Today’s text is from John 2:1-11.
This first sign in the Gospel of John points toward the abundance that life with Jesus will bring. It’s easy to think of abundance as an excess of something – and it is – when it comes to giving we often worry about not having enough to give in the first place.
We think of all the things in our life that cost something – money, time, talents. We check off the boxes that require a portion of our abundance – mortgage, rent, food, utilities, clothing, cell phone, saving for retirement, spending time with our family, managing time at work, scheduling time with friends, using mental bandwidth to plan for the future, to worry about the future. And then, perhaps after all of that, we feel defeated.
We think there’s no way we have anything left to give. That somehow, someway the best we have to give, the best we have to offer, the best life seems to have thrown our way simply isn’t enough.
But our definition of abundance and Jesus’ definition of abundance are two different things. We have to look no further than Jesus’ first sign in our reading tonight.
Now, perhaps you know that my in-laws live in the Bay Area in California. There’s something about the valleys out there that produce amazing wines – that perfect combination of daytime heat and nighttime chill. There’s certainly an abundance of vineyards, an abundance of wine, an abundance of both cheap and expensive wine, an abundance of choice wine – the best wine.
To throw a wedding serving any type of wine from that region would be an abundance of choice wine. At least that’d be my definition of the best wine – because we each have our definition of what the “best” or the “choice” of something is. A best friend, spouse, home, family, restaurant, sports team, food – the list goes on and on.
We each can think of something we would consider to be the best, the choice, and to have an abundance of this choice thing would be incredible – whether it be friends, family, food, or in the case of our reading today: Wine.
Because Jesus has been invited to a wedding where all the wine is now gone – wine that the guests thought was the best, thought was the choice, wine that seemed to be abundant.
But again, Jesus’ definition of abundance is different than ours. So we’re told that Jesus has six jars filled with 20-30 gallons of water. And Jesus takes that water and turns it into wine. But not just any wine. The master of the banquet told the groom that, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” Jesus looks at what we think is an abundance and says, “I am the true source of abundance”. Jesus looks at water – and turns it into 900 bottles of the best wine. It’s grace upon grace. It’s unprecedented abundance. It’s mindboggling. But that’s Jesus.
And perhaps at the end, is where we truly experience this abundance – this grace upon grace. Once we’ve let go of what we have. Just when we think we’ve come to the end – with money, friends, family, school, life itself, Jesus comes to us and lifts us up to new life. During the time when we have run out of possible ways to provide for ourselves, when we are defeated and exhausted from trying so hard to provide for ourselves – Jesus gives us grace upon grace; an abundance of love that opens our eyes to the amazing sacrifice Jesus made for each of us and what that means for our lives.
It means that we can celebrate. We can celebrate by bringing others into our lives. We can celebrate by giving what we have to others knowing that God will take what little we have and turn it into an abundance. God takes what feeble efforts we make and turns them into extraordinary gifts. God takes what we think is a great gift and makes it even greater.
The world will be blessed generously by what each of you have to give – not because you have the power to abundantly give – but because Jesus has the power to turn what you give into the best gifts the world has ever seen. And for that reason we can give cheerfully, knowing that in Jesus we have grace upon grace. We have an abundance of new life. And for that reason we can celebrate.