January 17, 2016
Anthem: Hidden as a BabySenior Choir
Grace and Peace to you this morning. Grace and Peace.
So Jesus is at that most communal of family celebrations, a wedding feast. It is one of those celebrations that transcends religion, ethnicity, time, or place. A wedding feast, a reception, a party of some kind when a couple gets married, is one of those things that does not depend on whether you are Congregationalist or Baptist or Episcopalian, Protestant or Catholic or Orthodox, Christian or Jew or Muslim or Hindu, religious or atheist.
And there is this strange scene at this wedding. They run out of wine. By now, most of us are aware that some receptions have no alcohol, and most that do close the bar during dinner service at a lot of places, but to run out of wine after already having some is going to be talked about by the neighbors at every wedding feast from here until at least a generation or two have passed away.
And Mary comes to Jesus. Why would Mary come to Jesus at a wedding reception to tell him to do something about the wine running out unless Jesus is a) the caterer or b) the groom. If he is just a guest, why would he be any more put out than anyone else? “What concern is this to you and me? My hour has not yet come.”
This had led to much speculation about whether Jesus was ever married. It is an interesting question, but not, I think, the one that John is trying to get at. Some of you might recognize this scene: Mom comes up to son, and tells him the situation, that there is something he can do about it, but does not stick around to engage and argue about it. When he balks, she just walks away and in a loud stage whisper tells the servants to “do whatever he tells you to.” There is some brilliant parenting going on here.
And in what has become known as Jesus’ first miracle, he turns water into wine. And not just a jug or two, but huge amounts of water into really good wine.
Water is one of those basic things of life. One we take for granted. Until the sump pump stops working. Until the rivers run dry in California. Until cost saving measures in Flint reduce the water supply to corrosive and lead filled poison. Until we realize how little it costs to help with wells and biosand filters in Africa so that woman and girls and families do not have to make the several mile round trip to get water and be subject to daily violence and violation, and in the Caribbean so that water-borne diseases can be all but eliminated.
Water is necessary to life. Clean water is necessary to life. Access to clean water is a human right.
And it is the second part of Jesus’ response to Mary that points to the story being about more than wine, more than a wedding feast.
“My hour has not yet come.”
The turning of water into wine, the turning of something that may or may not be potable and healthy into something that is not only drinkable but part of a feast, a celebration, is part of what Jesus does. It is a part of who God is.
You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth
and clothed me with joy,
so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you for ever.
From the unlivable and the desperate to a cause for praise and celebration.
This does not mean that the road is easy or the path smooth between these. Sometimes we are the ones called to smooth the path and level the road between these and this means hard work. It means building a ramp so that the church becomes accessible. We have done this. It also means gaining an understanding of the good news so thoroughly that the joy we find in the Lord becomes accessible to others.
I recently ran across a quote that at first I dismissed, then I liked, then I wrestled with and now I am starting to see how it might be true. It says:
“God comes to you, disguised as your life.”
I like this on the good days. Because then it feels like “God comes to me, disguised as my blessings…” How sweet is that!
But what about the days when it is not a good day? What about the days when there is no sunshine, whether the sun is up in the sky, whether there are clouds or not? What about those days when the news leaves you feeling ill?
In Luke’s Gospel, when Jesus starts his ministry, he is in the synagogue, and the reading for the day is from Isaiah.
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
If we focus on the good news portion alone, we miss the situations into which God’s Spirit, and so also Jesus, is entering: oppression, broken hearts, captivity and imprisonment.
And what does it mean that God is coming to us disguised as situations like this? To continue with Isaiah’s words, God comes, as so also Jesus:
to comfort all who mourn;
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
And the people in those situations for whom God has come, as so also those whom Jesus loves:
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
They shall build up the ancient ruins,
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.
I am not saying that there will not be bad days. That we will not mourn. That we will not have times of a faint spirit. I am saying that God will not leave us there, and that we who go through such times will become, by the Holy Spirit of God, those who can bless others as well.
Thanks be to God.