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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Turning Wine Into Water

2016-01-17 John 02 01-11 Turning Wine Into Water

Jesus's first miracle is turning water into wine. Please note, Christian people, he did not turn wine into water. He could have. But as miracles go, it's kind of a bummer. Especially at a wedding reception.
"Thanks a lot, Jesus."
"I would dance, but I'm all sloshy."
"I had no idea they were Baptist."

Do any of you make wine at home? It's OK. We're Presbyterian. We can do that. It's hard work. It's a science. You can actually get a degree in wine-making, that is, Enology and Viticulture, from 20 universities in the US. And that's not counting non-credit research in your dorm. 
("Sorry, son. Our degree is in making wine making. You've majored in wine tasting."
"Seven years of college, down the drain.")
It takes normal people years, decades, a lifetime to learn the art of turning soil, grapes, and water into fine wine. 
It took Jesus one heartbeat. He's very good.
You see, the thing about Jesus is that he could take something as plain as water – he could take the ordinary, the everyday, the common – and turn it into something special, something rich and miraculous.
He touched the sick and made them well. He touched the blind and made them see. He touched the broken and made them whole.
He touched a cross and made it holy.
Everywhere he went, Jesus took the common and made it sacred.
When you think about it that way, turning water into wine was pretty much what his whole life was about. Taking the ordinary and making it divine was his work, his science, his art. That was Jesus to the nth degree.
Do you do that? Turn life's water into wine? Wouldn't it be great if we all did? If we all could? Take a scrawny pine tree and give it a little love? Take an underachieving student and make her Valedictorian? Take an idea and make it a cause?
We tend to flip it around backwards, though. Don't we? It's SO much easier.
Think of something fine, something special, something treasured. A heart. A joy. A marriage. A self. Think of those things we talked about during Advent: Hope, peace, love. Take a dream and tear it apart, break it to pieces, steal it away. That? That's easy. That's no miracle. That's the opposite of a miracle. That's turning the richest wine into something tasteless. People do THAT all the time. Don't we? We do it to each other. We do it to ourselves. If you're really good at being careless, it only takes a heartbeat, a word, a look. The kids at the cool table all turning away when you walk by. Have you had that done to you? Have you done it to somebody else? 
That's what separates Jesus from the rest of us. He was a miraculous master of the art and craft of winemaking. It's a whole lot easier to major in the opposite. Turning wine into water. Not stinky water. Not really fouling things up, although it happens. It's more like we let the best go bland. We dismiss it. We ignore it. And then we wonder, where'd the all good stuff go?


Where does all the good stuff go?
…the [wine] steward called the bridegroom and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now."

When do we get the good stuff?
Where are the days of wine and roses?
"The Days of Wine and Roses." Some of you remember that song. Who sang it? It's so SAD. Do not listen to this song after drinking wine.
Johnny Mercer wrote the words.
The days of wine and roses laugh and run away like a child at play
Through a meadow land toward a closing door
A door marked "nevermore" that wasn't there before

The lonely night discloses just a passing breeze filled with memories
Of the golden smile that introduced me to
The days of wine and roses and you.

Oh my gosh. I don't care what anyone says, they really don't write songs like that anymore. You can watch me nae nae all day (and by me I mean someone else) and you get nowhere close to wine and roses.
Or, maybe 50 years from now, you'll gaze into the eyes of your love and say, "Remember the first time we danced the YMCA?"
One person's water might be another's wine.
And I think that's the point the song is making. 
Do you know fine wine when you taste it? How do you know the days of wine and roses are the days of wine and roses when they're still days? And not the passing breeze through the closing door marked, "nevermore"?


"We will serve no wine before its time." 
Well, when's the time?
Jesus thinks he knows. But he's grumpy about it.
Jesus turns conventional wisdom on its head by waiting. And telling his mom to wait. Wait until the guests thought all the good stuff was gone. And then he made and served his Jesus wine.
But shhhh! It's kind of a secret. The wine steward knew. The servants knew. But did the guests who actually drank the Jesus vintage know what they were tasting? It doesn't say. By the time the guests got around to the wine Jesus made, their taste buds would have been so dulled that they maybe, probably, might not even have appreciated it.
That's what we do, isn't it? We consume so much… stuff. And it's not bad stuff. It's pretty good stuff. Stuff in our homes. Stuff in our wallets. Stuff on our phones. We're surrounded by it. We bathe in it. So when the good stuff comes along, we don't know how good it is. It tastes common, if it has any taste at all. Because something better always comes along next year. Next week. We turn the miracle backwards. We turn the wine into plain-old, everyday, boring, dull… water.


Now, you water fans are thinking, "Hold on there, Preacher Boy. Don't be talking trash about Our Friend, Water. Water is life." 
I get that. You and I are 70% water. It's what makes us fluffy. You can live without wine. Many people do. Many people should. But that's not the point. You can read this story as literal fact, or you can read it as a rich metaphor about who Jesus is, what he came to do, and what he wants to do right now with the stuff of you. 
Say we are about 70% water. That's good. That's OK. That's what it takes for basic, simple existence. 
But Jesus came to take your basic, simple existence and turn it into something more. He comes now to take your basic, simple existence and turn you into something worth savoring. You could even say, given your water level, Jesus comes to make you 70% better. Personally, I'd settle for 5%. I don't expect miracles.
And that's the point.
Remember those guests at the wedding? That's us in this story. Nobody expects miracles. Not of themselves. Certainly not of other people. 
I'm pretty sure that most of the time, we don't even realize Jesus is even here. Most of the time we take our days of wine and roses for granted. We think we're owed them. Most of the time we don't even think about the people who have nothing at all to drink - the poor, the outcast, the have-lesses and the have-nots. We're not bad. We're just drunk on so much cheap stuff. Our expectations are so low that we don't even see the miracles. We don't even know when Jesus hands us our chance to work miracles. That's not bad. It's just common. Way too common, when the cup of Jesus Christ is at our lips.


In this passage, Jesus is more than a little grumpy. To his mama. 

When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine."
And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come."

But one heartbeat later, it IS time – to serve the wine.
It IS time. So. What are YOU waiting for?
Open your eyes. These ordinary days are the ones you've got. Jesus is ready to turn them – and you –  into something more. Taste and see. Savor the miracle.