Transfiguration C: Wow!

Shell in sunshineOLD TESTAMENT: Exodus 34: 29-35

Read the Old Testament passage

According to tradition, the Book of Exodus is known as “the Second Book of Moses”. The major themes of Exodus are identified as liberation, law, covenant, and presence. The presence of God is exceedingly important. God’s presence is seen as life-giving glory being concretely present in the world. The assumption is that God yearns to be present, but that requires a community of generous faith, emptied of the worldly culture around it, which gives it best skills, disciplines, and goods for the housing of the holy.

Now…some background…in the understanding of this early community of faith, God was not to be seen. God was the great I AM, one whose name could not be said, one whose power could not be beheld, one whose presence could not be seen. (It is in some way a better way to think of God—“lost in wonder and awe”– than the way we often view God as a great vending machine ready to tend to all our needs! After all, it seems that it would be harder to take the great I AM for granted!) But here, if one saw God, one died…But here God was and here Moses was actually talking to God!

So Moses goes up the mountain. (Now remember too that for these ancient Israelites, the mountain was a source not only of grandeur, but also of divine revelation. Mountain tops were sacred places.) And there he has his encounter with God. Now keep in mind their understanding of seeing God. Their assumption would be that Moses was going to die. And so when Moses shows up bearing two giant tablets and shining like they had never seen before, they were afraid.

Well once Moses gets them calmed down and gathered around him, he tells them the story. He tells them of these great tablets, the sign of God’s covenant, the very foundation for who they are and what they will become. The truth is, there might be some question about whether or not Moses was actually shiny. The Hebrew word is queren, which often means “horn”. (Some scholars even surmise that Moses was so burned and scarred by this encounter with God that he appeared to have horns.) Either way, this tangible mark of God’s Presence may have just been too much. So Moses dons a veil, perhaps to protect the people and maybe so they would actually listen to what he had to say. So, in essence, he is hoping that the veil will somehow filter and aid understanding for the people. But he also understands that when he encounters God, he is called to remove all impediments that might exist. He is called to unveil himself completely before God.

The Hebrews understood that no one could see God and live. They were right. No one can see God and remain unchanged. We die to ourselves and emerge in the cloud. We, too, probably don’t want “all of God”. We’d rather control the way God enters and affects our lives, showing up when God’s Presence is needed or convenient. But remember the words of the Isaac Watts hymn: “Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small; love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”

My soul, my life, my all—I think that would mean unveiled. Maybe Moses’ act of donning the veil was as much to show the people the difference between their life and an encounter with God. But, in case you missed it, remember what happened when Moses did fully encounter God. Remember that the sacred and the holy could not help but become part of him.   It is true. One cannot encounter God without being utterly and profoundly changed forever, perhaps in some odd way even scarred. And sometimes that’s a lot for this world to take.

You will also notice that Moses did not just remove the veil before God but also before the people when he was teaching. He wanted them to encounter what he had, to see what he had, to become what he had become. Encounters with God are not solitary events. We are not changed by ourselves on the mountaintop; rather, we are transformed in community where we can see the face of God in each other. Religious encounter is a continual conversation between the Creator and the created. Otherwise, we might as well just put on a veil and go about our business.


  • What does this passage mean for you?
  • How would our understanding of God change if we thought of God as the “Great I AM”?
  • What keeps us from realizing that God’s presence changes everything in our lives rather than merely affirming who we are?
  • (OK…this is an odd question)…Do we really want as much of God as God is willing to share with us? Do we really want a God that is “so amazing, so divine” that a relationship with that God “demands my soul, my life, my all?”
  • How veiled do we live our lives? What stands in the way of our “unveiling”?




NEW TESTAMENT: 2 Corinthians 3: 12-4:2

Read the Lectionary Epistle passage

This passage from the letter that we know of as Second Corinthians is actually more than likely part of a compilation of five or six letters that Paul wrote to the community at Corinth. And many of these writings are defending Paul’s theology and understanding of the Gospel against a band of “super-apostles” that have infiltrated the church and community. Paul tells the Corinthians over and over to remain faithful, to stay on track, so to speak and in this passage that we read, he uses the account from Exodus of Moses in the desert encountering God. It’s also one that can easily be construed into some sort of anti-Semitic statement as well. Without looking first at the Old Testament passage, one might take Moses’ act of veiling as some sort of act of deception before God. So taken out of context, there is a portrayal of Moses and the covenant given to him in a negative light. And yet, none of Paul’s writings have ever discounted the former writings. They just depicted that they weren’t yet fulfilled; in other words, that they weren’t complete. Paul contends that these writings alone cannot bring one to God.

And as Paul points out, the glory brought to Moses’ face was fleeting. Perhaps it was misunderstood. Perhaps the veil was a way of shielding glory from those who would not understand. For that matter, the donning of a veil by one who does not fully see can become a way of closing one’s eyes to the needs of the world, of creating for oneself an understanding of God as personal and private.

But for Paul, the coming of Christ equates to a removal of that veil, a more permanent expression of the glory of God and one that is inclusive of all. It instead opens Christ to the whole community. It is not discounting or dismissing the former things; it is clarifying and bringing them into permanence and a broader offering.

And as Paul says, we are all unveiled. We are mirrors of God’s mercy and grace. We are all changed, transformed by the grace of God through Jesus Christ. Perhaps Moses’ encounter could be considered just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, a precursor to show what we would all someday become. We all seek transformation, of course, but transformation comes through our relationships with both God and our brothers and sisters. We become what others see in us.

In a sermon on this passage, Richard Gribble tells this story:


One magnificent, moonlit night, a fisherman climbed the wall of a private estate to partake in the bounty of its fish-stocked pond. He moved with stealth and upon reaching the banks of the pond observed with keen awareness that there was no activity in the bungalow below. All the lights were out. With a sense of confidence, he envisioned his fishing needs taken care of for the full week. Thus, he cast his net into the pond making the light splash. The master of the house remarked to his wife from his deep stupor, “Did you hear a sound outside?” His wife remarked, “My dear, it sounded like a net falling into the water.” In seconds, the owner sprang out of the stupor and visualizing his pond completely devoid of fish yelled, “Thief! Thief!” The servants of the house, hearing the master yell, scrambled outside toward the pond. The fisherman gathered the net as swiftly as he tossed it and scrambled to find a safe hiding place. The workers’ voices were near and the fisherman’s desperation knew no bounds. His eyes caught a glimpse of a smoldering fire and he got an idea. He gathered some ash and rubbed it over his arms, body, and face. He quickly sat under the nearest tree in a posture of one in meditation. When the servants arrived at the scene and saw the man in meditation they asked for forgiveness and continued their search. Finally, they reported back to the owner telling him that there was only a sanyasin, a holy man, in the garden. The owner’s face lit up and asked to be taken to the site of the sanyasin. Upon seeing him, he was overjoyed and demanded that the holy man not be disturbed. The fisherman’s fear turned to joy and then to pride thinking how smart he was to outwit the entire household. He sat under the tree until the shades of dawn began to sweep across the night sky. As he was preparing to leave he saw a small procession of people approaching; they had heard of the holy man. Now he could not leave under any circumstance. These people had come from a neighboring village and with total devotion had brought offerings of food, fruit, silver, and gold to invoke the blessings of the holy man! At this very moment the fisherman realized that if by assuming the role of a holy man he had received so much respect and goodwill, how much more respect and goodwill would be received if he truly was a holy man. So the fisherman who was truly a thief turned in his net and became a true man of God. It might have been quite by accident, but the fisherman experienced conversion in his life. He was transformed from a thief into a holy man through the action of others. The love, respect, and deference demonstrated toward him changed his heart. He realized he had been deluding himself to think others might respect him for his wealth, but he came to realize he could be held in high esteem by demonstrating kindness and those qualities that label people as “holy.” (From “Transformed to Christ”, a sermon by Richard Gribble, available at, accessed 4 February, 2012.)


  • What does this passage mean for you?
  • What does the concept of transformation mean for you?
  • What gets in the way of your seeing that come to be in your own life?




GOSPEL: Luke 9: 28-36 (37-43)

Read the Gospel passage

The Greek for “transfigured” is, here, metamorphormai, or “to undergo a metamorphosis”. In our terms (think of a butterfly), that means a change in form or character. The writer of the Gospel known as Luke starts the story by saying that Jesus went up on the mountain to pray. But he took with him his friends. And it was there, there on the top of the mountain, there with his friends, that Jesus was changed. Jesus glows with a transcendent glory reserved only for heavenly beings, which implies that he belongs to the divine world. The Gospel writer depicts Jesus as being together with Moses and Elijah in a scene of transcendent glory, showing Jesus in continuity with the fulfillment of God’s work portrayed by the Old Testament.

It makes the point that the disciples were tired, indeed that they were “weighed down”. But they stayed awake. They probably thought that they were dreaming at first. I mean, really, you’re exhausted and filled with that thin mountain air and then you start seeing things that you can’t explain. Peter’s response seems odd to us, almost as if he misses the whole point. (And probably makes us a bit uncomfortable with our own reaction!) It sounds like he’s trying to control or contain the Christ. But keep in mind that it was a response from his Jewish understanding. He was offering lodging—a booth, a tent, a tabernacle—for the holy. But he needed only to listen. That is the proper response to such incredible holiness.

And then the cloud comes. It says that they were “overshadowed”, veiled, really, when you think about it. And of course they were terrified. I mean, remember, they were Jewish. They understood that if one saw God, he or she would die. And here they were. Something was happening—this thick cloud all around them. They couldn’t even see the ground below. And Jesus all lit up like nothing they ever say. Surely they were going to die. And then the voice…”This is my Son, my Chosen, listen to him.” Sure, what else are we going to do?

And somewhere in the depiction, Moses and Elijah drop out of sight. Jesus is there alone. In Old Testament Hebrew understanding, the tabernacle was the place where God was. Here, this changes. Jesus stays with them alone. Jesus—not Moses, not Elijah–IS the tabernacle, the reality of God’s presence in the world. The disciples descend down the mountain into the world, full of pain and suffering and injustice. But God’s presence remains with us.

In the Old Testament passage that we read, Moses descended the mountain with the law; in the depiction of the Transfiguration of Christ, Jesus descends with his own life and body given unto all. Fred Craddock describes the account of the Transfiguration of Christ as “the shout heard round the world”, the glorious announcement of what happened in Bethlehem years before. It IS the final Epiphany.

It says, though, that the disciples descended from the mountain. That is the key. We are not called to some sort of removed piety. We must return to the world. The rest of the passage shows that there is work to be done. But it also says that they were silent about the whole thing. After all, really, what do you say after that? The Transfiguration leans directly into Lent. Jesus descends and walks toward Jerusalem. And the disciples go with him. The Transfiguration leads us to Lent and at the same time gives us a taste of Easter glory. There is something about this that would never have been understood until it was placed in the context of what was to come next. Jesus has gone onto Jerusalem. Our response must be to follow.


After a person is baptized in an Episcopal Church, there is a prayer said for the newly baptized, which concludes like this: “Sustain them, O Lord, in your Holy Spirit. Give them an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works. Amen.” The gift of joy and wonder in all your works. We’ve lost many things over the years. Joy and wonder are two of them. It’s just so hard to conjure up wonder. As a parent, one of the parental goals I have for myself is to raise two girls with a sense of wonder. So, I take them to museums and cathedrals, and point out the intricacies and nuances of what they’re seeing. When I speak of God to them, I not only tell them that Jesus is their friend and with them all the time (which is good), but also that he made the sun, the moon and the stars. And manatee. And flamingos. And Cheetos. OK, I definitely leave out the Cheetos…


As a priest, I try and conjure up for the parish I serve similar awe of the power of God, the minute and amazing details of the scriptures, and the movement of the Holy Spirit through the history of humanity and the Church. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I don’t. I’ve had too many experiences of taking youth into a grand nave of a wondrous, storied, cathedral or abbey… only to find them more interested in looking at their shoes and incoming text messages. Those moments hurt my heart. We had a clergy day a few weeks back with Mike Gecan, the author of “Going Public.” He talked about going into his child’s Kindergarten class and seeing a bulletin board illustrating what the students wanted to learn in school that year. Most of the statements were like, “behave,” “learn to sit still,” “follow the rules,” “listen to the teacher better.”

One child said “I want to know why the ocean shines like fire.” Holy smoke. I mean HOLY smoke! Now that the kids mentions it… I want to know why the ocean shines like fire too. There’s a kid who has the gift of joy and wonder in all God’s works. We can say a lot about the Tranfiguration. And given it’s prevalent use in the lectionary from year to year, we get to say a lot about it. But, if there’s ever a “WOW” moment in Jesus’ earthly ministry, this is it. Jesus took his three chosen disciples up on a mountain to do many things. One of them, was to blow their sandals off. And, whatever shortcomings they have, and however paltry Peter’s words are, they at least do the appropriate thing and fall on their faces before the Presence of the Glory of God and His Son. This is an intimate encounter, for only a few, on an un-named mountaintop. And so, I have to believe that this isn’t just a historical tale of one of Jesus’ afternoon excursions, but is a model of Christian life. We are to look around and search for those places and events where God knocks our socks off. And we’re to fully soak in the WOW of the moment. And maybe even fall on our faces. It reminds us of God’s power and glory and splendor. And it reminds us of our appropriate, faithful, response: worship. And, once we experience wonder – and help others do the same – maybe we can put the incoming-text-message-machines down… and experience joy too. Why does Jesus shine like fire? Let’s see for ourselves, and invite others along. When is the last time you let God blow your socks off? (From “A Garden Path”, a blog by R.M.C. Morley, available at, accessed 1 March, 2011.)


  • What does this passage mean for you?
  • What does this depiction of God’s presence mean to us?
  • In what ways, then, should we see the presence of God, or Jesus, differently?
  • What effect does that have on how we view our own practices of faith?
  • Has there ever been a time when God “blew your socks off”?




Some Quotes for Further Reflection:


People only see what they are prepared to see. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

All over this magnificent world God calls us to extend [God’s] kingdom of shalom—peace and wholeness—of justice, of goodness, of compassion, of caring, or sharing, of laughter, of joy, of reconciliation. God is transfiguring the world right this very moment through us because God believes in us and because God loves us. What can separate us from the love of God? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. And as we share God’s love with our brothers and sisters, God’s other children, there is no tyrant who can resist us, no opposition that cannot be ended, no hunger that cannot be fed, no wound that cannot be healed, no hatred that cannot be turned into love, no dream that cannot be fulfilled. (Desmond Tutu, God Has a Dream)

Change your ways, give yourself a fresh coat of paint, convert yourself. Do all this, and you’ll find the cross before it finds you. (Thomas A’ Kempis, The Imitation of Christ)




Let’s go up the mountain. Let’s go up to the place where the land meets the sky where the earth touches the heavens, to the place of meeting, to the place of mists, to the place of voices and conversations, to the place of listening:


O God, We open our eyes and we see Jesus, the months of ministry transfigured to a beam of light, the light of the world, your light. May your light shine upon us. We open our eyes and we see Moses and Elijah, your word restoring us, showing us the way, telling a story, your story, his story, our story. May your word speak to us. We open our eyes and we see mist, the cloud of your presence which assures us of all we do not know and that we do not need to fear that. Teach us to trust. We open our eyes and we see Peter’s constructions, his best plans, our best plans, our missing the point, our missing the way. Forgive our foolishness and sin.


We open our eyes and we see Jesus, not casting us off, but leading us down, leading us out – to ministry, to people. Your love endures forever. We open our ears and we hear your voice, ‘This is my beloved Son, listen to him!’ And we give you thanks. Amen

(Prayer by William Loader, 02/2001, available at, accessed 1 March, 2011)

Epiphany 2C: Water Plus a Miracle

Wedding at Cana
Duccio di Buoninsegna

OLD TESTAMENT: Isaiah 62: 1-5

Read the Old Testament passage

There are actually at least two ways to read this passage. Some hold that the prophet is speaking in the voice of God and reaffirming God’s promise to always act on behalf of the city. Others claim that the prophet himself is vowing to act as God’s intercessor, as God’s voice. Taken this way, the prophet, as he says, cannot stay silent. He is compelled to speak what he believes in the deepest part of his being. Either way, think about the context in which this passage was probably first said. God had made extravagant promises to God’s exiled people. Earlier in the book of Isaiah, God promised to build up the barren and war-torn city of Jerusalem. God promised to bring the exiled people home, and promised them the richest of feasts. And so they come home around the year 539, when Persia’s King Cyrus proclaims an end to the exile and allows them to leave.

But the reality to which the people returned was far from glorious. The land seemed to them like a desert. It was true that the land was not empty: people had remained in Judah during the years of exile, and others had moved into the area, making a life for themselves in Jerusalem and in the surrounding countryside. But none were able to undo the damage done by Nebuchadnezzar and his army some sixty and fifty years before. And when the exiles returned, it was all they could do to secure homesteads for themselves and try to grow crops to feed their families. The land had not remained untouched ready for them to return. It wasn’t like they just threw off the sheets covering their furniture and moved back in. Others had claimed their place. There was no place to go.

Times were difficult, and people were hungry. When prophets finally convinced them to rebuild the temple, it was clear that its glory could not match the glory of former days. The land still felt like a wasteland and so it was easy for them to assume that God had, in fact, deserted them.

The prophet, though, knows this is not true. The prophet believes that God has promised newness, transformation, and abundance in God’s time. But that reality is new; it is not a “redo” of the former things. It is a promise of new life. The prophet knows that God has promised new names for Israel, both for the land and for the people. This name—signifying a new destiny, a new hope—will be given by the Lord. A new name signifies a new and restored relationship with God. The name, “My Delight” says how God looks upon Israel and what God is promising to do. Emmanuel Swedenborg says that “Love consists in desiring to give what is our own to another and feeling [his or her] delight in our own.” So the prophet is calling the people to feel God’s delight, to live God’s delight, to be God’s delight. We proclaim that we rejoice in God. But this…this is God’s rejoice in us.


  1. What is your response to this passage?
  2. What does the premise of a “new name” mean for you?
  3. What does that mean for you to be “God’s Delight”, for God to delight in God’s people? Why is that difficult for us to think that way?
  4. What, then, would it mean for God to be “Our Delight”?



NEW TESTAMENT: 1 Corinthians 12: 1-11

Read the Epistle passage

In this passage, Paul seems to deal with spiritual gifts by pointing to the Corinthians involvement in other religions prior to their becoming Christians. He points to what it means to live by the Spirit of God; it means more than just being “religious”. It means living to the true potential of what God has instilled in each of us.

The lectionary breaks this chapter into two sections (and two weeks) but the main focus throughout the chapter is on spiritual gifts. This week’s reading essentially proclaims that all are given unique spiritual gifts and asks the question of us all, “So what will you do with them?” “What will you do so that they serve to the glory of God?” Remember that in this letter to the Corinthian Church, one of Paul’s main focuses was their seeming lack of community, their perceived inability to care for every member. This passage strikes at the heart of that notion. We are all given unique gifts by God. Are we using everyone’s gifts? Are we engaging everyone in ministry? Are all the gifts just as important as the next? Do we even recognize all the gifts that God has given us as a community? God instills gifts into each of us and instills gifts to each community. But different as they are, they are all of the Holy Spirit.

And what does this say about our own gifts and the way we engage them in the work to which God calls us? This is God’s Spirit alive in us. And yet sometimes it is difficult for us to recognize gifts in ourselves.

In Stepping Stones of the Steward, Ronald E. Vallet tells the story of a poor Jewish man, Eizik, son of Yekel, [who] lived in the city of Krakow. One night he dreamed that, in the far city of Prague, buried at the foot of the bridge that went across the Vltava River, was a great treasure. When he awoke the next morning, he remembered his dream but did not think too much about it because it is not that unusual to have such dreams. However, that night he had the same dream again. This continued night after night, the same dream, until ten days and nights had gone by. Finally, Eizik concluded that he had no choice but to make a journey to the far city of Prague to see if a great treasure really was buried where he had seen it in his dream.

He set out on the journey to Prague, a journey that took many days and was very difficult. As he approached the city of Prague, he saw the Vltava River, just as he had seen it in his dream. Crossing the river was a bridge, just as in his dream. He hurried to the foot of the bridge, where in his dream the treasure had been buried.

As he bent over and started to dig, he felt a hand grasp his shoulder and heard a voice say to him, “What do you think you’re doing here?” It was the hand and the voice of a soldier. Poor Eizik was so startled that he could think of nothing to do except to stammer out the truth. He told the soldier of his dream and of his long journey to Prague to seek the buried treasure. On hearing the story, the soldier laughed, gave Eizik a kick, and said, “You stupid Jew, don’t you know that we all have dreams like that? But it makes no sense to pay attention to them. I myself had such a dream. I dreamed that in the far city of Krakow, in the house of a poor Jew named Eizik, son of Yekel, a great treasure was buried beneath the stove. Now, wouldn’t I be stupid if I left my post and make a long journey to Krakow and went searching through the city looking for the house of a poor Jew named Eizik? Why, there are probably many Jews with that name.” With that, he gave Eizik another kick and said, “Not go on home!”

Eizik made the long journey back to Krakow, went to his home, moved aside the stove, and dug. There he found a great treasure of gold!

The treasure of gold did not lie in the far city. Instead, Eizik discovered that the treasure had been very near to him for many years. But the knowledge of the treasure involved a long and difficult journey. (Ronald E. Vallet, Stepping Stones of the Steward (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdman’s Publishing, 1989), 9-10.)


  1. What meaning does this passage hold for you?
  2. How readily do we accept different gifts in the community?
  3. Is there such a thing as someone having the “wrong” gifts for a community?
  4. What does this say to you about your own spiritual gifts?
  5. What happens if we do NOT engage someone’s gifts?
  6. What happens if we do not engage our own gifts?



GOSPEL: John 2: 1-11

Read the Gospel passage

According to the Mishnah (which is essentially a redaction of the oral tradition of Judaism and the traditional understandings of Scripture), the wedding would take place on a Wednesday if the bride was a virgin and on a Thursday if she was a widow. The bridegroom and his friends made their way in procession to the bride’s house. This was often done at night, when there could be a spectacular torchlight procession. There would be speeches and expressions of goodwill before the bride and groom went in procession to the groom’s house, where the wedding banquet was held. It is probable that there was a religious ceremony, but we have no details. The processions and the feast are the principal items of which we have knowledge. The feast was prolonged, and might last as long as a week (so, OK, that would be quite a lot of wine!).

Mary, the mother of Jesus, is at the wedding, although her role seems to be more than that of a guest. Perhaps the couple were relatives or something. But she seems to be one of the first to know that the wine is running out. She instructs the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them to do, and they appear willing to take her instructions.

This was an embarrassing situation—the wine has run out, and there appears to be no solution. Either no more wine is available, or there is no money to buy more wine. The guests seem unaware of what is happening. If something is not done, all will be embarrassed. Some commentators even inform us that litigation was possible in such cases. (Can you imagine being sued for not providing enough food and drink at a marriage ceremony?) But, regardless, it is clear that Jesus mother expects Jesus to do something out of the ordinary. She expects him to fix it. Maybe it’s a message to us that Jesus didn’t just come for the “big”, splashy things. Maybe it’s a reminder that God is in even the ordinary, those seemingly small things in life that we think we can handle, that we think don’t really even matter to God.

But this? I mean, really, wine? Why didn’t he turn the water into food for the hungry or clothing for the poor? Why didn’t he end the suffering of one of those wedding guests who were forced to live their lives in pain? Why didn’t he teach those that were there that God is more impressed by who we are than what we do? Now THAT would have been a miracle. But instead Jesus, in his first miraculous act, creates a party, a feast. Maybe it’s a reminder that we ought to just relax and trust God a little more. Maybe it’s trying to tell us that God is indeed in every aspect of our life. And maybe it’s telling us that life is indeed a feast to be celebrated.

And think about the wine itself. It begins as ordinary grapes. Well, not really. If you go even farther back, you start with water. Everything starts with water. And then those ordinary grapes with just the right amount of water, the right amount of sunlight, and the right amount of nutrients fed to them from the rich, dark earth begin to seed. And then we wait, we wait for them to grow and flourish and at just the right time, they are picked and processed and strained of impurities and all of those things that are not necessary. And then they are bottled and tucked away while again, we wait. They are placed in just the right temperature, with just the right amount of light, and just the right amount of air quality, and we wait. We wait and until it becomes…well, a miracle.

And Biblical theologians have over and over pointed to the relationship that this story has with the Eucharist. Think about it. We take ordinary bread and ordinary wine (or in our case, ordinary Welch’s Grape Juice), and through what we can only describe as a Holy Mystery, a veritable miracle, those ordinary things become holy. They become for us the body and blood of Christ, the very essence of Christ to us, for us, and in us.

And remember that when the wine ran out, Jesus did not conjure up fresh flagons of wine. Rather, he took what was there, those ordinary, perhaps even abandoned vessels of ordinary, everyday water and turned it into a holy and sacred gift. Water and a miracle…

So this story of wine makes a little more sense. Wine is water—plus a miracle. But in case it is lost on us, remember that our bodies are roughly two-thirds water. No wonder the ancient sages always used water as a symbol for matter itself. Humans, they taught, are a miraculous combination of matter and Spirit—water and a miracle—and thus unique in all of creation. No wonder that wine is such a powerful, sacramental, and universal symbol of the natural world—illumined and uplifted by the Divine. Wine is water, plus spirit, a unique nectar of the Divine, a symbol of life.

And we, ordinary water-filled vessels though we are, are no different. God takes the created matter that is us and breathes Spirit into us, breathes life into us. We, too, are water plus a miracle. 13th century German mystic Meister Eckhart said that “every creature is a word of God.” It’s another way of reminding us that we are water plus a miracle.

So maybe this story of Jesus’ first miracle is not as odd as we thought. Our lectionary places it immediately following the remembrance of Jesus’ baptism and the remembrance of our own. It is the point where God’s Spirit, where the holy and sacred itself, was poured into each of us. So, yes, we are a miracles, created matter, Spirit-breathed. We are the good wine that God has saved for now. We are water plus a miracle.


  1. What meaning does this hold for you?
  2. In what ways does this speak of God’s abundance to you?
  3. How does this passage speak to you about our own faith journeys?
  4. How open to God’s abundance are we?
  5. What does it mean to see ourself as a miracle of God?



Some Quotes for Further Reflection:


We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit. (e.e. cummings)


Joy has no name. Its very being is lost in the great tide of selfless delight—Creation’s response to the infinite loving of God. (Evelyn Underhill)

When I die, God isn’t going to ask me “Did I create the Earth in six days or five days?” but “What did you do with what I gave you?” (Richard Cizik)




Where there was no wine, there was you

and you said drink, and there it was, startling and sweet.

And where there was no bread, there was you

and you said feed one another, and there it was, filling and strong.

And where there was no love, there was you

and you said touch, and there we were, our hands looking like yours.


Here’s to everyone: To fullness of life on earth and bounteous blessings for all humanity; To justice, compassion, and the warmth of the sun for all God’s creatures; To the golden health of loved ones everywhere, and the radiant glory of those who have gone before. God bless us now and evermore. So be it. Amen. (Jan L. Richardson, “And You Said”, in In Wisdom’s Path: Discovering the Sacred in Every Season, (Cleveland, OH: The Pilgrim Press, 2000), 41, 157).