Friday, January 15, 2010

Water into Wine

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 943)
Psalms 16, 17 (morning) 22 (evening
Genesis 6:1-8
Hebrews 3:12-19
John 2:1-12

This story of Jesus turning the water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana has an underlying extravagance. The number and size of the water jars is unusual -- 120 to 180 gallons of water. Jesus provides an immense abundance of wine for the wedding party. The steward of the party also remarks on the wine's quality, saying to the host "you have kept the good wine until now."

It is interesting to think what is at stake in the situation that Jesus' mother (not named in John's Gospel) brings to him. "They have no wine." The lack of wine would certainly put a damper on the party and on the wedding celebration. But more than that, it would have been an occasion of great embarrassment and shame for the host family. The family would have lost face and standing in a culture where honor is a critical commodity. In an honor-shame society such as first century Israel/Palestine, one's standing is much more important than money. To run out of wine at a wedding feast would be a family catastrophe that could bring substantial ruin to them.

This is Jesus' first miracle, first sign, in John's gospel. It is full of symbolic significance.

In what ways does the presence of Jesus in our lives change our vitality from water to wine? ...good wine? ...excellent wine?

We might think of the significance of the change of properties that this water undergoes. The water jars are present for the rites of purification. This is the water used to cleanse that which is dirty -- to wash away impurities and to restore a person to community after they have been defiled in some way, usually something pretty ordinary, like a woman's menses. The purpose of the water is to wash.

The purpose of the wine is to celebrate. A wedding feast celebrates love, family and community. It is the ritual for increase and futures. Wine is a festive beverage that gladdens the heart and relaxes the body. Wine also has its dark side when used to excess.

Jesus changes the water of cleansing into wine of celebration. I think there is a metaphor for our lives here. Sometimes people think of religion as a cleansing project. I'm dirty; I sin; I'm no good; I don't deserve -- therefore I come to religion to be washed, forgiven, cleansed, accepted (at least until I go out and screw up again). Yes, religion does give us that cleansing.

But the religion of Jesus is so much more. It is celebration, joy, abundance. It is nearly 200 gallons of water turned into party.

When we come to the Eucharist, we participate in the wedding banquet of the Son. It is a cosmic party.

When we pray, we are in communion with the one who turns water into gallons of wine. We have an invitation into abundant, extravagant joy. It is a communal joy. There is wine enough for everyone. Shame is turned to triumph. The best wine is saved for last. Rejoice and be glad. Cheers!

Lowell
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Audio podcast: Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week. Click the following link: Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
Morning Reflections is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.


Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117

An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html


The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

Visit our web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

Our Rule of Life
We aspire to...
worship weekly
pray daily
learn constantly
serve joyfully
live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas

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