Sermon for the Second Sunday After Epiphany 1/17/2010
Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 36:5-10 (8); 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; John 2:1-11
Grace to you and peace...
Jesus' first recounted miracle or Sign in the Gospel of John
is the turning of water into wine at a wedding feast in Cana after (apparently) everyone there was already drunk.
Jewish wedding feasts in first century Israel and Palestine would last about a week.
A week of eating and drinking and making merry in celebration of the newly joined couple.
It was also customary (or at least common courtesy)
For the guests of the bride and the groom,
rather than checking the couples' gift registry at Target,
to simply, at the party, BYOB.
To bring snacks, or wine, or something to share at the week-long celebration.
John's Gospel tells us that Jesus had spent the two days right before the wedding wondering around the desert, and going from town to town calling various disciples to come and follow him.
Interestingly and oddly enough, they did,
even though, at this point in the Gospel,
they really had very little idea of what Jesus would be all about.
So now, "on the third day" John's Gospel tells us, (again, the 1st and 2nd days were spent gathering disciples) this group of recently unemployed desert-wandering, smelly, sandy, sweaty men:
Andrew, Philip, Simon (now known as Peter or "Rocky Johnson"), Nathaniel, and one other disciple who John's Gospel leaves unnamed but who used to be a follower of the crazy religious fanatic John the Baptist,
find out that Jesus' mom is at a week long party in Cana...
Apparently (according to John) the disciples as well as Jesus were invited, but in my mind there are holes in that story,
as Jesus just met these guys yesterday,
and it was the 1st century,
and it was unlikely, logistically that they were in any place where they could have actually received any kind of invitation...
It's not like Mary sent Jesus a text:
party in cana. Bring ur friends :)
Anyhow, one way or another, Jesus knows his mom is at this party,
and he and his thus-far-disciples show up,
as far as John tells us, in a large group, and perhaps with no gifts in hand.
I imagine Mary was a little pissed at her son,
a sort of 1st-century wedding crasher for showing up with his new friends-strangers to the bride and groom-
speaking loudly about religion and politics,
proceeding to drink all the wine,
and, then, apparently, feeling no remorse for it at all.
So she, like any good mother concerned about the behavior of her son, confronts Jesus.
She says to Jesus:
"Jesus, they have no wine."
And Jesus replies in a manner that to our ears sounds incredibly disrespectful:
"Woman, what concern is that to you and me?"
in other words:
"not my problem...woman."
(My mother would've slapped me).
Apparently, (in John's Gospel) it was not yet Jesus' "time." Or so he said early in his ministry.
It seems that, according to John, Jesus knew that his mother wanted him to do a miracle.
To make some miraculous wine.
But, especially in John's Gospel where miracles aren't called miracles, but, rather, "signs," (GK: semeion),
And Signs are meant to lead folks to believe,
and Signs are almost always followed in the Gospel by a controversial dialogue-a religious and therefore political argument...
Jesus seems to believe that performing such a sign would serve as a premature Epiphany.
It was not yet his time. The time was not ripe.
He just called his disciples YESTERDAY
and bad timing could screw everything up.
perhaps Jesus just wanted to remain incognito at the wedding feast and simply have a good time.
I imagine folks treat you differently at a party when they find out that you're the Son of God.
(I know they do when they find out you're a pastor).
We don't know.
But for one reason or another, and still a bit undercover (and under the pressure of his mom), Jesus gave in...
He requests that the servants refill the six gigantic 30-gallon stone jars
that people of that particular sect of Judaism used to keep ritually clean.
(That is, before eating, and in between eating one course or another, folks would wash, and wash, and wash again. It was very important to be "clean" and "holy" and ritually "pure" in this particular culture).
So Jesus, in his own ever-controversial way,
takes the stone pots used for ritual purification
religious containers, holy furniture,
that we could at best loosely associate with baptismal fonts in the Christian religion,
and he uses holy water to make wine after the folks at the party are apparently already drunk. In effect, he turns a a bottle of holy water into a jug of wine.
And thus begins Jesus' ministry in the Gospel of John.
The next day, by the way, (day 4) he would go to the temple, made a whip of chords, and drive out the money changers & merchants.
So, what do we make of this story?
I imagine we don't develop an ethic based on the question:WWJD?
This is what I take from it this morning:
As John's Gospel unfolds, and all the Gospels for that matter, we learn that one of the many recurring themes in Jesus' ministry is that of redefining who is "in" and who might be "out" of God's Kingdom, or God's family.
And one way he does that is by often offensively disregarding traditions and rituals that were designed to designate who is in and who is out-who is clean or unclean, pure or impure, and so on...
Both by using holy water to make night caps and kicking out the well-and- long-established merchants at the temple the next day (merchants who sold animals that people could sacrifice to get forgiveness of sins), Jesus shakes up those made complacent or comfortable by their long-held religious convictions...
He jars their world view.
Once again, Jesus changes how people see and relate to God and to one another.
And, in so doing, opens up to them a new Way,
that's not based on hand-washing to make oneself "right before God,"
or ritual sacrifice to make one "right with God," for that matter
but on a way based on God being "right with you."
A way centered not on cultic ritual and personal holiness,
but centered first, on the other:
on the call for all to love their neighbors, and, in so doing, to love God, as a response to God's love, freely given.
A much more challenging call
than washing one's hands before a meal.
Or sacrificing a pigeon.
Perhaps the Epiphany today,
on this second Sunday after Epiphany,
added to the Epiphany of the Magis' visit to the new-kind-of-a-king born in a barn,
and the epiphanic voice from heaven at Jesus' baptism,
and the Spirit being made manifest or Epiphany-ing among Peter and John and the Good Samaritans,
perhaps the Epiphany to add to our list today is that Jesus shakes things up.
Jesus turns holy water into wine.
Jesus surprises us with the nearness of God,
and radically alters our perception of what might be sacred or profane.
This is a surprising & challenging Epiphany, no doubt, for those of us who might be comfortable or "settled" in our understandings of God and the world, in our dogmas or in our catechisms.
But it's a Biblical epiphany. God calls us to be unsettled desert wanderers, spiritually "nomadic" like Christ and his followers.
Jesus challenges anyone who is sure that they have all the answers. (God humbles the proud, Mary reminds us in Luke's Gospel).
Jesus shakes up the Priests, the Scribes, the Pharisees, and the Lutherans, when we become certain that we "are" and others are "not."
May God shake us into a living and dynamic faith. May God unsettle us.
May God grant us questions and doubts so that we do not become self-assured and cocky in our religious convictions.
And may God continually free us to see past ourselves, assuring us of God's love for us, and enabling us to genuinely and ardently grow in love and charity for our neighbors.
May the peace that passes all understanding guard our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus our Lord. AMEN.