Message for January 17, 2010

Sermon – January 17, 2010 1 Cor 12: 1 - 11; John 2: 1 - 11
With thanks to Brian Donst/Midrash

For anyone who has organized a wedding recently, it’s sort of comforting to read that weddings in the time of Jesus were also fraught with worry. In those days, weddings went on for as long as seven days! People came and went, but the obligation of the groom’s family was to have a continuous flow of food and wine available for the guests. Otherwise it meant a great dishonour to their name – and a terrible blow to the prestige of the family. To run out of wine!! You can imagine how the bride and groom would feel in today’s society if the catering provided only enough to feed half of the reception guests! We’d like to think that people would be gracious, but many would be tempted to think the hosts had been too cheap to pay for enough food.
In the gospel text this morning, Mary, the mother of Jesus, Jesus and his disciples are guests at a wedding in Cana. There are lots of unanswered questions about this piece of scripture. For example, we are never told whose wedding it is. One can only think that it must have been someone of close relation to Mary...perhaps a brother or a cousin, because Mary is quite alarmed that the wine is about to run out. What exactly does Mary think Jesus will do about the wine shortage – go off to the wine merchant and buy some more? Whatever she thinks, Jesus sounds quite reluctant to get involved...in fact, he seems rather rude – “what concern is that to you and to me?” he asks. But Mary is not so easily put off. She instructs the servants to follow Jesus’ instructions and trusts that Jesus will take care of the problem. And that's how it happens - this thing John calls a “sign”, the turning of water into wine. By faithfulness and grace ordinary human lives and the things we offer are transformed into something holy and life-giving for the world. It happens when we do whatever he tells us.
It's what we see at work in Haiti right now. Haiti has suffered a long, long time and earlier this week it seems the wine finally ran out completely. After generations of misrule and disorder, decades of oppressive government, and two years of stuttering recovery from hurricane damage, whatever fragile hope remained of rebuilding their nation was crushed in the rubbing together of giant tectonic plates just below the surface of their land. This was not a judgement of God, but the result of a world still in the making, upon which the ground beneath all our feet is never as solid as we imagine.
And in the wake of disaster, as a first impulse of God's Spirit at work within all humanity, and before any other considerations can arise to stifle or qualify the response, relief and aid has flowed from all parts of the globe. The Chinese, I understand, who themselves suffered a tragic earthquake last year, were the first to reach the island-nation with first-aid teams and dogs trained to find survivors in the rubble. Our own Governor-General, an immigrant from Haiti, within hours, offered a tearful call for help even while she did what she could to trace the whereabouts of her own friends and family. The Salvation Army opened a special text application that allows a cell phone user to donate $5 to their Haitian relief fund just by texting the word Haiti to a special number and having the $5 added to their phone bill for the month. There was a search-and-rescue team from Iceland featured on CNN, and who knows how many teams from how many other countries, military personnel from Canada, Red Cross, World Vision, and more international and religious medical teams and relief agencies with more names than we can remember all at work together to help bring something good out of the horrible thing that happened.
Six twenty-plus-gallon jars full to overflowing with ordinary human work and commitment, given as soon as the word was heard. Water upon water of charitable and humanitarian work poured into the gaping need. Each dollar and each act just a drop in the bucket, to be sure. But added together enough to keep hope alive, enough to maintain or restore faith in a living God, enough to give reason for thanks in the midst of an intolerable situation.
And isn't that what life is? Isn't that what the wedding feast called the earth is like? Disaster is not uncommon, things change and give way, the ground we stand on is never quite solid, but when we do what Jesus tells us, and we offer what we can in faith, in hope and in love, the kingdom of God is glimpsed in the midst of everything else.
What we give becomes more than we think it can be. It may be just five dollars, or maybe ten or twenty. It may be just a prayer for someone's survival. It may be the recovery of just one person still alive among a dozen others dead in a pile of rubble.
But in the world as in our worship, and in our worship as in the world, each drop in the bucket is important, each obedient act paves the way, for how else shall the jars be made full - as full as God desires and needs for the story of the kingdom to continue?
Water into wine; and from ordinary water, good wine flowing. It sounds miraculous. But we see it more often than we realize, and we need to realize the commonality of the miracle more than we tend to.
On those Sundays when we celebrate Communion, we believe that, by the grace of God we meet Christ by remembering him, and we ourselves become the bread of life for the world. Every day the Holy Spirit of God is alive and moving within us, and our every action and gesture has the power to be holy and life-giving for the world around us.
And why come to worship if not to be seeking out the holy depth and height of our life? Why else be alive in the world if not for the divine possibility of our being part of something greater and more gracious than just ourselves?

Let us pray: Gracious God, whose signs surround us day by day and whose revelation in Jesus awakens our wonder: work within us, among us, and through us, we pray, that believing minds may blossom into trusting hearts and helping hands, fully committed to service. Keep us open to further learning and inspiration that we may accept your gifts as we find them within us, and then offer light and hope to others. We pray this in the name of Jesus, the greatest gift of all. Amen.