The Party Must Go On

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Imagine a pyramid of jars stacked on one another.  Imagine water pouring into the top jar from a pitcher above.  When it becomes full, the water flows over it’s top into the jars below it, all the while remaining full and receiving water from the bottomless pitcher.  Water keeps pouring out until all the jars are overflowing with water that has come from the pitcher and from the other jars before them.

 

 

2nd
Sunday of Epiphany; Year C; January 20, 2013

Isaiah
62.1-5; Psalm 36.5-10; 1 Cor. 12.1-11; John 2.1-11

Pastor
Renee Splichal Larson

 

Grace and
peace to you from the One who pours his life and love into us, Jesus Christ our
Lord.  Amen.

At the end of the Gospel of John, chapter 20, verse 31 it says: “These
[things/signs] are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the
Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his
name.”  I have been thinking a lot this
week of how our Gospel story today of the wedding at Cana does this:  creates faith in Jesus and gives us life in
his name. 

In many ways it’s a strange story. 
It’s about Jesus’ first miracle in the Gospel of John, where he provides
180 more gallons of wine after days of celebration in which many people had
already had more than their fair share of fruit of the vine.  If any of you have thought Jesus is lame and
boring…not so!  180 gallons of water into
wine to keep the party going! 

In Matthew, Jesus’ first miracles are curing diseases and tending to
those who are sick.  In the Gospel
according to Mark and Luke Jesus’ first action is to heal a man with an unclean
spirit.  What is the significance of
water into wine and how is faith in Jesus created in us through the hearing of
this wedding feast story?

I sympathize with Mary and the host family in our reading.  Running out of food or drink at any community
gathering, let alone a wedding feast, would be an absolute nightmare for
me.  When Jon and I got married last
April instead of having the traditional wedding cake, we ordered cupcakes.  We first started out with 400 and a week
before the wedding I said to Jon, “Do you think we need to order 50 more?  I would just die if someone wanted a cupcake
and didn’t get one!”  So, we went to the
Sweet Treats bakery downtown and ordered 50 more.  Well…we still have cupcakes in our freezer
and I know everyone who wanted a cupcake got one…or two…or four.  I just could not bear the thought of running
out of something and people going hungry or thirsty at such a celebration.

This was most certainly the case for wedding hosts in our story.  Weddings meant that family, friends, and
whole communities would gather together for seven days to celebrate, feast, and
party.  It was the host family’s
responsibility to keep the food and wine coming throughout those entire seven
days.  To run out would mean shame, embarrassment
and loss of honor. 

Jesus knows this, and for whatever reason, Jesus tends to the
problem.  He asks the servants to fill up
6 empty jars near by with water each holding 20-30 gallons.  Then he gives the simple command to draw out
some of the water and give it to the head steward.  The servants do this and we find out from the
lips of the head steward that the water in the jars is turned into wine.  Not just any wine, but great wine.  This is not your average box wine…this is the
top shelf stuff.  The steward assumes the
bridgegroom provides it, but the servants and the disciples know it comes from
Jesus.

On the surface, it looks like Jesus simply turns water into wine and
the party goes on like there was never a problem.  The bridegroom and head steward have no idea
of Jesus’ involvement of the blessing in their lives and what just happened and
those who do know believe in Jesus…the end. 

But we really can’t end here because we would miss what really gives
us life.  This event in this story is to
point us towards a greater meaning of Jesus’ action; it is to help us
understand God’s planned future for us and presence in this world…all through
Jesus turning water into wine.

In Scripture, wine is a symbol of joy and celebration.  It is about God’s abundance of care and love
poured out on all people.  In Isaiah
25.6a the prophet says to the exiled and oppressed people:  “On this mountain the LORD of
hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged
wines…”

And then the prophet Amos in chapter 9 verse 13: “The mountains shall
drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it.”

Wine here speaks of the love, grace, and mercy of God.  It represents abundance and enough for
everyone.  The people at the wedding
feast in our story in the Gospel of John today get to have a taste of what is
promised in these Old Testament texts and it comes to them in Jesus.  Six empty jars are filled abundantly with
God’s promised future and nourishment for the sake of joy, celebration, and
people.  180 gallons of wine represents
an outpouring of God’s presence, mercy, and grace in this world.

I came across a question this week by a person named Karoline
Lewis.  She asks:  “What if we take the incarnation seriously
and suggest that once the Word becomes flesh, the rest of the Gospel shows you
what grace tastes like, looks like, smells like, sounds like, feels like?" (workingpreacher.com)

Like Jesus uses ordinary jars and water and servants to bring about
grace people can feel and touch and know, it is the same for us today.  How do you experience the grace of God in
your life?  Maybe you feel like you
haven’t, but I have been thinking lately about how I have.

Imagine a pyramid of jars stacked on one another.  Imagine water pouring into the top jar from a
pitcher above.  When it becomes full, the
water flows over it’s top into the jars below it, all the while remaining full
and receiving water from the bottomless pitcher.  Water keeps pouring out until all the jars
are overflowing with water that has come from the pitcher and from the other
jars before them. 

Imagine yourself as one of these jars. 
Imagine the water as all the fullness and goodness of God pouring into
you that overflows into other jars…or other people.  Throughout my time here I have come to know
the grace of God through you.  There is
another I have experienced the grace of God through: Chaplain Don Fisher.

In his funeral bulletin these words are written:  “Generosity, gentleness and kindness are just
a few of the attributes this amazing man had that made everyone who knew him
feel special.  It didn’t matter if you
were a lifelong friend or had only met him once; Don loved everyone he met
equally, with the love of Jesus.  He
truly had a servant’s heart.”

Throughout my encounters with Don and then in his last week of life in
the hospital, he spoke of and demonstrated the love of God.  I hope you have a sense of his love for each
and every one of you.  Don knew that the
love Christ had been poured out into his heart and he let it overflow to all
people he met.  Don was a disciple of
Jesus and he knew where the good stuff comes from.  He knew who filled him.  He knew that any love and grace that poured
out of him to you and to me was from God. 
He also knew that what you gave him with who you are was also grace from
God flowing out of you.

I was with him and Nancy when the decision was made to not have
dialysis or treat the cancer anymore. 
Don looked at Nancy and said, “I’m ready.”  Don trusted in the One who filled him with
good things from his conception, throughout his life, and this last week in his
death.  And we now know that he is
experiencing God’s promise of a rich feast and well-aged wines of incredible
grace and love in the presence of God.

I will miss him tremendously and yet I give thanks to God for him and
the way in which he let himself be filled with the good things of God that has
been poured out to me and so many others.

At the beginning of the Gospel of John in chapter 1 verse 16, it is
written:  “from his fullness we have all
received, grace upon grace.”  It does not
say, “we will receive grace upon grace in the future.”  It says we have already received it in God
becoming flesh in Jesus Christ.

The grace of God comes to us and fills us with hope in all kinds of
ways.  Some times we don’t recognize
where it comes from like the bridegroom and the chief steward, and yet some
times our eyes are opened like the disciples and we believe in Jesus and have
life in his name.  He offers us this day
in and day out for God is faithful and God loves you.

As
we honor Marin Luther King Day tomorrow, I will leave you with his words:  “Love is from God.  The only way to address the world’s problems
is through love.  I’m going to talk about
it wherever I go.”  (from an NPR
interview 1/20/13)