Now Is the Time for the Good Wine!

Now Is the Time for the Good Wine!

Brian Zahnd

I know what it’s like to fear that the feast is about to cease because, as in the words of Mary the Mother of Jesus in Cana of Galilee, “They have no wine.”

This was my experience almost twenty years ago when I first began to feel the falseness prevailing in Americanized Christianity — it was too shallow, too watery, too weak, too partisan, too incurious, too complicit with the materialism and militarism of the age. For me this wasn’t a crisis of faith in a general sense — I was still fascinated with the Jesus who had captured my heart as a teenager — but I knew Jesus deserved something a whole lot better than American pop Christianity. I still believed in Jesus, but it felt like the party was coming to an end.

But I didn’t walk away, instead I threw myself into seeking something better, and in 2004 Jesus performed a miracle — water turned into wine! I found the rich, substantive, subversive, intoxicating Christianity I was looking for. Today I’ve never been more excited to be a Christian, and I’ve never been happier to serve Jesus and his beloved church. This is the truth and it’s the story I tell in my spiritual memoir Water To Wine.

The point of this piece though is not to retell that story (as wonderful as it is) but to encourage those of you who feel the falseness prevailing in Americanized Christianity and fear you’ll soon have to walk out on the Christian feast. I have good news for those forlornly looking for the exit from a party that feels like it’s about to grind to a halt: Now is the time for the good wine!

After Jesus had performed his first miracle in Cana of Galilee the master of the feast told the truth when he said, “You have kept the good wine until now!” That’s what I want to say — now is the time for the good wine!

I’m well aware that much of the more public expressions of Christianity in North America seem to be backsliding into religious nationalism, narrow fundamentalism, and tawdry consumerism, but that’s not the whole story. I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to travel widely and to speak in churches, seminaries, and conferences across North America, and I’m happy to report that Jesus is manifesting his glory by turning water into wine! The good news is you don’t have be done, you just need to find where Jesus is doing his thing and give it a hearty salute — L’Chaim!

It’s by coming to the end of that which is fading away that we are invited to participate in what the Spirit is doing now. We can call it deconstruction if we like. Indeed sometimes a whole wing of our theological house needs to be demolished so the renovation project can move forward. But I prefer to use the metaphor of a precious icon being lovingly restored so that we can once again behold the beauty of Christ. But my favorite way of talking about this spiritual phenomenon is to say that when the inferior wine has at last run out, don’t walk out, instead let Jesus turn plain tap water into extraordinary carménère!

This is why I’ve again asked some friends to join me in June for our second Water To Wine Gathering. June 13–15 we will gather at Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, Missouri to talk about all kinds of things I bet you’re interested in. Of course we’ll have plenty of plenary sessions (and every session will have Q/A), but just look at these workshops!

Joe Beach — “Wittenberg, We Have a Problem: Christianity’s Dangerous Idea”

Sarah Bessey — “A Path In the Wilderness: Deconstruction Beyond Doubling Down or Burning It Down”

Cheryl Bridges Johns — “No Other Gods: Discipleship in the Age of Empire”

Jonathan Martin — “Staying True To Your Roots!”

Rich Villodas — “Sabbath-Keeping as a Contemplative Practice of Resistance”

Derek Vreeland — “Atonement and Authentic Discipleship: How the Cross Frees Us To Follow Jesus”

Brian Zahnd — “A Blight Upon Beauty: How We Should Understand Hell”

Peri Zahnd — “Why Fixing People Doesn’t Work: Spiritual Direction and Pastoral Care”

We’ll be talking about the Bible, the Spirit, deconstruction, empire, atonement, hell, Sabbath-keeping, and spiritual direction all in a vibrant, life-giving, water to wine context.

So take heart my troubled friend, you don’t have to be done with Christianity — Jesus is still turning water to wine!

Register today for Water To Wine 2019.



(The artwork is The Miracle of Cana of Galilee by Alexandra Desnitskaya.)