Monday, January 21, 2013

You Are Cordially Invited

John 2: 1-12
Wedding disasters!  I’m sure that you have witnessed at least one in your lifetime.  The bride slips on the runner walking down the aisle and lands on her bottom, the maid of honor becomes so inebriated at the reception that she weeps uncontrollably at the mic when she gives her toast to the bride and groom, or maybe the baker forgets to put the antique cake topper on the wedding cake that had been on the bride’s mother’s cake forty years prior, or the top tier gets dropped.  These disasters remain etched in your mind like an engraved silver frame.
Cake Topper*
The very first wedding that I performed began two hours late because the bride was taking her good old time getting ready at home.  And the groom had had immigration issues one week before the wedding, and so the entire wedding ended up without an actual change in martial status for the couple, but because she had her Vera Wang dress, and people were coming from out of the country so they wanted to go through the motions.  Oh yes, I’ve learned a lot since then and have tightened up on my instructions to the wedding party considerably.  PS: this couple did come back in a private ceremony about a year later when all of the paperwork had gone through and were, at that point, actually married.     

But none of these wedding disasters can compare with the one that happened that day in the sleepy little town of Cana in the northern Galil where the sunflowers bend over from the heat of the sun.  Imagine being invited to a wedding and you mosey up to the bar keep only to find out that he has run out of your favorite whistle whetter!  Oh the miscalculation of libations on the part of the host was grave calling for a miracle of epic proportions.
Sada Watanabe, The Wedding at Cana
Let us listen once again to the beloved story of the wedding at Cana, where Jesus’ first public miracle was performed as recorded only in the Gospel of John.

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 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.’

Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples; and they remained there for a few days.

Running out of wine was a very large error on the part of the host; he should have known better to stock up. You see hospitality was a very large part of the first century culture and weddings in that time and place lasted for at least a week where the merrymaking traveled from house to house and the food and the drink was abundant.  And we fret over a three-hour reception!  He really should have been prepared.  But he wasn’t.  Lucky for the host, or maybe as ‘providence’ would have it, Jesus, Mary and the disciples were among the invited guests.

When the vats of wine had been emptied and the guests got wind of this disastrous news Mary calls Jesus over.  ‘Psst, Jesus. Do something!’  Now their interaction was not so warm and fuzzy as you recall, it was not a ‘love your neighbor’ moment, yet Jesus obeys his mother and performs a miracle.  He takes six large jars that would have been used in a ritual of purification, fills them with water and tells the steward to pour out a glass. 

And when he did it poured out like rich, full bodied, aged to perfection wine.  Somehow, by the command or deep thought of Jesus, the water was changed into wine and even better wine than what was had before.  And with this miracle his power and compassion were revealed.  

He took the reception up to a different level!  But that’s what Jesus does, he kicks it up a notch so that water becomes wine, so that your life can be top shelf, haute couture, the best that you can possibly be.

Miracles are not occurrences that can be explained away.  They are only to be witnessed in awe and wonder and to bring you ever more closer to the God of power and love.  Jesus cordially invites us into his power of transformative love wherein the ordinary becomes extraordinary because you have a new lens in which to live your life.

Sometimes all you need is a fresh and innovative lens in which to view the world.  The old lens gets foggy or scratched and while you can still see out of it your vision becomes distorted; you just can’t see as well as you once did. When that happens you are in need of a Cana miracle. Cana miracles happen all of the time.  You just have to be open to the possibilities before you.

In the next few months we will be looking at things together as a gathered congregation.  We will look through the old lenses and try on some new ones to see what might give you clearer vision.  I understand that there are some deep issues that you would like to address during this interim time and we will.   

We will carefully, and prayerfully consider all aspects of these issues and make decisions that are in harmony with the vision and mission of Orange Congregational Church.  We will build consensus.  After all, your theme, as written in your worship bulletin reads, “Together, striving to know the will of God and to walk the way of Christ.”  Emphasis on the ‘together’ part.     

Let us, together, see what abundance lies hidden within your sacred walls and age old traditions.  Who do you want to be six months from now? Six years from now?  Who do you want to be in all areas: spiritually, missionally, worshipfully, and financially?  What do you perceive as water, that with a Cana miracle, could be transformed into wine? These are the deep questions that we will explore and you will be pleasantly surprised where you will end up. This is the work of discernment.

It’ll take some time to work through it all, remember we are not the miracle-worker, only Jesus is that!

Jesus was and still is today all about transformation.  His miracles, his healings, his death and resurrection speak of making the old, new; the dull, shiny; the sick, healthy; and lavish life from fallow fields.  When Mary pushed Jesus that day at the reception to reveal his gift she unleashed his power of transformation for us all to drink up.   

Let him transform your life from water to wine.  Allow him to work miracles in your midst where all might be fed and given fine wine to drink.  

*This cake topper was used on the wedding cake of my mother and father, Richard and Loretta Warner c. 1938.  It was to be on top of my wedding cake in 1976 however the baker indeed DID forget to put it on.  Since then the ceramic bride and groom have stood on top of the wedding cake for my daughter, Christine and her husband Nick in 2009, and most recently at the wedding of my son John and Danielle Wagner last November 2012.  The veil on the bride was replaced in 2009 with tooling from my wedding veil.  Mazel Tov!

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