By: JUBILEE! Minister Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge
In our Jesus story (John 2:1-11) , we find our guy partying down. He, his mother and the disciples have been invited to a wedding, and in this culture, a wedding isn’t a one day event, instead they can go on for days and days.
We join Jesus on the third day of this celebration and learn that the host has run out of wine. Now, there is much religious symbolism in this first recorded miracle that Jesus performs. First, this happens on the third day, which, if we remember our Easter story, the third day is kind of important – so John is foreshadowing the importance of the third day not just in Jesus’ life, but in the life of the church.
Also, this miracle is meant to show John’s readers that the wine Jesus’ produces are really the new teachings about God’s realm are there to refill the empty and hollow teachings of the Hebrew laws that Jesus saw as spiritually oppressive. So, this passage could be theologically unpacked for a long time.
But, let’s talk about wine, and paradise, and parking lots.
What Jesus offers the wedding goers in Cana, and even us today, is more than the fruit of the vine – he’s offering the fruit of life, delight, joy, paradise, if only we’ll open our eyes and see it and receive it. Jesus knows, however, that the world’s messages to us are strong and hard to overcome, even with sweet wine.
Instead of taking Jesus up on his offer to be drunk with delight, we so often pass it by, preferring the rancid water of the status quo, the safety of fitting in. The world tells us we can’t really have joy, we have to save the best for last, work hard for what we want and put off things that make us happy into some point in the future when we can “afford” it. Jesus says, no, we can have the best now and in the future, because joy is offered in each moment, the best wine is right now, in this present moment – we are invited to become joyful misfits in this joyless world, to be drunk on awe and happiness and bliss – right now, not in some point in the future.
In the movie, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, both Rudolph and Hermey the dentist elf understood that even in the midst of danger and sadness, paradise was all around them. They spent their time in the wilderness playing with the woodland creatures, finding beauty in an island of misfit toys, and in the end, even finding paradise in the very place that had forsaken them in the first place.
This is what Jesus is seeking to teach us – to change how we see the world. Instead of seeing the world as full of rules and conformity and going along to get along, we’re supposed to see the world as jam-packed with paradise and be drunk with delight. The red wine of the Holy flows in each moment, whether we’re in the cave the Abominable Snowman, or standing in a parking lot.
When Jewish people raise a glass to say a toast, they often say, “L’chaim,” which means “to life!” This is Jesus’ invitation to us in every moment, to raise our glass and shout “L’chaim, more wine!”
But, too often we don’t understand all the awe and wonder in our life until it’s gone. Only in retrospect do we see the amazing miracles that have taken place in our life, but we missed them in the moment. Jesus is inviting us to be here now, in paradise, where all the miracles take place, even amidst the day’s challenges and disappointments.
Life is a celebration, Jubilants, but often we get caught in the mundane – a stack of papers waiting in the inbox, chores at home, more tasks than time. Our wine of life runs dry all the time, and we forget how to refill those dry casks – by turning our attention to the Holy, to the awesomeness all around us in every moment. It’s the world’s misfits who understand though that each moment should be lived in paradise, where the red, red wine of joy never runs out. “L’chaim! – more wine!”