Sermon January 17, 2016
Nothing invites disaster like a wedding. At the beginning of every wedding rehearsal, I tell the group that they can expect something to go wrong at the wedding. Someone will trip, we will mess up the vows, the soloist won’t show up, you name it. When you consider the hundreds of details that go into making a wedding, it is highly likely that there will be a mistake of some kind. I do this not to be pessimistic, but to remind them why they are there and that any of the possible disasters do not detract from the love that brings them to that moment and they do not ruin the wedding. People tend to be tense and anxious and easily mistake the flower girl having a meltdown as something much bigger than it actually is. I want them to remember that their vows will still take and that the public commitment they make is still beautiful even if something does not go according to plan.
I do have to admit that there have been some big wedding disasters. Here are a few:
Nicole says: “I got married in Scotland, so of course we had a traditional ceilidh (Scottish country dancing). My new husband and I were dancing in the Eightsome Reel when disaster struck. My beloved – who, I should probably point out, is in fact English and therefore perhaps not to be trusted at a ceilidh – took my hands to propel me into a vigorous twirl. Sadly, he managed to connect his elbow sharply into my nose.
My nose basically exploded. Blood flew across the dance floor and ran down the front of my wedding dress. I [ran] to the nearest toilet, spraying blood as I went as guests looked on in horror. It took two hours for my nose to stop bleeding. I refused, point-blank, to call an ambulance – despite it obviously being broken – as the thought of arriving at the hospital in my bloodstained wedding dress was too horrible to contemplate. By the time I had ceased to hemorrhage, most of our guests had left.”
Erika says: “After the ceremony, my brother yanked on my hair as I was standing on the edge of a berm, precariously balanced for a photo, so I toppled all the way down the hill to the bottom and landed on the grave of an Abbott in the rain.”
Note that both of these stories becomes something of a keepsake – a story to be told for generations to come and didn’t negate the love of the couple one bit. When we hear the story of the wedding at Cana, we can’t figure out why it is a big deal to run out of wine. In those days, the couple didn’t set out on a romantic honeymoon. The whole wedding party went to the groom’s home for a seven-day celebration. Can you imagine trying to feed and entertain a whole church full of people in your home for a week? Running out of wine would be terrible. It wasn’t like they could just drive to the nearby grocery store to restock. This was a crisis. Wine represented God’s abundance so running low on wine meant running low on God’s blessing. Jesus was just one of the guests. In John’s gospel, he has not begun ministry yet so he is not yet “on duty” as a servant of God.
There is a strange conversation between Jesus and his mother. We don’t really know the tone of the conversation, but it sounds like Jesus is being rude to her. Commentators say rather than being rude, he was trying to distance from her. There is a strange sequence of events that follows: Jesus tell his mother it isn’t time, she tells the servants to do what he tells them, and then he tells them to fill the jars with water. David Lose calculates that Jesus provided about one thousand additional bottles of wine – we are not talking about Two Buck Chuck – this was the good stuff. This is an astonishing quantity of really high quality wine. What Jesus is offering us is a glimpse into God’s amazing abundance.
In the church, we often talk about budget shortfalls or building repairs, but what is more real than any of that is that God shows up in extravagant ways showering us with blessing. Then, we say, “Yeah, yeah, but how are we going to pay for…?” This is where Jesus says to us, “Don’t you get it? This isn’t about you. It’s about what God does for you and what God does through you.” You are a vehicle through which God’s goodness flows.
David Lose reminds us that in the Gospels, first things matter. Mark describes the exorcising of a demon as the first thing Jesus does. And Luke reports the first thing Jesus did is preach a sermon of release and freedom and healing. Each of these things matters, as they set the tone and even theological agenda for those particular gospels. Which is why it’s significant that in the Fourth Gospel John describes the first thing that Jesus does as providing more wine, joy, and blessings than this couple – or any couple – could possibly have imagined or deserved. (http://www.davidlose.net/2016/01/epiphany-2-b-what-grace-looks-like/)
From Jesus, we get a glimpse of where we find God. We see God in suffering, but we also see God in celebration. How interesting that for John, the first place Jesus performs a miracle is at a party! You may not be surprised to hear that Christians are not believed to be the most fun people in the world. I think we can take that perception and turn it on its head! We can show the world that we believe, experience and share God’s abundance. The miracle of God is in the people who are transformed. That requires that we show up and receive God’s goodness. There is way more than we can ever use. There was a lot of talk about what people would do with the 1.6 Billion dollar lottery winnings. We love to fantasize about how we would spend that money and we know that 1.6 Billion dollars is way too much for any of us so we begin talking about what we would give away and where we would give the money. Let’s take that same energy and fantasize about where we are going to give God’s goodness and love. Because we have already hit the jackpot, we can start giving it away right now. We don’t have to buy a ticket; we have won already. We have so much to share and sometimes, we just need to be reminded there is more than enough for everyone.
This weekend is a good time to hear this story. I’m not trying to reduce racism to a scarcity mentality, but it sure plays a big role in the thinking that there isn’t enough for black people. We have to conserve the best for those who have white skin. Civil rights leaders reminded us that there is plenty for all. Martin Luther King, Jr. called us to see that despite our abundance of resources, we have not yet used it for liberation: “When we look at modern man, we have to face the fact...that modern man suffers from a kind of poverty of the spirit, which stands in glaring contrast to his scientific and technological abundance; We've learned to fly the air like birds, we've learned to swim the seas like fish, and yet we haven't learned to walk the Earth as brothers and sisters...”
I was reminded this week of James Taylor’s song “Shed a Little Light” that says:
“Let us turn our thoughts today to Martin Luther King
and recognize that there are ties between us,
all men and women living on the Earth.
Ties of hope and love, sister and brotherhood,
that we are bound together in our desire to see the world
become a place in which our children can grow free and strong.”
We are all bound by our shared hope for a world where all are free. So the invitation to us is to drink deeply of God’s goodness and mercy and then to pour it out on all people. May we share God’s extravagant love, justice, and mercy with the world and give every bit of it away. If we really believe in God’s abundance, we will not hesitate to share it because we know there is always more than we can imagine. As we give it away, we will wake one day to discover that that the world has become a place of freedom for everyone, not just some. There is more than enough for all. Let’s fling open the doors to this party!