Sunday, January 14, 2007

Epiphany 2 - Year B

NB: Willimon's Pulpit Resource was helpful in putting this sermon together. -kgp

Grace to you and peace from God’s beloved.

Chances are, you and I might be tempted to dismiss this story from today’s gospel as mere fantasy. A nice bible story. Sure we affirm that, yes, Jesus did indeed turn water into wine, at that wedding feast in Cana. And, yes, we believe and affirm that Jesus performed and is performing miracles today. I wonder if we really expect him to. At least in any way we could actually see and experience.

For some, there are what my wife calls, believers in the “parking lot god.’ You know who I’m talking about. Those folks who say they prayed for a parking spot to open up close to the front doors at the mall two days before Christmas, and vioala! A parking spot sits empty right in front of the Shopper’s Drug Mart at noon on December 23rd, and they pull right in, praising God.

While we might laugh pray for weightier things, I wonder if we could learn something from the parking lot prayer.

We pray for healing for sick people each week, maybe half-heartedly expecting God to actually to break open the divine medicine chest. We pray for peace but don’t really expect our soldiers to return home from Afghanistan anytime soon.

The liturgy itself has the same prayers, week after week. It’s as if we don’t expect God to answer them because we plan to say them again and again.

When you think about, we don’t really expect all that much from God, do we?

“Let’s ask Jane to take on this job,” said one member of the planning committee. “Jane never does anything halfway; she always does a great job with anything she takes on.” There was widespread agreement in the group.

Then the pastor piped up, “Do you really think that’s fair to Jane? She already has three jobs in the church. She’s one of our busiest, most hardworking members.”

“That’s just my point,” said the chairperson. “Everyone knows that if you want a job done right, give it to someone who’s busy. Busy people seem to be the people who can find more time to do more.”

Down the street at a different church, a couple sit in their pastor’s study, “Pastor, we have decided to adopt the foster child we’ve been keeping. He’s such a great kid. The parents have given him up for adoption, and we think we could give him a really good home.”

“Do you really think that’s wise?” the pastor asked. “You already have four children. Don’t get me wrong, you’re a great mom, but think of the cost to your existing kids. Don’t you think there are limits of how much you can give?”

“When it comes to love, “she said, “I have not yet found the limits. From my experience, love is a renewable resource. The more love you give, the more you seem to have. At least, that’s how I’ve seen it.”

Two different sets of expectations. Whose would you say were the more realistic? I’m guessing it would on depend who you ask.

Just like in today’s reading, Jesus seems to be the one with lower expectations.

If you know the story, you know that Mary was nagging Jesus. There’s no other way to put it. Jesus came to the wedding looking for a good time. Mary put him to work. He tried to weasel his way out of it, “That’s not my problem. Plus, my hour has not yet come.”

“Don’t give me that, young man,” Mary seems to be saying. Then she turns to the stewards and says,

“Do what he tells you to do.”

Mary puts Jesus on the spot. So what choice does he have now?

He steps up to the plate, or the jars, as the case may be. He may have rolled his eyes like sons do to moms, but doesn’t lay hands on the jars. He doesn’t say an eloquent prayer for divine intervention for this wedding feast that didn’t stock the bar well enough. There were no reports of angel sightings delivering divine brew.

He just told them to taste it. And to bring some to the wedding party.

I think that’s a really cool miracle. Subtle. With a touch of mystery. And completely unexpected. Even for Jesus. I’m sure he had no intention of starting his ministry by providing libations for a young couple who misjudged how much wine they needed for their wedding reception. But it was Mary who enlarged his vision of what he would do in the world.

That’s what this season of Epiphany is all about. Seeing God working where people don’t expect God to.

I know some folks don’t like this story because they’re suspicious of the miracle part of Jesus’ ministry. They say it’s a fanciful diversion from the weightier issues of justice and compassion. Plus, they can’t wrap their scientific heads around things that can’t be explained rationally.

Others don’t like this story because they’re so cautious and restrained. If Jesus can change water into wine, what else can Jesus do? If Jesus is still doing what the bible says he did, then what does that mean for my comfortable, cautious existence? Might Jesus ask us to look more broadly at what God wants us to do as a church family?

I don’t know about you, but that’s what scares me about this passage. What scares me is that God thinks I can do more than I think I can do. God thinks I’m more gifted that I believe I really am. God thinks that we, as God’s people, can be more faithful, compassionate, and loving, that we believe is possible. God thinks we are limited only by God’s power.

Last year, before we left for Mexico, Rod Jerke shared this quote from Marianne Williamson with the group, and it made quite the impact with some folks:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small doesn't serve the world.
There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so
that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It's not just in some of us, it's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other
people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.

Maybe that’s what Jesus was getting at when he turned the water into wine and then gave us the cup to drink from. His hour may not have come when he expected it to, but then again, whoever said we could predict what God is going to do in our lives? Whoever said that God wanted us to be live safe and secure?

So where is God challenging you? Where is God asking you to look more broadly at the mission God has given your life? Where is God encouraging you to shine more brightly?

Chances are, it’ll happen when and where you least expect it. But I think you’ll be amazed by what God will do through you. And through all of us. Amen.


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