What are you whining about these days?
I’m not asking that question to condemn, criticize, or judge anyone. It’s a serious question that I want us to take seriously. I’m asking it because I find myself whining more these days and I wonder if that’s true for you too.
I spent a good part of last week whining. I whined about having to prepare this sermon. I whined about today’s annual parish meeting, what I will say, and how many people will attend. I whined because it’s been almost three weeks since I’ve ridden my bike.
Yes, I’m a whiner but I don’t think I’m the only one here. I’m guessing that we’re all members of at least one whine club, and probably several.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever joined the Pandemic Whine Club. Or how about the Politics and Division in America Whine Club? Are any of you a member of the I’m Just Tired Of It All Whine Club or the I Don’t Understand Them Whine Club? And then there’s the Why Aren’t They Coming Back to Church Whine Club.
I’ve attended meetings of all those whine clubs. Maybe you have too. What other whine clubs are you a member of? There’s a whine club for every fear, dissatisfaction, complaint, and unlived life.
Contrary to what Mary says in today’s gospel (John 2:1-11), and I’ll come back to that in a minute, there’s plenty of whine, w-h-i-n-e, to go around these days.
What do you think that’s about? What’s behind your and my whining? Why do we join the various whine clubs?
I don’t think it’s really about the circumstances or things about which we are whining. Do you? I think it’s about something else. Has your whining ever really changed anything or made a difference for the better? Mine hasn’t.
The only thing my whining has done (besides annoy my wife) is to distract me from the real issue and let me avoid my life. My glass is as empty after my whining as it was before my whining. As Mary says in today’s gospel, “They have no wine,” w-i-n-e. That’s the issue.
When I have no wine, w-i-n-e, in my life, then I whine, w-h-i-n-e. My whining is both a symptom and a diagnosis, and both are about me and not the circumstances. When the wine gives out –
- My life is empty, colorless, tasteless. Nothing is growing or fermenting in me. There’s no vibrancy or bouquet.
- I have no passion or energy.
- I’m tired, running on empty, and unmotivated.
- I lack imagination and creativity.
- Depression and lethargy replace desire, interest, and curiosity.
- I’d rather play it safe than risk something new and different.
- I blame others instead of taking responsibility for my life.
- I’m no longer grounded in the present moment. Instead, I’m either trying to change the past or control the future.
- I’m disconnected from the infinite, and the largeness of my own life.
That’s some of what it’s been like for me “when the wine gave out.” What about you? Does any of that resonate with you? What else would you add to my list?
Listen to the whining in your life today. What is it telling you? What is the wine that has given out in your life today? What is lacking?
What would give color and fragrance to your life? What would add vibrancy, passion, and energy? What would inspire and fill your life to the brim?
I think most of us can pretty easily name the wine that has given out. The bigger challenge is how to get more wine when we feel empty, overwhelmed, or abandoned.
What if our whine, w-h-i-n-e, can become wine, w-i-n-e? I know how crazy and impossible that sounds but isn’t that the transformation happening in today’s gospel? They went from whining about having no wine to having 120 or maybe even 180 gallons of wine. The transformation of water into wine is a metaphor for the transformation of our lives: emptiness to fullness, tasteless to mouthwatering, colorless to vibrant red, stagnant to fermenting.
I don’t know how to make that happen and I suspect you don’t either. But we don’t have to. It’s not our work to turn water into wine. That’s the process of life “lifing,” nature “naturing,” and God “Godding.” Transformation is already and always happening. Our work is to participate in the transformation already taking place.
“Do whatever he tells you,” Mary says to the servants. And Jesus tells them, “Fill the jars with water.”
When the wine gives out our work is to carry water. I can do that and so can you. We know how to carry water and fill jugs. It looks like the things Jesus has told and shown us.
The water we carry looks like love, compassion, self-giving. It looks like courage, hope, and faith. It looks like wonder, beauty, and thanksgiving. It looks like hospitality and welcoming the stranger (including the stranger I am to myself). It looks like mercy and forgiveness. It looks like giving others and myself the benefit of the doubt and not judging. It looks like prayer, intimacy, and vulnerability. It looks like staying connected to and concerned about others. It looks like peace, justice, and human dignity. It looks like seeing and treating others as I would like to be seen and treated.
If the wine has given out in your life today, what’s the water you can carry?
I don’t know how or when it will happen but I know this: The water we carry fills the cup of salvation with the wine of new life. That’s the promise of today’s gospel.
Taste and see. Taste and see.