“We ARE the New Wine.” A Sermon by Pastor Bob

“If we focus only on the miracle of water becoming wine, we miss what is perhaps the most important point of today’s gospel.”

We are the new wine

A sermon by Pastor Bob

January 8, 2012

Text: John 2:1-11

John 2:1-11

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

“Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.

Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

–Whenever I encounter this text, it causes me to think about what it is that I believe about miracles.

–This morning, I would ask you to once again enter this familiar story and see what we might find together.

–Now, to begin with, it is important to remember that the event of the Wedding at Cana is recorded only in the Gospel of John. More importantly, it is the first public miracle that this gospel records.

–Jesus has just been baptized, and called disciples, and now he is attending a very common event with them and his mother: a wedding.

–A wedding in those days was a multi-day celebration that would involve the whole community, and wine was very much a part of the celebration.

–For when it would run out, it was certainly a signal that the end of the celebration was at hand.

–And it was this disturbing news that Jesus’ own mother brings to him—there was no more wine.

–Now, you might ask yourself, “Why does Mary care?”

–And perhaps even more curiously, what does she think Jesus can do about it?

–And so we witness a kind of odd exchange between Jesus and his mother.

–After Mary tells him there is no more wine, Jesus, in a rather cryptic and short manner, replies to his beloved Mother, “What does that have to do with you and me? My hour has not yet come.”

–Yet despite these words, Jesus goes ahead and remedies the situation by having large jars filled with water, jars that would normally by used only for purification before worship.

–He then turns this water into wine, but not just any wine, rather it is the best wine of the entire wedding celebration.

–So of all the miracles that Jesus could have performed such as healing the blind or the lame, or even the raising someone from the dead, Jesus’ first miracle as he begins his public ministry is to turn water into an alcoholic beverage.

–It’s kind of funny if you think about it.

–Of all the possible stories of Jesus that our gospel writer could have picked, he highlights this one.

–But this is no mere parlor trick or slight of hand.

–There is something more going on here.

–Not only within the story, but within us.

–There is a part of our own sensibilities that struggles with this story and with its miracle.

–As we enter the 21st century, it would be easy to simply lay this aside as just a quaint story that has nothing to do with our lives or our sense of reality.

–This idea has been furthered with the rise of a certain voice within science that seems to push such stories into the realm of myth and legend.

–And accompanying such a voice, particularly in the last two hundred years, has been the effort to demythologize the Bible, to strip away the miraculous from the Bible.

–Perhaps you have heard of a group called the “Jesus Seminar.”

–They are a group of scholars who got together some years ago and decided that they would vote on which parts of the Bible were the most likely to be true.

–To declare what Jesus really said or did.

–So they went through the gospels, verse by verse, and voted using different colors to represent differing levels of what was more true or not.

–After their work, they ended up with a multicolored N.T. that would put our red and blue election maps to shame.

–At the end, there was little left but the most mundane events of Jesus’ life and the most cryptic sayings of Jesus that they figured must have been true.

–For the scholars of the Jesus Seminar, they had removed what seemed unnecessary.

–In a way, they were trying to save Jesus, to save God from superstition.

–But in the end, they ended up with not a more pure and holy gospel, but rather a gospel full of holes.

–Now up to this point, we have focused on the miracle of water becoming wine, but if this is our only focus then we miss what is perhaps the most important point of our gospel: in the beginning the jars are empty.

–The jars are not simply full of water, waiting for Jesus to turn this water into something else.

–There is nothing in the jars. They are dry and parched.

–If we are honest with ourselves, we would recognize ourselves in the story.

–We are those empty jars in Cana.

–And there are times in our life when we recognize this truth.

–Perhaps after the breakup of a relationship.

–Or the loss of a loved one.

–Laid off from a job.

–Caught in cycle of an addiction that never quite satisfies.

–We spend a lifetime trying to fill these jars with stuff, with careers and possessions and relationships, but in the end there is only one person who can fill our emptiness.

–It is the one who created us and who loved us enough to die for us.

–It is the living God, our Lord.

–A God who not only fills us with life, but miraculously creates us anew.

John 1:1-5

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”

–If we start with a cross and a resurrection, then we are forced into a few things.

–If Christ was raised from the dead, what is it to God to turn water into wine?

–If Christ was raised from the dead, what is it to God to turn you and me from our addictions, our destructive behavior, our lack of love for those around us?

–What is it to God to raise us to new life in him and at the last trumpet raise us all from the dead?

–The same God, creator of the universe is still at work.

–The same spirit that hovered over the waters of an uncreated world hovers over us now.

–Water into wine.

–Unbelief into faith.

–Death into life.

–Indifference into love.

–Jesus is the Word, the instigator, the change-agent that re-creates creation.

–In God’s image.

–We are the new wine.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • Gary

    Indeed!

    Well said.

  • Soulmentor

    I never have gotten the point of that story. Now I think I do. An intriguing take on the story, whether it actually occurred or is a metaphorical story written to illustrate what John wanted people to know about Jesus.

    Frankly, I’m not convinced about miracles, but I can see how faith can indeed change someone so, as metaphor, the story works.

    And in a sense of spiritual renewal in humanity, I think we are in a time of new wine indeed. Think Pisces to Aquarius.

  • ellen

    This story has always made me think that Mary must’ve seen Jesus do miracles or extraordinary things before or she wouldn’t have thought that he could do anything about it! I’m a mom of adult sons and I see Mary being a little “mom-like”….not telling your adult child to do something but hinting that it needs to be done. It actually is very interesting to see how normal Mary and Jesus’ relationship was and for Pastor Bob to point out that the first public miracle in John was so the partyers could go on partying! Maybe I am completely missing many points of this but either way, Party on Garth…….Party on Wayne. p.s. John, I love Pastor Bob’s sermons, is he a real guy or are you pretending to be Pastor Bob?

    • Diana A.

      I think he’s a real guy. I’m sure John will confirm one way or the other.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

        He is a real guy, absolutely–a precious friend of mine who is an ELCA pastor.

        • Kristi

          ELCA – YAY!!

    • Diana A.

      I’ve always liked what Peter McWilliams said about this miracle in his book “Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do.” “Poor Jesus. Spiritually outed by his own mother.” (This may not be the exact quote–but it’s close.)

  • Lymis

    I’m not sure how it fits into this discussion, but someone once pointed out to me that, like many of Jesus’s miracles, this was a Divine turbo-charging of a natural event – grapevines take a season to turn water (and clay, if you want to go that far with the metaphor) into grapes, which, with human intervention, skill, effort, and time, eventually turn into wine.

    That this sort of miracle doesn’t override the natural order (like turning stones to bread would), but rather takes it outside of human time and limitations and make what could eventually happen be real, now.

    Maybe that ties into the idea of God reaching in and helping us skip over the human time and limitations it takes for us to become new creations through our own effort.

    I’ve also always seen this story as, seen in an entirely different light, the proof that God loves a good party and wants us to be happy. If that were the only message of the story, it would still be powerful and important.

    • Allie

      I believe C.S. Lewis discusses that in Miracles, which may be where you read it.

  • dianne mcmanus

    I heard a very funny preacher once describing this scene “Mary was like, well, you are the Messiah, so get to Messiahing…and so Jesus first miracle at the gentle nudge of his mother was, keep the party goin” !! LOVE IT! And I love this message, we are the new wine…. I like that, I like that a great deal.

  • Richard W. Fitch

    Being the radical liberal, post-Theist, contratraditional Christian that I see myself to be, I have a bit of a problem calling what the Gospel of John tells us about the Wedding at Cana a ‘miracle’. This Gospel in the assessment of many scholars is the least historical and the most metaphorical that we have in the NT canon. Mark, Matthew and Luke, the Synoptics, although giving a variety of proclamations, are still fairly much in harmony with one another. On the other hand, the Gospel of John, like the eagle which is his traditional symbol, soars above to broaden our horizons. It must also be noted that v.11 we read: “Jesus did this, the first of his signs , in Cana of Galilee, and his disciples believed in him.” The Evangelist is noted for his Book of Signs. This first sign is held to proclaim that the Great Banquet has commenced. The bounty of Glory is now, in these latter days, being offered to all who will come and join in the hospitality of the Table of the Lord. Pastor Bob provides a very uplifting sermon; but we need to be watchful that ‘miracles’ are not read literally but as pointers to the deeper Truth which is a the foundation of our faith.

    • Richard W. Fitch

      {{ Apparently the text editor blipped. In the quoted verse “the first of his signs” should be accompanied by the koine “σημείων” which is still often translated as miracle. }}

    • Donald Rappe

      By “miracle” I mean a cluster of events that has revelatory power. In this sense, the story seems to me to be about a miracle. I do not confuse this with what some word benders have called “facticity”.

  • Larry Valin

    On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee.

    There was evening and there was morning, a third day.

    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis%201.9-13&version=NASB

    I think it’s the third day of creation all over again.


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