Friday, January 17, 2014

Sermon for Jan 19, 2014; John 2:1-12

Jan 19, 2014
John 2:1-12
“To the Brim”
Rev. George N. Miller

Tomorrow is Martin Luther King Day, a day to remember a unique American who wasn’t a president, a politician or a movie star; he was simply a preacher; a man with a dream in which all of God’s children are free.

When Rosa Parks was arrested for not giving up her seat, he seized that moment to speak up and to say “There comes a time when people get tired of being kicked about.” He held meetings, he spoke out and he led peaceful protests against segregation.

In ‘63 he led the March on Washington where 200,000 people gathered, and heard him give the iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.

That speech and his dream helped to bring about change.

Dr. King did great things, but he did not do them alone. Thousands of people, from all walks of life, supported his dream and were willing to work towards it in their own forms of participation.

And for the most part they weren’t extraordinary people, but ordinary folk. They were the maids, the janitors, the wait staff, and laundresses; they were the garbage men, the porters, the cooks, the caretakers.

Dr. King, as affective as he was, would not have been successful if it wasn’t for all the people who joined in, supported his dream and did something about it.

It takes one person to dream the difference, but it takes many people to make that difference happen.

We see that in today’s Scripture reading.

Great story, isn’t it? Don’t you love knowing that Jesus is at a party and having a good time?

In Jesus’ day weddings were a large celebration that typically lasted seven days, and wine was symbolic of joy, so it’s a little sad when the wine runs out. No one likes that to happen; no one was ready to go home.

So Jesus did something about it, and in doing so he pointed towards the extravagant abundance that exists in our Father’s Kingdom…and they had such a good time, they’re still talking about that party today.

But here’s the thing: as incredible as the miracle is, Jesus could not have done it alone.

Just like it took a whole lotta people to bring Dr. King’s dream to life, it took a whole lotta people to make this miracle of water into wine come to be.

Sometimes when we think of a miracle, we think of it as something that usually just happens, but if you pay attention to the stories in the Bible we see that’s not always the case: biblical miracles often involve human participation.

God wants to bless Abraham and Sarah but first they have to pack up and move. God is prepared to save the Israelites but first Moses has to place his hand over the waters.

The miracle at Canna is no different.

There’s a party. Folk are eating, drinking, dancing.

Servants milling about. Who are they, these servants? What do they look like? What’s their religion; their ethnic make-up? How much are they being paid to cater this plush affair?

Suddenly, the wine is out. What to do?

Not to worry, Jesus is there with his mother. It is she who gets the ball rolling, in the subtle manner in which Moms can get things done: “They have no wine.”

Jesus’ response makes him sound like a spoiled brat: “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me?”

Maybe Jesus thought she’d drop the topic. But we know mothers. She tells the servants “Do what he tells you.”

Which they do!

Jesus tells them to fill up the 6 jars with water. But these aren’t just any jars, mind you. These are jars that hold 20-30 gallons of water each.

Do you realize how much water that is?

And it wasn’t easy to get the water; it’s not like they had a garden hose or kitchen sink. They had to get it from the well or a cistern. Some wells were located 100 feet underground, meaning a person would have to walk down 5 flights of stairs to get the water, then 5 flights back up.

To fill 6 jars with 180 gallons of water takes a lot of work and a lot of walking back and forth, carrying smaller jugs of water on one’s shoulders, on one’s head.

Who gets the water? The servants; and they don’t just fill up the jars, no: they fill them up to the brim.

And what about the people at the party? What did they do as they waited for more wine?

If it had been a college kegger they’d be gone. But these people must have been patient; for some reason they were willing to stick around.

When the servants are done, Jesus tells them to take some to the head butler; by now it has turned into wine, and the butler congratulates the groom for keeping the best for last.

The disciples observe all that happens and they believe, following Jesus to the next town.

This is a story that is about scarcity; it is also a story about abundance. This is a story about loss, but it is also about gain. This is a story about complete emptiness, but it is about being filled to the brim.

It is a story about how, in Jesus, God has given us enough.

There is a need. A social emergency if you will: no more. We ran out, finished, fine, kaput!

But God, in Jesus, is present.

But God isn’t just going to act. No, it takes Jesus’ mother to prod him into action. She is persistent and willing to believe that Jesus will bring about change, and she speaks his actions into being.

Mind you, his mother doesn’t know what Jesus is going to do, she just knows and is willing to believe that he will do something. She petitions and Jesus acts.

But do we actually see what Jesus does?

We don’t hear of how the water turns into wine. We aren’t told if he waved a hand or said a word or wished it to be true. But whatever it was, the servants heard the instructions and carried them through.

And who were the servants?

They weren’t presidents or politicians or movie stars. They were just like you and I, everyday folk, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts and uncles, working hard to make an honest day’s wage.

If the servants had said “No way, bud, sorry,” Jesus would have been left standing there and there would be no wine.

So…there is a need. God is in the midst. Jesus’ mother makes the petition, instructions come, and the people go about doing the work, going above and beyond, filling the jars to the brim.

Next, the steward tastes the wine and proclaims the good news to the groom. And the disciples? Well they believe and follow Jesus into the next stage of his ministry.

This story teaches us many things. One: that God does indeed work miracles. Two: miracles often happen through the hard work of God’s people. Three: it takes someone to proclaim the miracle and make it known. Four: miracles prompt faithfulness.

Am I amazed that water turned into wine? No, that’s God.

What amazes me is that people were willing and able to put in the work required for it to happen.

I am blown away by the audacity of Mary to speak to Jesus the way she does. Yes, she is his mother, but he’s also the son of God.

She has no problem making it clear what is needed, and when he basically says “leave me alone” she refuses to take that as a final answer; instead she sets the wheels in motion for the miracle of abundance to happen.

From Mary we learn the importance of diligence, and persistence.

From the servants we learn about trust and the willingness to do hard work, and that it takes ordinary folk to make extraordinary things happen.

From the party goers, we learn patience. From the steward we learn proclamation. From the disciples we learn to believe and to follow.

This story reveals to us so much about God’s love and God’s ways: that God is willing and waiting to break into our world, but it takes more than just God being there.

So the question we ask ourselves is, where do we each fit in to today’s story?

Who here is like Mary, willing to see a need and is willing to pursue God until that need is met?

Who is like the servants, willing to do all the work that is necessary for God’s love to be made known?

Who is like the partygoers, willing to be patient, able to sit out a dry patch trusting that at any moment fresh wine will be flowing?

Who is like the steward: willing to proclaim the good news so that all can know?

And who are like the disciples: willing to believe and to follow Jesus into the next chapter, the next opportunity?

The miracle of water into wine is a great story, but nothing would have happened if the people at the wedding didn’t do something to make it so.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a mighty man, but he and the Civil Rights Movement would not have accomplished all they had if it wasn’t for all the people working together, willing to believe, and to move as one.

Miracles happen every day because Christ is always in our midst, ready to reveal God’s abundant love.

It is often through the work of everyday folk like you and I that God will do the most extraordinary things, sharing the KINGDOM’S extravagant welcome.

It takes one person to dream the difference, but it takes many people to make that difference happen.

We all have the gifts and the ability to welcome in new wine, and we all have the ability to act in a faith that goes all the way to the brim.

May we all find God in the simplest of things today, may we find Jesus sitting at our table and may we find the Spirit making all things abundantly new.

Amen and amen.

No comments: