When You Run Out of Wine

    Jan 17, 2016

    Passage: John 2:1-11

    Preacher: William (Tex) Culton

    Detail:

    The first of seven “signs” recorded in John that prove that Jesus is the Messiah.

    Isn’t it interesting that the first miracle that Jesus performs, “the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory” was done under protest and at a wedding? 

    It was a reluctant miracle that has been the basis of much debate in the Christian church.  I won’t get into his Mother’s insistence that he provide more wine for the guests, or his statement, “What concern is that to you and to me? My hour is not yet come.”  I won’t talk about the symbolism of the thirty gallon jars that stood by the entrance to the home for the Jewish rites of purification that Jesus had the servants fill with water. 

    But I will talk about the SHAME that would be borne by the parents of the bride for running out of wine and the fear that the couple would feel for their future happiness for the same reason.  It was a bad omen!

    Weddings are rampant with superstition!  The bride must have something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue.  Why?

    Because they symbolize the future of the community, the family, the race.  They represent the beliefs and traditions that hold everything together.  They are the symbol of security and support; the foundation for the building blocks of society.  It is the celebration of life, itself and if anything goes wrong, then the future is at risk!

    Wine and food are representative of God’s blessings (read the 23rd psalm).  The entire community was invited to the wedding feast!  It would go on for days after the ceremony and the father taking his daughter and son-in-law to every home as a way of introduction.  I imagine each household had a gift for the bride and groom and the reception must meet the community’s expectations.  It was a time of joy!  To run out of wine was a major embarrassment and a bad omen!

    So Jesus’ answer to both was to turn water to wine!

    Years ago Johnny Carson had an eight year old boy from West Virginia on his show because he had rescued two friends in a coalmine outside his hometown. It became apparent that the boy was a Christian, so Johnny asked him if he went to Sunday school. When he answered, “yes,” Johnny asked him what he learned there.  “Last week,” he replied, “our lesson was about when Jesus went to a wedding and turned water into wine.”  The audience roared, but Johnny kept right on and asked, “What did you learn from that?”  The boy squirmed in his chair and thought and then lifted up his face and said, “If you’re going to have a wedding, make sure you invite Jesus!”

    To me, this off-hand remark is profound theology.  Our marriages are covenants made between two people but recognize the need for the presence of God to hold the relationship together, because as strong as we may seem and as strong as a relationship may seem; life can wear at us and the relationship in ways that we cannot foresee.  We can run out of wine.

    How often I have listened to the laundry lists of husbands and wives as they lay out their complaints against one another.  How often I have heard, “We have grown apart, I don’t love him/her anymore, I can never forgive him/her, he’s impossible, a jerk, she denies me, my dignity has been buried beneath neglect and abuse.  I have no patience left!  I have no self-respect left!

    Men have threatened to kill themselves if their wives left them.  Wives have attempted suicide over rejection. 

    When the wine runs out, how is it to be replenished?  When the shame is so great that you feel that you can never live it down or the hurt runs so deep that you lose faith in your ability to heal and when life seems out of control and you cannot with your own will go on… Something greater than positive thinking is needed. 

    That something has been provided from the moment humanity came into being.  It is God’s loving spirit that has proclaimed over and over, “I love you just the way you are.  I am with you.  I will guide you and protect you and when you turn from me, I will turn with you and be by your side.  I will comfort you in sorrow, forgive your sin, strengthen you when you feel weak, and discipline you to build you up to meet the challenges of survival.  I will teach you to love and open your hearts to being loved.  I will be a way in the wilderness and water in the desert.  I will be food to you and wine providing abundantly.  You will never run out if you believe.

    It takes more than knowing how things work to live an abundant life.  It requires TRUST in God.  It takes a humble understanding and acceptance of grace.  This means that when we are out of solutions, God’s love intervenes. 

    Wine is a sign of God’s abundance, joy, gladness and hospitality.  To run out of wine is to run out of blessing.  It’s tragic!

    But Jesus stepped in and provided the equivalent of a thousand bottles of wine, and not just “two-buck-chuck”, but better than any they had yet had, and provided us with an example of God’s grace.  It is an overflowing of joy, blessing and eternal presence!

    Grace!  Believe in it!  We are constantly being bombarded with messages that warn us of scarcity.  There’s not enough money or food or security or power or privilege. 

    I suppose it is bred in us to survive and so we notice scarcity and fear.  To miss an opportunity is a bummer, but to run out of something, early on in our development, was tragic, even deadly.  It still seems to carry that feeling.  I guess that’s why we listen to marketers and politicians when they create a sense of scarcity in order to promise us they can fill it. 

    Religion can be sold this way, forgetting the abundance that God promises.  Of course, God forgives our sins, but God provides more than that.  God provides wine!

    Strength, joy, reason for living, love and forgiveness.  Purpose and a promise of celebration fulfilled.       

    The Nobel Prize winning author Ernest Hemingway, noted for his book, “The Old Man and the Sea” and my favorite, “For Whom the Bell Tolls” Lived life hard and fast and as described by Carlos Baker, “To the fullest!”  He was a reporter, an ambulance driver in the Spanish Civil War, an avid hunter and fisherman and an admirer of bull fighting!  But he could not, for a dozen reasons adjust to older age with its physical restraints, writer’s block, and excessive drinking.  In the end, working on his fourth marriage and fighting depression, he, like his father before him, committed suicide!  What do you do when you run out of wine?

    (Description of the suicide: Sunday Morning dawned bright and cloudless.  Ernest awoke early as always.  He put on the red “Emperor’s robe” and padded softly down the stairway.  The early sunlight lay in pools on the living room floor.  He had noticed that the guns were locked up in the basement, the keys, as he well knew, were on the window ledge above the kitchen sink.  He tiptoed down the basement stairs and unlocked the storage room.  It  smelled as dank as a grave.  He chose a double barreled shotgun with a tight choke.  He had used it for years to shoot pigeons.  He took some shells from one of the boxes, closed and locked the door, and climbed the basement stairs.  If he saw the bright day outside, it did not deter him. He crossed the living room to the front foyer, a shrine-like entryway five feet by seven feet, with oak paneled walls and a floor of linoleum tile.  He slipped in two shells, lowered the gun but carefully to the floor, leaned forward, pressed the twin barrels against his forehead just above the eyebrows and tripped both triggers.)

    If there is one idea that is played over and over in the Bible, and is clear enough for anyone, it is “You don’t have to go it alone.”

    God approached Abraham and spoke clearly to him, making a covenant with him and his promised offspring that He, God would be with him always.

    God spoke to David through Nathan the prophet.

    God spoke to the entire nation through Isaiah…”you shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord.”

    And God spoke through His Son Jesus: “Lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the age…..”

    In other words, we will never run out of wine!  God supplies all we need, if we but trust, “My cup overflows!”

    But that is not everyone’s experience.  Hemingway ran out of wine.