Congregational Church of La Jolla
Rev. Tim Seery
January 20, 2019
John 2: 1-11
"Filled to the Brim"
Would you pray with me? Holy and Gracious God, May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts together be found acceptable in your sight. Our Rock and Our Redeemer. Amen.
This week our water theme continues. Last week we heard together the story of Jesus´ baptism in the River Jordan. We heard about how water was used as a cleansing symbol, marking membership in this new community of hope and justice that would work to bring about God´s realm on earth. We heard about how special and set apart this moment was for Jesus and for all those who gathered. It was indeed the beginning of Jesus´ public ministry. And now today we are presented with Jesus´ first miracle. Water would again play an important role in this public act. Jesus, his mother, and the disciples are at a wedding. At this time weddings were knowing to be major drinking parties. In fact we gain some insight into this later on in our text when the master of the banquet says that usually you put the cheap wine out at the end when no one knows what they’re drinking. The fact that people would not be aware what they were drinking by the end of the night goes to show you that these were indeed quite the celebrations and wine was, in this time and place, the drink of choice.
The wedding that Jesus is at is not one of an A-lister couple. In fact Jesus accepts an invitation to the wedding of an impoverished couple from a poor village called Cana. Had Jesus not been there this couple would have started their marriage badly because it was shameful beyond shameful to invite people to a wedding and then to not supply them with enough good wine. It was even worse when you would run out altogether mid way through. Had Jesus not been there this couple would have been the talk of the town for throwing a substandard party without enough wine. Transforming the water into abundant wine was not just something Jesus did to help keep the party going on into the night. Because he could have shown up at any party offering wine. Instead he chose to go to the wedding of a poor couple where he would provide them with the finest. During the time of Jesus life people who would go to weddings and parties would be served the wine that corresponded with their social class. So if there were people from different social classes at the same party those who were on the top would be served the grand reserve and those on the bottom would have to stand in line for the wine mixed with vinegar and water. In doing what Jesus did he was essentially showing everyone that the wine he serves is for everyone. And not only is it the finest quality there is an abundance of it. We are told he filled six stone water jars. Scholars estimate that each one probably held around 27 gallons so we are talking about 162 gallons in total of the finest wine to be served to those who were used being fed vinegar water by the wider world.
This is quite the miracle to be ones first. I wonder what it says about Jesus that his first act was at a party. That is first act was in community. That is first act was in providing people libations in the name of celebration. Jesus is here trying to reach the people where they are. He didn’t show them the glory of God in the temple but rather out in the world, in the parties and festivals, in the personal homes and in the daily lives of the people. Jesus was performing acts of amazement and glory out in the world where he believed God dwelled. Not just inside the stuffy old temple with the priests.
Jesus is making a clear statement that God´s world is for everyone. That the reign of God is one where everyone has enough and no one is deprived or made to feel less than or ridiculed for not being able to provide enough for their guests. Jesus demonstrates here that all he expects if that you show up to the party thirsty to experience the joy of life. This text is less about wine and more about the fact that when we feel like there is not enough, when we feel like there is scarcity, when we feel like we cannot offer enough, when we feel we don´t deserve it, Jesus shows up and fills our vessels to the brim with the finest and most exquisite substances. Jesus and his disciples crashed a wedding party in the way that we must allow him to crash the party of our lives and fill us up with hope in our most desperate and difficult times.
When I saw that this text was the assigned scripture reading for today I was happy because it reminded me of our communion episode a couple of weeks ago. If you were here that day I am sure you remember our tortilla communion. Now I can understand that if you’re used to a certain thing, a change can be hard. But I was actually so glad this happened because it taught us that even when things don’t go as planned. Even when we here run out of wine, or in this case, bread. Our vessels are still filled to the brim. Communion still happens. And it happens with even more authenticity because we were forced to realize that communion in our theological understand is not at all about the substances used. We could have used tortilla chips and it still would have been theologically sound. In our tradition we don’t give any weight to the substances themselves. Rather it is the symbolic act, done in community with one another. The important act is that we are remembering. That we are mindful. That we brought together and knit together by the one who calls us to be church.
Sometimes even when we throw the most planned out parties something goes awry. It is important to always give ourselves grace. To always know that even if on occasion we miss the snacks at coffee hour, or for some reason the flowers don’t make it up to the altar, while we always seek to do our best and get our i´s dotted and t´s crossed, it is not those things that make up the substance of our church life together. Jesus will show up even if you didn’t bring cookies, and God will still be fully present even the communion bread didn’t totally materialize. Grace is a part of our faith. The name of our meeting room is the Cana Room. Named after this very miracle of Jesus filling up the containers with wine at the wedding. This ought to always remind us that we ought to live in an attitude and framework of abundance. Confident that we will always be ok. That Jesus will fill us up. And that God will always show up and be present with us even when we least expect it.
May it be so.