{As published in the Wilmington News Journal on July 25th, 2014}

Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

-John 2:11

The first of Jesus’ signs was revealed at a wedding. Jesus and his mother and the disciples were all invited to a wedding party, which has been going for three days straight- and the wine ran out.

Can you imagine, if this was your party? Probably not, right, because you don’t throw parties quite like this. But what if you invited friends over for steaks, and then found that you didn’t have enough to go around? Or what if you offered to take a group to a concert, and then got to the door and found you were missing a ticket? That would be embarrassing, right?

Mary comes up to Jesus and describes the problem in brief: they have no wine. Jesus says that this isn’t really their problem, and also that his hour had not yet come. But Mary, instead of arguing about what time it is, turns instead to the servants and instructs them to do whatever Jesus tells them to do.

So, Jesus looks around. Here are six stone water jars, big enough to hold twenty to thirty gallons apiece. He asks the servants to fill them with water, which then becomes wine.

Let’s stop here a minute and do some math. Twenty to thirty gallons each: that’s around 150 gallons of wine. That’s well over a thousand bottles from Kroger. And this isn’t cheap wine, either- when the steward gives it a try, he’s blown away by how good it is. Jesus makes more than twelve hundred bottles of really good wine to keep the party going, and to reveal his glory.

This, then, is how glory says hello: more and better wine than necessary.

Too often, I think, we think of salvation as just-barely-enough. We’re saved by the bell, which never rings a second too soon. We picture Jesus standing outside the party, saying that if we’ll straighten up and fly right, we might just make it. Salvation is just squeaking through.

The actual Jesus reveals to us a completely different picture of salvation. Jesus operates out of grace, providing more than could possibly be needed: gallon after gallon of wine.

This is the sign Jesus gives us of what the Kingdom of God will be like: a party! Joy is not a frivolous thing, not some bonus added onto the real deal. Joy is, itself, a substantive good. Nothing saves us like celebration. Jesus making wine is a saving act.

Jesus’ signs are meant to show us who God is. In this case: God is one who wants the party to go on. Our God provides enough, not just to get by, but for true celebration.

What does this mean for us? Well, the servants filled the stone jars up to the brim. If you ask me to get you a glass of water, though, I won’t actually do it- I’ll get you a glass that’s 80% full of water, because I assume that’s what you mean. Who hears ‘fill this vessel with liquid’ and fills it so full that a ladle pushed in would knock liquid out?

Jesus’ signs, we said, reveal God’s glory. God chooses to be God-in-relationship, though, so any revealing of God’s nature also shows us who we are called to be in response. They go together; we see God presence among us, and God’s presence calls us toward faithful action.

Which means, in this case: fill the jars to the brim, and then see what God will do. Make ridiculous plans for an abundant life.

It’s easy to live from a perspective of scarcity. It’s easy to tighten up, to focus on worries rather than on possibilities, to limit the freedom of our life together. It’s easy, and can even feel natural, to ration out the wine, fearing that it will soon run out.

John puts it explicitly, though: Christ comes to us so that we may have life, life more abundant and free than we can even imagine. We are not called to make do with less-than-enough, but rather to feast at God’s lavish table. There is more than enough love to go around.

Jesus’ disciples saw Jesus’ sign and believed in him. Can we believe in this generous Jesus?