For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch. The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give.
You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married. For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your builder marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Let Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. 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 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.” Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
I am guessing that most of you do not know my favourite wine.
This time of year, it is…
“When can we go to Palm Springs.”
Wine is mentioned many times in scripture.
In fact, wine is a powerful metaphor in the scriptures.
Consider this verse from Isaiah chapter 25.
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.
In the same passage of scripture there is reference to the Lord destroying death forever and wiping away all tears from everyone’s eyes…
And so it is common to believe that in this context wine was a metaphor for heaven, or for the Kingdom of God, or for the time of the Messiah…
For some people to equate heaven and wine, or to say that there is lots of wine in heaven is a pretty good thing.
Another understanding of wine as a metaphor is found in Acts chapter two when the followers of Jesus receive the Holy Spirit and some think they are drunk on new wine, but they are not drunk on new wine they are filled with the Spirit…
…but new wine became a metaphor of the Holy Spirit.
And then there are the words of Jesus as recorded in Matthew and Mark that the cup of wine Jesus holds out to his disciples is his blood….the blood of the covenant.
The wine is a metaphor of the blood of Christ poured out for us.
Or a metaphor of Christ himself.
And then we get to today’s story; the story of the wedding at Cana where the water in the Jewish purification jars is turned into wine.
A huge amount of wine. And not just any wine, the good stuff…
It is a story of transformation at so many levels and in particular, if Jesus can change water into wine, then he has the power to change and transform us.
So wine is a metaphor of transformation as well.
Wine is a metaphor of heaven or celebration.
Wine is a metaphor of the Holy Spirit.
Wine is a metaphor for Jesus’s blood and the sacrifice of Jesus.
Wine is a metaphor of transformation.
So let’s pretend today we are in bible study.
If we were in bible study these are the questions that would naturally follow.
When or what is heaven time to you here on this earth?
When is the time you feel like you are in heaven, whatever that may mean for you?
Maybe it is the place or condition where you feel absolutely loved and accepted and you can be yourself…
Or the time when you have the most joy…?
Or the time you feel close to God or Jesus….?
Or the time of happiest celebration….?
Or maybe it is time of peace… or maybe it is a time of healing…
Or maybe it is a time of forgiveness.
When does the kingdom of heaven come on earth for you?
Usually in a sermon I just keep on talking, but I actually want you to think about this so I am going to give you a minutes to think about this
The second question is this:
When do you feel or think the Holy Spirit is moving in you?
When do you feel you are being like Christ?
Or that love or joy or peace or kindness, or compassion are kind of inhabiting your body or your soul or your spirit and you know it is coming from somewhere else..
Or where is your heart moved to care or to forgive or to include or to embrace or to serve or to sacrifice…
When do you feel God inside you, a part of you…
Or moving you ..or guiding you… or healing you…
Again have a little time to think about this
The third question is all about forgiveness. When have you screwed up and asked God for forgiveness.
What was it like to feel that you were washed clean?
What does it feel like to look into the eyes of Jesus and hear the words: “Neither do I condemn you.”
Just think of your sins. Maybe you can think of a specific incident in your past or recently where you really did it.
You hurt someone or were nasty, or cruel. You took something that didn’t belong to you, you were unfaithful to yourself or to someone you loved….whatever…
And think about this…..after you identify your sin…how Jesus still loves you, still cares for you, still embraces you…
Still understands you…still listens to you…still helps you…still heals you…still forgives you.
A few seconds of quiet
And the fourth question is:
What is the water that needs to be turned into wine in your life…?
What needs transformation?
Where do you need God’s Holy Spirit to give you power change?
Imagine for a second…how your life could be different, better, blessed, fulfilled, empowered…more than what it is now…
And imagine God inside you making that happen.
Again some thinking time…..
So we have been thinking about transformation and maybe you were thinking about personal transformation and maybe a part of your life that could be changed….
And there is in the story a part of life that Jesus suggests could be changed but he never says so directly, it is a subtle indication in the text…
Notice we have the story of a wedding, but at this wedding, we never really meet the bride or groom, we don’t know who officiated at the wedding. We don’t know anything about the liturgy or the vows made. We really learn nothing about a Jewish wedding 2000 years ago.
All the action is at the reception. Kind of sounds like a few weddings today.
So the bride and groom don’t hardly even know about the miracle.
The wedding guests don’t know about the miracle. Who knows about the miracle…? the servants…
The people who are looked down on, the people who don’t have citizenship or who don’t vote, who have hardly any rights…
Remember in Jesus’ day servants were tradespeople who were hired for a good wage and went home to their house every night
Whenever you see servant in scripture think slave. The servants usually were a form of slave. They took orders and did what was told and usually got room and board.
Some were born to it. Some became slaves because of debts. That was the culture and that was the time.
And so it is significant in John’s gospel that the first sign is not a sign to the bride and groom, but the first witnesses were slaves…
..and at the end of the story…it is the disciples…the followers who believe in Jesus.
So I want you to make the connection that is there in scripture and in other scriptures as well as this one.
The metaphor of wine connected to Jesus’ blood is about service.
The ones who witness the miracle are the servants.
The disciples are told elsewhere that true greatness lies in being a servant of others…
Therefore to be a disciple of Jesus is about valuing and caring for the slaves and seeing in slave something good and commendable…
And to be a disciple of Jesus is to be a servant or a slave to others….
And if you had a minute or ten or an hour to think, think about the ways in which you serve others, or maybe the ways you could improve on service to others…
Or how God could transform you into a servant of others.
Wine is a metaphor of service…
But there is another aspect of wine mentioned in the text today.
Everyone serves the good wine first and then when the guests are drunk the cheap stuff comes out.
The other metaphor here is drunkenness.
In full disclosure I grew up in a house where we did not use alcoholic beverages. My grandmother had been raised a Baptist and my grandfather was a Presbyterian from the temperance movement side of Presbyterianism.
My mother didn’t drink and it was frowned upon.
And so I didn’t drink myself.
And my mother joined the Baptist church when I was about 13 so we attended a church that forsook the so-called evils of alcohol.
Later on as a young man and Presbyterian when I would try a beer or a hard drink, I was hard-pressed to understand the attraction. I did not nor do I like the taste of beer or hard liquor.
So I have never been drunk.
Nevertheless I will comment upon drunkenness.
Throughout the years I have been in the presence of many, many, people who were drunk.
I asked one of my sons one time about the attraction of alcohol and he said it wasn’t the taste of beer, it was the feeling of being inebriated.
You can feel good, and happy and confident and think that in your inebriated state that all things are possible and you can do anything.
And we all know that truth that sometimes people in these states might feel good and confident and that everything is possible, and all the while they can be deceiving themselves, for while they might feel confident and in control, sometime they are just being total jerks.
So I am not up here in a self-righteous way trying to rail upon people who drink or get drunk, but want you to think about drunkenness as a metaphor…
The things we do or say, or the things we drink or eat, the stuff we watch or view…
That give us temporary satisfaction, that makes us feel good for the moment,
But possible distorts our true vision,
Or denies our real problems….
Or postpones dealing with issues…
Or numbs the pain in our life without addressing the root source of the pain.
The stuff we are involved with which is the cheap wine of avoidance, denial and temporary pleasure.
Instead of the best wine of joy, good relationships, honest work, healthy living; and emotional and spiritual well-being.
Now all of us need pleasure and we need things in our lives to temporarily take our minds off the problems and the pain of life.
Sometimes dwelling on pain and problems is not helpful. And those in mental anguish, or in grief or suffering from mental illness, sometimes there problem is that they cannot turn their minds off and get rest.
So reading and television and movies, and music and sports, and movies and theatre and other arts can all play a helpful part in a healthy lifestyle.
All work and no play make Jack and Jill dull people.
But in Scott Peck’s seminal book The Road less Travelled where he talks about dealing with life’s problems, one of the techniques he said is called “Delaying Gratification.”
The idea of delaying gratification is that one denies themselves an instant reward or pleasure so that a bigger reward can be earned later on.
In the 1960’s an experiment was done at Stanford where children were brought into a room and a marshmallow was put in front of them. At this point the researcher made a deal with the child. The researcher said that he or she was going to leave the room and the child could eat the marshmallow, but if the child didn’t when the researcher came back the child would get a second marshmallow.
Of course many of the children couldn’t wait and ate the marshmallow right away. Some children squirmed and anguished for a bit and eventually ate the marshmallow; and some waited and got the promised second marshmallow and therefore got to eat two marshmallows.
It is a principle in life though that to gain bigger advantages one often has to forego the simpler and easier rewards at hand.
If you want a university degree it means you have to forego some play or pleasure, to work hard and study hard, with the idea that that degree will enhance your life.
If you want to lose weight you have to forego the simple pleasure of candies and cakes and cookies and pop.
And you might have to work hard at exercise.
If you want a job, you might have to take a course or get training or prepare yourself and forego.
And these things require discipline. A word related to disciple.
And the story or the wedding feast in Cana reminds us disciples that sometime if we want to find the most happiness, the greatest fulfillment, the best life….
to not always take the simplest and easiest route,
or whatever makes us feel good in the present moment…
but to deny ourselves and take up a cross and serve others….
May I remind you of those four questions?
What was heaven to you?
When did you feel like God or the Holy Spirit was moving in you?
Where do you need forgiveness?
Where do you need to change?
Finding heaven, finding God, finding forgiveness and finding change don’t always come by take the road most travelled, the easiest and most pleasurable road….
They often come by taking the road less travelled…
…the road of truth, the road of discipline, the road of service and the road of unconditional love….
Which we believe is Christ’s road.
I have a listened a little bit on the CBC radio in the last little while some radio programs about gun violence in Canada. The series is entitled one bullet. It is how one bullet shot can affect so many people, not just the victim but friends and family and community, doctors, nurses, polic, paramedics, lawyers judges and so on.
The other day I was listening to the story of Clint Malarchuk who grew up in Edmonton and was a goalie in the NHL. (CBC, The Current, Jan 17, 2019)
In 1989 during a hockey game a skate cut through his carotid artery spewing all kinds of blood. Fortunately the trainer was a former army combat medic in Vietnam and was able to pinch off the artery and Clint’s life was saved.
In fact he was on the ice ten days later after 300 stitches.
But he suffered undiagnosed PTSD for twenty years and went into depression and alcoholism which resulted in a suicide attempt where he shot himself with a 22 calibre rifle. He miraculously survived.
Now, he and his wife are public speakers about mental health issues.
Two things stand out to me from his own words.
The first was that he wanted to kill the pain.
He was in awful pain, not physical pain, but mental pain.
The second thing is what he says to others:
“Don’t do what I did.” “You are not alone.”
It seems to me that the church stands in a place to be a wonderful healing place for people.
Our message is that there is one who heals pain.
Our message is that you are not alone.
He is the best wine.
All of us know what it is like to take the easy road, to take the cheap wine, to get drunk on food, or pleasure, or intoxicating substances, on entertainment or other things: things that keep us from our real heaven, that keep us from God, that keep us from forgiveness, that keep us from change for the better…
But there is one who holds out his hands with unconditional love and acceptance, with forgiveness and grace
And is a way and a truth and a life for us…
And sets us on that path less travelled to true freedom…
…his path of service to others and unconditional love.
He is the best wine, and his name is Jesus.