What do you do when the wine runs out? Well, most of us go to the grocery store, the liquor store, or the giant liquor superstore in our nearest major city so that we can choose more to satisfy our cravings for the Cabernet, Merlot, or Chardonnay we may prefer. The wine industry in the USA has grown by leaps and bounds in the time period following Prohibition and today there are wine producers in just about every state.
When we were in Washington state two years ago celebrating Christmas with our grown children and their significant others, we had dinner at a really great little restaurant in a very small town over on the Olympic Peninsula. It had a quaint name and our son-in-law found it on Yelp and said it had great ratings so we gave it a try. We were celebrating our daughter and son-in-law's anniversary so the management seated us at a nice table near the fireplace. We took our pictures by the fireplace to remember the occasion and settled in at our table and ordered. I ordered a glass of a Cabernet Sauvignon to go with my meal. Maybe it was the great food that went with it or the atmosphere but when I began to drink that wine, it tasted like the best wine I had ever tasted. I could actually notice the fruity nuances that wine experts sometimes describe in wines. I slowly enjoyed it and then smelled the empty glass again and again, breathing it in and giving a satisfied sigh each time. I wife looked at me and groaned by my behavior.
When the server brought our check, I asked her where this wonderful wine came from. She told me that it came from a small winery only about 20 miles from the restaurant. I was amazed. Here we were in Washington state in a small restaurant in a small town and I had tasted wine from a winery only 20 miles away and it was probably the best wine I had ever tasted. I wanted to bring home a barrel of it. When I returned home I looked up the winery on the internet and found out that it is just a small winery that produces a limited number of cases of wine each year. The prices were a bit higher than what I normally pay but I was tempted to order some to be shipped to our house. I decided against the idea but cherish that experience as a memorable one.
In John's Gospel, we share the story this week about Jesus' first miracle....turning water into wine. A Middle Eastern wedding, the biggest life event and celebration in the lives of most people in their day. It would have gone on for days with the family of the couple providing all the food and drink that people could consume during the feast. Suddenly, there was a shortage of wine, which would have been a huge embarrassment for the families of the couple. Mary informs Jesus of the need at hand and, at first, he says it is none of his business and waves her off. But, for some reason, he changes his mind and Mary orders for a huge quantity of water to be brought to her son. He just dips out some of the water and suddenly it is no longer water, but great quality wine.
We know it is great wine because the wine steward, who would have been hired to oversee the pouring of the wine comments that usually the best wine is served first and then the more inferior wine is served later when people are not really thinking their best and they don't really care about the quality of the wine BUT he says this time the best wine was saved for last.
Jesus not only turned water into wine but he turned it into superior wine, the best quality wine one could buy, maybe earning a 98 from Wine Spectator Magazine. Everyone talked about how good the wine was. They commented on its fruity qualities, and they smelled their wine glasses (or whatever they drank from) long after they consumed the wine. It was just that good and they wanted to enjoy it as long as they could.
This story is about our lives as well as about Jesus' first miracle. This story speaks to us about all the times in life when the wine has run out of our lives. We all have had times when the wine, the joy, the excitement about life, has run out. We feel diluted and run down and empty and we just want to give up. Perhaps the system we have been part of has abused us or persons within the system have betrayed us. Maybe the entire run of our lives has been so unfulfilled that we want to give up entirely on life.
The story is about how Jesus cared so much about the people who would have been greatly embarrassed and humiliated by the faux pas of wine ending before it should have that he decided it was his time after all to begin his public ministry. He turned water into wine to preserve the feelings and life and social standing of persons within their community. The wine he served was the best there could be because it needed to be superior to the drudgery of ordinary existence.
We all have felt empty and in need of spiritual wine that we could savor and enjoy. We have all felt like we needed to be energized in spirit so that we can live another day. The wine that is reserved for us in those times is the joy that can be brought back to life by the Spirit of God. God's Spirit brings new life as we experience what God can do for us. If you need some wine in your life, all you have to do is ask. Jesus is still serving the best wine there is. He will be glad to share it with you if you ask him to become involved in your life.
"They have no wine." Mary said.
"What business is that to us?" Jesus said.
"Bring him all the water you can find." Mary said.
Water into wine. Joy into weary lives. Celebration instead of defeat.
It happened long ago.
It still happens today.