On Wine and Weddings

John 2:1-11

I was out to lunch with a friend the other day.  It was noon on a Saturday and the restaurant was crowded.  After we sat down I looked up to notice the group at the next table.  There were four sitting there. The three women were knitting and the young man was looking on.  It’s a little unusual to see a group of knitters out for lunch, so they especially caught my attention. One of the women was a little older, one appeared to be her daughter, and the third was sitting close to the young man.  I was trying not to eavesdrop at first, but the quarters were tight and they were speaking loudly to be heard over the din of the lunchtime crowd.  Soon I could hear they were talking wedding plans… and then the older woman began to tell the story of her own wedding day.  She spoke of the party that was held before the actual wedding itself, about the amount of alcohol consumed, and of how the whole wedding party was late getting to the church. (I cringed in behalf of the pastor who officiated that day.  I’m guessing that after that he found himself making the speech I’ve made for years at wedding rehearsals.  Pastors, you know the one — where you remind those bright shining young people to please wait to party until after the wedding itself!)  And then she went on to talk about the 21 bottles of cognac which were served at the actual wedding reception.  From there, the details don’t much matter, but as I leaned back in my chair I found myself wondering about how many of our wedding stories go like that.  How many of our stories center not so much on the ceremony itself, but on the celebrations which precede or follow the time at the church.  Indeed, how many of our stories: both those we tell and those we don’t, carry memories of what was imbibed by the guests.

For it is also so in the wedding story that is ours to share in today.  The story here, too focuses not on the actual wedding itself but on what came later.  Only in this case, the wine gave out before it was time for the guests to go home.

So I find myself now thinking not so much of the potential embarrassment of the host, nor of the wonder of the guests who would have enjoyed that fine wine.  Rather, I am thinking of those on the edges of the normally main memory itself.  I am thinking today of those presumably strong young servants who carried the stone jars and filled them with water.  You know, those folks who would be standing on the edge of any wedding reception still today, waiting to serve, to clear, to carry the individually sliced pieces of cake to the tables of the guests.  Those same ones who, in the case of the story I overheard above, had the unenviable task of cleaning up after those who had enjoyed the party perhaps a little too much.   In Jesus’ day, I expect they were the permanent underclass: those servants, those slaves.  In our day, perhaps this is also so.  It strikes me on this reading, though, that those servants on the edge of the celebration were the only ones to actually witness the miracle here.  To be sure, the chief steward tasted it, and apparently his taste buds were still sensitive so he was able to enjoy the fine quality of the wine.  And the bridegroom and the bride and all their guests enjoyed the gift of the miracle before us now.  Still, it was the servants who saw this wondrous miracle of abundance play out right before their eyes.  It was the servants who saw it all  — those who most likely never actually even got a sip of the 180 gallons of fine wine that was now being stored in those stone jars.  Indeed, they were, they are those who go mostly unseen, un-noticed by the rest of us.  And yet, they are the ones who went home with a story that night.  They are the ones who first glimpsed the promise of Jesus.  They are, indeed, as we hear throughout the Gospels — they are  the ones for whom the gifts of God are especially meant.  And so whether they ever tasted this wine or not, they must have gone home with the dawning recognition that in the simple act of ‘saving’ a party, the world itself was about to change in Christ Jesus. Indeed, in Jesus the world itself was about to change.

  1. Do you think there is any significance to the apparent truth that the servants were the only ones to actually witness this first miracle of Jesus first hand?  Why or why not?
  2. Why ‘water into wine?’  What other Biblical references to ‘wine’ might help us to go deeper into this story?
  3. Can you think of other examples when the presumably ‘main memory’ was not the main memory at all?  Can you think of other times when unexpected folks have received an unexpected gift of God’s grace?

6 comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Yes, I think that it is significant that the servants were the only ones to actually witness this first miracle of Jesus! Jesus often spoke to those that others considered ‘unworthy’, the lowly servants, the poor, the tax collector, the prostitute… That is because Jesus knew that they ‘got’ Him, they understood Him in a way that the rich and haughty could not.

  2. Anonymous says:

    That’s the fragment of sentence that won’t leave me alone this week, “When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it had come from( though the servants who had drawn the water knew)” I keep circling on the thought that so many of us have witnessed miracles in the midst of others who do not know about them- that there are such an abundance of miracles and we so seldom notice them.

  3. Anonymous says:

    For some reason, those of lower standing in society are preferred by God over people who are higher standing in society. Angels appeared to shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus – they did not appear to the leaders like Herod or to the Rabbis. The same preference is shown here.

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