When Liz and I were first married, we went to a wedding where, as it happened, we had to schlep several cases of unopened wine back to the city the next morning.
The bride and the groom weren’t drinkers.
They’d done their math kind of on the fly – and, anyway, it was more of a beer crowd.
The next day, they had unopened cases of wine left.
I think they’d gotten supplies for one bottle per person, or something like that.
You can see how these things happen.
If you’ve planned a wedding, you’ll remember that there are umpteen details to get into.
Only some of them are fun.
If you’re not a wine person, then what kind of wine and how much of it you’re supposed to have at your wedding aren’t among the fun things to decide, and they don’t stay on the radar very long.
If you ask someone, they’ll give you some sort of blanket warning and leave it at that.
“Reunite on ice isn’t really that nice,” or “chardonnay tastes like mango soap with butter in it.”
That’s it. Apparently, you can take it from there.
In any case, our friends were left with a lot of pretty good wine that they knew for a fact they’d never get around to drinking.
I think we took a case.
My in-laws took a case.
Our friends brought the wine to every dinner party or housewarming they could schedule for months just to get it out of their hall closet.
So when I think about this morning’s Gospel, the story of the wedding feast at Cana where Our Lord performs his first miracle, I come to it wondering something I have never actually wondered before.
I’m wondering what on earth they did with all that wine.
That probably seems like a dumb question.
But hear me out.
You probably know the story.
John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus attends a wedding in Cana.
His public ministry has just begun.
He has been baptized.
The next day, he begins calling the disciples.
This is the day after that.
Unlike the wedding I was just talking about, this one runs out of wine, and you can see why.
If Jesus arrives with twelve people nobody had invited, you can see how running out of things would be a problem.
Aside from that, though, he seems inclined to keep a low profile, and he’s clearly nowhere near the bar, because it’s his mother who has to come and tell him that the wedding has run out of wine.
That he should…well…do something about that. Ahem.
He doesn’t especially want to.
Maybe it’s a weird occasion for a miracle. You’re not supposed to upstage people at their own wedding.
It’s also a weird place for one.
He’s there way in the back at the banquet hall.
He’s far from the dance floor, in that no man’s land where the servers in their red tuxedo jackets are going back and forth through the swinging doors to the kitchen.
Around him is a forest of those abandoned tray stands, with maybe a forlorn smoker or two, trying to do their thing, pop a breath mint and get right back to the party.
This is exactly the kind of place where miracles don’t happen, whether it’s because they shouldn’t or just because they don’t.
But, well, like all of us, Jesus knows your mom is your mom, so….
There are six enormous stone jars full of water standing there, each one the size of a garbage can, and just like at Creation, the hand of God moves over the face of the waters, and they are transformed.
Jesus transforms the water into wine.
And as John makes abundantly clear, it’s the good stuff.
Technically, this is where the story ends.
It’s a neat little starter miracle for Jesus that blesses a happy couple and all their guests.
It anticipates so many other banquets yet to come, and points to the radical hospitality and joyful abundance of a life in God, which Jesus will make clear are central to his message.
What happens to all that wine?
To all the good stuff?
It’s already late in the evening.
You have to figure that at this point, a lot of the people are just sort of waiting for them to cut the cake so they can go home.
The wine’s not going to keep.
Back then, showing up with a wineskin on the offhand chance of getting a roadie would have been like showing up today with Tupperware for somebody’s leftover filet.
That’s not what guests do.
So if you’re the host, standing there in the back of the hall with the caterer and the wedding planner, there’s only one option.
You’ve got to think up a strategy for giving it all away.
Wonderful as it is. Delightful and surprising as it is. Gift that it is.
You’ve got to give it away.
Because like manna in the wilderness, you can’t hold onto it.
All you can do is find someone with whom you can share it.
All you can do is let the blessing bless another person – an uninvited guest.
You send all those waiters in their red tuxedos right out of the banquet hall and into the streets, throwing open the doors and turning the whole thing into a block party.
You go out to the places where miracles really don’t happen and make it so that this one does.
This for me is where a story about Jesus can become a story that’s also about us.
We may not be able to turn water into wine.
But it is well within our power to bless somebody else.
When it comes to the good stuff, there is so much to share, and there are so many ways to share it.
So many places seem like unlikely places for a miracle, and so much that seems so small and scarcely necessary can turn out to be miraculous.
That’s the point.
The miracle in this story is about what God can transform into a blessing.
And the answer is just about anything.
Because just about anyone can be a blessing.
The water of yet another day doing yet more of the same old stuff can be transformed.
It can become fine wine.
As good people fan out and bring lives of humor and hope, conscience and conviction to wherever they go, the hand of God extends out over the waters, jar by jar, and suddenly, one of those forgotten places can turn out to be a vineyard.
It can become a place of peace and comfort, laughter, joy and life.
There is good stuff in all of us that God is so eager to see on offer to a thirsty world.
And there is so much that comes from sharing it.
I like to think of that bride and groom in the weeks and months, even the years after their wedding.
John never does share their names, but I feel like I know them, anyway—at least a little.
I think of them doing all the “adulting” kinds of things that we grow into in married life: dropping off dry cleaning, taking something to Goodwill, swinging by Acme to pick up a box of Stove-Top stuffing, getting replacement rubber bands for a kid’s braces.
All that stuff that is how we spend our days, whatever that was for them.
But wherever they’d go…whatever they’d be doing…they’d see some stranger beaming at the sight of them.
There would be this army of well-wishers all over town, flashing them a thumbs up or grabbing a door to hold it open as they pass through, and all because on some random night whenever it was, the doors of their wedding had opened, and the waiters had streamed out into the streets, giving anyone who wanted some the best wine they had ever tasted or would ever taste — wine so wonderful that even the memory of it would fill your heart with gratitude and love.
This is the world that God invites us to build with Him.
Wherever we go, may the memory of our passing through inspire such delight.