Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

Today's sermon at Trinity was from the Gospel reading, John 2:1-11, aka the "Jesus turns water into wine" story. Now, before I get into the meat of this, I am going to confess to being a little bit of a skeptic as to the accuracy of the story. John is the only Gospel that tells this story. I have always thought the story was a tad "un-Jesus-like" because it's really more of a "parlor magic trick" rather than the typical miracles in the Gospels.

This is where I wish I was a "real" theologian because I can't put my finger on the exact trackback to the Old Testament but I have this feeling the "water to wine" story is more metaphorical than historical account. There are a lot of OT references to planting vineyards, growing grapes, making things ready in the vineyard. Then in John's story, it occurs at a wedding, (is there some "marriage" link meant in this between the law and the Gospel?) it's the "good stuff" not the "cheap stuff", and there is this reluctance on the part of Jesus to do this miracle. I do know that John tends to be a Gospel more designed to show fulfilment of OT prophecy, also John is the "youngest" gospel, so that is where I have my moments of skepticism about the accuracy of the account. But enough of that, there's still a lot in the story worth discussing.

I have heard this Scripture as the root of many sermons in my life, and I always come away with that sense of "Jesus as reluctant hero." The interchange between Jesus and Mary reminds me a lot of when I was a kid and was asked to "perform" for the house guests. I was fairly good at comedy even as a youngster, and I could bet that anytime anyone was over to the house to barbeque, play cards, whatever, my mom was going to try to get me to do one of my little comedy routines. Maybe it was me imitating Richard Nixon, or doing my rendition of a segment of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom ("I'm Marlin Perkins, and Jim and I are searching for the giant Amazon Anaconda. Oh, there's one....I'm going to sit in the boat while Jim catches the snake...." Of course Jim has some trouble with the snake, while Marlin is safely in the boat; I would do this great rendition of being choked by an get the drift.)

But I get this feeling that the young Jesus was pretty handy around the house and Mom knew what all He was capable of. So they go to the wedding, and Mary's like "They're out of wine...c'mon, you can help 'em out," and Jesus is rolling His eyes and going, "MA! Naw, c''s not the time." But Mary is giving him that "Mom look" like "Do this or you'll live to regret it." So Jesus is like "Okay, okay."

Then my thoughts go to the jug-haulers. They've just been told to take jugs of water over to the party. They are thinking, "How stupid is this? These people are at a wedding reception, they're not going to want to drink THIS."

Next I can imagine the steward. He's thinking, "What are those fools bringing these water jugs over here for?" and he looks inside and by golly, there's wine in there...and it's good wine. The jug-haulers are going "Whoa! Wait a minute! We put water in there!" but they're not saying anything because the steward is now telling the bridegroom, "What a deal! You saved the good wine till the end! What's up with that?" (Anyone who has ever said, "Oh, get a 12 pack of Old Milwaukee in case they drink up all the Budweiser," when stocking up for a party knows what that's all about. "By then they won't notice it's cheap beer.")

Well, Wallace put a pretty good handle on it this morning. He talked about how sometimes the "tap water" parts of our life can be an entryway to real moments of grace...but we cannot predict it or make it happen. It just happens and our job is to enjoy it and be thankful for those moments.

I'd add one twist to it. I'd also say sometimes it happens when we are absolutely reluctant about the whole scene. How many times in our lives do we go into something thinking, "I do NOT want to do this, it doesn't interest me, I'd rather be somewhere else," and something wonderful and serendipitous occurs. Then, when it's all over, you think, "Wow, that was fun. I'm glad I did that."

I remember a million years ago, when I was college age, I was driving a group of elementary school teachers to the Nelson Gallery of Art in Kansas City for a workshop. I was planning on going somewhere else and picking them up at the appointed time. I am NOT artsy. I could not "art appreciate" myself out of a paper bag. Yet somehow I got talked into going in with everyone. Then when I got in there, I somehow boringly and uninterestingly made my way to the room with Chinese bronze figurines and "burial objects"--little miniatures of things the person might have had in their life. There were these bronze horses in there that caught my eye. They were round, full, firm, and fully packed, kind of on the paunchy side--but I could see the artist had made them in such a way that really displayed the flow of movement of horses. These horses looked like horses I'd seen in my own pasture and appeared to "move" in that fluid way horses do when they are playing with each other. Then it suddenly struck me that someone 2,000 years ago paid the same kind of attention to horses I did. We shared a link that spanned centuries. In that moment, I understood the real meaning of art even though I did not know any of the formal teachings of it or cared for the snooty artsy-fartsy aspects of the "high art crowd."

Maybe that is the higher message in the "water to wine" story even if I have doubts about its historical accuracy...reluctance does not preclude being the recipient to grace.



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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