Epiphany 3 – Water into Wine
(Text – John 2:1-11)
May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be always acceptable and pleasing in your sight, O Lord my strength and my redeemer. Amen
Ever since I was little I have loved to read books. Apart from science fiction books, and time allowing, I will read pretty much anything. There is something exciting about choosing a new book to read. It may be the eye-catching cover that has drawn me to a particular book or I may have seen a title that has intrigued me. Maybe a friend has spoken enthusiastically about a novel they have read and been keen to encourage me to read it too. When the last few Harry Potter books were released, I was one of those people queuing up in Sevenoaks High Street outside W.H.Smith’s waiting to get my hands on the latest edition as soon as it was released at midnight.
Whatever it is we choose to read, I am grateful that the authors are able to write in many different forms and styles allowing us to find a book that suits each one of us as individuals. They write in such a way that makes their book unique from other books and can also be read uniquely by each one of us. They draw us into the text and make us think about what is happening in the plot or the picture they are painting in words. Often a good book, I think, is one that you read over and over again and each time you do, you find a new depth to the story.
John does just this in the gospel reading we have heard this morning. He invites us to look beyond the details of the story and explore it at a deeper level. None of the other gospel writers saw what happened at Cana as something worth recording, so it is only in Johns Gospel that we hear about the events at the wedding. John saw the turning of water into wine at Cana, as a sign. A sign that was to define the very purpose for which Jesus had come into the world. John wants to tell his readers what the life of Jesus means for them and what his message is all about.
John does not record what happens as being a miracle, but a sign. In fact, John does not call anything a miracle in his Gospel. Instead he does record seven ‘signs’ in his Gospel, and the changing water into wine is the first. This can only be intentional as it happened in front of the servants, the least important people, at the wedding. John sees it as a sign for everyone, something that would inform people about what they might expect form this man from Nazareth, something that would point them towards a deeper meaning. The servants at the wedding saw water turned into the finest wine. John saw a man who, in this first sign, declared himself as an agent of transformation.
So, what is this transformation that John points us to? Let us look back into the story.
“They have no wine.”(John 2:3)
It is with those words that Mary, Jesus’ mother speaks a truth about our lives, a truth that at some point we all experience. There comes a day when the wine gives out. The glass is empty, and the party is over. On that day we feel that life seems empty and dry. There is no vibrancy or vitality. Nothing is growing or fermenting within us and our world is colourless and tasteless. The bouquet of life is absent, and we are living less than fully alive.
Those words spoken by Mary hold before us some serious questions and wonderings. Why has the wine of our own life given out? What relationships have run dry? What parts of us remain empty?
Each one of us I expect could tell a story about the day the wine gave out. It might be about the death of a loved one or the loss of a friendship or marriage. It may be the day our life changed through illness or disability. Some people will speak about their search for love and acceptance, others may describe their thirst for meaning and significance. Some will tell of their guilt, disappointments, or regrets and many stories I am sure will be about the fear of what is or what might be. People may also talk about stories of failure and self-doubt. Some will describe a longing and desire for something they cannot name or describe. Or even a storyline of unanswered prayer, doubts, or questions. These are not all stories from the past, however. Some of us are living those stories today.
Behind each of our stories though is the hope and desire for a wedding in our life. We come to the wedding at Cana to witness a sign just as the servants did. A sign that will point the way to something new. Something transformational that will allow our lives to be changed into the finest wine.
Yet despite our best efforts, good intentions, and hard work, though, it seems that the wine of our life is always giving out. No matter how often we refill our glass it always seems to end up empty again. There is never enough wine. As the days and weeks wear on we become increasingly aware that we cannot replenish the wine from our own resources.
That day seems like a disaster, an embarrassment, a failure. That is what it would have been like for the families of the bride and groom hosting the wedding if the wine had run out. Mary can see that disaster and humiliation are looming. “They have no wine,” she tells Jesus. She has simply observed what is happening and she turns to Jesus. The one person she knows who can help prevent a disaster. The one who deep down in her heart she knows can transform the situation and produce something extraordinary from the ordinary. It is on this day that all she has pondered over the years becomes a reality. Mary knows the time has come for Jesus to transform the lives of others.
Too often we live with the illusion that we can do all things by ourselves. We don’t need any help, no one to lean or rely on. Then that illusion is shattered on the day that the wine runs out and the jars of our life stand empty and dry. It is on that day we are confronted with a new truth as old as creation itself. That we are the recipients and not the creators of our life. We were never intended nor expected to live by the sufficiency of our own resources. Christ is the true wine merchant, willing to give us wine abundantly if we are prepared to allow Him to be the steward of our lives.
Regardless of how it feels or what we think about it, the day the wine runs out is actually the beginning of a miracle. Christ does not simply refill our glasses. He transforms our lives, turning water into wine. It is, after all, the third day, the day of resurrection and new life. All that was colourless in our lives, is now vibrant red. All that had no taste now awakens the taste buds on the tongue. All that had no fragrance now has a full bouquet. All that had no life is now fermenting, active, and alive inside us.
It is on that third day that our lives are filled to the brim with the good wine; intoxicating us with the life of God, inebriating us with the blood of Christ, and leaving us under the influence of the Holy Spirit. That is what happened at the wedding in Cana and it has never ceased happening. Every moment of every day Christ pours himself into the empty jars of our lives. He is the good wine; the finest wine, abundant and never ending.
Every time that good wine is poured out into our lives we are changed and transformed. We are brought “out of error into truth, out of sin into righteousness, out of death into life” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 368). I cannot tell you how that happens. I only know that it does happen. I have tasted the good wine. I have experienced the transformation of water into wine as at Cana.
I have seen those moments, when death is turned into life, sorrow into joy, and despair into hope. I have seen that happen in my own life and the lives of others also. To witness those gripped by fear see that fear transformed into courage and see people do things they never thought possible. I have watched and witnessed empty lives be re-filled.
“They have no wine,” Mary said. But they will. The transformation of our lives always begins when the wine gives out. Whatever concerns you brought with you to church today, those concerns that are the empty jars in your life, if they matter to you they matter to God. If you pay attention to them, who knows, you might find that they are the areas of your life where God is turning water into wine. That is the finest wine which can overflow into the lives of others too.
21st January 2018