This week’s gospel reading is the familiar story of a wedding where there is almost a disaster and Jesus saves the day by turning water into wine. There are many layers to the story. It is a miracle and points to who Jesus is, not just Mary’s son but something so much more. It points to God’s overwhelming generosity and abundance; the wine is really good and there is a lot of it. It points to the importance of healing in community as the couple risk shame in their honour based society if the wedding is not up to expectations. But what does it say to us stuck at home in lockdown not able to go to weddings and parties or even just pop out for a coffee and hug a friend?
This week as I wrestled with this story I am really grateful to Margaret Silf’s book Soul Journeys which is a new Lent book for 2020. She reflects that the story begins with emptiness – the stone jars of water that have to be filled and the wine jars that have been emptied by the guests. Emptiness is something that many are feeling at the moment. If we are thinking of the Christian life and spiritual journey as transformation, then emptiness can be the space where new things can happen. If we are on a journey can we start the journey by letting go of what we are grieving for and those things that we can’t do right now. Some day we can go back to those things but right now there is space to try something different. It means taking a glass half full rather than a glass half empty view. I can’t do this anymore or I’m too tired to do this and that is sad, but I could try this.
So here is a new way of looking at this story using the image of the water jar.
At the beginning of the story these jars are empty. They are full of space. Can we see that as a gift of space for something new?
The water jars don’t fill themselves. In the story Jesus tells the steward to fill them with water. Can the act of waiting to be filled be seen as a spiritual act? Of not rushing to fill the jars with any old rubbish and hold my hand up to watching far too much TV in lockdown, but giving the soul space and quiet to listen and to be filled?
The steward fills the jars with something very simple, water. As we hold that space in the emptiness can we slow down enough to enjoy the simple things such as the beauty of the outside world. The frost on the ground and plants has been really beautiful this week as have the branches of the trees against the blue skies
It is said that practicing gratitude can help improve mental health so can you look back each day and find three simple things you are grateful for?
The water in the jars are transformed, not by anything they did but by the presence of the living God in Jesus. We live in a culture of doing and achieving and acquiring. Can we at this time of lockdown embrace space and the simple and just be? We know that good wine takes years to grow on the vine and then mature in the bottle so perhaps the image of water into wine is one of patience however hard that can be.
One day we will party and there will be good wine and good company but for today can we take that image of the empty water jar and make it part of our transformation knowing that Jesus was not only at the party but in the backroom with those big water jars transforming what they contain into something extra ordinary and is part of a wider healing.
There was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.
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.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’
Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, ‘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 chief steward.’ So they took it.
When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the 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.’
Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. John 2.1-11
Images – free bible images
Margaret Silf Soul Journey with Scripture and Story (2020)