Clayton Wesley, 25 June 2023. Pentecost 6: “You’ve kept the good wine until now!” (Jn 2:10b)
Song 2:10b-13 and John 2:1-11
If there’s one thing I *love*, it’s a special occasion. And nothing quite beats a wedding for me! For all sorts of reasons: on one level, there’s the thought that in a world full of people, two people can find each other and build a life together, full of hope and promise. Shared adventure, companionship in the ups and downs of life.
But I also like weddings because you get to see people you may not have seen for a while. 7 years ago now, I traveled back to Somerset in England to my niece’s wedding and *everyone* who was anyone was there! My mum and dad, my siblings, my nephew and nieces and friends and other relatives. Weddings can bring people together! To celebrate community, to rejoice in each other’s company, the conversation maybe turning to old memories, old stories, nostalgia, shared history along life’s journey.
You know, there’s another reason I like weddings – it’s a chance to dress up, wear something smart, buy a new outfit even, to eat good food and to drink good wine.
Our Gospel reading today is set at a wedding. There’s lots of scholarly speculation about whose wedding it is, but that’s not really important. It is a day of gathering together, of celebration and commitment, and of course wine. And the scene is set for what John records as the first of Jesus’ miracles: the wine has run out – the celebration (it seems) is about to stall, and Mary, Jesus’ mother, goes up to Jesus and says, “they have no wine.”
At my previous church on Goodwood Road, in the store room, there’s a round red box. And on that little red box, someone has written some words on the lid: “Miracles and Wonder”. Unfortunately, you open the box and there’s nothing inside – it’s just an empty box! It must be a prop from some drama or Sunday School production I suppose, though I’m not sure what. But anyway, who wants a box of empty promises? Fortunately, for the bride and groom and the guests, Jesus is not about empty words and promises.
Calling the servants, Jesus said to them, fill the large waterpots with water, which they do to right up to the brim. Jesus then says, draw some out and pass it to the headwaiter. Again, they do as Jesus says, but somehow the water in the large waterpots has now turned to wine. And not just any wine, but the best wine. A miracle has happened. No great kapow! Not great show! But a wedding celebration is saved, the potential for dishonour is gone – imagine inviting everyone you know to a wedding and running out of wine! – and, more importantly, the ministry of Jesus – healer, rescuer, saviour – has begun.
Jesus performs the miracle but there are other people involved in the story. First, Mary spots the wine situation and calls on her son Jesus to intervene. His response appears a bit surprising and terse, but maybe that’s something to explore for another day. Second, the servants do everything that Jesus tells them to do. The suggestion here is that we look to Jesus in our difficulty and He will guide us through. But that’s not what I want to talk about…
What I find wonderful is that the outcome for our wedding party is better wine! I love this. The idea that God is willing and desires for us to drink better wine! Better than it was before. It may not have been Jesus’ first miracle, but it was important for John in his Gospel to make this the first one because it sets the tone for Jesus’ ministry and everything that God is about in John’s Gospel: “for God *so* loved the world…” (3:16)
“I came that you might have life, and life abundant” (10:10)
Love and abundant life!
And another Johannine text, he says of Jesus, “I’m standing at the door knocking, if you open the door I’ll come in and we’ll eat together as friends, you with me, me with you.” (Rev. 3:20. That’s the New Living Translation, but it resonates.)
Love, abundant life, celebrating together over a meal.
And this theme of God inviting us into a fellowship meal is found throughout Scripture, and is so central to our understanding of life lived following God.
In our prayers this morning: “He has brought me to His banquet hall, and His banner over me is love”.
God brings us to a feast! Where else do we see that kind of image? – You’ll recall Psalm 23, when David says, “you prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies… you have anointed my head. My cup overflows.” (Ps 23:5) My cup overflows with the best wine.
Do you remember those two followers of Jesus on the road to Emmaus. As Jesus breaks bread with them, they recall how their hearts had burned within them as Jesus spoke to them. A shared meal, breaking bread, remembering words of comfort.
Of course, the religious rulers criticised Jesus for his choice of table companion (Mark 2) “look he eats with tax collectors and sinners”. But Jesus wears the label proudly. All are welcome to His table. At His table the new wine never runs out. At His table all are filled. At His table, there is life abundant. Not an easy life, this isn’t some prosperity Gospel he’s preaching. But, despite the ups and downs of life, the mistakes we may make, the things we lose, we can still know hope and peace and companionship and love in all circumstances.
Jesus turns water into wine. It’s not an empty gesture, or an empty box with the word “Miracles” on it. There is no disappointment with Jesus. Jesus turns water into the best wine, and it’s an invitation to the start of a journey, an invitation into life in all its fulness.
I wonder how many times over the past 140 years the wedding at Cana has been the sermon or homily of the day. I know that in the first service in this building, 140 years ago, the text was: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Heb 13:8). Imagine that! The same Jesus whose ministry is life-giving, and love-bringing, and fellowship-inviting, and new wine-making, that same Jesus is the same today, still bringing us life in all its fulness. And the same Jesus who sustains us today will continue to sustain us into the future, as we follow Him, sharing the Good News of all He has done for us.
The lectionary reading for today was from the Song of Solomon: “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come along. For behold, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers have already appeared in the land; The time has arrived for pruning the vines, And the voice of the turtle dove has been heard in our land.” (Song 2:10b-12)
A new season approaches. Flowers have already appeared – do you see the signs of new spring growth? The turtle dove’s song is carried on the wind – do you hear that new song? There’s work to do in the vineyard. New wine to be made. Are we ready to arise and come along, and do our part in this new season in the life of Clayton Wesley. What new wine will we taste as we are obedient to God’s calling on our lives? May God bless this place, and may it ever be a beacon of hope and love – miracles and wonder – in this part of the city we love. Amen.