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Water and Wine

Water and Wine

Monday, January 7, 2013 — The Epiphany and Following (Year One)

[Go to for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office

(Book of Common Prayer, p. 942)

Psalms 103 (morning) 114, 115 (evening)

Isaiah 52:3-6

Revelation 2:1-7

John 2:1-11

There are three stories that are traditionally identified with the feast of the Epiphany — the baptism of Jesus, the visit of the magi, and the wedding miracle of turning water into wine. The word “Epiphany” means “manifestation” or “appearing”. The presence and power of God appears through the incarnation of Jesus. He is manifested as God’s beloved at his baptism in the Jordan River. When the magi visit, Jesus is manifested to the Gentiles. His first miracle, turning water into wine, is a sign revealing his identity as God’s anointed. This set of stories celebrates the epiphany of God in Jesus. In some parts of the Christian world, the Incarnation of Jesus is celebrated on January 6, the Epiphany. In many parts of the church it is the day of gift giving.

So it is particularly appropriate on the day after the Epiphany that we read the story of Jesus’ first miracle and sign, the turning of water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee.

There is a big difference between water and wine. In this story, it is the difference between social disgrace and community acclaim. The host at a wedding is expected to serve and entertain his guests. For him to run out of wine would be a scandal that would bring shame. In a shame-based society, where social standing is strictly ordered by custom, such a failure of hospitality would shadow an entire family — the new couple would begin their life marked by shame.

Jesus rescues this family. Jesus turns shame into honor. The feast and the celebration of the wedding party is renewed and strengthened rather than interrupted. The wine comes in abundance, extravagant gallons that will gladden hearts and oil the conversation of a joyful community.

Later, at the end of his life, Jesus will take wine again and use it to reinterpret his pending shameful death. He will transform his execution as a criminal into the path of life and resurrection. His companions will know the presence and power of renewed life through the breaking of bread and drinking of the wine of Eucharist, and their sorrow from the cross will turn to joy. The wine of Jesus’ death comes in abundance. For thousands of years this gift has gladdened hearts and healed the hurts of the joyful community.

Life with Jesus is like the difference between water and wine. His presence bring color, depth, and flavor to our lives. His loving spirit relaxes our anxieties, opens us to joy, and brings us together into a community of celebration. He brings us good cheer. Let our hearts be renewed and gladdened this morning. The sun/son is arising and it is time to celebrate.


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Ann Fontaine

Sort of like Downton Abbey – when the shirts and tails go awry?

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