Strawberries are the main crop of a rural community in California. For years, at harvest, the community held a huge celebration and raised a banner across Main Street with "Strawberry Shortcake -- All You Can Eat for 50" boldly printed on it.
Then, one year the crop was ruined by torrential rains and the community was forced to add the line "Prunes will be substituted for strawberries." You'd be disappointed with the change also, right?
John, in his account of the Good News about Jesus, tells of an exciting change at another festival in a small community. Rather than going from something good to something not so exciting, Jesus went from the ordinary (water) to something festive (wine). The wedding guests at Cana clearly saw it as a change for the better.
As Jesus revealed himself to the world, it signaled a change for the better: The old to the new, the dullness of law to the liveliness of God's love, the uninteresting to the exciting.
Someone once said the only thing permanent is change. In our small galaxy, 100 billion stars change positions at the speed of light. The cells of our bodies die at an incredible rate and are replaced even faster until aging reverses the process.
Change is usually unnerving. Most people tend to resist it and some always do. There is good reason for this. Medical science is at the same time lengthening the span of life and multiplying the problems of the elderly. We love to see our children mature and grow up, but we hate to see them lose their sparkle or leave home.
One of the reasons why people resist change is that while Jesus might be changing water into wine, others are busy trying to change it back into water. A little child bursts out with the beautiful wonders of language and the slightly older child waters it down with coarse profanity. Some people fight for freedom, and others ruin freedom with anything-goes license.
The trouble with resisting change is that the current situation is not going to stay for the better. Usually we need to change for the better. Hundreds of years ago, the workers of Paris who made quill pens rioted against the introduction of the printing press. A Danzig mob drowned the inventor of a weaving loom in 1661. Bargemen on the Fulda River destroyed Dennis Papin's steamboat in 1707 and set steam propulsion in ships back about 100 years until Robert Clinton re-invented it.
My approach to change is one of faith. I believe that God is still creating and that God's changes are always for the best. He only wants what is best for us, and when our lives are plugged into His will, the changes will be exhilarating. Jesus came to change sinners into forgiven saints, fisherman into fishers of men, evil into good, fear into faith, and Good Friday into Easter.
Yet, I look around and see so many people held captive by the ordinary and everyday. Their biggest thrill in life is a better than average TV program, a bonus check, a bigger than average fish on the line, or a big victory by their favorite team.
Some are even members of churches, but the wedding feast of life has been lost. Their relationship with Christ and His Church -- once a celebration of life -- is lost. In its place is a watered-down insurance against death. It sustains life enough to delude them into thinking they are living. But the sparkle is lost and so are many people, sad to say.
I yearn for the wedding feast where everyone is urged to come in and celebrate. I envision new disciples coming in a steady stream, joyful worshipers packing the house, children and youth hungering for the Word of life. The hungry are fed, the naked are clothed, the lonely are visited and the biggest money problem is the decision about whom we help next.
You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. You can lead people to the "wine" of God's great love, but you cannot force them to drink. Yet, I believe God has sent His only Son to change sinners into saints.
Jesus gave his life on a hideous cross and rose in victory to make it possible. By the Spirit He gives talents and gifts to people to change the water of life into the wine of His Kingdom. He has given His Church the ability to change the world.
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