“They have no wine!” Mary says. Can’t you help? Mary says to her son. Most of Jesus miracles have to do with healing, releasing, changing lives, delivering the demon possessed, saving people in trouble. Yet here at the beginning of John’s gospel Jesus performs what at first glance seems like a rather frivolous miracle. The guests have run out of wine at a wedding party. There is no desperate life-threatening event, no crisis or immediate danger – just a breach of etiquette.

In Jesus’ time weddings were known as drinking parties, and wine was freely poured. If the newly- weds and their families did not provide enough wine for their guests, their family would be shamed in a culture where the norms of hospitality were so important. The exchange between Jesus and his mother is pretty funny really. His mother, always the attentive hostess is horrified to notice that wine at the wedding party is already running out. She hurries to her son and in a loud, authoritative whisper says, “Do something Jesus.” Jesus is offended. “What? What are you talking about. If they’re running out of wine they should have hired a better wedding planner. It’s not time yet for my power to be seen.” Mary is not put off. She whispers in his ear again, “Jesus, do something to help this young couple.” Jesus must have seen something in Mary’s eyes that made him reconsider turning her down.

In a silent exchange between them, he decides to perform a sign. A sign for whom? Perhaps simply for his beloved mother, Mary, and those who would hear about the miracle afterwards. After all, this miracle was done quietly, behind the scenes, without ceremony of any kind, witnessed only by a few servants. Most of the guests would never even realize what has happened. But Mary sees her son begin to live out his calling as he speaks with authority and power, using that power to help ordinary people. As their lives interact in personal ways, Jesus responds to their needs.

Mary tells the servants. “Do whatever he tells you to do.” At Jesus’ prompting the servants fill six stone jars with water, each one holding 20 – 30 gallons of water, more than enough for a good party. Jesus prays quietly as the water turns to wine. Like Mary, we should be astounded at the enormous amount of wine Jesus has just produced, the extraordinarily high quality of wine, far-surpassing what would be expected at the wedding of a poor village family? The head steward who has not seen what went on behind the scenes is so surprised when he tastes it that he asks the bridegroom why he has waited so long before serving the best wine.

The changing of water into wine is a sign that Jesus brings with him a new reality. “I have come that they might have life and have it more abundantly”. The amount of wine that this poor family now has to offer their guests, wine of the highest quality is indicative of the joy and celebration associated with God’s abundant love for his people. Isaiah speaks of the feast that God will prepare for all peoples, “a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,… of well-aged wines strained clear” (Isaiah 25:6). This miracle is a sign that in Jesus we will find new life, deep joy, and freedom to give generously and gratefully, as God has given to us.

“They have no wine”. How often these last few years have we felt a cry rise within us – “we have no wine”. We have missed so many weddings, funerals, family gatherings, ability to hold a newborn grandchild, the need to stay alone in our rooms until it’s safe enough or warm enough to be outside – the wine has run out, and for some of us the grief is overwhelming. Until we stop long enough to look around and give thanks for what we do have – a cold sunny day, a bright red sunset, the beautiful shape of bare trees against a blue sky, a pet snuggling up to us to be petted, a call from a loved one, a warm, safe place to live. God’s miracle of love and compassion is all around us. We experience it in the love of friends and family, in the birds that sing in the trees above, and the brightly colored fish that swim in the waters that surround us, or the deer that live on the edges of our gardens, gracing us with their gentle eyes. The signs of God’s love for our world are all around us when we take time to look.

Mary was so “in touch” with the needs of the family at the wedding party in our story today, that she was able to turn to Jesus to ask for his help. How often during these past few years have we turned to Jesus for help as we have watched the lines of cars around the country, waiting for food or at times even water? We have seen the starving children all over the world, refugees searching for a place to rest, watched people of color shot in the back for no good reason. We have seen dolphins pulled out of the water choked by abandoned fishing nets choking, and birds caked with oil, dying unless pulled out of the water by kind hands ready to wash them down with soapy water.

When we allow ourselves to acknowledge the pain of our world we can invite God to be a part of our lives to show us in ways small and large how we can partner with him to make a difference. Change begins when we acknowledge that we are not taking care of one another or the world as God intends us to. A small opening is created for God’s grace to enter as we choose to change things in our lives in perhaps small ways at first that will make life better for our neighbors near and far. I see this happening as we partner with other houses of worship to help resettle a refugee family; take part in a march on MLK day to recognize that we must continue to work to build a society where all people are judged not by the color of their skin, but by their character, join with others in our community to learn how to take better care of our world, and support people who are sick, lonely and afraid.

In the wedding at Cana in Galilee, a place known at the time for its thieves, rebels and gentiles, Jesus begins to reveal God’s glory, God’s sense of humor, God’s willingness to be with us in all parts of our lives. From the very beginning of Jesus’ life and public ministry God’s glory is revealed quietly in the lives of ordinary people. There is no room for hierarchies and division of social status in God’s world. Jesus’ wine is for anybody who wants it.

“They have no wine”
by Pat Allen