Last night, as I was doing some Bible and Baking on our church Facebook page with a dear friend and colleague of mine, she said something that surprised me – something I’ve never thought about before.
We were talking about the story of Jesus at the Wedding in Cana, while we mixed together cake batter; the story of Jesus’ first public miracle where he turns water into wine at a wedding reception that has run dry.
It’s a text that I’ve studied a lot, from my very first preaching class in seminary right up until now, and I’ve considered a lot of aspects of it. I’ve looked at it from Mary’s point of view – she who tells Jesus pointedly that “they’re out of wine,” and clearly expects him to do something about it. I’ve considered the disciples, the steward, the servants who fill these giant jars with water and then watch, dumbfounded, as it gets turned into really good wine.
But I haven’t ever really thought about it from the perspective of the water turned wine.
Maybe that’s silly, you think. It’s just an object. An inanimate thing without feelings.
And you’re not wrong. But it’s a thing that Jesus works on, and displays his power through. A thing that he changes from commonplace, ordinary water into (the story suggests) some really spectacular wine.
As my friend Sarah pointed out, Jesus can do the same with us.
He can take commonplace, ordinary us, on days when we don’t feel like much at all, and he can turn us into something incredible.
It took my breath away for a second – because these days, if I’m honest, I feel a LOT like water; like nothing all that special. I’m worn down, like the rest of you, from COVID; sick of watching numbers rise and swapping out my mask for the latest recommended model; exhausted from staying away from my friends so we can all stay healthy. I don’t have a lot of energy or imagination. It’s all of the normal post-holiday, midwinter slump, exacerbated tenfold by a long-drawn-out pandemic.
So the idea that Jesus can take my tired, depleted self and turn that water into wine – well, it’s extraordinary. It’s something I needed to hear.
And as I have thought about it, I have realized that I believe it’s also deeply, powerfully TRUE.
When I think about the witness of scripture, all these remarkable people in the Bible who did amazing things; most of them started out pretty ordinary too.
A shepherd in a field.
A teenage girl.
The youngest among a bunch of talented, strong, older brothers.
These people became leaders who brought God’s people out of Egypt, or led them as King, or carried Jesus as a baby.
God took them and turned them into wine, so to speak, and God can do the same with us.
Not to say that we all need to rise to such publicly acclaimed heights. Being turned into wine, I think, can be a lot smaller and still be really powerful. It can look like showing up to a hurting friend and being the one who gives witness to their pain. It can mean solidarity and presence with someone who is lonely. Healing to someone who feels broken.
All it takes is the willingness to show up, and to let God shape and mold us. Allow God to work through us and in us.
And we, too, can be turned from water into wine. Maybe for just one person – but isn’t that enough?
It’s a small thought, but one that gives me hope. And on days like these, perhaps hope is just what we need.
P.S. If you didn’t get a chance, watch Bible and Baking here!