When we realize our need for God to refill and transform us, we are on the cusp of a miracle.

In Jesus’ time and culture, a wedding could last an entire week and would essentially be a feast and festival for all invited. Imagine having to provide food and drink for so many people. The logistics and cost are staggering. To run out of drink was not only an embarrassment but was a social taboo and if someone did not find more wine, then this couple’s celebration would be up-ended and this major disappointment would become the first chapter in their story together.

Many believe that by this time, Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus has died and that Mary is once again leaning and depending on her eldest son. Since Mary is involved in the details, this may be a marriage of a family member or someone close to the family. That would explain why Jesus and a handful of disciples were invited.

John calls this transformation of water into wine not a miracle, but a sign, which shows or reveals a facet of the character of God. This sign tells us a little about what God is like. What does it tell us?

First, we must start with the words of Mary, “they have no wine.” As John describes it, “the wine gave out.” Isn’t that a fitting way to describe how life feels sometimes? How many times have you felt like the “wine gave out?” Joy has evaporated. No fermentation, no character, no change. The cup of joy is empty and life doesn’t taste.

As I alluded to in my email last weekend, we are about two years into an event that has altered life on Earth. Let me repeat that. Nothing is the same. Rhythms that used to comfort us and guide us and make life easier have all been disrupted. How we dress, how we act, how we shop, how we eat out, how we vacation, all of those things that used to fill us up and give texture to life, are altered. Since you allow me (and perhaps want me) to be honest when I’m behind this microphone, I’ll say that about three times over the past 2 years I have felt (usually 4-6 weeks) like the wine gave out, the cup empty. Have you felt that?

There are other times we may feel this, of course: a break in a relationship, a disappointment with a job, when the nest is empty, someone’s critical words, the death of someone we love, a feeling of a lack of love or real relationships or a lack of meaning, that life should have substance and body to it but just doesn’t anymore. We may also feel like the wine gave out when we are neither here nor there in our faith. For some of us, the wine gave out in the past, and for some of us, we are living this story today.

By the way, it is likely not your fault that the wine gave out. I don’t know why it happens, but it does. When the wine gives out we see the grit of life, but John tells us it is also when we can see the glory of God and learn what God is like.

As the wedding celebrants would have entered the home and definitely before they ate, they would have washed their hands in a ritual. Jesus has those containers filled with water and he transforms the water into 120-150 gallons of wine. It was better than what they had before when the glasses were full. God does stuff like that, right?

The moment we understand that we are empty and are incapable of filling ourselves, we have a beautiful insight. We realize that we are not bottomless wells of giving and working and relating, but we are vessels that need replenishing. When the wine gives out we get to see that God is a God who shares abundance.

God fills us up. It could be the words of Scripture, prayer, or song. It could be the gift of creation, art, or food. It could be the gift of re-creation as you give yourself to a hobby, exercise, or fun. It could be in the gift of communication, as you have a heart to heart with a friend or counselor.

As our call to worship tells us, God fills with abundance. God fills bottom to top with love, faithfulness, truth, righteousness, and a thousand other graces. We feast on the abundance of God; we drink from the river of delight.

Please notice that in our passage, Jesus doesn’t simply refill the contains, he transforms what the containers hold. God comes to our grief and brings gratitude. God comes to our harm and heals. God comes to our sin and forgives. Where we break, God mends. Where we are wrong, God puts right. God pours out on us from God’s self.

We worship and know an emptying God. What do I mean? We sing hymns here and in the very first century, our siblings in the faith sang a hymn about Jesus and the song is about an emptying God. They sang that Christ, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” That hymn is captured in the New Testament book of Philippians, chapter 2.

Sometimes talk in the world is about getting a bigger container and filling it and then getting another and get, get, get. Neighbors, we worship and know a God who empties, so that we may be filled.

Jesus enters fully the events of our life: our weddings, our funerals, but others as well. He stood, like most of us, at the grave of his earthly father, Joseph. He took care of a widowed parent. He bore financial responsibility and worked hard with his hands, being known at first as the carpenter’s son, and then eventually “the carpenter.” He emptied, so his family could be full.

He, who is the very light of light, went into the darkness of Gethsemane and took the full cup of the will of God and, so to speak, drank it with premeditated abandon. He had a will and desires and hopes for the day and the next day and yet, poured himself out for this world. Our God empties, so the world can be filled. He who blesses, on that night he was betrayed, took upon himself Adam’s curse–the crown of thorns–so that God’s blessings could be known as far as the curse is found. Take Mary’s cue, if something needs to be filled and transformed, let Christ know and trust him to act. Now to this emptying God, be all praise, glory, honor, and love forever and ever. Amen.


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