John 2:1-12 … [Turning water into wine for the wedding in the village of Cana] was the first time Jesus revealed his glory. And his disciples believed in him. After the wedding he went to Capernaum for a few days with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples.
120-180 gallons of wine! Toward the end of the wedding celebration!
Raised in a teetotaler family (with an edge, because our grandfather was alcoholic), within a faith tradition that held drinking alcohol of any kind to be unacceptable, I always kind of skipped over this story once I understood Jesus actually made wine and not just grape juice. “The point of the story,” I was told, “is that Jesus approves of marriage.”
Well, yes. But he could have made that point another way.
I find it interesting that in crafting his Gospel, John put this story right after his triple identification of Jesus as son of Joseph, Son of God, Son of Man. Dad Joseph wasn’t at the wedding, nor does he appear in any of the Gospels after Jesus grew up. Probably he was no longer alive. But the story is framed by Jesus’ interactions with his earthly family, his mother and brothers. Attending the celebration is a thoroughly “Son of Man” thing to do. Jesus was attuned to his culture. He knew how to go about solving the wine crisis—working through the servants and the master of ceremonies. And the miracle revealed him as the Son of God.
But what touches my heart in this first revelation of the glory of God in Jesus is his generosity, his extravagant gifting of the best wine anyone in that humble village had ever tasted. Not just enough to save the wedding couple’s honor, but an enormous abundance that initially “only” the servants were aware of (John notes this fact). I’m reminded of the host of angels singing to the shepherds. The heaping baskets left over when Jesus later fed the crowds. Not just a word of comfort to the widow of Nain but her dead son returned to her alive! When the Lord saw her, his heart OVERFLOWED with compassion (Luke 7:13).
The sun could just rise and set, but twice a day the Creator paints our sky with magnificent colors. The heavens declare the glory of God. They, like this miracle in the village of Cana, show us what God is like. Not skimpy. Not mesquinho (mean, miserly, stingy). So generous we catch our breath, though if we paid attention, we could see this display almost every day.
In my despair during the last days of Karis’s life, God touched my breaking heart with a unique word of comfort, miraculously communicated so I would know it was from him. At her funeral, he gave back to us our son Michael. I feel goosebumps just remembering. These stories are told in chapter 20 of Karis, All I See Is Grace. And so much more. One of Karis’s surgeons—and so many other amazing friends and family—took time out of their hectic lives to honor her; in blizzard conditions filling the church and our hearts with the warmth of their compassion and generosity.
Not just “enough.” Abundance.
But what does this mean to us today, stretched thin from a year of pandemic and all the rest of it?
Lord, I’m looking to see how you reveal to us, now, two thousand years later, in January of 2021, this dimension of your glory.
I wrote that much yesterday morning, before spending a couple of the last hours with my sister and brother-in-law before they drove away from Pittsburgh, moving to Georgia. And then I went home and cried, for missing them, for the circumstances that took them away; for missing my São Paulo friend Cristina who died this week, for my friend Patty who lost her husband (my high school “big brother”) last week, for all the families missing loved ones because of Covid or a myriad of other reasons. For January 20 seven years ago when my daughter could not breathe. For the heavy burdens on too many shoulders.
Lord, where? Where is your abundance in all this? Please open my eyes so I can see it.
And then I heard Amanda Gorman’s poetry.And prayed with two friends. And something began to shift inside of me. A stirring of hope.
“…to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside. We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.” Thank you, Amanda.
And I think, as I begin this new day, God has gifted our weary, fractured, grieving country with a leader who is a healer and peacemaker; the gifts we need at the time we need them. I think we’re being offered a chance—a window—an opportunity—to put our energy into restoration. With the compassion that overflows to us and through us from Jesus’ extravagantly generous heart. His abundance that never runs out. Even on the cross, when he said not “Look how much I am suffering,” but “Father, forgive them.”
From his abundance we all have received one gracious blessing after another (John 1:16).
Including the gift of a new day, a new beginning. His mercies renewed for today.