I love a good wedding. And there’s really no consistent measure of a good wedding. When my cousins in California would get married, we got to take a little vacation alongside the wedding, which was nice. Unrelated to the text from today but at one of my cousin’s weddings, the bride’s father made all the wine for the wedding. I remember going to weddings in our early 20’s and we imagined it was like a grown up prom. Sometimes weddings have gotten weird when I want to support the folks getting married but end up at a wedding without knowing the other guests. Some guests decide if it’s a good wedding based on how free the alcohol is. Of course, usually if the alcohol is free… it’s not great. I definitely went to a wedding with the Coors Light was free and drank, but I can’t imagine that anyone is really drinking it because they liked as much because it was there… and free, because that is what we expect at a wedding. And when you run out of the Coors Light…? the party is over.
Our story for today is a one that has become part of popular culture. If I had a dollar for the the number of times someone has asked if being ordained lets me turn water into wine, I’d have a few dollars. not a lot but more than one. It starts “on the third day,” which is related to when John the Baptizer first points out Jesus, when the disciples first follow Jesus–so, it’s about a week from the beginning of the narration of the story and so, 5-ish days since these men started following Jesus around. Remember, for the most part, they started spending time with him and then Jesus invited them to come along. So they have known each other for less than a week.
I come with a lot of questions to this text. Who’s getting married? Is it someone in Jesus’ family? a neighbor? a brother? sister? Did the host of the wedding know that Jesus had this brand new group of tag-a-longs, posie, stalkers, disciples? Is it because Jesus showed up with 6 or 12 or known number of there people that needed food and drink that the wedding had run out of wine. They ran out of wine. What happens when you run out of wine? the party is over.
It also brings shame on the host and the ones getting married. Did you not plan well enough? Did they not have enough resources to include who came? Were they going to be the cause of the celebration ending early? and everyone being sober? This would follow them for years, perhaps no one would show up for the next event. Maybe they wouldn’t be invited–which doesn’t sound like much but is kind of a big deal. The honor shame system in the ancient world but it was a system that controlled and dictated the social and economics of the time. Messing this up was big deal.
One of the things that is difficult about the bible is that we don’t get the feelings, the nuances, the tone of what is being said most the time. When Mary told Jesus that the party had run out of wine, I wonder about Jesus’ response and tone. Like Mary, we’re going to ignore that he called her “woman”, which would have been an unheard of title for one’s mom even back then. I wonder if Jesus answered: Pretty sure that’s not our problem. or Nothing I can do. or This is not the glamorous way we were going to start this thing. or Ok, good luck. or This is not the time or the place.
And Mary, who the other gospels tell us treasured things in her heart, decided that the time had come, there was something that he could do and she was going to make it their problem. I wonder what she had seen in Jesus, had seen Jesus do and be as he grew up, the word made flesh as a toddler, a teenager, a young man. She knew him and knew what he could do and just decided it was time to stop wasting time, time to stop hesitating, time to stop waiting.
And so, he did. The word of God made flesh spoke to the servants and the day of saved. The servants did as Jesus ask, they filled 6 of these huge vessels that would have held 20-30 gallons with water, and somewhere between the filling of the vessels and the glass being put to the lips of the wine steward–the person in charge of the wine, something happened–the water that they had collected, and filled the vessels with, became delicious, flavorful wine, the best wine. And so much wine–180 gallons of the best wine–a 1000 modern bottles! So much, more than any party could reasonably need.
I’ve thought about this a lot this week, the unreasonable quantity of this event. They went from having none to having so much they might have to give it away as wedding favors. I think about dinner parties that we might have. We have people over and wonder if we have enough wine. Is 2 bottles enough? We should have 4 more, for 3 people, an amount that no one needs.
I think about other times we use the words enough, or not enough as the story started. Not enough money to do the things that we would like to do, to travel to the places that we want to see, to have what we want, or need.
I think about how there is not enough time. 24 hours is not enough time to do what needs to be done if one is sleeping through 8 of them. So we sleep less, or we don’t take time to rest and play, and we fill every moment to maximize time. Some of us start the year with new journals and goals planners and goal journals so that this year, the time will be used correctly.
Sometimes, it’s not about the not enough that we focus on ourselves, but in the world around us. Perhaps you have though, or know of someone who has thought, that there is not enough love to go around. Kelly was dog sitting this weekend for some friends. They had 2 dogs, 13 year old, small dog Maggie and 7 year old, pitbull mix Judy–and Judy is a lot. She’s a full of energy rescue with some trauma and sometimes it has seemed that they love Maggie more than Judy. So over the summer, they brought home a puppy, a Corso Mastiff mix–it’s huge. And suddenly, Judy is the Jan Brady–desperate to snuggle and be loved. Poor Judy, and Jan. As if love is something that is limited, and because now there so so much love and attention to the new puppy, Judy gets less. As if there is a scarcity of love.
We see it in discussion that turn into debates–there are winners and there are losers. Someone is either completely right and the other is completely wrong. There are few shades of gray because being right is limited. Maybe you’ve seen it in fights you, of course, never had, with your dearly beloved. Maybe you found yourself fighting or defending yourself because you don’t want to be wrong, you don’t want to lose. As if there is a scarcity of right-ness.
We see it in kindness. As if there is only so much kindness to go around. or resources in the world so some hoard as if they are about to be gone. Our generosity or lack there of, is often out of an idea of scarcity, as if there is not enough, there won’t be enough. It comes from fear. Fear of what will become of us, fear of what others will say, fear of losing out. Fear of running out of wine.
Jesus points to Abundance.
The gospel author tells us that this is the first of the signs that point to who Jesus is, who the word made flesh is, points to who God is. The first sign that Jesus does points to glory and to abundance. Imagine how many different things Jesus could have done first: defeated the armies, sent away demons, raised the dead. Instead, it is this quiet, largely unseen act of abundance, of more than plenty, or overwhelming and overflowing. It wasn’t even that Jesus made sure there was just enough to get through the event, there was more than enough.
Jesus comes and brings abundance. No, we don’t’ magically have several more hours in our day, there is no magic prayer that will make you ridiculously rich. But, living in abundance is living in faith and promise we are cared for, and out of our being generous with our time and our energies and our resources and our love, both to ourselves and to others, will bring more.
Living abundantly is knowing that when it feels like you’re about to run dry, you can fall back into the arms of Jesus who longs for and gives abundantly.
When the world tells you that what you have or who you are isn’t enough, Jesus is the sign that points to more than enough. When doubt that we have love left to give, hope left to offer Jesus points to abundance. When we wonder if the mission is enough, if what we do matters, if our numbers of people can make this work: Jesus reveals abundance, abundance of love and grace, abundance of kindness and generosity, abundance of rightness and, honestly, wrongness. abundance of love. There is enough.
This is the first sign. It matters. It matters when we start here, in celebration and abundance. Remembering that we have a God of abundance: abundant love, abundant grace.