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When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’”

-John 2:3-4



In the deepening night of Holy Week, despite the 2,000 year gap, we find ourselves gathered around the table with the disciples, eavesdropping on the conversation between them and our Teacher. Perhaps the more imaginative among us can smell the fresh bread, the smoky lamb, and the pomegranate-dark warmth of the wine.


And in that moment, perhaps we might be reminded of the passage above, and the glory of that wedding. How very far away that feels now, especially to us who know how this story ends.


But the two meals are linked by more than just a menu.


To the writer of John, wine is a symbol of sacrifice. In Sufi poetry, wine is a vehicle for divine ecstasy, occasionally used as a metaphor for God’s all-powerful love, and "the wine-house" is both the state of that ecstasy and the gathering place for those experiencing it. I can’t imagine the Fourth Evangelist would have disavowed this understanding.


The wedding guests may not have been quite ready to comprehend this outpouring, which is why Jesus brought it to them, turning water into wine. But that was only a sign, a mere shadow of what was to come.


Not long before his last meal, Jesus says, “Now the hour has come.” The cup is full, and Jesus is called to drink it. While in the other Gospels he hesitates, in John our Teacher has no hesitation. He is fully committed to annihilation in the Beloved – it is his whole purpose.


His first step is to wash the feet of his students, stripping away layer by layer that which elevates him. He descends, brings himself low, pours himself out so that he may approach enthronement on the Cross with sacred emptiness.


Jesus then explains that he is the vine, and his disciples are called to be fruit. He will move from being a container to becoming the very source from which we are to fill our own vessels with holy wine, and then, in turn, pour it out.


It may be a fearful thing to consider the pouring out as students called to wash each others’ feet and love one another when we can’t always be sure that we particularly like one another! How great is our need!


And how much greater is the one who loves us, who called and taught and healed and fed and summoned forth from the grave...and ended his one wild and precious earthly life by exploding death itself.


There’s no fear in need – because there’s no fear in love.



On the day of judgment, the mystic Shams-e-Tabrizi, Rumi’s dearest friend, enters paradise, but is caught in the crowd clustered around the gates. He starts kicking up a fuss, trying to push his way through.


The angels notice him and say to God “Who is that?”


Oh,” God says, and laughs. “That’s Shams. He’s...different.”


Shams cries, “You have to let me through! I’ve brought a gift!”


All these faithful ones have brought gifts!” the angels reply. “What makes yours so special?”


But Shams shouts all the louder, “My gift is the only one that God doesn’t already have!”


The angels are perplexed and a little offended, but God says, to everyone’s shock, “He’s right. Let him through.”


The crowd parts, Shams comes through, prostrates himself before God, and says, “I have brought the one thing you do not have, O Lord. I have brought my need.”’



-a story told to me by Omid Safi



Photo by Saman Taheri on Unsplash