I heard it through the…

Do you remember the California Raisins?  They were these claymated guys that sang all these motown songs.  They were around in the 80’s.   Nobody that I know of ever much contemplated the idea that once they were California Grapes.  Maybe they sang like kid’s lullaby songs or something before they dried out and grew up.

If they had ever made a commercial showing the grapes’ transition to raisins, it could’ve seemed pretty cute.  Big plump grapes all sunning themselves, or something.  Maybe they forget the sunscreen.  Slowly, they get all shriveled and raisinish.

If the destiny of those grapes had been a little different, there’s no way you could make a cute commercial out of them.

Imagine that the California grapes were destined to become wine.  Imagine that they all got smooshed together, bottled, and left to ferment.  It’s not likely they’d be singing too many songs in this scenario.

Wine is something that is important in the teachings of Jesus.  At his first public miracle, he turns water into wine.  I have been suggesting, in these last several posts, that this represents the change he wants to make in our lives.  Jesus is calling us to live more full and complete existences.

A wine-like life is not an easy one.  The process of making wine itself is instructive  in this regard.   There is meaning to the fact that the grapes are squashed, the very deepest parts of the grapes are brought out.  There is meaing to the fact that it is not internal forces alone which make wine, but also an outside, almost magical process.

Jesus was the original grape turned to wine.  And he expects us to follow his example.  More on this coming soon.

Cleansings

Jesus turned the water into wine.  And that is a mystery.

I think that contemplating some things about that mystery deepen our appreciation for it.

For example Jesus had them fill the containers that would have been used for ritualistic cleansing.  It was a party!  And they’d emptied whatever the other wine came in.  It seems like there should have been an alternative to using those containers.

Imagine today if somebody busted out the communion cups at a church potluck because they ran out of paper ones.  People would have an entire dairy farm worth of cows about this.

Jesus use of these vessels suggest several things at the same time:  On the one hand,  it suggests that he is somehow above the old laws and expectations that God expected: otherwise he wouldn’t have felt free to use them.  But at the same time, it asserts the fact that Jesus was doing God’s work.  He feels free to use God’s instruments.

Equally paradoxical is the idea that on one level, they were just relaxing and having a party.  But Jesus chose to use items that suggest  there is some element of purification and cleansing involved in what Jesus is up to, when he turns the water of our lives into the wine of our lives.

The other thing that’s interesting to me is that this passage immediately precedes Jesus’ clearing of the money changers outside the temple.  Jesus at his warmest and fuzziest comes right before Jesus at his most righteously angered.

Having our lives turned to wine isn’t all fluff and light.  There’s a burden connected to it, a demand.  I’ll explore that next time.

Maybe this is why Jesus said he wouldn’t, but then he did anyway…

There’s a few explanations for this wierdness that look like they might explain things.   But these potential explanations don’t really work.

Which leads to the question: What is going on in the conversation between Jesus and Mary?  Why does Jesus first say, “My time has not come?”  Why does Mary respond to this by telling the wedding servants to do whatever Jesus tells them?  Why does Jesus go on to do it anyway?

I think that Jesus and Mary are talking about two different things, when they talk about wine.

It’s not really a miscommunication.   I think that both of them really knew what the other one was talking about it, but neither really shifted gears.

Mary tells Jesus that the wedding party is out of wine.  And she means it quite literally.

Jesus responds that his time has not yet come.  If he was talking about literal wine, this response doesn’t make a ton of sense.   Because if he means that he’s not supposed to do any miracles yet, then we’re left with a question: why does he go on to do the miracle anyway then?  If Jesus was supposed to lay low, why does he blow his cover moments later?  And furthermore, scripture records that there were positive reactions from Jesus followers after this miracle.  How could Jesus have been so mistaken by what would result?

On the other hand, if Jesus takes this as a moment to teach everyone, if he’s speaking about metaphorical wine, this all begins to make a little more sense.  Jesus is saying, “My mission has not yet started.  I see that there are people here who need help…  But that help isn’t here just yet.”

I wonder if by his time he meant the beginning of his ministry or the end of it.  I wonder if he meant his earthly teachings, his atoning death, or the words that would come after his reseruction.   Probably all three.  But this is niether here nor there; the important thing is that I don’t think Jesus is saying, “I’m not doing any miracles yet.”  I think he’s saying “I haven’t really started turning the water of peoples lives into wine.”

I don’t think there’s any way around the idea that there must have passed something unamed between Jesus and Mary.  Perhaps no one else there really sensed it or could express it.  Perhaps it was just one of those mom-things.  Somehow, after Jesus said his piece (or his peace?) Mary just looked at him, and she new.

Instead of a contradiction of his earlier words, Jesus literal turning of the water into wine was a foretaste, an object lesson.  It was a representation of what he would soon begin.   The thing that sits well with me about this understanding is that it’s much more consistent with the way Jesus uses his words and actions elsewhere.    There’s very few examples of Jesus words conflicting with his actions.  But numerous examples of his words and actions playing off each other, in subtle and profound ways, enhancing and changing the meaning of the other.

Wine

Wine is many things.    Boring is not one of them, generally.

I might go so far as to say that wine is the opposite of water.

An entire profession is built around growing the grapes.  Another around making the wine.   It’s this almost mystical skill to pair the right wine with the right food.  There are critics and magazines dedicated to this one little drink.   Entire books are written about it.  Bottles go for thousands, and tens of thousands, and hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Can you imagine this much of a to-do around water?  “Hello, I’m the water critic for the L.A. times…”  “Would you recomend the Poland Springs be paired with the Salmon, or the Evian?”  “We’re putting a new water cellar in the basement.  It’ll keep the water chilled to the ideal temperature and monitor the humidity.”

In a film, the guy holding the wine glass is the one who enjoys all the best things out of life.

And this isn’t all just perception: I am quite the opposite of educated in areas around wine.  But I tell you something: when I’m drinking a glass of reasonably good stuff, there is nothing quite like it.  It seems to do different things to different parts of my tongue.   It’s like there’s so much going on, even though it’s just one thing (and a liquid at  that) it’s like a medley: a bite of good salad, or a forkfull of stir fry.  It takes the edge off my day.

Having said all that, I do wish to clarify a few things: Lots of evil has resulted from alchohol.  Drunkness is not a good thing.  I am not advocating that anybody get drunk, nor am I suggesting that everybody should drink wine.  These warnings aside, what I’m really trying to say is that wine is the opposite of water.

Jesus: Sarcastic? Yes. Coy? Not so much.

There’s some things that are strange and surprising about the following:

3When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

 4“Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied, “My time has not yet come.”

 5His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

 6Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.[a]

 7Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.

 8Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

The most noticeable wierdness is the transition between verses 4, 5, and 6.  It’s clear that there must be something going on between the lines of the text.  Because if you just read the words themselves, they don’t really connect.

In verse 4, Jesus seems to indicate that he won’t be doing anything to solve the problem.  In verse 5, Mary seems to ignore the content of Jesus words and seems to believe that he’s going to do things despite his words.  In verse 6, Jesus proves Mary right: despite his apparent words to the contrary, Jesus provides more wine.

The more I think about this, the less it lines up with everything we know about Jesus based on the rest of scripture.  Suggesting that Jesus was somehow guilted into this by his mom, for example, is questonable.  It implies an error in judgement on Jesus’ part.  Similarly, the idea that he was being coy just doesn’t work either.  It’s hard to imagine Jesus words being said in a wink-wink nudge-nudge kind of way.  Though he often uses sarcasm, irony, and crazy reversal of expectations elsewhere, this example isn’t like anything else in the bible.  The reversal is just so straightforeward.  The sarcasm is so obvious.  I don’t think that there is much hope in the idea that Mary said what she did to the wedding staff in the mere hopes that Jesus might change his mind, either.  If she did this, it’d be a manipulative set up.  If Jesus did nothing, then everybody would have been let down by him, after Mary’s implication that Jesus could do something if he wanted.

This all brings us back to the question: what’s going on?

One possibility is that Jesus is speaking metaphorically and that Mary is speaking quite literally.   But I’ve been trying to keep these posts short.  So I think I’ll say more about that next time.

A wine-y (but not whiney) life

The fact that we long for more than we have says some things about us.  The intensity with which we long for it, this  says some things too.

Not of all of the things that our longing says are things to be proud of.  There is the implication that we’re spoiled and whiney, for example.

But there is something else about the fact that we have this belief that things are not the way that they were meant to be.  And while this maybe isn’t something to be proud of, it certainly isn’t something to be ashamed of, either.

We have this feeling that we were made for something more!  Have you ever stopped and thought about that?  On the whole, I’m skeptical of blindly following feelings wherever they may take us.  That’s not what I’m advocating here.

I’m not saying that the fact of our longing must mean we have a right to more.  I’m wondering why we feel this way at all.  When we watch the news and watch the terrible unfairness, the rampant unjustness.  When we end a long, thankless day, so very bone-weary, but so far from soul satisfied.  When we do the right thing, and then get burned for it. 

We know it’s not supposed to be that way.

On the other hand, there are times when everything just falls into place.  Some times it’s not something we even can put words to, or explain why.  Often times we chase after recreating these times, losing track of the fact that the spontaneity is what made it so amazing in the first place.

We get this sense, some times, that this is how things are supposed to be.

This is different than greed, entitlement, and materialism.  When life is not good, it is like water.  And when it at it’s best, it is like wine.

Wine…

Wine is many things.    Boring is not one of them, generally.

I might go so far as to say that wine is the opposite of water.

An entire profession is built around growing the grapes.  Another around making the wine.   It’s this almost mystical skill to pair the right wine with the right food.  There are critics and magazines dedicated to this one little drink.   Entire books are written about it.  Bottles go for thousands, and tens of thousands, and hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Can you imagine this much of a to-do around water?  “Hello, I’m the water critic for the L.A. times…”  “Would you recomend the Poland Springs be paired with the Salmon, or the Evian?”  “We’re putting a new water cellar in the basement.  It’ll keep the water chilled to the ideal temperature and monitor the humidity.”

In a film, the guy holding the wine glass is the one who enjoys all the best things out of life.  

And this isn’t all just perception: I am quite the opposite of educated in areas around wine.  But I tell you something: when I’m drinking a glass of reasonably good stuff, there is nothing quite like it.  It seems to do different things to different parts of my tongue.   It’s like there’s so much going on, even though it’s just one thing (and a liquid at  that) it’s like a medley: a bite of good salad, or a forkfull of stir fry.  It takes the edge off my day.   

Having said all that, I do wish to clarify a few things: Lots of evil has resulted from alchohol.  Drunkness is not a good thing.  I am not advocating that anybody get drunk, nor am I suggesting that everybody should drink wine.  These warnings aside, what I’m really trying to say is that wine is the opposite of water.

And if water is a metaphor for what our lives are at their worst, then wine, I’d submit, is a metaphor for what our lives are at their best.