The weekend of January 15-16, some Christian denominations will hear this reading from John 2:1-11
My toes curled, I tell you.
Watching burgundy sheen
lapping the limpid water,
tinting the stone. A blush
warmed my own limbs.
There’d been commotion,
a woman’s voice so earnest
I hurried: not the usual crisis.
The steward clueless as always.
Before he even tasted, I knew:
this was good stuff. Now I
extend my empty glass,
yearning for your wine.
Color my diluted days again.
If water glows like ruby, so can I.
In my world, being a woman AND a servant was the double whammy. Long, exhausting days faded numbly into each other, each identical to the last. No wonder we anticipated a wedding, even though it meant more work. At a wedding banquet, people who never feasted got to eat more than they’d ever dreamed. Even we servants sneaked more food. From a meager diet, we plunged into seven days of eating. For once, we all felt full.
Slogging heavy stone jars, I simply cursed the weight of 120-180 gallons of water. My aching arms were stiff, but the woman’s voice I overheard in the crowd was unique. She didn’t speak loudly, but the force of her conviction was powerful. Usually I’d question—she was just an ordinary guest–but something mysterious compelled me to follow her words: “Do whatever he tells you.” What had she said to her son, or he to her?
What force of his hand shifted the color in the water jar? Was he an artist? A magician? I had no idea, but still: crazy-hopeful, I sneaked a ladle-full. That unexpected wine surpassed anything I’ve ever tasted!
Sipping it, I understood for the first time what the rabbis had always taught. Marriage was a symbol of the relationship between Israel and God. I’d always loved the promise God made through Isaiah of rich food and well-aged wines (Isa. 25:6). I could picture it because I’d served a few of those feasts. But I never thought I was invited to the banquet.
Now with incomparable deliciousness filling my mouth, I thought: God chose me. From the beginning of time, God sought me like a bride. Always God’s compassionate hand had reached towards me. Maybe it was through a friend, or an angle of light as I walked home after a long day. Maybe it was morning energy after exhaustion, or my reliable good health. My name means “green herb,” and I felt the vital juice running through me. Words couldn’t capture my awe, but water-turned-wine could. This odd intoxication wasn’t the usual drunk. It lasted long.
Life afterwards became dull again, the daily trudge repeated endlessly, grueling hand-to-mouth survival with no relief in sight. But I would remember how the colorless water became effervescent. I’d carry that taste within.
Just when I thought I might be getting used to this radical about-face attitude, a friend told me a story from that surprising wedding guest, whose name I learned later: Jesus. He shocked people when he told the story of the servants being served (Lk. 12: 35-40). This man seemed to have an odd affinity with us bottom-of-the-heap sorts. A master acting as a servant? The rumors even said he called himself a servant. Almost as if God cared about folding sheets and blankets or mopping the mess on the floor! Maybe it’s not so startling. Jesus also said only the “little ones” get it (Mt.11:25). Couldn’t get much littler than me!
Now, after that dramatic shift of water-into-wine, I don’t feel so belittled and denied. I can picture an endless series of rooms opening up, each doorway marked “yes.” I walk nobly through the arches, sipping a glass of That Wine. Strong and confident, I wonder what powerful effect this stranger’s had on me. When the rabbis or my boss tell me I’m evil and filled to the brim with putrid sin, I close my eyes for a minute and return to the taste of loveliness that better shows who I most truly am.
Was the wine in his words? It’s as if he said, “I don’t want you to ever feel small again.”
Excerpt from More Hidden Women of the Gospels, Orbis Press, 800-258-5838, OrbisBooks.com.