Will God Turn Water Into Wine Again?

This is a sermon that I preached on Sunday, 2/13/22, at Berkeley Friends Church. The scripture reading for this sermon was: John 2:1-12 & Mark 2:22-23. You can listen to the audio, or keeping scrolling to read my manuscript. (The spoken sermon differs from the written text.)

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Last week, Nikki preached a really interesting sermon, which included some reflection on the wedding at Cana, when Jesus famously turned water into wine. And over the course of the last week, I’ve been chewing on that story. On what it meant for Jesus to turn that water into wine. What does it say about Jesus? What does it say about us, his followers? What does it mean to be made in the image of the God who turns water into wine?

There is one part of this story that really strikes me. It’s when Mary tells Jesus that there is no wine left at the wedding party. When she says this, it’s clear that she’s not just providing a point of information. She wants Jesus to do something about it. That’s the only way to make sense of Jesus’ response. Because what does he say?

Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.

“My hour has not yet come.” These are the words that impacted me the most last week while Nikki was preaching.

I like wine. I like whiskey better – but wine is good. We drink wine sometimes at our house. But the truth is, we don’t always enjoy wine at its best. Because wine is a finicky drink. There is a moment when it is ready – when it’s at its fullness, most ready to be drunk. I usually don’t wait for this moment. More often than not, I just open the bottle of wine, pour myself a glass, and drink it with dinner.

But if I were truly wise in the ways of wine I would think ahead. I would open the wine early, hours before dinner. I would put it into a decanter and allow it to air. I would learn to live – and drink – by the wine’s own timing.

“My hour has not yet come.” I’ve been thinking a lot about these words of Jesus this week, because I can’t figure out the tone of voice that they should be read in. Is Jesus joking? Is he annoyed? Maybe both?

Jesus says to his mother, “My hour has not yet come”, and I realize that Jesus is the wine, and Mary is so impatient to drink! Jesus is the wine, and Mary knows it. Mary knows his power. The life that is in him. She knows he can bring joy to this party. Who cares what time it is? The Wine of Life, Jesus is here now!

And Jesus doesn’t disappoint. He makes the tail end of this wedding party delicious. But his hour hasn’t come yet. There’s so much more to taste of Jesus. His life has many more layers of depth to be experienced. And like wine, Jesus is time-sensitive.

Have you ever thought about the fact that Jesus was thirty years old before he started his ministry? Then Jesus spent just three years in public ministry. What did he do with the other thirty years? We know from the Gospel of Luke that Jesus was perfectly capable of instructing learned elders about the Law of Moses in the Temple, when he was only twelve. Why didn’t he start his ministry then? Why aren’t our stories of a child messiah?

I think about the story that Mark, Matthew, and Luke tell about John the Baptist, who was preaching out in the wilderness. About how Jesus came to visit him, just before he began his ministry. Jesus’ hour had arrived.

John baptized Jesus in the river Jordan. Despite the fact that Jesus was the messiah and John was a forerunner. The lesser baptized the greater. Why? Matthew tells the story this way:

John would have prevented [Jesus from being baptized], saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.”

Jesus was patient. Jesus had a sense of context. Even as his hour was arriving, Jesus knew that there was an order to things. You might say he needed to be decanted. Rather than rushing into his ministry, he fully included John in it, adding a deeper layer of meaning to his work. He didn’t have to, but Jesus knew that the wine would taste even better this way – with a little dash of water from the river Jordan.

How did Jesus know when his hour had come? What led him to see John out beside the Jordan? Why that day, rather than another?

The answer isn’t easy, but it is simple: Jesus waited on God. He listened. Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit. He didn’t rush in; he didn’t hesitate either: He allowed God to lead. And when God spoke, he followed with boldness and obedience.

How do we – as Berkeley Friends Church – know when our hour has come?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, as we enter into this very particular moment in our church’s life and history together. Emerging from the pandemic. Discovering what it means to be an embodied worshiping community again, here in our meeting house. Is this what it feels like when our hour has come?

Then again, what if our hour has already passed? What if the prime moment, the key contributions of Berkeley Friends Church are in the past? I’ve heard this idea floated a number of times in the past few years: What if we’re just living at the tail end of this congregation’s life? What would that mean for us? 

If Berkeley Friends Church is dying – at least in the form that we have known it for the past few decades – that sounds like bad news. But does it have to be? Everything in our faith tells us that death is not the end. We are a resurrection people; in Jesus Christ we are conquerors – victorious over the power of sin, death, and hell. 

So could our hour come again? Could vinegar be overcome by fresh wine? Is there a resurrection for this congregation? What is the death that must precede that rising? What is the seed that must die before the harvest can come?

What does it mean to let ourselves be poured out, aired out, decanted – to listen attentively, patiently, boldly for our moment of ripeness, so that we can become that good wine that brings joy and health to the world?

What is the bottle that needs to be opened? What barriers need to be crossed? What risks must we take to begin the transformation towards our moment of beauty and power – our fresh encounter with God?