Pastor Bradley E. Schmeling picture
January 16, 2022

Second Sunday after Epiphany, Pastor Bradley E. Schmeling

John 2:1-11

When I was in graduate school, I waited tables at a restaurant that had a banquet room that often hosted wedding receptions.  We always hoped for the kind of host who told us to keep everyone’s glasses filled.   Of course, we were always happy to oblige, scanning the room with eagle eyes for half-empty glasses. The more wine we poured, the more bottles we sold, and the more money we made.  Everybody was happy. However, no one ever purchased the best wine for that kind of gathering.

I’ll never forget my first visit to a winery in the Napa Valley when people poured just a bit, smelled it, swirled it around to look at the legs, took a sip.  And then spit it into a bucket!  The whole point was to remain sharp and aware; able to compare and contrast, truly enjoy and taste the full character of the wine, and drive to the next winery.

So often when we read this story, we focus on its super-abundance.  But what if another way to read the story isn’t the volume but the quality.  What if only a bit, a sip, a taste, teaches us more about the depth and character of God, or of our life in God’s creation? What if the point isn’t to drown in the abundance but to savor the sips that we receive?

For those of us who already live in a culture of earth-destroying abundance–where we can fit gallons and gallons of wine in a shopping cart at a discount stores that advertise, “Wine and more,–perhaps the spiritual task is not feasting but something more like savoring.  The task isn’t to consume as much as we can in order to know something of God’s extravagance, but to take in less in order to notice it’s goodness; to delight in it, to actually taste it or smell it or see it; to sharpen our senses with it—to savor it.   The other side of fasting isn’t feasting, but savoring.

Right now, when so much has been taken away, we have the chance to appreciate the sips and moments of glory that appear even when we’re not having lots of parties, or weddings with carefree hosts.  We don’t have to convince one another that we’ve all joined Mary to say out loud, “The wine has run out.” Without a single party or any social gathering this week, I ended up scanning the days for sips of God’s glory.  Here are a few epiphany journal entries:

  • The crack of rose-colored light on the eastern horizon, only one minute earlier than yesterday.
  • The laughter of Karen Earhuff, our office assistance, heard all the way down the hallway and around the corner.
  • A card received in the mail with a tender reflection on the ache that occurs when our mothers are no longer at the party giving instructions to their sons.
  • An aha moment in the morning devotion.
  • The smell of curry in soup; the sight of a neighbor shoveling for another neighbor; the city’s approval of an apartment for an immigrant family; the patience to wait a little longer for new pipes; the prayer Congregation President Cathy Sedacca said at the opening of an Executive Committee Meeting.

Every single one of things likely pale in comparison to the losses and suffering that the world is living through right now; yet taken in alongside the presence of Jesus, they become something more–a touchpoint to glory; epiphanies of deeper truth more sure than any tears.

The deep irony of today is that we aren’t sharing the cup, even a sip, so that we can be a bit safer, a sacrifice that points to a love of neighbor.  Maybe it makes us look differently for the good wine today. I challenge each of you to be on the lookout for some glimpse, some taste or smell, some sight or sound of glory that God has promised to bring.  That will be your wine today.

I watched a video poem this week of archival footage of people on the way to the March on Washington in 1963.  You’ve heard the fullness of that gathering when Martin Luther King, Jr. stepped to the podium and announced, “I have a dream.”  That speech was the superabundance of God’s liberating vision on display for everyone at the party.

Yet in this video, you never hear the speech.  The footage was much more pedestrian, catching moments that might have been hardly noticed in the anticipation of getting to Washington.  People waving goodbye to travelers on the bus.  A small collection of people with signs on a corner as the bus went by, handwritten with simple prayers for full employment.  A black woman and white man sitting on the bus together laughing.  A line of people packing lunches for the march.   Throw-away paper hats that said, “Freedom Now.”  White and black, young and old, feet cooling in the reflecting pool of the Lincoln Memorial.  People listening with eager anticipation, a tear on one, a sense of deep peace on another, the crowd from the vantage point of the speakers up front.[1]

Not one of those things on their own would seem to change history or point to anything really earth-shattering, yet held in the full glory of God’s reign, in the dream and vision of that day, in the presence of the crucified and risen one, every single one was the very best wine that God has to offer us.

John, who told us the story of the wedding, even saw the best wine on the day of crucifixion, the glory of God flowing into the party:  The blood of Christ shed for you.  Amen.

[1] A Visual Poem for MLK Day, SALT, Blog Post, January 10,2022,