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The Second Sunday after Epiphany                                January 17, 2016

This Weekend's Readings (click each reading to view the passage)

Isaiah 62:1-5Psalm 36:5-101 Corinthians 12:1-11;  John 2:1-11

Pr. Christine's Sermon: The Sweetness of the LORD
Pr. Christine's Sermon: The Sweetness of the LORD

Children's Sermon: 120 Gallons of Milk
Children's Sermon: 120 Gallons of Milk

Piano Offertory: Once in Royal David's City

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Sermon Notes from Pastor Christine...

Any of you who have spent any time reading the Gospel of John know that everything John recounts has a curious and elusive quality that the other Gospels just don't contain.  Every gesture, every detail, every word suggests more than what appears on the surface. 
John's story of the wedding at Cana is no different.  It is imbued with layers of meaning, symbolism. and ritual. 
It is the 'third day' that the wedding takes place, most likely the 'third day' of that wedding is when Jesus changes the water into wine (weddings could be as long as six days back then and they'd been partying long enough to have gone through all the wine), so for John this, of course, foreshadows the 'third day' when Jesus will rise from the dead. 
And then there are the six stone jars.  God created the universe and all therein in six days.  So, John makes sure the we know from six jars of nothingness everything will rush forth. 
And who could miss the baptismal and Eucharistic symbolism?  Water.  Wine.  
And finally there are the cryptic words Jesus speaks to Mary, his mother, "My hour has not yet come."  We all know that in this party moment, in this party hour, Jesus does indeed fill the jars to overflow with wine, it is an hour of gladness.

But the hour for which He has come will not be one of gladness.  His mother - of course it is this way for John - was present for the first sign of Jesus' divinity and will be present for his last breath of humanity. 
These fantastical elements make John fun to study and explore, but really hard to believe.  Everything in John is over-the-top...
It's a wedding though.  Everything about weddings is always over-the-top.  I mean, have you been to one lately?  Let us not get lost in John's verbiage and forget that this is a party!  Everyone is laughing and dancing, drinking and feasting.

But somehow we've conjured up this image that Jesus is off sulking in the corner.  Isn't this how we always envision him?  Leaning up against the wall and watching from a distance.  And so when his mom taps him on his shoulder and tells him the booze is all gone, he replies with irritation, "What's that got to do with me?"
Yeah... great, the Lord of the universe is a real party pooper. 
But what if, and who knows if this is really the case, but it seems to fit much, much better in this story and in what we know of God...  What if Jesus isn't annoyed with his mother, but is teasing her.  What if he's had one too many and pokes back at her, "Oh yeah? What's that got to do with me?"  Wink.  Wink.
Mothers, they know their sons very well, so I'm certain Mary hardly gives his sarcasm a second thought, because she knows he's not interested in the party ending too soon either.  She knows his inclination to laugh, celebrate, and enjoy life to the fullest.   
Shaking her head in exasperation she says to the servants, "Just do whatever he tells you to do!"  And she wanders off to dance with Joseph, while Jesus continues to whoop and holler with Peter and James and John and all his other buds. 
There's nothing in the text today that doesn't support that alternative reading. 
Because what resonates most powerfully for me as I envision the scene that is laid before us is the simple feeling of joy.  It's utterly overflowing with joy.  It's even ridiculously wasteful, if we consider the extravagance, enormity, and quality of wine that Jesus produces.
Why?  That much isn't necessary. 
Perhaps Jesus' first miraculous sign is meant to show us something about who He is. He is one who enjoys life, appreciates the blessings of the world, and fully participates in every human joy.  And if Jesus is God, perhaps we can begin to truly believe that God delights in us, and walks with us not because it is burdensome to do so, but because it is joyful and energizing; He wants to dance the dance of life with us.
Unadulterated joy.  A wedding that almost flopped ended up being the best wedding ever. 
Now, here is the other thing about weddings.  There are also ALWAYS tears.  I mean really...have you ever been to a wedding where you didn't see a woman rummaging through her purse for a clean tissue, or the father-of-the-bride bite his bottom lip to keep it from quivering?  And often there's the quiet couple sitting in the back pew who no longer hold hands and tiny tears seep out the corners of their eyes.  And there's always the squalling baby. 
Yes.  There are always tears at weddings.  Sometimes they are good tears and sometimes they aren't. 
But that truth tells us a lot about what true joy is. 
Now, before I go on I feel like I should just say this one other thing about John and symbolism...  Just to make sure you don't think I'm making this abundant joy thing up.  Back then social customs dictated that if the supply of wine failed at a wedding social embarrassment wasn't all you would suffer.  Without wine, the bridegroom and his family could be held liable - LIABLE - for the lack of joy at the wedding.  The alcohol served a purpose... [as we all know].  So, hence, if Jesus is the betrothed bridegroom of the world then...  well, He'd better pony up. 
But really, back to joy...
Not long ago I heard someone liken joy to happiness as one and the same.  They are not.  Happiness is something I can make.  Happiness is something external.   Happiness is a feeling. 
Joy is none of these things.  Words to explain what joy really is are hard to come by, which I suppose is ultimately why a wedding and wine is as close as John could come to explaining it. 
True joy isn't dependent upon the presence of laughter, of wine, of smiles, or of good luck for it to exist.  Joy, specifically the Joy of Jesus is much different than this.  It's poured into us and keeps calling us to abundant life, even when the well seems dry.   

Whether Jesus magically filled those jars with wine isn't the point.  The point is that only because Jesus was there could true joy drip off everyone's tongue.

I probably can't do any better than John in explaining joy in the LORD, but I thought I'd give it a shot:
Lean in.  Peer over rim of the large stone jar.  It's filled, but not full.  Dry.  Over and over you've filled it with water and wine, with movies and popcorn, with roller coasters and fashionable purses, with glitz and glamour, with prestige and security.  And yet, no matter how much you put in it seems empty, hollow...
But hold on.  Try this... Press your ear to the rim.  Don't look down into the darkness; you'll interpret it as sadness.  Just listen.  Can you hear the soft, deep echo calling back to you from within the vessel?  Hear it ring your life back to you...  The depths murmur telling you they are not entirely dry.
Suddenly there is a sweetness on your tongue as a wellspring of tears rise in your heart in response to the murmur of the jar.
This is joy.  Joy is what is in the empty jar that you didn't put there...
But Jesus- Jesus is the one who used that which was empty as a blessing.
And pours in abundance from that which is filled.
Some call that a miracle.  Some call it a sign.  Some call it magic. 
I call it the sweetness of the joy of the LORD.  Amen.