lot to do to be ready for the big day. I thought about that as I read the wedding story in our gospel this morning and the part about the groom who may not have done enough planning to ensure there was enough wine for the guests. The celebration would soon turn into embarrassment when the wine was gone. When Jesus recognizes this, he does something amazing, showing things the people around him that day–and even us now–needed to see.
First, Jesus showed that God was doing a new thing. It was a new thing within what already existed. Jesus didn’t just create wine from thin air; he used what was there—water—and changed it into wine. In the same way, Jesus was making something new for Israel, from within its relationship with God. As Jesus would say in his first sermon, the Kingdom of God has come near. God was working through what existed (water, Israel) to do a new thing (wine, Jesus) in the world. Jesus began his ministry at a time when Israel was in captivity, with lots of different ideas about where God was, what God was doing, and how they were to live. Jesus brings a new beginning, new direction, new method of resistance, a new way of seeing God, and a new way of love. And what better place to show a new beginning than at a wedding, as two people unite to create something new for themselves.
We like new beginnings, don’t we? Aren’t we all in need of something new in our lives? Maybe a new you as you begin the year, phase in life, or relationship. We often get stuck where we are, continuing in the ruts that have become so deep they are hard to get out of, sometimes missing that there is a better direction and way for us to go in life. This happens for us in many aspects of our lives, but especially spiritually. We can get so comfortable with what we believe or how we’ve done things in the past, or who God is, that we can miss the new things God has for us through the transformational power of Jesus. We can celebrate tomorrow the new thing God was doing through Martin Luther King, Jr. for civil rights in our nation and how he wouldn’t settle for anything short of God’s very best for Black people and all humankind to live in beloved community.
At the wedding, Jesus also demonstrated the joy of God’s presence with them. When he arrived there, he became the life of the party, celebrating with the bride and groom in their love for one another. He also brought joy to those who noticed that the water–and the joy it brings–was running out. As God in flesh, Jesus showed God’s delight in being with humankind. What Mary already knew and what the disciples would learn that day would increase from then on–that their joy was complete when Jesus was with them. It wasn’t just because he could make more wine, but because he was the new wine, the very best God provided. Having Jesus with them was the true joy of God.
Have we found that to be true in our lives, that when we are with Jesus there is no greater joy? What Jesus brings into our lives is God’s delight with us and desire to be with us. Like the person who lights up a room when entering, Jesus becomes the life of the party as he enters our lives and remains with us in this world. The joy he brings is generous, abundant, life-giving, unlimited, and unable to be diminished by the sorrows of the world. It is that joy that comes on the third day, like when Jesus appeared at the wedding and then again outside of the empty tomb. It is that joy that we are to remember and experience in the wine and bread of Communion, as we recognize God’s real presence with us as we take and eat and drink together from an unlimited supply of God’s abundant love. Where Jesus is, there is joy. Another thing Jesus shows at the wedding was the disciples need to believe in him and in what he could do. The wedding host, Jesus’ mother, and the disciples there at the wedding were familiar with what was, what existed–the wine, the water, the needs of the hosts, the normal customs, and ways of doing things. What Jesus did there that day turning water into wine demonstrated how they could trust in him as he began his ministry. He sought to inspire them as he launched out in ministry, to stretch their belief in what God could do through him. Turning water into wine, Jesus pointed to God’s activity in their midst and time, as if to say, “You think this is something, just wait until you see what else I will do.” He invited their belief, stepping outside of their preconceived notions of what was possible in the world with God, displaying the transformational power of the kingdom of God. For those there that day feeling powerless, dominated, and empty, this was indeed a new beginning.
As we hear about what happened at this wedding in Cana, we can reflect on what we believe about Jesus. Like the host who recognized what he lacked as his wine ran out, we may also know the feeling when things don’t turn out the way we intended when our systems fail, and our resources run out. The belief we have in ourselves or in others is shaken by the reality of limitations. The hope we have for freedom from what holds us captive and for what can bring us peace may diminish when confronted by the powers of this world. Like with the wine that ran out, we can focus on what is not there to the neglect of what could be there; of what God can do when we feel the shame of not having enough. And sometimes we just quit believing. What Jesus does, though, is show us a God who isn’t bound by the limitations and powers of this world; that nothing is outside of the possibilities of what God can do, even on the third day. Jesus was the connection point for that truth in Cana and is for us today. He invites us to believe that he can and will make things better; that if he can turn water into wine then he can surely change our lives and world.
May we allow him to do so in our lives, church, and world today.