Thursday, 17 January 2019

They have no wine?

At the end of a busy day, a man and a woman are sitting on the veranda in the quiet twilight, broken only by the sounds of gentle wind, and swash of the waves.
They are enjoying a glass of wine together. As the sun slowly sinks below the mountains, the woman breaks the soothing silence to suddenly say, “I love you so much I don’t know I could ever live without you.”

Completely surprised at this, the man asks her, “Is that you or the wine talking?” But she explains that she was actually talking to her glass of wine, and not to him.

Despite such personal disappointments, there is someone closer than a person could ever be, someone impersonal, someone intimately within and quite beyond our experience, and someone we literally cannot live without. It takes brokenness to become intimate with this real being in relationship before you die. Nothing, an 18th century Jewish mystic said, is as whole as a broken heart. And it was the 21st century singer Leonard Cohen who said “There is a crack in everything, and that is how the light gets in.”  So  if you really want to be whole, get a feel for your brokenness.
When Mary says to Jesus at the wedding at Cana (John 2 1-12) “They have no wine,” she speaks a truth about persons who believe they are separate from the divine.
If we believe we are a separated body/mind, we resist marriage to God. And then the wine gives out. The glass is empty. The party over. Life seems dry. The day wears on, we become increasingly aware we cannot replenish the wine with our separate resources. Despite our best efforts, our good intentions, our hard work, the wine of our own life is always giving out. This is the truth. We refill our glass, it becomes empty. There isn’t enough. We may live, but we will be less than fully alive, unaware of our true nature. We will, as Mary tells Jesus, “have no wine”. And that's OK.
As separated beings we cannot be recipients of a full life and we might even resent the creator. If we believe in the self-sufficiency of being a separate body mind there will be no vibrancy or vitality, nothing grows or ferments, the bouquet of life is colourless, tasteless. The failure of our belief in our own power might seem like a disaster, an embarrassment, or a failure, as it did for the bride and groom at the Canan wedding, but it will confront us with truth old as creation, new as eternity, open to the eternal.

It may come on the day of a diagnosis, the death of a loved one, the loss of a friendship or marriage. It might be a search for love and acceptance, thirst for meaning and significance, guilt, disappointment, regret, fear, failure, self-doubt, depression, longing for something we can’t name, or unanswered prayer that brings it. But really, every single moment we ever resist is all our ‘having no wine’. 

Because we come to the wedding at Cana every single day, none of us guests or spectators, all of us participants, ready for union, intimacy and wholeness, our marriage to God.

As Jesus said, I and the Father are one, I can do nothing without the Father, as he and I are One, may they be One in us. So the day our wine runs out is a miracle, it is the day we let God be God and realise at last that as individual body minds we are only God’s empty jars. We have this treasure in empty jars, as 2 Cor 4;7 says, which means we realise we don’t own or control our glasses so Christ does not simply refill them, we are transformed into Christ.

This being in Christ begins to be fully experienced when the wine gives out and we accept our emptiness.  The being in relationship at the source of all existence can’t be realised unless our wine runs out.  And even then, some of us are sorely tempted to look for a substitute by working even harder, doing even more, or smashing our glass altogether.

If we try to escape experience we shrink. If we give that effort up and share God’s divine nature as our birth-right in God’s image, we know the truth - Christ the eternal vintner and chief steward is pouring Godself into everything there is, every sensation and thought, right here, and now. Mary knows, when she says “they have no wine,” that running out of wine is no failure, disaster, shameful calamity, or tragic end we believe it to be, it is openness to the only real Self.

If there had been enough wine, the participants at the wedding would have had to settle for something inferior and illusory and transient. But they received God in their midst, the best wine, by knowing they had run out of their own.

As people with nowhere to turn we realise we are recipients of God’s experience, not separated finite body/minds.  Just as Jesus waited until the cheap stuff ran out before he took water and made 180 gallons of the best wine, God waits until our illusion of self-sufficiency runs out, and we empty ourself of ourself, to allow us to know God’s fullness as all there is. Psalm 36 says this of God - you give them drink from the river of your delights. So, if the wine has run out...

Good.  It isn’t about your separate personal experience, it is about the priceless being whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere, and is so close you hardly usually notice it. As St Augustine said, God is closer to you than you are to yourself. So then let yourself go to find God.

A poem describes gladly letting the cheap wine, your limited searching, finally run out. “I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown. He replied: Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way. I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. God led me to the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.
In all life's circumstances, no matter how they feel, open up to the One at the centre of the experiences, the infinite reality of God, the only fine wine, is love flowing in you, as you, and for you, making human and divine one in you if you don’t resist what is happening, and this wonder beauty love potential and peace passes all our understanding.

But it is the truth, of One real being, in relationship.


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