Monday, January 21, 2013

The God Who Keeps The Party Going, And The Wine Flowing

This story in John’s Gospel of Jesus turning water into wine has always been a little perplexing to me.
It seems like such a odd story.
And as a way to announce your arrival as God incarnate it seems too small.
Of all the things Jesus could have done to show who he is this just doesn’t seem like the right place to start.
So why does John start here?
John is the only Gospel writer to tell us about this wedding in Cana.
Why is it important and what does it say about Jesus?

The first thing to know is that in John’s Gospel there are no miracles.
There are only signs.
The signs that Jesus does points to something about him, they are epiphanies to the people around him about who and what Jesus is for them.
So this story is not a miracle, it is a sign.
It points us to something about Jesus.
Perhaps that is why John can tell this seemingly small story because it begins to shows us something important about Jesus.

Like all good Gospel stories there are many interpretations of those stories.
And this one is no different.
However, what struck me this time is the idea that Jesus saves the best for last.
Everyone thought the party was over.
All the wine was gone it was time to go home.
And then Jesus brings out the best wine, the most expensive wine.
Most ordinary people couldn’t afford wine in Jesus day.
But families would save money so that on their daughters wedding day they could have the best feast, with wine flowing until everyone had their fill.
In order to save money they would serve the good stuff first and the horrible stuff when no one knew the difference.
(I had a couple nights in college like that.)
Anyway, Jesus gives the best and at the end.
The party can go on and for a long time.
Enough wine is provided.
Jesus always saves the best for last.
When we think the wine is gone, when we think the party is over, Jesus comes through for us and provides the best of what we need.

In the last two weeks our congregation has had three people die.
This is a lot of people in our congregation.
Consider that all of last year I only did one funeral.
The people at Bennott funeral home were saying that it must be hard for me.
But I have to tell you it isn’t.
I would rather do a funeral than a wedding any day.
At weddings you are window dressing.
People are more concerned about the flowers, and getting to the reception on time than they are about hearing the word of God.
Don’t get me wrong I don’t dislike weddings.
I love to dance and have a good time, but as a pastor I feel that people need to hear God’s word more at a funeral than a wedding.
It is at funerals where people really want to hear those gospel words of comfort.
They want to know that their loved one is at peace.
They don’t usually care about little things that don’t matter, because they need God at that time.
What I notice is that God saves the best for last.
When we need it the most, when we feel like the wine is gone and the party is over, God shows up and says this is not the end the party goes on and on.
Don’t worry there is plenty of wine, and it is the best stuff.
Indeed your loved one is not dead but in an even better place.

This is the God that Jesus is enlfeshing in John’s Gospel.
It is a God of grace and truth, who loves us, and wants us to have lives of abundance.
It is the God who shows up at the party and is not uncomfortable around people having a good time.
We have a God who wants us to know that the best is yet to come.
Do you know that?
For you the best is yet to come.
This day might feel like the party is over, but God is still at work in our lives and still cares enough to show up and talk to us and have some wine.
 I would agree with St. Teresa of Avilia who would pray to be delivered from “Frowning saints”.
God’s people are not to suppose to be stoic and void of celebration.
We are supposed to be at the wedding feast celebrating the grace revealed to us through Jesus Christ.

It is at the wedding that Jesus reveals to us a God who is overflowing with grace, a God who fills us to the brim.
For me one of the things God has done over and over again for me is to offer me forgiveness and a second chance.
I say over and over because I make lots and lots of mistakes.

On Friday on the cover of USA today newspaper one of the headlines was, “How Much Can We Forgive?”
It was about Lance Armstrong.
For those who don’t know.
Lance Armstrong not only lied about using performing enhancing drugs, he also intimidated people into lying about it.
If someone told the truth he would sue them.
Not only that but he made everyone think of him as some super human figure because he overcame cancer and then won more races.
I don’t want to get in to whether or not we, or anyone, should forgive Lance Armstrong.
But I want us to think about this.
What can God not forgive?
What have we done in our lives that we need forgiveness from?
Can God forgive that thing?
I am not talking about whether the people in our lives can forgive those things.
I am asking about God.
We might not want or be able to forgive Lance Armstrong, but I am sure that God does.
This God that Jesus shows us in this story is one who shows up when everything else seems lost and hopeless, when the wine is out, and the party is over, and offers us the best.
Perhaps for Lance Armstrong his life was not the best it could be, and now it will be even better.
It will be free from all the deception and lies.

That what I think this sign points us to, a God of extravagant grace, a God who shows up and keeps the party going, a God who is overflowing with love and mercy.
Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise because that God is the one who is revealed to us in scripture too.
It was the God who brought people out of slavery, led them to the promise land, gave them the law, sent them the prophets, and now has given his son to point the way back to that God.

At almost every funeral I do people request Psalm 23.
Perhaps because it is the best known psalm and the only piece of scripture people know.
But it is known for a reason.
It is known because it speaks the truth about the way God acts in our lives.
“The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want…Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life….My cup overflows.”
This is the God we know and want.
It is the God that we get to know more intimately through Jesus.
Perhaps that is why John starts his signs with this small intimate gathering at a wedding.
It shows that Jesus shows up everywhere we are.
And I was wrong it is not a small story.
It is a story that says everything about this God of grace who shows up and gives us the best just when we think that there is nothing left.
Know today that is the God who will follow you into your lives.
Know that God will show up at all times and places, know that God who keep the party going and the wine flowing.

1 comment:

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