Written by Mark C. Pederson, Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church
If my hypothesis is correct, John has Jesus start his ministry by making wine, and ends his ministry in a vineyard right before he heads off the Garden and crucifixion. Let’s just be clear. John wants to celebrate the “word made flesh” entering into human history. First impressions are important, and John chooses to have Jesus, the savior of the world, save . . . wait for it . . . A Party!!!!!!! How messed up is that? Can you see the group of people writing the gospel of John sitting around with their 3X5 index cards deciding how to start off Jesus’ life and ministry? OK, in Mark we have Jesus being baptized by John. In Luke and Matthew we have the birth narrative and Jesus being born of a virgin. OK, let’s start off with a proclamation about Jesus being the LOGOS, the word of God, and then let’s have him be a winemaker.
I’ve shared the story of my former bishop in Montana telling people on a plane that he worked with sheep. I’m going to start telling strangers that I work for a wine maker! Why would the writers of John do this? And if they are going to tell this story, why lead off with it? Why would they make it the first public ministry of Jesus?
Based on the evidence, they must have liked to celebrate. Having established Jesus as the word that creates everything they can’t think of a better image of the beauty of creation than wine. Good wine, mind you. Maybe we should crack open a bottle of Pinot Noir for communion this week?
There are some very creative people who have speculated that Jesus did not create real wine. Since they know (despite all the biblical evidence to the contrary) that Jesus didn’t drink, they then assume that his “good wine” was not wine at all, but grape juice. There is only one problem with this wildly creative eisegesis. You see there is a wine expert on hand, a wine steward. Further more this wine guy knows something about drinking. Once you have had a glass or two of wine, you can’t taste if wine is good or not. So, no one would serve OK wine, and then save a good wine for later. I’ve talked to a lot of wine professionals, and none of them have ever described a wine as really good because it didn’t have alcohol.
And it is a ton of wine—at least 63 cases. And this for people who have already consumed all of the wine that the hosts had estimated they would need for the whole feast. This is an extravagant gift, much, much more than just enough. It is super abundance.
So, what does this have to do with us? First of all if you are able to enjoy and glass of wine every now and then you are rich. Not OK, not just getting by, you are abundantly rich. John thought that wine was a good metaphor of abundance and celebration. Maybe the community of John was surrounded by vineyards. If so, it must be obvious to us why this group of people would jump from Jesus as the creative word to vineyards and wine being the ultimate example of all of that.
Meditate this week on how rich you are, on how richly God has blessed you. Blessed you with family, blessed you with sisters and brothers in the Christ, blessed you with wonderful musicians and music, blessed you with wine and vineyards. They are, I believe, the ultimate symbol of God’s abundance love for all people.
Quotes for the Week
Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy. Benjamin Franklin
Close friends contribute to our personal growth. They also contribute to our personal pleasure, making the music sound sweeter, the wine taste richer, the laughter ring louder because they are there. Judith Viorst
Once we hit forty, women only have about four taste buds left: one for vodka, one for wine, one for cheese, and one for chocolate. Gina Barreca
Gospel Lesson John 2:1-11 (NRSV)
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. 9 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 10 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.” 11 Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
Questions for the Week
What is the best sign for you that God loves you and cares for you?
How do you respond to the concept that you are richly blessed?
How might we more fully live into the reality of God’s abundance in our lives?