Posted by: Melissa Bane Sevier | January 14, 2019

The best party trick ever

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.’ Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. [from John 2]

This wedding has the potential to turn out very, very badly.

You remember the Smith/Jones wedding? OMG they ran out of wine! Nobody wants that to be their friends’ memories of what was to be a perfect wedding reception.

Jesus makes it turn out okay. Better than okay.

The event isn’t like his other miracles. Nobody is healed, no demons are cast out, no multitudes are fed. It’s just some wine to keep the party from falling apart. Where’s the purpose in that?

Where is the purpose in that?

Jesus doesn’t even do anything. He doesn’t say special words or even touch the water. After a testy exchange with his mom, he tells the servants to go fill the jugs with water. Hardly anyone knows what is going on. But of course word would get out later. The wine steward, the servants, maybe his friends—they all had a great story to tell.

My money is on his mom: “My son the rabbi, did you hear what he did at that wedding!?” I mean, really, would your mother be able to keep quiet if you did something that cool?

John would later tell us that Jesus performed miracles so that people would be able to see who he was, that he had power from God.

But what does changing water into wine tell us about Jesus? About anything? It sounds like a magic trick. It seems so trivial.

I think that’s what I like most about this story. It’s not about something big; it is understated.

It’s the miracle of taking the ordinary and turning it into something wild, unexpected, interesting, exciting, playful, joyful. It’s a sign of things to come, both in Jesus’ work and in the world.

Let’s not miss an important part of John’s story—this wine that Jesus makes isn’t cheap Mad Dog. It’s good. Really, really good. The writer seems to want us to know that when Jesus came to create something new, he didn’t mess around.

Neither should his followers.

Healthy faith communities assess need, then take the water of knowhow, spiritual gifts, and dollars and turn them into the wine of love, engagement, and justice.

Martin Luther King had a dream, but he knew that dreams are not enough to overcome institutional racism and its effects. He and thousands of other people of faith turned the water of dreams and their own gifts into the wine of a different future. The pain of adversity combined with the water of nonviolence began a movement that opened the eyes of people around the world and became the wine of hope and change. Of course we still have a very long way to go, but we have faith and we work toward a better world.

In our personal lives, in the communities we inhabit, and on a national and international scale, we will always have needs, the water of potentiality, and the possibility of the conversion to a better reality.

  • The depth of grief may someday, through the waters of time and healing, become the wine of hope.
  • The horrors of racism, religious exclusivity, and xenophobia may one day be transformed by the waters of faith and reason into the wine of mutual understanding and appreciation.

As the story of the wedding was told and retold, people heard it in their own way—as a problem party, where delicious wine that came from nothing but water resulted in joy and astonishment. For every generation since then, the story has symbolized new life, new possibility, new ways of thinking.

We require help to transform whatever needs changing into something new, hopeful, and joyous.

Water into wine. It’s more than a party trick.

© 2019, Melissa Bane Sevier

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