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Out of the Question

08 August 2014


"Turning water into wine" is often a pub joke. How does a Christian respond with a clear explanation? 

Like many of the clergy, I have also met this problem in a pub. I say, "Any more remarks like that, and I will turn what you already have back into water." This usually produces muffled giggles all round, and a glass of red from the barman.

A more serious statement by way of quick explanation is to describe it as "the transformation of the individual from a worldly way of life to one of heavenly realisation: the gift of eternal life". Such an explanation can bring about an evening of deep discussion - and goodbye to a quiet escape for a few moments' respite in the pub.

The story, or pericope, as some might see it, of the marriage at Cana, in John 2, is probably taken from a teaching manual of the early Johannine community, and was placed at the beginning of the Gospel to reveal the life and purpose of the ministry of Jesus.

In the story, the jars of water for the cleaning of the utensils are empty. The water - that is, the old teaching from the five books of Moses - has run out, and as a result the old wine has come to an end too. The living water - the new teaching that Jesus gives - is to replace the old water and will fill the jars.

Jesus, as the living water, the divine presence and wisdom, is then given to those called to the wedding. They accept it, and become one both in themselves and with Jesus the Christ. Their marriage takes place. They have become the new wine, and so have eternal life.

The mother of Jesus has given birth to the whole new era, and the mission of the Christ to enact it is so described.

(The Revd) Peter Dewey,  Goring Heath, Reading


Turning water into wine was a miracle, explained only by the power of God. He also designed grapes and their chemistry so that they would make wine, and so that people would discover that and enjoy it. So he provided all the wine produced in the past and in the present, and to be produced in the future.

(Canon) Jeanette Meadway,  London E15


Christians know in their faith that Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding of Cana (John 2), when his mother pleaded on behalf of the family who had run out of supplies for their guests. But how to tell that to the average pub-goer?

I suggest that we do it just as we do at church: tell the story as appropriately as possible to whomever we are addressing, whether the Mothers' Union, the Sunday congregation, the children during a Messy Church activity, a couple at their wedding, or the bereaved at a funeral. To the non-churchgoer, it will be as a spectaculum.

(The Revd) Kerstin Rohlfing-Hood,  Hetton-le-Hole,  Houghton-le-Spring


How can God be Jesus's Father and Jesus be God's Son if God and Jesus are the same person? [Answers, 25 July]

In enquiring into the relations between the persons of the Godhead in Trinity we are touching mystery. The exact relationship between Father and Son (and, by extension, Holy Spirit) cannot be reduced to formulae. As T. S. Eliot put it:

Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break,
under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide,
Decay with imprecision, will not
stay in place . . .

(The Revd) David Muskett,  Haslemere, Surrey


Are there any published studies concerning changes to the understanding of the diaconate, and/or the priesthood, and/or the episcopate since women have been admitted to them?

E. J. P.


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