Lectionary: Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 36:5-10; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; John 2:1-11
En el nombre del Dios: Padre, Hijo, y Espiritu Santo. Amen.
Our reading today from Isaiah has the prophet clarifying in no uncertain terms the identity and destiny of the people of God. Isaiah tells them how much God loves them and that God’s purpose for them will be fulfilled in and through them despite how impossible that seems in the difficult circumstances they are experiencing.
In this passage, love compels God to promise: ‘I will not keep silent or rest until you, my delight, my crown of beauty shine with the fiery glow of freedom. Your oneness with me will be so apparent that everyone will see it and you’ll have a new name, a new identity. You’ll become known as those in whom I delight.’
One of the blessings of our life together right now at the start of 2022, is that we too are being given a new identity which is grounded in our relationship with God, one another, and the neighbors among whom God has placed us. However we may have been known before, our new identity will be the result of what people see in us now. God’s promise as we proceed in this rebirth, is that we will become known as that church in whom God delights.
The gospel story picks up on this metaphor in the story of the wedding at Cana. Jesus is at an ordinary event: a village wedding, which becomes the setting for an extraordinary event: the first manifest sign of the intimate union of the human and the divine in Jesus and what that means for the world.
Mary, Jesus’ mother, notices that the wine has run out - something that would cause public shame for the host family. Mary was paying attention. She noticed what was happening around her and cared about how it would affect her neighbors. In order to protect their dignity (remembering here our own Baptismal vow to respect the dignity of every human being), Mary intervened risking her own moment of public humiliation as a woman.
Undaunted and unashamed, Mary tells the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Obeying his mother, Jesus tells the servants to fill the water jars with water, then bring a taste of it to the master of the feast, who was kind of like Downton Abbey’s Mr. Carson at the party. To everyone’s surprise, the water had been turned into wine. But more than that, this wine was of the finest quality and it was in ridiculous abundance which is how the generous love of God works. Importantly, this new relationship of divine-human union demonstrates how the love of God is manifested in the world through human hands, first in Jesus, and now in us.
The story of the wedding at Cana seems at first like a simple event. There’s a wedding, the wine runs out, Jesus is there, so he makes more miraculously - but it is so much more than that. This story marks the beginning of the revelation of Jesus as the Messiah of God. Jesus shows himself to be the “firstborn” – the first fruit of this real and intimate union of the divine and human.
It’s also the beginning of the revelation of how God in Christ does things and how that will transform the world. Stepping down from his lofty position of male privilege, Jesus humbly and publicly obeys his mother which not only bends cultural norms, but also reveals how we, the next-born of this real and intimate union of the divine and human, can transform the world.
There are people right now in our neighborhoods who “have no wine” - students, the working poor, the unhoused, to name just a few. This is why we too can’t keep silent; why we can’t rest.
As we celebrate Martin Luther King Day tomorrow, it’s important for us to say out loud, in here, that racism is real, it violates our Baptismal vows to seek and serve Christ in all persons and to respect the dignity of every human being, and it is a cancer in our culture. Therefore, I want to thank our intrepid members who do not keep silent or rest but hold a vigil every Friday night proclaiming that “Black Lives Matter.”
It’s also important to celebrate the Food Ministry at Emmanuel that gives generously, and with all the abundance we have, to anyone who is in need. It may be called a food ministry but it is so much more than that, because our ministers give out food, friendship, emergency assistance, and most of all – dignity, as they faithfully serve our neighbors who “have no wine.”
We have been chosen by God and gifted by the Holy Spirit for a purpose. We are a crown of beauty, a royal diadem in the hand of God, and our hour has come.
My prayer is that we allow the fullness of God’s love which dwells in us to radiate with the brightness of Christ’s glory as we serve in his holy name. I pray we recognize, nurture, and use our many gifts because so many of our sisters and brothers out there have no wine.
Our first steps will become clearer following our vestry retreat in which your elected servant-leaders, followed by the parish as a whole, will discern our spiritual gifts. Then we will prayerfully discern God’s purpose for gathering these particular people bearing these particular gifts at this particular time into the Emmanuel community – knowing it is, as St. Paul says, for the common good.
We know that by taking these steps for the welfare of those who “have no wine,” we will like Mary did, put ourselves at risk of public shame. Dr. King was no stranger to that either. Did you know that following his “I Have a Dream” speech, the FBI sent the president a 64-page memo which contained the following?
“In the light of King’s powerful demagogic speech yesterday he stands heads and shoulders over all other Negro leaders put together when it comes to influencing great masses of Negros. We must mark him now, if we have not done so before, as the most dangerous Negro of the future in this nation from the standpoint of communism, the Negro, and national security.” Source: “Broken, The Troubled Past and Uncertain Future of the FBI” by Richard Gid Powers, (Free Press, NY, 2004), 251.
The powers of the world look at the voices of love with suspicious, fearful eyes, knowing those voices can influence people to transform the world.
As the days of Lent went on, I was intentional not just about smiling, but about finding the person whose face was screwed up into a scowl, or who had the saddest or weariest expression, and smile at them.
I still was often met with suspicion, but every once in a while, someone smiled back at me and a connection was made. As fleeting as that moment may have been, there was an eternal connection made: human to human, wrapped up together in a moment of divine love.
What happened as a result of those connections is staircase stuff – God’s domain. Being true to the steps God was asking me to take was my domain.
We who are followers of Jesus are the next-born of the divine-human union begun in him, and we shine with the radiance of his glory so that the whole world may know the steadfast, caring, intimate love of God for all creation. I can testify that this radiance is a gift in abundance here at Emmanuel and our hour has come.
Our union with God compels us to make connections: human to human, wrapped up in divine love. It is our identity… our destiny. God bless us as we obey and take our next steps together. Amen.