When the Wine Runs Out
When the Wine Runs Out
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
We’re a celebratory people! We love to celebrate and mark the high points in life. Things like graduations... birthdays... anniversaries... homecomings... Kirkin’ of the Tartans... along with many other things: including weddings. Many families put a lot of time and effort and money into celebrating weddings!
And in Jesus’ day, things were much the same. Weddings were a big deal... and the whole community turned out to celebrate!
Now, that being said, there are those who don’t quite understand why Jesus would waste his precious time on earth, turning water into wine. I mean, here in West Point, we have four or five liquor stores. Every convenience store and grocery store… Givorns… Kroger… Walmart… all carry an abundance of wine. So we don’t seem to have a wine shortage to say the least.
Of course, most of us don’t have problems with the other miracles Jesus performed. The healing of the blind man, the raising of Lazarus, the healing of the paralytic. But Jesus turning water into wine… and that being his very first public miracle… sometimes gives us problems. It seems a touch frivolous. After all this was just a wedding, celebratory or not… Jesus didn’t even have to be there. I’m sure he had better things to do with his time. But as we look at the story today, maybe, just maybe… You and I will walk away with a new understanding and appreciation for the scripture.
Of course, when you stop and you think about it, the story of the wedding feast, is a sobering picture of life. Because, this story reminds us of something that most of us already know, but often fail to admit. It reminds us, that sooner or later, no matter how hard we try, no matter how well we plan and prepare, at some point... the wine runs out.
When the wedding feast took place, Jesus was about 30 years old. Scholars think Mary may have been a widow… Joseph is thought of been 15 or 20 years older than Mary… So he was either too old to attend social functions, or he had passed on. Regardless, what we do know, is that Mary entrusted Jesus, as her eldest son, to take care of things. She looked to Jesus for support in guidance, even though she didn’t always understand his ways.
And that sounds an awful lot like us, doesn’t it? That’s often our predicament… When trouble comes our way, we ask God to intercede, but we don’t always trust his ways of doing things. He doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we want, the way we expect, so we sometimes feel like God is saying, “what concern is that to me?” Of course, after a few bumps along the way… we learn to trust Christ anyway, just like Mary did. She turned to her helpers, and said, “do whatever he tells you.” So they brought in six large empty water barrels, each one holding about 30 gallons… That’s 6×30 = 180 gallons , “and they filled them up to the brim.”
Of course, we hear from this story, that not only Jesus - but his newly called disciples - were invited to the wedding. And that’s important to know. Because, having just been called to follow Christ, the disciples were searching for something… For grace, a power, a vision. They were looking for a reason to continue following Jesus. They were setting off on a journey that was going to take them through mountains and valleys, highs and lows, as they followed the path of Christ in his ministry. It wouldn’t always be easy.
So put yourself in their shoes for just a moment. Surely there was some degree of trepidation, and fear. After all they were leaving most of their security behind… Their homes, their families. Their friends their jobs. And they like most of us, we’re surely looking for some confirmation that they had made the right decision.
But John tells us that after watching with her own eyes… after seeing Jesus turn ordinary water into wine, “they believed in him.” They witnessed an actual miracle… Not hearsay, not secondhand speculation, or rumors. They had watched with their own eyes as Jesus turned the ordinary into the extraordinary! And now they believed. They were no longer following Jesus on a simple whim, or impulse. They truly believed.
Now, I don’t know about you, but that sounds an awful lot like human nature to me, doesn’t it? We want to believe, we’re taught to believe… After all, our grandparents believed, our parents believed, so we should believe too, right? So we take a leap of faith and we start following Christ, not really knowing where will end up, or why we’re even doing it. But later, often much later, after a few lonely valleys and running out of our own strength… We learn what it really means to “trust and obey.” It’s usually only after the “wine runs out” that we fully believe.
And if you are anything like me… Your wine runs out, a lot. Disappointment. Sickness. Pain. Grief. Stuff like that, strikes all of us from time to time. Sometimes it leaves us dry, we feel lonely and abandoned.
And that’s where our scripture lesson from first Corinthians and John connect. The common thread that is woven through, is God’s never ending willingness to supply our needs, by giving us power and grace to face the dry spells of this life. “To each is given the manifestation of the spirit.” Or as the New Living Translation puts it, “a spiritual gift is given to each of us…”
It’s amazing how God gives us all talents and gifts that build us up, and help us to overcome those dry times in life. Spiritual gifts are given, “as a means of helping the entire church.“ Or, “for the common good.” Which mean, of course, that every gift, every talent, every ability we have, is a blessing from God that’s meant to enrich our lives, and the lives of those around us. So in other words, our gifts come from God, to benefit the Church... and the world the Church seeks to serve. The objective, the purpose of our gifts and talents, in the long run, is to extend the reach of Christ, in and through, his church.
It takes all kinds of gifts and graces to keep the church functioning. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… We need preachers, but thank God we’re not all called to preach! We need teachers, and cooks. We need builders and painters. We need cleaners, and bookkeepers, and planners! “There are varieties of gifts, but the same spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord… They all come from one in the same spirit, who gives to each one individually just what the spirit chooses.”
I read many years ago that there is a church in Atlanta, that’s built out of chips off of the largest freestanding monolith in the world, for which the community is named. Of course, I’m talking about Stone Mountain. As the story goes, since members of the church owned the mountain and the quarry, they donated rectangular cut stones by bringing them from the quarry on their way home in the afternoons. Granite rocks were then laid one at a time, until the church was built over period of years. The stones are slightly different sizes, different shapes, but they’ve been carefully fitted together… and still stand today, as a testament to their love and labor.
Of course, after hearing that story, I couldn’t help but wonder about the builders of WPPC. What were their intentions? What was their vision? What were the thoughts of those who donated the land, and resources, to build that first church? What were the carpenters thinking as they work on the beams that are supporting the roof right now? What was going on through the minds of the Masons who laid the foundation, that still supports our sanctuary today? What about the individuals who designed the stained-glass windows… Those who installed the windows? What were they thinking, do you think their only concern was for a place of worship? Or, do you suppose that maybe, just maybe, they were thinking of you and me and the hundreds upon hundreds of other people who’ve sought… and found… Christ in this place over the last 184 years.
I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever, that our church was built by people just like us. People who had problems and worries, people who faced poverty, sickness, and dry times in their lives. People whose “wine ran out” from time to time.
But, despite all their problems, despite all their worries and fears, they allowed God to use their gifts, they allow the power of God to work in and through their lives… And you and I are still being blessed by their gifts today.
I also have no doubt that our church has experienced tough times along the way, too. Times when the “wine ran out.” Times when paying the bills was hard. Times when attendance and membership were low. Times when it looked like the end of the party was in sight… But then Jesus stepped in… most likely at the request of some gifted, praying saint… And he turned water into wine.
So when our wine runs out… And trust me, it will… Will you and I follow Mary’s example, and will we call on Jesus, to fill us to the brim once again with his grace and mercy and power?
Jesus is faithful... and he will do it. But be warned, church. When Jesus turns the ordinary into the extraordinary… When he turns water into wine… He intends for us to share it. Not only with each other… But with everyone around us.
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