Sunday, January 20, 2013

2 Epiphany

Annual Meeting Sunday
January 20, 2013

John 2.1-11

+ Since we are having our Annual Meeting today, I think I can admit this. And I’m sure it is not much of a surprise to anyone this morning. Weddings are not one my favorite things. Give me a baptism or a funeral any day over a wedding.  I have even preached at weddings how much I don’t always enjoy them.

I should be clear here. It’s not that I hate what weddings represent. I certainly believe that marriage is one of the seven sacraments. I just wish that most people saw marriage as a sacrament.

What I dislike are the fluff and fakeness of weddings. And we’ve all seen that fluff and fakeness. I hate the attempts to make every wedding like some royal princess wedding. And I dislike all that goes along with those princess weddings. The fifteen-or more attendants. The bridezillas, or the momzillas—or yes, even the groomzillas and the dad zillas. Yes, they do exist.

Still, I actually do enjoy weddings that are truly joyful events in which two people express their love and their commitment for each other.  And I am very happy that the Episcopal Church is now finally moving in the direction of finally fully accepting Blessings of Unions between same-sex couples. Many of you might have heard that the National Cathedral in Washington just recently OKd “gay weddings.”

So, it’s not fair to say I hate doing weddings. And let me tell you, in the ten years I’ve been ordained, I have done A LOT of weddings.

So, when whenever I encounter the story from our Gospel reading today, I do have to wonder: I wonder if that wedding was one of those awful weddings, with a bridezilla or a groomzilla?  There is a great legend that supposedly the bride and groom at the wedding in Cana were none other than Mary Magdalene and John the Beloved Apostle. And the story further goes that John was so impressed with Jesus’ turning the water into wine, that he essentially left Mary Magdalene “at the altar” to follow Jesus. She, in turn, was so humiliated by this that she became the woman of ill-repute that she is popularly known as.

Whoever the bride and groom were, certainly it must’ve been a raucous wedding.  The good wine has run out and the wedding feast is about to crash quickly. Yup, I’ve been at those weddings too.

But Jesus of course saves the day. No matter if it was a bad wedding or a good wedding, no matter if some bridezilla or groomzilla were hounding him, no matter if the groom is about to leave the bride to follow him, he turns water into wine. And when he does, there is a renewed sense of joy and exultation.  That I think is the gist of this experience from our gospel reading.  It is not just some magic trick Jesus performs to wow people.  It is not some action he performs at the whim of his mother.  He performs this miracle and in doing so instills joy in those gathered there.

But more than that, by doing this he does what we always does when he performs a miracle.  He performs miracles not just for the benefit of those at the wedding.  It is for our benefit of us as well.  Because by performing this miracle, he is giving us a glimpse of what awaits us all.  If we look closely at the story and at some of the details contained in it, we will find clues of the deeper meaning behind his actions.

First of all, let’s look at those jars of water.  This is probably the one area we don’t give a lot of thought to. But those jars are important. They are not just regular jars of water. They are jars of water for the purification rites that accompany eating in the Jewish tradition.  That water is essentially sacred. It is used to purify people and things. A good Jew at that time would wash their hands in this water so they could eat their food.

So, what we find is that Jesus turns these waters of purity into wine. And not just any wine. But abundant wines that bring about a joy among those gathered. 

In a sense, what Jesus has done is he has taken the party up a notch.  What was already probably a good party is now an incredible party.  It’s a beautiful image and one that I think we can all relate to.

And I think it speaks loudly to us on this Annual Meeting Sunday. We, at St. Stephen’s are planning this coming year. We are looking ahead.  We are planning a year in which there are so many great and wonderful opportunities and possibilities for us as a congregation. God has blessed us—and blessed us abundantly, here.

Look around at all the wonderful ministry we are experiencing. Look around at all the improvements and the good and positives changes that are happening here. When God blesses, it is not just a little blessing here and there. It is abundant blessings. It is like the purification water turned into abundant wine.

The best part of this view of the wedding at Cana is that Jesus is saying to us that, yes, there is joy here in the midst of us, but a greater joy awaits us.

Greater joys await us in our future together here at St. Stephen’s  And an even greater joy waits when the Kingdom of God breaks through into our midst.  When these things happen, it is very much like a wedding feast.  When they happen,  the waters of purification are turned into the best-tasting wine because we will no longer have to worry about issues like purity.

To some extent, the wedding at Cana is a foretaste of what we do every Sunday (and Wednesday) here at this altar.  It is a foretaste of the Holy Eucharist—this sharing with each other of Christ’ Body and Blood.  

One of my favorite Christian writers is Scot McKnight. He wrote a wonderful book called The Jesus Creed.  In that book, he writes about the miracle at the wedding in Cana most perfectly in this phrase:

“When the water turns to wine and the eye of faith peers into the purification vessels, it does not see sacred water but sacred wine. The eye of faith sees not an image of itself but the image of Jesus floating on the surface of the wine. Jesus is seen in the wine for who he is really: the one who not only provides but is himself the joy of the kingdom.”

I love that!  Because it is true. When we see these wonderful things happening in our midst, we can look closely at it and see Jesus in our midst. We can see Jesus in the ministry we do together here at St. Stephen’s. We see Jesus here when are gathered together to hear the Word. We see Jesus when we respond to that Word in what we do when we leave here. And we see Jesus each time we gather together at this altar for the Eucharist.  Here too, at this altar, we see Jesus in this wine and when we do we find that he is truly our joy.

 There are blessings in our midst. They are surrounding us on this day in which we gather to plan another year. As we plan another year of looking for and finding Christ in our midst. Another year of following him in all that we do. And as we do, there is a sense of joy at this—a joy very much like the joy one feels at a wedding feast—that is, a wedding in which true love is celebrated and blessed.

 So, let us look and find Jesus in this water turned to wine. Let us continue to find Jesus in all the wonderful blessings we have been granted here in our congregation and in our own lives. And when we do, we too will be amazed at all the wonderful and amazing ways God has blessed us and supplied us to continue to do what we do best—to love, and to love fully and completely.

 Isn’t that what a wedding feast is all about after all?



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