On the third day 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 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 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 all 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.
Whenever I read this story about Jesus’ first miracle, I always get a little second-hand anxiety. I empathize with Mary in this story when she is worried about the fact that the wine has run out. As a fellow hostess, I know how much running out of something can bring a good party to a halt. For me, it’s less about wine and more about food. I’ve started to realize that what happens to me is that I have a mindset of scarcity, particularly when it comes to food. For some reason, I always think there is never going to be enough - when the reality is there is often way too much. No matter how many times I end up with way more food than is needed, I just can’t shake the fear that something bad will happen if someday I do not have enough.
The mindset of scarcity is something that is becoming very normalized in our culture. When I listen to the news it becomes a common refrain - we don’t have enough - we don’t have enough money or security or power or privilege. We certainly don't have enough of anything to think about sharing with those who might show up on our doorstep in need - we must take care of ourselves, first. Humanity is disposed to this way of thinking, to pay attention to scarcity and lack and fear. So everyone from marketers to politicians focuses their energy and creativity on creating in us a sense of lack in order to promise us they can fill it.
As usual, the gospel story has a different message for us. At first glance when I read this story, I get caught by the momentary message of scarcity - I focus on the anxiety felt when the wine has run out. What I should really be paying attention to is the resolution of the story - because when I pay attention to it, I realize that rather than feed into my fear of scarcity, the message of this story is abundance.
When Jesus, prompted by his mother, steps in he provides not just more wine, but more wine than the whole crowd could have drunk not only during the three days of the wedding feast but probably across three weeks. The scripture tells us that the amount of water used was about 180 gallons - that’s close to an additional one thousand bottles of wine! And not only that, but as the surprised steward discovered, it’s not just the cheap stuff, but the best wine of the night!
So what is this story really about? You might have started to suspect, it’s not really about making more wine for party guests who are already drunk. It’s not really about wine at all. It’s about grace, God's grace. Grace is a gift God freely gives to us. Grace is not something we earn, deserve, or achieve, but something we receive. This story in John gives us another aspect of God’s grace - it is abundant. When Jesus turned water into wine, the best wine the steward had tasted, more wine that could ever be needed - that according to John, is what grace is like: an overflowing of joy, blessing, and the presence of God. Jesus provides more wine, joy, and blessings than this couple - or any couple - could possibly have imagined or deserved. Because that’s what grace looks like. This message of abundance is an important part of the gospel of John - it is significant that this is the story he tells as Jesus’ first miracle.
As followers of Christ, we need to think less in the mindset of scarcity and live more with the truth of abundance. If we think about it, Jesus could have provided just enough wine for the party to go on, with regular old bottom shelf wine. But he went way, way beyond expectations to provide more and better wine than they ever could have expected.
Why? Because that’s what grace looks like. God loves each of us beyond what we can imagine, beyond what we deserve. This love is shown to us through the life, death, and resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ. This love is shown to us through the grace that is ever-present, overflowing, and abundant. In a world where we often fear that we are going to run out, that we won’t have enough, or worse yet, that we aren’t enough, God tells us a different story. Let us listen to that story, be grateful, and be moved to share the abundance we have found with a world that desperately needs to hear that message.
God of Abundance, help us to recognize the blessings you have given us, the grace we have received. Help us to open our doors to those in need, that we might share out of the abundance you have given us, rather than shut our doors out of fear. Amen.