January 16th, 2022 – Pastor Elizabeth

2 Epiphany Year C / January 16, 2022 / St. Paul’s Random Lake / John 2:1-11

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

With Us through the Changes

Let us pray Gracious Lord, when you changed water into wine at the wedding at Cana it was only a sign of the even more amazing changes that happen when you are a part of our lives and a foretaste of the abundant grace you have to offer us. For us, change often brings anxiety. Lord, ease our fears with the knowledge that you are with us through the changes and that you have power to bring something new and good out of change, like wine from water. AMEN.

Imagine the reaction of the chief steward of the wedding feast when he unexpectedly took a swig of the most delicious wine he had ever tasted. For a brief moment, he savored it; it was wonderful. Then it dawned on him. This just isn’t done1 This is unheard of!

There was a certain unspoken protocol about weddings and wine—first you serve the good stuff, then, when the guests have had a bit too much and are too tipsy to notice, then you bring in the cheap stuff! That’s the way it’s always been done! “We’ve never done it like that before.

CHANGE IS HARD.

Even when it’s intended to be change for the better often, we drag our feet. Look at how the world has gone crazy about Covid mask mandates and vaccine requirements. All good stuff to keep us healthy…but you see how well that’s gone…

We’d often rather stick to tried and true ways than take a risk that it won’t work or maybe it will work and we might need to adjust our lives to a new normal.

The church is especially noted for being resistant to change. I’m not sure what the reason for this is, maybe it’s just because the church as an institution has been around over 2000 years and is so steeped in tradition.

I had to chuckle at a t-shirt I saw once, on one side it said: “But we’ve always done it that way!” and on the back it quoted the hymn “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” : “Ponder anew, what the Almighty can do!”

It’s human nature to resist change. Any kind of change or difference can be scary. It’s probably true that even if Jesus himself came and changed water into wine before our eyes someone would find something to complain about. The standby reason is, but we’ve never done it that way before. We humans take comfort in the predictable. Difference can be threatening.

Change is part of living. Every time we celebrate a birthday or anniversary we are marking change and hopefully, growth. Like it or not, as we go through life we are constantly changing—changing schools, changing jobs (I just took a different hospice position), changing roles from child to parent and for some, from parent to parenting a parent, moving, retiring, all these changes may cause tension and stress. Then there the more frightening and permanent changes that come with illness or death. This past week, we lost three patients at my hospice agency, three people I’ve grown to know and love. But more and more I have learned over this year how these are natural changes we all must face.

This congregation has adjusted quite well to changes throughout this past year. Adjustments due to Covid 19, masking, not masking, distancing, not distancing, coffee hour, no coffee hour, singing, no singing, and so on,  but also, Pastor Marilyn’s second retirement which led to my taking on her contract. You even adjusted to going back to having a chili dinner rather than a spaghetti dinner!

There is an African folktale that shows what can happen when we don’t work together to meet the challenging changes ahead. A Nigerian tribal chief sent out an invitation to a great feast. All the food would be provided, but each family must bring a full jug of plum wine.

One man wanted to go to the feast, but he didn’t want to spend his money on wine if he could think of a way to go free. After thinking a while he came up with a plan: “I will carry water in my jug instead of wine. What will one jug matter among hundreds.”

On the day of the feast, the tribe all gathered at the sound of drumbeats. Each family group poured out their jugs into the pot with great flourish.

When all the guests arrived, the chief ordered everyone’s glasses filled with wine for the first toast. When the chief spoke, all raised their glasses and drank. Suddenly a cry arose from the crowd and they all drank again. What they tasted was not wine, but water. Each guest had decided on their own that one jug of water could not spoil the great pot.

When we trust in God to lead us and work together in the process, God can work wonders and miracles beyond our expectations like turning water into wine. We can live in dread of any change and not give ourselves to the task and refuse to trust God and end up with exactly what we put into it—a pailful of water when we could have has an abundance of the very best wine. So often, the gifts of God are there, but our human sinfulness gets in the way of them being savored and shared.

The miracle from today’s gospel is wondrous in itself—changing water into wine, but it was intended to point beyond itself to much more! For the Old Testament prophets wine was used as a symbol of the dawning of a new age, the kingdom of God was being ushered in and God’s favor was being poured out on God’s people. The prophets write that in the kingdom of God the mountains will drip with wine. The coming of Christ meant that the time was coming when God’s grace would spill over onto all people. The six jars filled to the brim with good wine were a sign that in Christ, God’s promises would be fulfilled. All who believe in him would be filled to the brim with God’s grace!

Whenever we gather at the Communion table even though the amount of wine is small, we are filled to the brim with God’s grace. God promises that Jesus is with us through life’s changes whatever they may be. This is the body of Christ given for you, the blood of Christ shed for you. God will be with St. Paul’s congregation through the changes we must face and God will be with each of you through the changes in your own lives pouring out the generous gift of God’s infinite and abundant love, light, forgiveness and grace. AMEN.

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