When the Wine Runs Out

When the Wine Runs Out

A Wedding Meditation

When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.”
John 2:9-10

Most of us are familiar with the wedding at Cana narrative in John’s gospel. It contains the remarkable miracle, cited above, of Jesus turning water into wine. This passage is often read at weddings for obvious reasons. Mary, the mother of Jesus, persuades him to help a family escape the public embarrassment of a failed wedding celebration. There is a compelling allegory and some important lessons in the passage.

When a man and woman come together in marriage, almost always, the ceremony is marked by some very demanding vows. They usually include some form of solemn commitment to remain faithful to one another “for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.” They are exclusive (I will keep me only unto you) and permanent (as long as we both shall live). Star-struck lovers in the early stages of their relationship usually only hear the better, richer and health part of the vow. Certainly an optimistic view is appropriate for the occasion. Marriage is intended for the happiness and improvement of the bride and groom – and everyone their lives touch for that matter. According to Jesus (in Matthew’s Gospel), it is the foundational institution of the natural order.

Wine, symbolizing joy and celebration, is the appropriate means of commemorating the wedding feast. Christ said of the wine at the Last Supper, that he would not drink it again until the consummation of the kingdom. This consummation is elsewhere referred to as the wedding feast of the Lamb. Wine is a symbol of joy.

At this wedding the wine ran out. Jesus directed the servants to take water to the chief steward of the celebration. In the process it turned into wine.

Our lives, particularly our married lives, are intended to be a celebration of God’s goodness to us. Wine aptly symbolizes this joy. But the truth is, sometimes the joy of celebration eludes us. Spontaneity and wonder drift into routine and tedium. The beautiful bride and charmingly handsome groom discover that there is more than meets the eye! Yes, the beloved has a flaw or two in body or soul. Life is not always fair. Sobering facts replace the intoxication of new love. Passion gives way to plainness. Wine runs out. Water surely sustains life but is colorless and tasteless. Cleaning house, paying bills, duties of the workplace, and care of children take on an aura of sameness. If our eyes were clear we would see the wonder. We want to, but we don’t. A baby is a wonder to hold and behold. Sleepless nights and dirty diapers are not. Passion needs to be renewed. Perhaps persistent conflict creeps in. The water needs to become wine again.

Sometimes there is sickness (remember the vow?). Sometimes tragedy. The sun shines on the evil and the good. The rain falls on both as well. Both grace and grit are required to fulfill these most solemn and demanding vows. It will take the help of others. The help of the family and community, the help of one another. And the help of God. It will take His grace. Among other things, grace is God’s presence making possible what is impossible by our own internal resources – like turning water into wine at a wedding feast.

Grace is God’s presence. Jesus is present at this wedding. He is present because He was invited. His presence makes possible the miracle – turning water into wine.

The wine of the communion cup is the symbol of Christ’s gracious, free, and eternal gift of life and commitment to us. It is the symbol of His unfathomable and passionate devotion to all who come to Him.

So be faithful to the vows you have taken today. Look to the help of others, to the help of your community. Most important of all, look to the help of Christ. He will be present in your marriage to the extent you invite Him, to the extent you make Him welcome. Like the chief steward in the narrative, others may not understand what has happened, or how. But like the servants who followed Jesus’ command and drew the water, you will know the amazing secret. When the wine runs out, look to the one who turns water into wine. This latter wine will be better!