The sermon for week January 17, 2016
ExtravaganceI Corinthians 12:1-11
As a writer, John uses symbolism throughout his writings.
To really catch what John is telling us about Jesus, it is most helpful to pay attention to how john tells the story. In 2:1, he begins, “On the third day…” 2:1 Why would John mention the timing of the day when it has nothing to do with the story.
John is not a high school student challenged to write a 500 word essay and when he finishes the assignment finds he only has 300 words so he creates filler to meet the 500 requirement. John is very careful with his choice of words. “On the third day…” is not filler. You see in scripture, the number three signifies perfection, or completeness. It is another way of saying, “In the fullness of time, or when the time was right.” John is trying to get our attention. Essentially he is saying that what follows can be trusted.
What John is revealing to us, is that the time has come that we, or most certainly the faithful in that time, have been waiting for. The new era is upon us. We are now entering the time where the land flows with milk and honey. There will be no shortage of wine or olive oil. Everyone will eat there fill and no one will go hungry.
This era will be known for its abundance, for our God is a God of abundance. To reveal this, John tells a story of a wedding, and at that wedding we encounter Jesus for the first time in John, performing a miracle. In this story, as a reader we now are given the opportunity to see that there is something special about Jesus. Even more than that, John is trying to get us so see that we are living in a new era. The old has passed away and the time that we have been waiting for has now arrived.
John leads us into this new era by telling a story of wine running out and then Jesus turning water into wine. John tells us that there were 6 stone jars standing there for use as part of the purification ritual. Each one holds 20-30 gallons of water. As the story unfolds, the water in these jars is what is turned into the finest of wines. That means that somewhere between 120 and 180 gallons of wine was produced for use for the celebration.
….Picture what 120-180 gallons looks like. For a comparison, I brought a 5 gallon water jug. It would take 24 water jugs to hold 120 gallons. For 180 gallons, I would need 36 water jugs, or 75 cases of wine bottles. 75 cases of wine is far more wine than a small town of Cana could consume. The point here is that John is indicating that we are now in a new time, a new era, where it is now being revealed that our God is a God of abundance. With this God, there is no such thing as limited resources.
Not only are these resources abundant, but what we thought was ordinary (water), God has made extraordinary (such as wine.)
It is no fluke that 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 is read in the lectionary on the same day as this reading from John. In I Corinthians we read of the variety and abundance of gifts that we have been given. As Luke and I were reflecting on this text, as we reflected on what is means to be gifted with talents, we began to see ourselves in this story…
In many ways, I have seen my life as being much like water, pretty ordinary. I assume that many of us here today tend to see our lives as pretty ordinary. Take note, in this story from John, we learn that the ordinary is not so ordinary. It is extra ordinary, like the finest of wines. While I was in seminary learning how to be a minister, a mentor one time turned to me and said, someday you will be a conference minister. I could not imagine what he saw in me. I was just trying to figure out how to be a minister of a local church. I had no thought of serving the church in a different way. I am pretty ordinary, like water. Some twenty years or so passed, and while I was doing some volunteer work for the conference, a conference minister pulled me aside and said that I should consider doing conference ministry. He continued to push me in that direction. I all but assented, but said there is one church that I would consider serving if called….Sylvania UCC.
This was about six (6) years ago. Two (2) years later, while attending a meeting in Cleveland I run into a member of Sylvania who tells me that they are currently searching for a minister and he asked me to put my name in the hat. He had no way of knowing that I had named Sylvania for ministry. How could this be? There is nothing ordinary about this. God clearly sees something in me that I tend not to see. To name it and then be called there is not something that I ever dreamed would happen. But of course I never imagined that water could be turned into wine either.
What I have learned, in my story is that I am far more than ordinary. I have also learned that you too are far more than ordinary.
You too are more than plain water, you are fine wine. You have many talents and gifts that have been given to you for the sake of building the beloved community.