“Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” John 2:10
I recently saw the very fine understated film, Promised Land, starring Matt Damon, which peels back the glamour and allure of large amounts of money from huge energy corporations drilling for natural gas, engaging in a practice called fracking. Fracking offered the promise of making individuals and families rich, maybe very rich millionaires, but there was also the possibility of releasing chemicals into the soil and groundwater hastening the death of these struggling communities.
No quick easy answers are offered in this film, but we are reminded of the great promise that this land called America holds for all 300 million plus of us. We are reminded of promises unfulfilled, dashed hopes and shattered dreams.
Reading this second chapter of John’s gospel, when Jesus was at a wedding feast in Cana of Galilee, we see here also great promise, but promises unfulfilled, dashed hopes and shattered dreams. A young couple at a high moment starting life out together with great joy, but the joy becomes elusive as a problem soon develops. There is a shortage, a running out of wine. Not only was that a social embarrassment; it was a symbol and sign of what was yet to come. For a wedding to run out of wine was an omen that there was little chance of this particular marriage reaching its full potential. Promises barely made, but already promises unfulfilled, dashed hopes and shattered dreams.
As we stand this week on the cliff of a critical moment in the life of our nation, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the second inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama, the first person of African descent as the 44th President of this country what we see is great promise, some already view that promises are broken and unfulfilled. There are dashed hopes and shattered dreams.
President Obama has appealed to the “better angels in us” and has called us to be “greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, more than a collection of red states and blue states, but the United States of America.” Politicians are famous for making these kinds of phrases. They have professional speechwriters who sit around for hours trying to craft these catchy phrases, trying to find some immortal line that will last and last.
They want to get elected, but after the election, they generally go with business as usual. Some keep their promises, but most of them forget them altogether. Before the election, there they are out on the farms with the people, milking cows, visiting school yards, chatting with people; and on talk shows like Jay Leno and David Letterman. It’s so false, and once it’s over you can’t find them on the farms, in the schools, at the factory gates or in the hospitals or at the train stations.
But suppose, however, we were to take President Obama seriously and suppose he really does want this to be a time of a new beginning in this country. Suppose as he stands on the Capitol steps and raises his hand and takes the oath of office for the second time, he really intends to be a transformational leader of hope and change.
If he really means to lead us in a new direction of hope and change and compassion and kindness, he ought to keep on saying it – and he ought to get louder and louder with it.
He should not whisper it now and then, but let everybody know where he stands. The police chiefs in Roanoke, Virginia, Long Beach, California, Flint, Michigan, New Haven, Connecticut ought to know that the President wants a hopeful, compassionate kinder and gentler nation. In Miami, in Maine, in Memphis, in Washington, DC and Washington State we all ought to know that the president wants a hopeful, compassionate, kinder and gentler nation.