March 18, 2012: “A contemp. Miracle – Water2Wine!”

Posted on : Mar 15th, 2012 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

In John’s gospel, the very first miracle Jesus performs is at “a wedding” in Cana.  (pronounced “cane-uh”)

Bishop John Shelby Spong of the Episcopal Church rocked the Christian world about 15 years ago when he stated “There is a high probability that this wedding in Cana was actually Jesus’ wedding feast, probably to Mary Magdalene.”  How did he reach that conclusion?

Well, if you read the story (see below) you’ll notice some strange circumstances.  First Jesus is at this “wedding feast,” today we call it a “Wedding Reception” or “Banquet” with his mother!   He’s not only there with his mother, it appears from the story that his mother is the host – the one throwing the party.  Why else would she care that they had run out of wine?  Unless she were the host, that would be of no interest to her, would it?  And more:

Of course we’ll never really know if this was Jesus’ wedding, but Spong makes a strong point that any Rabbi of Jesus’ day, let alone a Messiah-Rabbi, would almost certainly have to be married.  Jesus and Mary Magdalene are always together; and remember, it is Mary Magdalene who comes to the tomb on Easter morning (the first morning after Sabbath) to prepare Jesus’ body for burial – a ritual that was performed only by women and usually by one’s wife.  So there is a lot of circumstantial evidence or coincidence, but nothing that is told here is certain.  There is also, in my opinion, as much circumstantial evidence and coincidence to lead us to the conclusion or at least the high probability that Jesus was gay.  The beloved disciple texts, Jesus’ words to his mother (Mary) and John from the cross, the role of Jesus as “healer” (Shaman) coupled with the fact that Messiah-Rabbi Jesus isn’t married, lead us there as well.  So you pick.

But there is something else in this story that is amazing also.  It is a story about profound transformation.  On one level, the jugs of water that Jesus “transforms from water into wine” are water jugs that were used for the ritual purification of women after their monthly menstrual cycle.  Judaism, like Christianity, is a patriarchal religion.  Patriarchy systematically gives men power and privilege over women. According to (patriarchal) Jewish law, when women were menstruating, they were considered “unclean” – which meant the men were forbidden to have sex with them.  In some communities women were “banished” to “red tents” which were tents where menstruating women actually lived until they had completed their menstrual period. After that, they were sent off to the baths for ritual purification.  This practice was both demeaning and dehumanizing.

But, it is the water in those “water jugs” that was used to purify “unclean women” that Jesus transforms into this fabulously fine wine! And according to the story, everybody thought it was mighty fine wine!

So this first miracle performed by Jesus in John’s gospel is a very feminist, liberationist experience.

The other unique aspect about this miracle story is that it is the opposite of normal expectation.  Everyone says, “WTH?  This wine is the best we’ve ever tasted.  No host saves the best wine for last because by then, everyone is drunk and can’t tell or taste the difference anyway!”  Not so, says Jesus.  Jesus’ first miracle is that the best can come last.  That of course, is totally contrary to our “instant gratification culture” of today – the same is also true of the time in which Jesus lived.  That is exactly the point!  For those of us who are “in Christ” and “followers of Jesus” today, as fabulous as our lives may be, Jesus does promise us the best is yet to come.  As the anti-bullying ad campaign says, “It gets better!”  Promise!

I keep reminding myself of that as we slug it out with the old Presbyterian Church.  There is still a miracle ahead of us.  There is fabulously fine wine to come from those demeaning and dehumanizing vessels.  There is more to come and it will come as a miraculous surprise!  Jesus promises us that!

In our worship this Sunday with our new neighbor, Westwood Hills Congregational Church, we’re going to be focusing on how each of our ministries is like this water turned into wine!

How has Jesus transformed us – you and me – from old standing water into fabulously fine wine?  From demeaning and dehumanizing to the best there is!  Come find out!

Lenten Blessings,

Dan

 

~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

John 2: 11

“Jesus turns water into wine at the wedding in Cana.”

On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with the disciples.  When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”  And Jesus said to her, “O woman, what have you to do with me?  My hour has not yet come.”  His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Now six stone jars for the Jewish rites of purification were standing there, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.  Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.  He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast.”  So they took it.  When the steward of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Every one serves the good wine first; and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.”

This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and the disciples believed in Jesus.

 

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