Imbibing the Wine of Love

I am meditating this morning, albeit briefly, on John 2:1-12.  The passage drips with significance for Jesus, his ministry, and an understanding of the Gospel.  Water contained in stone jars used for ritual purification (in the rabbinic-pharisaic, Jewish system derived from the Law of Moses) transforms, at the “word” of Christ, into wine more than suitable for a celebration!  That which bound the human soul becomes that which delights the human soul.  That which held in bondage becomes a thing of freedom.  All of this takes place in the context of a wedding…a wedding…a celebration of the loving, human “one-flesh-ness” between husband and wife; that which is a unique pointer to Jesus himself, and indeed to the very nature of our triune God.  It takes place in the context of a wedding at which Jesus is a guest; he who is the greatest of all bridegrooms; he whose wedding celebration approaches still.  Free, joyous, intimacy with God appears on the horizon of this passage like the dawn beginning to break after a dark night.  What a glorious beginning to Jesus’ public ministry in the Gospel of John!

But, what does all this mean for my life I wonder?  How does this stupendous Gospel event intersect with P.J. Davis’ day on July 20, 2020?  It’s easy for me to live in the world of stone jars filled with ritual purification water.  There is a certain false comfort of “control” in self-righteous “law.”  Conversely, there is a certain perceived risk of “non-control” in the free celebration of love.  Love means opening oneself first to God and then to others.  Being open means being open to hurt, not from God, but from others.  Living the freedom of love also means the possibility of being found “in the wrong” by some who eschew the wine of freedom and prefer still to live with water-filled stone jars.  Living love is a risky thing.  But whoever said that life shouldn’t be risky?  Indeed, isn’t holy risk in the freedom of the Gospel part of what makes real life real?

Still, I sense a caution for myself.  I’m ready to soar the heights in my thinking and feeling with John 2:1-12, but there’s something tethering me still to earth.  I’m ready to do what John Gillespie Magee Jr. lyricizes in his poem, “High Flight” – to slip the surly bonds of earth…to dance the sky on laughter silvered wings…to put out my hand and touch the face of God.  But, there’s something holding me back.  It’s sin – both the fear of sin (which isn’t of God’s Spirit), and the reality of my remaining battle against sin (which is ever so real).  You see, while I’m made for the celebratory wine of love, sin has a way of deceptively hijacking my imbibing of the stuff.  I begin drinking, toasting the bridegroom, namely Christ, enjoying my fellow banqueters, and yet I’m prone to find myself off in a corner, alone, toasting the drinker, namely P.J.  In that case, I find that what I’m drinking is no longer wine, it’s not even water.  Rather, it’s something more like foul sludge.  The answer in such moments is not a return to water-filled stone jars.  Instead, it’s a return to the bridegroom.  Wine is only wine in the presence of the bridegroom.  The free love of God is only a safe thing, it’s only a real thing, when in covenant intimacy with Jesus himself.

All of this helps my longing for heaven.  One of the beauties of heaven will be the free exercise of love with no need to “check six” for the lurking deception of sin.  In heaven, that last earthbound link will slip its mooring.  In heaven, my imbibing of the wedding feast wine will know no limits, no dangers, no missteps, and no sense of self-conscious unease. Praise God for the wedding feast of the Lamb to come!

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