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What will we do with all this wine?

Epiphany 2, Common Lectionary Year C

John 2:1-11

©2016 Rev. Elisabeth R. Jones

How many of you like to watch a favourite TV show or movie more than once?
Well, today you get to experience the sermonic
Back in 2013 I preached a version of this sermon. It was in fact one of the first times I dared tried out ‘midrashic imagination’ on a Gospel text. This story, this sermon set me onto the research and writing work I’m currently doing in my Doctor of Ministry programme.
Just so we’re all on the same page:
Midrash is a way of coming at a Biblical text with many questions about what the text doesn’t say, believing that God is as likely to be revealed in the gaps as in the text itself.

This year, in this season of Epiphany, when we ask ourselves, in what ways does God make herself known? How is God hiding in plain sight in the midst of our ordinary world, and in a month when many of us are craving embodied revelations of God’s grace and blessing deep in the thick of our daily experiences, deep in our very senses, my questions are these:
Why wine, why so much of it?
And how did this embodied sign of grace change the lives of those who were at that wedding?

Give me a second while we set the scene, in Cana, some thirty years or so after the Wedding at Cana.

(Helpers: Bring out the lge garbage can, and set out the bottles of wine, and a few glasses on a table in front of the chancel. Set out a stool, and a cane, and a headcovering.

My name is Rivkah.
It was my wedding.
The only wedding in our tiny village that year,
and the last my parents would host,
as I was the youngest daughter.
Weddings were expensive back then,
they lasted seven days.
And my father turned no one away,
“Feasts are a sign of God’s blessing!”
he’d say, laughing,
** as he stripped the lemon trees bare,
and pressed olives from dawn to dusk,
while my sisters and I baked for a week to make all the challah,
and my brothers slaughtered four lambs,
just for my wedding feast.
** It was a good wedding.

And the wine!
My uncle, whose land slopes west,
makes wine from his little vineyard,
** it’s not the best – though it’s drinkable,
and it certainly helped….

Did you know that at a good Cana wedding,
you pour a pitcher of wine into the ground,
sign of God’s gift of earth and its fruitfulness,
a sweet, wet promise of God’s promise to bless
a couple with similar fruitfulness?

On the third day of the wedding feast,
the night of blessing under the canopy,
the night of covenant wine,
we poured our pitcher,
laughing shyly, hopefully.

But as the revelling continued
my father worried…
for the wine was running out!

I didn’t know, I was the bride,
young and in love,
enjoying all the fuss and attention.
So I never noticed Mary or her son…

* * Nor did I notice our servants running to fill the huge purification jars with water from the well.
I did notice him, when he hugged my new husband,
– a man hug, three pats on the back,
and then with a wink,
and a bowing of the head,
he cast a smiling, laughing blessing at me
then moved back among the partygoers.

I do remember the commotion, though!
My father’s gasp and laugh,
and my mother crying,
and my new husband looking for all the world
like a landed fish, opening his mouth, as he held out a cup for me,
“Take, drink! “ He gasped!

** I remember how it tasted!
Warm, and smooth,
rich ruby red like pomegranate juice,
with the taste of earth and sun
that lasts on the tongue and down the throat.
It was good wine!

But when it was over, our water jars
** Six of them – this size! –
were still almost filled to the brim
with this harvest of wonderful wine from…. heaven knows where.

“What are we going to do with all this wine?!”
My mother wailed.
My father, who was still enjoying the afterglow,
said “Honey, not our problem!
It’s Rivkah’s wine.”

“What am I going to with all this wine?!
What we will do with it?”
I asked my brand new husband…

Well, let me tell you what we did
with all the wine that Jesus made.

Eleven months after our wedding,
we filled pitchers from one of the jars,
poured one into the ground in thanksgiving
to God for the safe birth of our first child.

* And we invited our neighbours
to celebrate God’s goodness with us.
That was another good party!
My son, now grown,
earthy, and warm and strong,
like the wine of his birth blessing.

*Then there was the day
we knew would come all too soon,
when we sat Shiva for my father.
He, who would never turn a soul away….
and so the wine – our Cana wine, flowed
like our tears, with everyone who came to sit with us.

Wedding wine,
birthing wine,
mourning wine,
Cana wine,
a blessing gift given with no fanfare,
but blessed with a wink, a grin,
from Mary’s Son,….

We’ve poured it bit by bit,
my Cana wine,
every birth, every death, since.
Including the Passover when Mary’s Son,
our winemaker Jesus
was killed in Jerusalem.
** Slaughtered like a Passover lamb.
When we heard of his death,
I half expected the wine to turn sour,
but still it flowed,
blood red, earthy, and strong, warm,
blessing even in the midst of tragedy.

Wedding wine, birthing wine, mourning wine,
Passover wine, Cana wine, Jesus wine.
God’s promise, overflowing.
John never told you, did he?
What happened to the wine.
Or maybe he did, in a roundabout sort of way…
He told you about the one who made it,
with a wink, hug and a grin;
he who lived his whole life
like good wine poured in blessing,
earthy, strong, warm,
even, especially in the face of suffering

One jar remains, 30 gallons or so.
Enough for my burial, enough for the
party of thankfulness they will have,
my own life pouring into the ground in blessing,
mingling with Cana wine. **

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