Sunday, January 14, 2007

My Latest Epiphany Sermon

“They have no wine” exclaimed the mother of Jesus. The jars were empty. The jars that were moments ago full are now barely wet from what once satisfied the dry mouths of many. The celebration that was carrying on in honor of the newly married couple is beginning to die down as their mouths crave the sweet taste of wine. What will they do now? Should the celebration just end and everyone go home to where there may be something to quench their thirst? Should they continue on dancing and put their dry mouths out of their minds? What will become of the celebration that had barely just begun?

Just as the party was at risk for dying down completely, Jesus calmly, seemingly unnoticed, gave directions to fill the jars with water and suddenly, out came wine. The first person to taste it, who mistakingly gave credit to the bridegroom whose wedding was being celebrated, exclaimed, “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.”

The emptiness that was ready to overtake the party was now filled with the greatest source of joy and fulfillment. The mouths that were once dry were now wet. The bellies that were at risk for becoming empty were now filled to completeness. And the laughter and dancing that was at risk for disappearing was at its peak.

As I ponder the wedding at Cana and its significance to our lives, I find that it lies simply in the six stone jars the held the wine. These jars probably sat empty in a corner for an undesignated amount of time, gathering cobwebs and dust. They were unused, unnoticed, uncared for until someone needed them. They were empty, they were alone, they were forgotten.

How often have we felt like that? Those times in our lives where we merely go through the motions, trying to get through life as quickly as possible. Staring down a job that doesn’t have much significance to us, other than the fact it pays the bills, feeling like you are just another set of hands that gets the tedious work done. We may live alone, in an assisted living facility or an apartment down the street. We show up occasionally to a church event or go out to a meal or the movies with someone. Yet each day, we go home, to an empty room. At one point we loved the independence, but year after year the solidarity we craved brought with it a feeling of abandonment. No one really cares, no one seems to notice our existence. We feel empty and alone.

This empty void that can overtake us can feel unbearable. We try and find something, anything, that can bring us out of the darkness, out of that corner, and into the light. We fill ourselves with anything we can, just like the jars that were filled at the beginning of the party with the cheap, store brand style wine. Our intention is to bring ourselves some hope, some excitement, anything to get us out and moving. We search for anything that can help. We shop for things at the store that may bring some light, filling that void with material possessions. We hold parties at our homes in order to be social again. We drown our sorrows through alcohol or relationships with someone we don’t really care about, just to have the companionship. We try and try and try to bring ourselves out of the despair, only to find the wine wasn’t that good anyways and that we are standing there, empty again.

Just when everything seemed hopeless, the jars are empty and almost ignored, Christ fills them. He fills them not only with wine but the best of wine. To the surprise of all, suddenly these jars that were once alone in a corner, gathering dust, are now holding the best gift possible to keep the celebration going. The credit for this great gift is mistakingly given to the bridegroom, yet came from the most unexpected person, that of Jesus.

This story captures the great gift that Jesus has come to offer. That emptiness that overtook the jars now disappeared and they were overflowing with the greatest of wines. The emptiness that filled the world would no longer rule as Jesus brought it hope, love, and grace. That emptiness that can at times consume our lives is not ignored by the one who came with a superabundance of gifts. Christ has come to fill us with his grace.

Jesus has given to us the good wine. The best wine. The wine that inaugurates God’s new age, where we have the hope of eternal life, and love that has no end. This simple act that Jesus performed at the wedding holds with it a sign that points directly to Jesus’ glory. He would, a short time from the wedding, sacrifice his life for our sake.

We live lives that are so fast paced, that it is so easy to be overcome with emptiness and despair. Although the good wine has already been given and we have the gift of grace through Jesus Christ, this knowledge can easily be left in the dark corners of our lives. Time and time again, we can get consumed by the little things in our lives that eventually become too much to handle. We feel empty, alone, and forgotten. The troubles of this world encompass our every movement, our every thought, our every prayer. Although we know there is a God, we feel abandoned.

And yet the good wine has been given. God’s glory has been manifested through Jesus Christ, and grace has been offered. We are not alone even when it seems we are. We are loved even when it seems impossible. We are filled with the Holy Spirit even when our hearts and minds feel empty.

We witness these great provisions each week in worship. In our baptisms, we became members of Christ’s body, as we witness this weekend in the baptism of Aiden. We become a part of a community that is there to support us, to love us, and to demonstrate God’s grace. During those Sundays when we receive Holy Communion, we eat the Body of Christ and drink the good wine of Christ’s blood. We have fellowship with the community of the Body of Christ who witness to us that we are not abandoned and the love of Christ surrounds us. The fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ extend even beyond the sacraments and into the singing of the hymns, the prayers we offer up for one another, the sharing of the peace, and the coffee we drink together afterwards.

We worship together and have fellowship with one another on retreats, in planning meetings, in Sunday school, in Bible study. Through stitch and sew, in making quilts for those who need, each stitch brings with it love and prayers for the unknown person the quilt will go to. Through that blanket which is meant to provide physical comfort, it comforts the heart as well. The good wine is given by filling that person with hope and love, letting them know they are not forgotten. We also have fellowship with one another by visiting those who are unable to attend church anymore on Sundays. We demonstrate to them that Christ has not abandoned them. God’s love is still extended, and they can have fellowship with the Body of Christ.

We, as a community, share the news of the good wine with each other. Jesus Christ offers us a body that helps us to know that we are not left in the dark corners. We are loved beyond measure and together we can help each other move beyond the feelings of abandonment, fear, and loneliness, and into a fellowship among our brothers and sisters. This is a part of the grace God gives us. It is a gift. It is the good wine that is overflowing through us. We are loved, we are forgiven, and we are given each other. Amen.

6 comments:

Debby Cushing said...

Your sermon and it's message are awesome. Thank you so much for sharing them, and for blessing us all once again.

Sue said...

Debby is right; your sermons are awesome and if I lived close I would become a Lutheran just to hear them. Instead I will retain my Catholic faith and be grateful to read them. You are truly blessed by God's touch! Hope you have a great vacation with that nephew!

Anonymous said...

Hi there,
This is a great site, very inspirational!

I read on Asher’s page that you have the sites bookmarked so you didn’t always notice if they weren’t working, so I thought I’d let you know of few problems I have found with the links in case you hadn’t caught them

No longer working
Rawlinsfamily, TristanWilliam, SarahHarris, Shubley, Sophia, Rachel, AllieClaycomb, clk, Jameson, Jailyn

Angels
ZacharyGerman, Adrianne, Kyle

Other
Katelyn is listed twice
Madison is listed twice
Kelly and kellymuldoon are the same
Karen – links to Jaydens’s website

Anonymous said...

I know a little one in need of prayers.
caringbridge/oh/francescafrisone

Faith said...

Hi Laura,
Just want you to know that the link for Lizzie is
http://www.caringbridge.org/ne/lizziegirl
The link on the page only has lizzie.
Thanks!
Faith

Pamela Earley said...

A stalker here coming out to ask you to add the following to your list of kiddos:

http://tonyc.com/blogs/matthew/

Matthew is 2 1/2 and was just diagnosed with a malignant tumor on his kidney. While this is Matthew's first journey in the cancer world, it is not the family's first journey. Several years ago, Matthew's young cousin Aly died at the age of 3 from a different form of cancer. Please post and pray.

thanks.