Sunday, January 14, 2007

gifts at Cana

First, I'd like to apologize for my wife's absence this morning; second, I'd
like to take advantage of it. Sarah could not be with us this morning because
she has duties at the cathedral today, in children's chapel and in Sunday
School. The advantage for me is that I can talk about her a little bit. We just
got married a year and a half ago, and we are still learning a lot of new things
about each other, and how to get along, every day.

Last night, for example, I was pondering over how spiritual gifts and wedding
gifts relate to each other. What do the gifts of the Spirit that Paul talks
about have to do with the wedding feast at Cana, and Jesus' miraculous
provision? So we took a break from sermon writing, and Sarah unwrapped the last
of the Christmas presents. They were a lot like our wedding gifts.

They were gifts of - and for - hospitality. There were two chafing dishes to
keep things warm, with matching Pyrex for the baking. There was an oven rack
gizmo for potlucks, and some other kitchen gadget. All of these were gifts Sarah
applauded, and was glad to have. And all of them she will use in exercising her
own gifts, of hospitality and care.

Later this week we hope to attend a special reception for Paul Kennel, the
president of World Concern, the relief agency that Sarah works for, saying
farewell and thanks after twenty-five years of service. Sarah has the gift of
showing up for these things - honoring watershed occasions in people's lives.
Indeed, that is how we met: under the eaves of St Paul's parish hall in
Healdsburg, attending the ordination of mutual friends (Roger and Libbie Weber).
So there is a connection after all between spiritual gifts and weddings.

The words from the book of the prophet Isaiah, our OT reading for this morning,
proudly proclaim that God's vindication of his holy city of Jerusalem will be
like a wedding: that the Lord will show forth his love for the city of his
kingdom, and it will be called My Delight is in Her, and its land Married. Your
God, the prophet says, will rejoice over you.

The psalm gives our response: to proclaim the good news of his salvation from
day to day, to declare his glory among the nations and his wonders among all
peoples -- for great is the Lord and greatly to be praised. Let the heavens
rejoice and the earth be glad.

Paul in writing to the church at Corinth tells them how they can all come
together as a family, bringing their various gifts to the table - to the feast
that is the church's celebration of God's. None of these gifts may make much
sense by itself; together, they build up the body of Christ.

And, as one pastor pointed out in The Christian Century, the gifts of the Spirit
and the fruits of the Spirit that we enjoy in fellowship are a lot like the
gifts we enjoy in marriage - listening to one another, interpreting what each
other is saying, hospitality, thoughtfulness - as well as particular functional
gifts, like teaching or administration. Each of our practical contributions to
the work of the people is of value. Eventually, as Paul reminds us, all will
fall away except LOVE.

And love is what Jesus is all about. He and his friends, new or old, have
arrived at a party back in his home place - and the host is running out of wine.
Big embarrassment. Didn't Jesus bring any with him? Could he take a run to the
store and bring more?

Mary puts him on the spot. He does not want to tip his hand - he doesn't think
this is the time or the place - but, just like the man in the parable who opened
his door to persistent knocking, he does respond to the request, and provides
what is needed for hospitality. He does a little more than this.

Presumably he could have gathered the lads together and gone off to buy more
wine. Or he could have made a simple, quiet effort. Instead, he takes the
occasion - and begins to shine forth, revealing who he is, and who God is.

There stand the jars for purification. It only takes a cupful of water, we are
told by William Willimon, to purify a hundred. But Jesus has the servants fill
six stone jars - with over a hundred gallons of water in total - enough to
purify the whole world. Enough to purify the whole world. And he doesn't then
recommend tee-totaling. How about some nice water instead? Nope. He provides an
overabundance of wine that is hilarious. Jesus provides enough wine, we would
think, to host a party that will last until the end of time.

And that is exactly what he is up to.

God sent the prophets, over the centuries, to his people Israel. But he saved
the best for last. The crown of the prophets, his own Son, was Jesus. Jesus, who
shows, even more than any who came before, that the steadfast love [hesed]
between God and humankind, and the love between a man and a woman in marriage,
are the same steadfast love. God is like a bridegroom, loyal and rejoicing in
his beloved, as he contemplates his people.

We his people are like a family. We are called together, to stick together,
through good times and bad. ... Even when somebody stinks up the family car with
cigar smoke, or takes out the trash a day too late. Even when somebody tells us
the truth about themselves, and makes us realize that real love involves
accepting them as they really are.

Even when we are angry with each other. We are to stay together, loving each
other, using the gifts God has given us, and most of all, rejoicing in the
celebration that began that day at Cana, and will extend into eternity. The
feast of God's presence of among us.


CEpiphany2 BCP
January 14, 2007
Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, Willows, California

Isaiah 62:1-5
Psalm 96 or 96:1-10
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
John 2:1-11

Lawrence Wood, "Living by the Word: Wedding Gifts", The Christian Century,
January 9, 2007, page 16.

Lawrence Wood, "Living by the Word: Wedding Gifts", The Christian Century,
January 9, 2007, page 16.

William Willimon, "Some Saw Glory", sermon on John 2:1-11 preached 1/18/1998 at
Duke University Chapel.

John R. Donahue, S.J., "A Different Kind of Inauguration 1", America, Vol. 184
No. 1, January 8, 2001.

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