Choose the booze

Sermon preached at Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital, 21 January 1990

It’s only ten o’clock and there’s a panic. The host and hostess are whispering furtively in the corner.

“They’re still coming and we’re running out of booze. What are we going to do? The off-licence is shut.”

It is just this situation that St John records as being the first occasion upon which Jesus worked a miracle, and a miracle is the way that God’s glory is revealed. You may think it is an odd choice for a miracle. Why didn’t Jesus begin by healing a leper or forgiving sins or feeding the hungry? Yet it is a good choice.

At a wedding, everyone’s in their ‘Sunday Best’ and in a good mood. Something right and proper is taking place, it’s a happy and joyous occasion. So it’s the very best situation for the Kingdom of God to be revealed.

Well, let’s look at this particular wedding. Jesus, his mother and the disciples had all been invited, and probably having a rare old time. Then comes the calamitous news: the wine’s all gone. Mary brings the news to Jesus. He takes care of things. The servants drag out the big jars of water, the ones they keep for washing feet! The six jars are turned into 120 gallons of wine – not just a tiny sip, you notice. And it’s good stuff, too, as the host discovers – “you’ve kept the best wine to the end!”

Now, you might think that Jesus is being irresponsible, encouraging drinking. Drinking, yes. Drunkenness, no. Jesus produced what was necessary for the occasion. That is the nature of all his miracles. The right action at the right time.

The more important part of the story is that the Kingdom of God is equated with the merriment of a wedding. Where God is, there is life, and light and laughter. Where God is, the most astonishing things happen. Things and people are changed. He is, in the most literal sense, the life and soul of the party.

“How odd of God to choose the booze.”

How right, for as the Psalmist says, “wine that makes glad the heart of man.” It’s real wine too, not Ribena. There is nothing false which is offered, no pale substitutes. It is the very reality of God which Jesus’ ministry was continually revealing. The power to change, the power to enliven, the power to bring people together and to help them to be truly and eternally loving is his way of saying:

“Where two or three are happy together in my Name, there am I in the midst of them.”

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