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HYMN FOR EPIPHANY II John 2 Jesus turns water into wine

Wedding at Cana Gerard David ca. 1500

Text: Gracia Grindal Tune: James Clemens or MACHT HOCH DIE TÜR

1. The candles on the table gleam

As crystal goblets flash and beam

While we await the bridal pair

Who enter from the cold, night air

And see the banquet linens spread

With lilies on their snowy beds.

The lustrous silver glints,

Red rose buds give off scents.

2. And we who wait to greet them, turn

To bless them as the candles burn

And welcome to the banquet feast

An old familiar wedding guest,

Who once in ancient Palestine

Turned water into vintage wine,

And brings his glory here

In fragrant cups of cheer.

3. Abundant life is what he gives,

A miracle all can receive.

Christ makes our ordinary days

A feast of joy, a day of grace,

So as our water glasses ring,

We hear the nuptials of our King,

Whose glory shines and blooms

And spills throughout the room.

Text © 2009 Wayne Leupold Editions, Inc.


There are not many hymns for this text in the canon. I love the story and think of it as Jesus blessing our lives in the richest way possible. He comes to a wedding; his mother is probably helping with arrangements as it may well have been a relative’s wedding. Jesus wants to give joy and he does so using the things of the world: wine out of water.

We haven’t been much at such parties of late, given the pandemic. The last wedding I can remember was a real party. There was a large crowd. People were thoroughly enjoying the time, the fine dinner, the wine, the dancing. As the evening wore on, and the couples in their best finery danced the night away, I got to thinking how primal weddings are. Here we were in our Sunday best, the rules were formal, the father of the groom dances with the mother of the bride, etc., the toasts, the rituals going way back to Eden.

All to consecrate the love of a young couple heading out into their future. Their human urges didn’t need this ceremony, but the ceremony blessed them and put them in the context of creation and their creator. They had been drawn together for love of each other and their desire was for each other, but the ceremony and gala said this was more than biological. Not only were the two being joined, a family, with mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, in-laws, who might not have chosen each other, were now dancing together and being joined. Soon there would be children about which we would care as much for as the stranger we had just met would. The ritual brought us together and began something that would never end—a new life, around whom we would gather and care for and who maybe. later, would care for us. Bodies, filled with spirit, together in a dance. Of course, there can be woe later, but the wedding begins new life with hope.

Weddings and children are on hard times these days. Given the pandemic, weddings have had to be celebrated in small groups, and with little fanfare. Furthermore, the culture is asking what difference does a ceremony make? That we have to explain that the ceremony does something more than give people permission to have sex, means we are at a cultural and religious nadir that scarcely understands the human. We are not animals; we need ritual and ceremony to mark the stages of our biological lives. We need children for our future and they need stable families in which to flourish.

Jesus, the Son of God, our creator, comes to this party with pleasure, and gives joy. In doing this we also see his divinity. He can make water into wine. He is the creator of both water and wine! And us—he knows our frame, what we need and what gives us joy.

He wants us to drink life to the lees, not isolate ourselves from each other and society out of fear. Not only did he come to give us joy in our daily rituals, but he came to take away our fear so we can live life to the fullest possible. Moses exhorts the people to choose life and go forward into what would be distressing places and times. (Exodus 30:19)

Frisk Bris (Fresh Breeze) by Eva Winther-Larssen (1928-2013)

Once, I was sitting in an art gallery in Oslo wondering whether or not to buy the painting that had drawn me into the store. The owner knew his business. He drew up a comfortable chair, turned up the fire in the fireplace and sat me down. As I sat looking at the painting, which cost a pretty penny, (and I did buy--see right--never regretting it) wondering if I should buy it, he commented that we rarely regret what we say yes to, but really regret what we have said no to--as one wag said, when we turn wine into water.

He was talking about big choices I think. While there are many things we may regret because we said yes when we shouldn’t have, I think on the really big things, that is true. Saying no, leaves the door to a future closed. Saying yes opens it into a new world--not always the best maybe, but we trust God is leading us. We may spend a life time wondering what we would have found on the other side of the door we had said no to. We may wonder years later how much difference it made that we said yes. And most often we will give thanks.

Our yes is the way we choose life. Jesus came into the world to give us abundant life. He came as a groom coming to woo his bride—all humanity. Every day he changes water into wine for us. He wants us to be filled with the new wine of joy, a glory that spills throughout the room.


There are few if any hymns on this theme in Scripture. I used the imagery of the weddings I know, and then imagined Jesus coming to it and how and why he would come, changing the scene but not the arrival of our Lord who comes with abundant life, a great theme in John. James wrote a dancing tune for it with percussion instruments for accompaniment.


Organ version of Macht Hoch die Tür

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