Stuart's Thought for the Day 

Pause for Thought

I’m often asked about how our present situation might progress from hereServices – as though I know something they don’t! One local business person probed hopefully, “Do you ever get any clues or hints?” No more than anyone else is the honest answer, though the present mood seems to be to dampen any sense of hope or optimism. The statistics look grim still, other concerning mutations are being investigated urgently, and hospitals are unable to accept new patients. On the plus side, the vaccination programme is close to its target and it seems the number of infections is coming down as a result of current restrictions. Everyone is hoping for a clue about what these might mean, with the usual range of often contradictory answers in the media. As we reflect on today and tomorrow, join me in lighting a candle for a few moments in God’s company - inspired by today’s reading you might feel like pouring yourself a drink!

Change for the better

Two days later a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was present, while Jesus and his friends were also guests. Long before the end of the celebrations the wine was running out, so Jesus’ mother whispered to him, “Look, there’s no wine left!” Jesus responded, “All right, mother, but what’s that got to do with you or me? My time hasn’t come yet.” So Jesus’ mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.” By the entrance stood six large stone jars, used for Jewish ritual washing, so Jesus, said, “Go and fill them up with water.” So they filled them to the brim. “Now,” he said, “draw some out of them and see what whoever is in charge of the catering thinks of it.” So they did, and when the head waiter tasted the water, which had now become wine, he hadn’t a clue where it had come from, unlike the servers. He called across to the bridegroom, “Everyone else serves the best quality wine first and the cheaper stuff when the guests have had plenty to drink. But you’ve saved the top vintage till now!” This happened at Cana in Galilee, and by revealing his special qualities Jesus gave the first clue about his ministry and calling. His disciples learned to trust him.   (John 2:1-11)

We often remind each other that it’s best to live each day as it comes, and not to worry about tomorrow or next month. That’s good advice, each day is surely a gift from God – but without admitting to it most of us would love to have a couple of clues about how the future might pan out. Our diaries would feel greatly enhanced by knowing when we can schedule family events and meetings, book our holidays and leisure activities, or think about house moving! Future planning has become fundamental to the way society operates, and the pandemic has caused untold frustration to those who depend on it. For now, despite apparent progress, a restriction free future seems to be moving further ahead, and any hints about it feel like straws in the wind to grasp at.

John’s Gospel is full of clues about Jesus’ identity and mission, and this familiar narrative is the first he offers us. Having just mentioned the story of Jacob’s ladder, John seems to be pointing this up as a similar occasion when earth and heaven meet. The context is very human and of its time – a wedding celebration lasting several days enjoyed by all concerned. That is, until the wine supply runs dry. The ensuing situation is difficult for everyone. The guests feel short-changed and wonder if they should make their way home, perhaps. The groom is cringing beneath the top table, while the maitre d’ has made a huge social gaffe, which could affect his future career. The servers must have wondered what they should do next.

Mary turns to Jesus to point this out, and probably feels puzzled initially that Jesus plays down her well-meant intervention. But when the wine servers obey his instruction the miracle happens – grubby water becomes the most expensive vintage wine! In this instance nobody comes to back to ask Jesus how it was done – the head waiter breathes a sigh of relief, the groom is spared his blushes, the servers carry on serving and the guests enjoy some fabulous drinks. As we see throughout John’s Gospel, when human problems encounter God’s love in Jesus, transformation is guaranteed. No one is excluded!

Many people thought Jesus as Messiah would sort out all their social and religious problems with a show of divine power. It didn’t happen that way, because his ministry was about changing people and structures from within. We may look for an occasional clue about the end of present restrictions, but when we look for clues about the future God promises in Jesus our perspective and daily journey is transformed.

What clues do you see of God in Jesus transforming oppressive everyday experience into something joyous and creative? How can we enable God’s loving presence to bring real transformation to our community and our world?

Prayer for today

Lord Jesus, you took filthy water,
and in your hands it became the best wine.
Transform the grey dullness we sometimes feel
into joyful and confident service of your kingdom,
as we meet you where the human and divine connect. Amen.

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