St. Mary Nanoose Bay

January 20, 2019

John 2:1-11                

In the readings from the Old Testament and the psalm today we hear such words as: rejoice, abundance, delight, steadfast love, river of delights, fountain. Does your mouth turn up towards a smile when you hear these words, or does it turn down?

And then in the Gospel reading we hear about a wedding. Now, maybe your response will differ here…. some of you may have horror stories to tell about a wedding where people behaved boorishly and the couple seemed more interested putting on a show than celebrating a sacramental moment. Yet for others, they have memories of real celebration; a witnessing of the union of a couple who really love each other and want God’s, and their family and friends’ blessing.            

Whatever your experience, we’ve all been at weddings where the words we just heard:  abundance, delight, steadfast love, precious, fountain - could be good descriptors of what took place.            

In the Gospel account of John’s we heard the story of Jesus’ first miracle; the changing of the water into wine. The hosts of wedding where this happens, have run out of wine. In this scenario, we can imagine a different set of words than we’ve just considered: scarcity, dried-up, dribble, displeasure, unpredictable, shame, regret.            

You have to understand that a wedding in the time of Jesus was not an afternoon affair where you come for an hour-long ceremony and then stay for a few hours to celebrate. No, in Jesus’ day, people would come to a wedding and stay and celebrate for days, sometimes a week. The hosts would go all out to provide food and drink for all their guests; and remember, no one was drinking and driving (except maybe on a donkey!).            

Enter Jesus and his disciples. And Jesus’ mother, Mary. There has been poor planning on the behalf of the hosts. Either that, or more people showed up for the wedding than expected. Who knows. In any case, the most embarrassing thing has happened. The wine has run out.            

Mary asks Jesus to do something about the situation. Jesus is not interested in helping out.  He says, “What concern is this to you and to me?” But Mary knows that it’s the everyday things that matter. And she wants him to intervene. For whatever reason, she pushes him. Maybe she knows it’s time for him to move into a new part of his ministry. Jesus must trust his mother, he obviously sees the wisdom in her request because he responds. He instructs the servants to fill the large empty containers used for ritual cleansing with water. Once they’ve done so, he orders them to “draw some out and take it to the chief steward.” And we know what happens next…. the chief steward tastes it only to discover he is tasting a fine wine, not water. And then the bridegroom is chastised for saving the best wine to last.            

Why would John choose to insert this story in his gospel as Jesus’ first miracle?            

Could it be for the same reason we experienced when we tasted the flavour of the words in today’s readings?            

John is going to have us experience God’s grace. He is telling us that Jesus walks his talk – Jesus uses signs to point to God’s power working within him. John has us feel the abundance, extravagance, delight of God for us. God’s concern about the little things that are really the big things – our ability to be welcoming, the willingness to share, our desire to celebrate, to be together, to mark special occasions. For it’s in and through these everyday yet special occasions that we come to see and know God. As the final verse in today’s Gospel reading states: “Jesus did this, the first of his signs in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory and his disciples believed in him.” (2:11)            

Jesus expresses God’s abundance, hospitality and concern by saving the hosts from shame and the people from disappointment and his disciples come to believe who he really is.            

Scarcity is not God’s way. Abundance is.            

We know that God has provided enough water and food in the world to feed all the people. We know that we have enough resources among us to support his parish. We know that we have enough love for each child that comes into our lives – it’s not that we have a limited amount we need to mete out.            

God’s abundance is enough. Our lives can be full regardless of the amount of money, or years we have.            

And our part in this outpouring of Divine generosity is to share it.  It’s as simple as that.            

In the reading from 1st Corinthians, we learn about the spiritual gifts – how once you acknowledge the Giver, you are connected to the Giver’s gifts and the One Source. We are all receive different gifts; but the source is the same. The activities we engage in will be different; but there is only one Activator. The gifts all serve others, bring joy, serve life; but in different ways. All we need to do is accept the gifts, unwrap them, explore them, express them. We don’t decide what the gifts are; we discover them.

But we also restrict the flow of gifts in several ways: when we pretend to be humble and down play our gifts; when we are shy and don’t share our gifts; when we stop exploring new gifts and become static - sticking with the familiar gifts; when we don’t open new gifts, for whatever reason.            

I remember suggesting to my young son that he take a course in dancing because I’d noticed how much he liked moving to music. I was stunned at his response, “Oh, I can’t do that, Mama, I don’t know how to dance.” He was stopping himself before he got started. He was identifying with how he would be seen by others, rather than with curiosity and what his inner response was to the invitation.            

In this church today sit a gathering of gifted people. We have all been given so many gifts. And at this time of life, our gifts and experiences have developed in us wisdom and insight which are more gifts in themselves. We have so much to share! And while we may be slowing down and have less energy, God’s gift giving has not slowed down or stopped! There are so many ways God shares joy, delight and abundance with us. Our response to these gifts might be in the way we are able to witness and marvel at the new life in our families – the babies, the grandchildren, the puppies, and green shoots and snowdrops of another Spring. We have more time to notice God’s creation and give thanks.            

We have more time to pray, to reach out to others.            

And we have the opportunity to listen more carefully – to God, and to each other. How are we being nudged to respond to God at this time in our lives?            

Mary Holte is offering a workshop on listening to God and becoming more open to receiving God’s abundance of gifts in an upcoming workshop entitled, “What Gives you Joy?” in March. Mark down the date when you get your NOTICES this week.

What gives you joy is what gives God and neighbour joy because joy is a sign of the Divine life – when you are connected in the flow of giving and receiving.            

Joy isn’t about doing what you think is right, or trying to please others, joy comes from sharing what you’ve been given, even when, or especially when you’re not an expert – you are an enthusiast, trusting that what you’ve been given has been given to you to pass on – in your own unique special way.            

Participating in the gift –giving lets us use words like - rejoice, abundance, delight, steadfast love, river of delights, fountain.

So come to the table of abundant, lavish gift giving this morning, and let your heart be filled.  Amen.