Today’s gospel reading is a story that even non church goers may recognise, where Jesus turns water into wine. If we are at a party (remember those days) I am often the butt of people’s jokes, ‘oh don’t worry if we run out of drink, Julie can turn some water into wine for us’…. You get used to it after a while!
Miracles make for a great read but John doesn’t call anything a miracle in his Gospel. Instead, he calls them signs and changing the water into wine is the first, it is a sign that shows the people what they might expect from Jesus.
Water is a basic necessity of life, it hydrates us, we wash with it, we cook with it and without its presence nothing would survive. It is perfectly adequate for our needs.
If the guests at the wedding are thirsty then the water will certainly quench their thirst. There is nothing that needs fixing in the water because the water is good, but this is a story about making the good even better.
In scripture, wine is a symbol of joy, celebration and abundance. In changing the water into wine and allowing the wedding celebration to continue, Jesus is clueing people in on why his mission is to transform the world.
We often think of transformation in terms of opposites, like hoping that criminals will turn from bad to good. Often the most moving testimonies are of people who have been in a place from which as humans we don’t think they can possibly return. We hope and we pray they will ‘turn over a new leaf’ but secretly we think, no chance, they’ve been that way for too long. But God takes mean, ugly lives and transforms them into beautiful lives filled with kindness and mercy. God has a tendency to take hold of us when we are broken and makes us whole.
The jugs that Jesus had filled with water were the water jugs used for ritual purification and washing. They were there so that the wedding guests could comply with Jewish Law but Jesus takes that ritual water and turns it into something that would not satisfy the law. Washing your hands in wine would definitely not count but Jesus is making a statement. The Law was life-giving and necessary and it was good, but Jesus came to transform the Law into something that wasn’t just necessary, but also joyful. He was putting God and love into the mix ... symbolically taking the image of making life more than plain water... symbolically making life more like really good wine.
For many their life is like water, it is perfectly good, nourishing, and life-sustaining. For many their faith is also perfectly good, nourishing, and life-sustaining but it may also be one where it is lived with a sense of duty, making all about what we make happen in church, turning up on a Sunday morning, attending meetings and perhaps Zooming when necessary. But there is so much more to a Christian life than this.
Jesus’ message is that we should lighten up and enjoy our faith. Jesus said “I came that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.” Not just life, but abundant life...joyous life...life lived in freedom. This doesn’t mean however that God promises material wealth, nor a life free from pain and suffering, and this is sadly evident at the moment.
From my own perspective, I am an only child and was incredibly close to my mum, we finished each other’s sentences, we laughed hysterically at anything we possibly could and she totally ‘got me and my humour’. For us life was for living and to be enjoyed. I remember after she had died in November 2018 and we had the funeral, I came back to Essex on the 1st December and hit the ground running on the 2nd December (those from St Michael’s may remember this because I did a wedding there that day). I threw myself back into my job in school and into all busyness of the Christmas season at All Saints in Maldon. The services, schools, nurseries, tree festivals, meals, carols, the smiling and the sharing. On the second of December I did not feel like it, but by the time Christmas Day arrived I was glad I had done it. Despite thinking I couldn’t do it, I’d smiled my way through Advent and I was glad I had because it made me feel better. It didn’t stop the tears of an evening when I closed the front door but I experienced something special, I experienced Christmas in a different way, but a way that was possible. In fact that Christmas Day was when we discovered we were to be grandparents. As one life ended, another was beginning.
Christmas 2020 was experienced in a very different way for many, in a way that perhaps felt unfamiliar and strange. For those who experienced the loss of a loved one, it would also have included unbearable suffering.
Jesus said, “I came that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.” This doesn’t mean we’ll never have to do something that we don’t enjoy. It doesn’t mean that the pain of loss will leave us just yet, it doesn’t mean that we won’t dread getting up the next morning. But it does mean, that when the water of our lives becomes wine through the awareness that just maybe Jesus Christ his playing his part, that even the worst circumstances that life can offer can have a richness and depth. Maybe when we are in those dark moments in our lives that are all consuming, maybe the person next to us living life in God’s glory, supporting us when we cannot support ourselves, maybe they will be the light in our darkness and the wine in our glass.
Do we live our lives reflecting that Jesus can and has turned our water into wine, not just any old wine but the really good stuff? Are we giddy with our faith or do we live our faith in a sombre, serious fashion?
think God wants that from us, I think he wants to remind us that life is incredibly
short but it is there to be experienced it in all its abundance, fullness and