Pathways to Joy. A Lent Post.

Everybody wants to feel good. Everybody wants to celebrate. Almost everybody tries to find it in pointless and often destructive ways. Today’s thoughts for Lent call us to think about our own pursuit of joy.

John 2:1-11
2 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

There are lots of questions we may ask concerning this passage. One of the favorites for pointless speculation is what Jesus meant and did not mean with his remark to his mother. Not going there. What I wish to focus on is the source of the best wine, not as the substance itself, but as its signifying value as the true source of joy.

No matter how hard our pursuit of good feelings, we will always run out. The source dries up, the feeling does not last, the company fades. It’s not that joy is not something good for us; that would be a difficult position to maintain in light of all the Bible has to say about joy. We were made for it, made to share in it with the Source of all things, the Giver of all good gifts. Of course we want it; and of course we want it in a way that is shared with good company, those whose expressions of joy serve to enhance our own. Jesus longed for the fellowship (not the sternness some automatically imagine) he had enjoyed with the Father and the Spirit (John 17). And he wants to bring us into that same joyful fellowship.

We’re made for joy. But we’re not made to search for it independently of God in Christ. In Augustine’s oft-quoted phrase: “Our hearts are restless until we find our rest in Thee.” But we don’t really believe it, do we? We insist on finding it in near total independence of its source. We try to find every short-cut imaginable to joy, and are amazingly persistent in believing it is just around the corner, almost within reach. All we need is one more level, one more relationship, one more new toy, one more of the latest model, one more time-saving technique, etc., etc. But the wine always runs out before the guests have had their fill.

Isn’t interesting that Jesus fills the need with the ordinary. Water. It’s abundant, it’s unspectacular in itself, it’s so very ordinary—until he touches it and transforms it. Our thought for today is one of repentance. We all have places we search for joy that exclude Jesus and his gospel of hope and joy. We need greater faith in him and his word that in him and him alone is fullness of joy.