Monday, January 18, 2010

Miracles of abundance reveal the glory of God

Epiphany 2-C
January 17, 2010
1 Corinthians 12:1-11; Psalm 36:5-10
John 2:1-11

How can we look at what is going on in Haiti and think, there is enough to go around. How can we look at what is going on in Haiti and even imagine a world of abundance and grace?

We have been frightened, indeed, by the images of the devastation in Haiti, pictures of people with none of the basics of life: food, shelter, water. News reports do show increased looting going on in Port au Prince, a notoriously violent and crime-ridden city, but there are other things as well[i]. People are sharing. They are compassionate. What little anyone has is willingly given to someone who has nothing. People huddling together in make-shift camps in streets and parks spend their dark nights singing. Things are horrendous, in Haiti; no doubt about it. Horrendous. But there is also hope.

What a curious gospel lesson to read today, after this week of unimaginable pain and destruction. But this story of the wedding feast at Cana is also a story that begins with loss and fear. The wedding planners have run out of supplies. There is no more wine, and wine is essential to the blessing in a Jewish wedding ceremony. Without wine there can be no blessing; without a blessing, there can be no marriage. This is a story that symbolizes the difference between “conventional wisdom” and God’s wisdom about abundance and scarcity. When the world says, there is not enough to go around, God says, Let’s have a party.

Today’s party is a wedding feast. In the Hebrew prophetic tradition, weddings symbolize the time of fulfillment when “God redeems the nation and restores its dignity and honor before the other nations. Likewise, wine in prophetic tradition symbolizes the joy that accompanies” that reconciliation.[ii] In short, God really wants to hook up. It’s the ideal relationship: mutual, joyful, protective. Let’s celebrate it with a party, a party where there is plenty of food to eat and fabulous wine to drink. When God throws a party, there is always enough to go around.

Here we are at Cana, and dreadfully, there appears to be a shortage of wine. Mary and Jesus are there, and Mary says, “They have no wine.”

Mary knows quite a lot about her son. When she tells Jesus, “They have no wine,” she seems to be saying, “Get on with it. Fulfill your destiny.” “She’s been waiting these 30 years treasuring in her heart the hopes and fears of all the years that met in her infant one starry night,”[iii] treasures brought by exotic and powerful wise men who knelt to adore him. “They have no wine, Jesus. I heard all those things about you when you were an infant, ‘a light to enlighten the Gentiles,’ ‘cast down the mighty from their thrones and exalt the humble and meek.’ They have no wine, Jesus. Get on with it.”

That’s Mary, the revolutionary mother, who heard the Good News long ago, and is yearning for Jesus to fulfill it. My friend, Grant Gallup, wrote this from Nicaragua: “[Mary] urges her son to take part in the revolution. She wants him to get on with his commitment to change the water of the world of want into the wine of the revolution of abundance for all. [The world’s] anti-gospel is that there isn’t enough to go around,” but Mary knows better. This is God’s party now. “Jesus, they have no wine.”

And then they had better wine than they could ever imagine – so good that even the drunks could tell the difference -- and there was more than enough to go around.

What does it mean to hear such extravagant promises in a time of such extraordinary loss and destruction and grief? The people of Haiti, and we who care about them, are facing enormous obstacles before their shattered society can be rebuilt.

Where is God?

Right where God has always been: in the midst of those poor neighborhoods, standing with people in their suffering, giving them dignity and hope that it does not always have to be that way. God’s hope for abundant life starts with people like us: people in Haiti who share what they have, who risk their own lives to save others, people for whom the most profound courage is found in just waking up this morning and greeting the enormous tasks that have to be done this day.

Faced with such loss, who can be ready for such tasks?

Jesus, at the wedding in Cana, was not ready. “It’s not my time yet,” he told his mother. Faced with loss and fear around him, he hesitated, but then spurred on by his mother, he acted. All of a sudden, there was enough to go around. “Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.”

Even in the face what seems like unimaginable loss, we can believe in it, too.

[ii] New Proclamation, Year C 2000-2001, commentary on Epiphany by Renita J. Weems, p. 92.
[iii] Ibid.