Sunday, January 17, 2016

Wow, Jesus Was Here

One of my favorite pictures circulating is a photograph of a supermarket clearly not in PA because there is alcohol being sold. But it shows a shelf where the sign above it says “Water” but on the shelf are endless bottles of wine. And the caption of the picture is “Jesus was here.”

It’s tempting today to focus upon the mechanics of how the water becomes wine. Or even just that this story reveals Jesus’ power to perform this miracle, which it does. But here, in the gospel of John, it’s helpful to remember that after the opening of telling us that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, we hear that Jesus has come to show us “grace upon grace.” One gracious gift after another. That beyond the gift of the law, Jesus has come to make the fullness of God known. And  after calling disciples, the first place we see Jesus is at a wedding.

Most of you know that I am planning our daughter’s wedding. Weddings can be a  huge social event that calls everyone to be there. And I for one would like to return to Jesus’ day where it was the GROOM’S family that hosts the party.
The tradition was not that you invited your closest. You invited everyone. Imagine having to host this whole Valley. According to tradition in Jesus’ day the family is to provide enough food and beverage for everyone, EVERYone- for a week. Imagine hosting this whole Valley for a week.

But here we are the disaster strikes as the wine is running out. So what happens? Has the family planned poorly? Tradition says the guests were supposed to send wine ahead for the feast. Have the guests been stingy? We hear that many alre already drunk from the steward. Have some been overindulging without thinking of others? Then again, maybe Jesus has something to do with the problem.
Jesus has only a couple days before called Nathanael and Andrew and Simon Peter and Phillip. And yes, they were invited but you know how sometimes you hear of last minute people you have to invite even if you didn’t want to? Maybe Jesus was supposed to be a solo guest or maybe a “plus one” but then he met Andrew and Simon and Phillip and Nathanael and they ALL went to the wedding. He clearly exceeded his “plus one?” Maybe Mary is telling Jesus, “Now LOOK!” Well, we don’t know.

What we DO know is that when the glasses are empty, the party’s over.
Imagine the groom’s family announcing that it is unexpectedly “last call.” They will be ashamed, perhaps even angry. They have the taste of bitterness in their mouths. And the servants are flustered and scared. They know the taste of fear. And the taste that will stay in everyone’s mouth will be disappointment and shame.

Then imagine the commotion of filling those jars, each the size of this trash can, but stone. Not with a water faucet but filling buckets at the well and hauling them up and hauling those jars back and trying to do it quickly- how exhausting! And what if this is all just a mess? How many times on the way to the well, and with each bucket and hauling these ridiculously heavy jars back do you think the servants thought, “are you out of your ever lovin’ mind?!” Can’t we just do a couple jars?

Kind of like how we might feel sometimes somewhere between listening to God and the end result. A couple jars ought to be enough, you know? I mean, really. And in the midst of those thoughts of shame and anger, bitterness, fear- is division.

What happens next demonstrates certainly Jesus’ power, but even more I think it shows a deeper glimpse again of God’s heart. Extravagant, abundant, joyous.
In the face of the prospect of no more shouts of “here’s to the bride and groom!” Just when it looks like devastation- celebration! Unifying joy!
Did you notice that after the water becomes wine there are no divisions?
Grace- Exceeding all hopes- not just some average cheap wine, the best! Not just enough for this day or even this wedding, but for weeks! Imagine the reputation of the family who goes from the brink of shame to the family that blessed the whole Valley this way! The bitter taste of humiliation and anger and shame and fear becomes the sweetness of celebration and blessing beyond compare.The exhaustion of the effort melts away.
Grace upon grace.

Each gospel begins with some moment of Jesus’ ministry- the gospel of John opens with this wedding. The gospel has begun by proclaiming that from God’s fullness we ALL receive “one gracious gift after another.” Grace upon grace. Abundant, extravagant, joyous grace.
And here is the first sign of this God- Jesus at the wedding. With grace flowing freely for everyone, EVERYONE! No portion control, no guest list. EVERYONE.
The best feast EVER!
Grace- a sign so we might come to believe.

Interestingly enough the last sign Jesus shared with his disciples comes after the resurrection is the same. The disciples have seen Jesus and received the Holy Spirit, yet they have gone their ways, and the guys are back to fishing. And they are there and all night they caught nothing. Jesus, in the midst of their frustration, and perhaps fear and humiliation- no fish in sight- tells them to put the net in again. And they do what he says. Perhaps thinking- Are you out of your ever lovin’mind?! But they listen and before they know it they can barely haul it in. Grace upon grace. And they remember how he makes them one.
And there will all that fish,  then  he tells them to feed and care for others like that.
To bring grace into the world so that others might know Christ and know our extravagant, abundant and joyous God.
Jesus’ shows us that this grace transforms the world as we think we see it .
Changes people as we think we know them.
That just when you think it is too big of an “ask” or that we’re not up to the task, grace intervenes.
Just when you feel overwhelmed, grace intervenes
Just when you think You are not enough or there is nothing more, grace intervenes.
And each time, God uses people like ordinary people those servants at the wedding, like the disciples, like you and I.  And when we listen, extraordinary life changing happens.
How might God be calling you and me, each of us to “grace” the world around us?
What signs might God show through us?
May the Spirit guide us so that when we have been somewhere on God’s command,  people might see grace and say, “Wow, Jesus was here!”

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