January 20, 2013
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Grace and Peace to you this morning. Grace and Peace.
John’s Gospel wants to drive home two things about Jesus. The first is that what we see Jesus saying and doing is what God is doing. To look at Jesus at work is to see God at work. So Jesus keeps using the phrase “I am,” which ought to echo for us right back to the giving of God’s name to Moses at the burning bush.
So God, who is mystery and sovereignty and majesty beyond our reckoning, is revealed to us in Jesus, the word made flesh.
The second thing John tells us is that it is all about the timing. This morning’s reading is one of the first instances of this, and it also goes to show that timing is not only the key to John’s Gospel, but also to comedy. This story ought to have us laughing. But even more, there is so much here that it ought to have us thinking.
Jesus is at a wedding party. And wither the family has skimped on the open bar, or more neighbors and relatives showed up than they were expecting, because they are out of wine.
Normally running out of wine at a wedding might be an inconvenience, certainly a cause for rumors and gossip, but here it is a story about Jesus, about transformation, and about the life of faith.
Mary comes to Jesus. “They are out of wine.”
“O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”
Mary doesn’t even bother responding. She turns to the servers and says, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Is this not a brilliant mother-child conversation?
They have water nearby, in stone jars, for rites of purification, so that after the party, the righteous can purify themselves. The water of purification becomes the wine of celebration. Think baptism. Think grace. Think religion turning from worries about purity and ritual and who is in and who is out to a joyful inclusion and a celebration.
And how much water us there? Six jars each holding twenty to thirty gallons. Now it becomes the finest vintage wine. Anthony B. Robinson points out that this wedding party has already had wine to drink. 120 to 180 gallons of wine is more than enough for the rest of the party. It is more than enough for the village. It is all that they need and an abundance on top.
This is what God does. There is what we need to live. Then there is how much we need to celebrate. And then there is an abundance more poured out for us and for all. Why do we scrimp and hoard and guard and envy and lust after and steal when there is an abundance poured out for us? Why do we love stuff and use people when God has provided all we need in order to live and to love one another?
One of the things God provides in abundance is spiritual gifts. Paul is explicit that there are many different kinds of spiritual gifts, but they all have the same source, the same goal and the same purpose. They are given by God for the sake of faithful work and faithful living, faithful doing and being, for the common good.
He says some teach, some preach, some pray, some heal, some interpret, but all of these are for the building up of one another.
Part of the life of faith is growing into the knowledge of what our gifts are and what we are called to do with them.
How many of you hate public speaking? If we said that each of you that raised your hand had to preach one Sunday, we would probably see three things happen. Some of you might discover that what you feared is actually where you are called to go. Others of you would show us that no, you were right, your gifts and graces are not in public speaking, and making you do that is to miss what your gifts really are. And some of you would simply never show up again.
If the life of faith is discovering our gifts and using them, then we start to see another element of the story of the wedding at Cana. Let us imagine that this wedding feast is the life of faith. We come to know the love of God, the forgiveness that we need, the acceptance of our place as a beloved child, and it is like the really good stuff that they serve for the toast.
Eventually we start to run low on that vintage, whether we get too busy to pray, or we face life’s difficulties, or we simply find ourselves worn down. We run out of day before we run out of list. We find our checkbook doesn’t equal our bills.
But in a community of faith, where we honor each other’s gifts, we find ourselves lifted up by those around us.
And when we can no longer do it the way always have done it, we start to see what paths God is calling us to walk.
Everyone knows when the good wine runs out, you are stuck with the bad stuff. Well, everyone but Jesus. And those who love God. For us, the good stuff is on the way. We live in anticipation of what God will do next.
Life is still difficult. As Robin Crouch would say, “life is tough, get a helmet.”
We still grieve. But we grieve together.
We still struggle. But we help each other lift our burdens.
We still hurt. But having a safe place to share our hurt is a healing balm.
We still face death. But we know the resurrection that awaits us.
We think today has to look like yesterday, but God is saving the good stuff.
Or, as the Gospel song says, “The best is yet to come.”
Thanks be to God.