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Wine Beyond Measure - Sermon on John 2:1-11

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Six jugs of wine?  That's ridiculous?  Who is going to drink that much in just a few days of a wedding? But the blessing of Jesus Christ makes the sweetness and quality immeasurable.  

Please listen to the sermon rather than read it.  The delivered sermon is often considerably different than the sermon notes which are included for convenience below.  

Sermon delivered at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Berkeley. 

January 17, 2016 - Second Sunday after Epiphany

"Wine Beyond Measure".  Text is from John 2:1-11

Good morning to you my sisters and brothers in Christ, saints and sinners, children of God. 

While the Wedding of Cana may seem fairly straightforward at first glance, there is in fact quite a bit going on here if you have read it a few times through, and no small amount of subtleties in the dialogue among and action between each of the participants. And so let me lay out the essential parts of the way that John intended to lay out the account.

This is the very first of Jesus' miracles in John. There is a fairly recognizable pattern for miracles in John in that it starts with describing the place and time, then moves forward into describing the complications, and then some actions that need to be done before the miracle and finally the miracle itself. This recounting of the Wedding of Cana is especially important as it is the first one of Jesus' miracles in John. Although there are many other stories that never found their way into the New Testament, some in particular which focus on Jesus' childhood, this is truly the first of the miracles of Jesus, as he himself says his hour has not yet come, we understand that he has not yet been revealed. In fact, Jesus does not do miracles for the sake of doing them, but so that those who are following him may understand who he is.

The event that this first miracle occurs in might seem rather common, after all, weddings happen all the time in all societies, and the problem that Jesus and his mother encounter seem somewhat rote. Either the bridegroom has failed his guests by not providing enough or the guests have been quite over-indulgent. In any case, it's not an earth-shattering event. Nobody is at risk of dying, nobody requires healing. It is so entirely mundane that we feel for Jesus when and the expectation thrust upon him apparently by his mother, who at this point appears to be the only person who knows that this is something he can do something about. This is almost beneath him, his time consists of things far more important than ensuring a party continues unabated. 

But despite Jesus's lack of concern for the situation, Mother Mary persists nevertheless, telling the servants to do whatever he tells them to. And indeed, Jesus does in fact offer an instruction. Fill up the jars, and the miracle proceeds, the wine is produced, and lo and behold, it is no ordinary wine, but that one finds in the ordinary wedding at the beginning of the ceremony while the cheap stuff is saved for later on while the party is drunk. 

Now a wedding in ancient times was not like it is now. These weddings could have lasted for days, the guests being joyous and the food and drink flowing on and on. And the amount of alcohol being served at this particular feast may have also brought to mind what was known as a Bacchanalia, a wild party honoring the Greek God Dionysus, who John's readers would have known about if not be actually familiar with.   

The wine brings joy and merriment, and what Jesus is doing here is claiming this for himself. That ordinary water has become the source of the merriment in this feast, once it has made the transformation into high quality wine.

Now before I go further, I have to bear into mind the interesting perspective of the account of the wedding at Cana in light of my own sobriety, and that of no small percentage of our community as well as the people we serve on this property.  This is so much wine, and when I hear the words, one is too many and a thousand never enough, I can finally put a visual to what that thousand looks like. And so I am cautious as I approach this narrative to make sure I myself am aware of the dangers of being close to so much wine.

SF Chronicle Wine competition Public tasting 2010-02-20 30.jpgAnd it is, indeed, a lot. A water jug used for the right of purification would be something like a bathtub's amount of water, and 6 water jugs would produce anywhere from 90 to 150 gallons of wine if filled to the rim. And that much wine, even among wedding guests couldn't possibly be drank in any reasonable amount of time. This would be the equivalent to somewhere around 750 bottles of wine, or probably the stock of about three Trader Joe's stores.

The amount of water that goes into these water jugs is phenomenal. 150 gallons to be drawn out of the well!  But considering the amount of water that would go into producing just one bottle of wine here in California, and we see some striking contrasts.  58 gallons of water go into producing the average bottle of wine in California, making about 8,700 gallons of water to go into this particular miracle. 

And so it seems that for ordinary people particularly those of us who cannot stop ourselves once we start, consuming this amount of wine would may not only carry with it the costs, we also have a social cost of wastefulness, and those of us living in the California drought can attest to, that amount of water seems outrageous for an unbelievable amount of wine that will assuredly not be consumed by the time the guests left the wedding; but this wine was not made by ordinary means. And through the very first miracle of Jesus Christ done before his time has come we have an efficient use of work to rescue the folk out of what would seem to be a hopeless situation. 

This commonplace event that God has made extraordinary reaches beyond the simple meaning of the account of the Wedding of Cana, because while it describes an account for us, in the mention yet silence of the disciples in which Jesus' first followers, after Mary of course, can begin to understand who he is. 

It reaches us and helps us to understand that when we feel that we do not have enough resources to complete the work of God, that when we include God in our work, it can help us move beyond the ordinary and help us reimagine how best we can do the work we need to do. Sometimes working in a church with a small but active congregation can have its own challenges, and sometimes it seems as if we are not up to the challenges. We believe the banquet that God provides is for everyone, and yet it can sometimes seem that we do not have enough people, enough money, enough time to do all that we must do in our neighborhood and in our city. 

But sisters and brothers, when our faith in the power of Christ's abundance mercy and everlasting love, we find ourselves filled with the spirit and able to move past those seeming failures of resources and accomplish the things we need to accomplish to ensure that the feast of God is shared among all of God's beloved children. 

We have numerous opportunities in 2016 to grow the mission that God has called us out into the world and to deliver this good news that God has given us to share with others. The delivery of the miracle of Jesus's abundant love in the world as he shares his power and makes water into wine that becomes for us his blood that rescues us from death and washes away our sins also reminds us that we have an endless well to draw from in order to accomplish the work we do in the world.  

God's banquet extends to all people. The barriers that prevent people from embracing it are man's. When we live day to day in the realization of God's miracle, we can accomplish great things and do those things we set out to do, with what we have, without fear. The gift of faith empowers us to be the light and life of Christ we want to be in the world today.

And so the good news, my sisters and brothers is that God blesses things and makes them plentiful. Efforts put forth in the name of God bring sweetness and quality beyond compare and we may serve him, knowing that we are redeemed by his grace and strengthened and sanctified by his love, servants of his will. 


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This page contains a single entry by Cary Bass-Deschenes published on January 17, 2016 5:07 PM.

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