Before going to church yesterday morning I was listening to the radio and caught another news story where the main issue seemed to be – who can we blame? Things go wrong, tragedies happen, accidents occur, and the main question these days is one of culpability. The blame culture. We seem to live in a sad, angry, acidic age sometimes.
I mentioned this later when giving a little talk at church. I had picked the story about the wedding at Cana, where Jesus turns strictly religious water into bloomin’ good, vintage wine. A tale all about the different outlook and lifestyle of the kingdom of God. Jesus seems drawn to parties and celebrations, going to all the wrong dos and telling stories about people celebrating the good things. He doesn’t seem so drawn to recrimination and blame. The culture that dominates our lives at the moment.
When he was asked what God’s way of things looks like he didn’t reference the temple with its strict sacrificial customs and ancient religious ways. Instead he told a story about a guy who threw a massive feast and invited lots of folks to come. And he was so keen on having this party that when those invited refused to come he sent invitations to anyone and everyone and filled the place with downtrodden strangers. Party on!
Jesus later describes himself as a bridegroom – a guy who invites people to an event which celebrates promises, hope, the future, relationships, unity, trust and new starts. Admittedly some weddings can be rough with family feuding and drunken quarrels, but a good wedding seems to capture all the best things about life. In Jesus’ day weddings went on for a week and included the bride and groom consummating the marriage! The whole community would go along and bring some food and wine to celebrate. However, when disaster strikes and the wine runs out at Cana the poor nuptial couple are in danger of looking like fools. And that’s when Jesus chips in. He takes away 180 gallons of bathing water – symbolic of the old way of ritual washing – and turns it into vintage wine. He has come to strip away unnecessary religiosity and replace it with the best quality of life – not just cheap plonk.
Anne Hathaway is currently wowing the world with her portrayal of Fantine in the screen version of Les Miserables, especially with her version of I dreamed a dream. A song of lost hope and broken hearts.
‘I dreamed a dream in time gone by,
When hope was high
And life worth living.
I dreamed that love would never die,
I dreamed that God would be forgiving.’
Seems to me she dreamt of the kingdom Jesus started to bring in on that day when he punched a hole between earth and heaven at a smalltown wedding in a place called Cana. We live in a world of trouble and acidity for now, but the glimpses of timeless heaven keep breaking in, and one day the old will be replaced with the new.
Yes, Jesus creates the Rioja reserva of His day! Not any old slop, but the best tasting wine around. Try telling that to all the strictly religious teetotal Christians who won’t touch a drop of the hard stuff! Jesus is never the kill-joy some Christians like to paint Him, He always seems to do the things that annoy some very religious people. He didn’t just come down to earth to save consummate and incorrigible sinners like me, He even came ‘down to earth’ to save some religious folk as well!
Just been knocked sideways by ‘Les Mis’! What a lot of Kingdom teaching there. It’s just struck me that Cana was also the place where Jesus did his second miracle (John 4, 46f,). Coincidence? Wine.as you say, symbolises the good life of the Kingdom and the old wineskins of religiosity can’t cope with it. That’s the overwhelming message ofv the film (and the play and the book). Javert (Russel Crowe’s character) can’t cope with the love, fogiveness and lack of bitterness of Jean Valjean. Javert has ‘right’ on his side – law, justice and the protection of society. Most traditional church teaching is ‘right’; it cannot be faulted. But when we’ve tasted Christ’s new wine – perhaps become intoxicated by it – we realise how insipid our old tee-totalism was . All this put me in mind of the old Kendrick song:
Come on in and taste the new wine,
The wine of the Kinggdom
The wine of the Kingdom of God.
Here is healing and forgiveness;
The wine of the Kingdom,
The wine of the Kingdom of God.