2nd Sunday after the Epiphany Yr C Jan 20 2019



Audio  2nd Sunday after the Epiphany Yr C Jan 20 2019

When we listened to the first verses of John just a couple weeks back, we were reminded that the gospel writer very explicitly patterned the beginning of his story after the very beginning of the story in Genesis. The first verses of John are "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it." And the first words of Genesis are "In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good."

The gospel writer is very intentionally setting the stage to say something about God, and the story we have before us today does just that. God, who is creator of all that is, seen and unseen, and who calls the creation good, God, who calls the Word into being, is the God of abundance, the God of grace.

Jesus, and his mother, and many of their relatives and friends, are at a wedding in the neighboring town of Cana. The wine ran out. This is problematic. Weddings were not really romantic affairs; they were much more an agreement between families to join forces. So the party they put on not only seals the deal, but also shows everyone what they’re made, and running out of wine threatens a serious loss of honor.

Jesus' mother was called into that shameful problem. We’ll never know why she was involved in the lack of wine, but it was probably the wedding of a relative or a close friend and she was helping out with the arrangements. We do know that, family and communities came to the aid of the host of wedding, or any other party or gathering there might be. Hospitality was an imperative, an essential priority. I don’t know that we can come close to understanding how important this is, it’s about offering a cold cup of water and a piece of bread, and it is about so much more.

Mary believes that Jesus can do something about that. Standing right there were six stone jars that held the water for washing feet, and other ceremonial washings, and for drinking water. Jesus had them filled to the brim. Now, a single family would have just one of these jars in their home. The relatives may have brought their family’s stone jar so there would be plenty of water for all these people. Each of those stone jars probably held between 20 and 30 gallons of water, for a total of about 150 gallons. That's enough water to fill a very large bathtub and the trough that will water your horses for a few days; it's a lot of water.

When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, he was astonished that the bridegroom and his family had saved the good wine until so late in the celebration. He is amazed at the hospitality that wine represents. This is the first sign in John’s gospel that show’s God’s abundance upon abundance. God’s grace upon grace.

John presents us with story after story that show forth God in our midst and God’s abundant love and grace. In each story we see and feel Jesus’ presence in creation, Jesus’ presence in the people who populate the story. Each story shows us God’s abundant presence and God’s abundant love. Jesus in the living water for the woman at the well, Jesus who heals the man who was ill for 38 years, and Jesus who heals the man blind from birth. And Jesus whose abundant love feeds five thousand, and last but not least, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. John shows God’s abundance, God’s glory, in each of these signs.

And this story, this story about this party shows us Jesus providing hospitality, turning an abundance of water into an abundance of wine, so that these families hosting this party, can continue their hospitality to others.  It’s not just about showing off, or some sort of magic trick, Jesus prevents these families from being shamed. The families of the bride and bridegroom retain their status, their honor. This is important because if they ran out, if they failed to show hospitality to all these guests, they would become outcast, they would be outsiders, they would be marginalized.

Now, I want to caution us from applying our own 21st century sensibilities to this story. My first reaction is well fine, no one needs that much wine anyway. And secondly, well, what’s the big deal about running out, no one’s going to judge them. But it was a big deal, hospitality was the biggest deal, and in this story, Jesus kept them from being cast out of the community. And this isn’t the only biblical story about how important hospitality is.

But the good news in this story is that as Jesus provides the best wine, in abundance. The good news is that God lavishes all of creation with abundant love and grace, that there are no outsiders in Jesus’ circle.

Too often we spend our time counting what we don’t have. Counting opportunities lost. We don’t have enough money or food or security or power or privilege. But that’s not what God’s love, and God’s grace looks like.

So today, I wonder if we can’t be more like Jesus. How might we surprise those around us with an abundance of blessing. What is it that you have a ton of and other people need? Is it smiles? What about hugs or hospitality? Who could we invite into our church, and our homes. Or what about space? How much more generous might we be? The possibilities, really, are endless. Another sign of God’s abundance, God’s grace, God’s love. God’s abundant love flows freely to all. There are no barriers, there are no walls, except those that we erect, that keep God’s love, and freedom, from any of God’s beloveds, including you.

Amen

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