Archive for January 12th, 2010

One of Those Weeks

This is going to be one of those weeks.  One of those weeks when being a pastor while being a mommy doesn’t mesh too well.  My son is home sick this week and I am hoping the lure of Curious George, Sesame Street, and whatever else PBS has to offer is strong enough to keep him interested while I get some work done.

A pastor friend invited me to preach on the Isaiah text this week so we could collaborate.  I was really tempted to do this.  But because I preached on Isaiah last week, I felt like I needed something new for this week.  I needed something new not only to keep my congregation interested, but also for the sake of my own inspiration and creativity.  I can’t do the same kind of scripture text for too long before it starts to feel tired and overdone.  So I try to vary it up.

This week, then, I am fairly certain of my decision to focus on the text from John where Jesus turns the water to wine at the wedding in Cana. (See footnote for link to John 2:1-11)[1] I use the words “fairly certain” because with the way this week is already going I want to give myself some freedom to change my mind.

I like the story of this text.  Jesus and his disciples are at a wedding, everyone’s enjoying the party, and then the wine starts to run out.  Total social disaster!  The bride and groom will be embarrassed by their inability to provide for their guests.  Jesus’ mother (who was also at the party) recognizes the dilemma and not so subtly suggests to Jesus that he do something about it.  Jesus is reluctant at first, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me?”  But then he decides to come to the rescue by turning 120 – 180 gallons of water into wine….really good wine, nonetheless.  So the party rocks on.

Lot’s of people have trouble with this story.  Some don’t like how Jesus comes off as this “magician-type” who saves the day with his miracles.  Others don’t like all the alcohol flowing through this text so they make up stuff like Jesus’ wine wasn’t really wine…it was a “new wine” that was more of a purified, non-alcoholic kind of beverage.  Others just don’t see any theological significance in beginning Jesus’ ministry with a story of how he saves the party.

So where’s my angle here? What is so important about this party and Jesus’ participation during it?  Is there any theology here or did John just throw this story in for kicks?

My first thought on this sermon is to follow the question; doesn’t Jesus have better things to be doing than partying?  Shouldn’t Jesus be off healing people, or teaching people, or raising the dead, or something?  Something a little more serious?  But, then, who ever said Jesus couldn’t have any fun?  Who ever said Christians couldn’t celebrate?  And with good wine for that matter?

If I follow this theme I might use Dan’s recent posts on body vs. spirit and how historically we Christians have considered the body, or any feelings of pleasure….food, drink, sex…impure and unrighteous.  This makes me remember the movie, Babette’s Feast, where the Puritan villagers were so determined not to enjoy Babette’s delicious French dinner.  They would eat the food, but they would not enjoy it.  Of course, the food turned out to be too good not to enjoy.  The food turned out to be grace wrapped up in French cuisine.  It wore down all their inhibitions.  It opened them up.  It set them free.  And in the end they celebrated.  They communed.

With a message such as this there is always the fear of people taking it as a license to celebrate and enjoy excessively. Alcohol freely flowing turns into a fear of enabling alcoholism.  Too much partying turns into a fear of neglecting our responsibilities and serious Christian work.  Too much fun leads to us not taking anything seriously.  These are our fears with this text.  But does the text support such fears?  I mean isn’t Jesus excessive in the amount of wine he makes?  120-180 gallons!!  That certainly seems excessive to me!  Or perhaps the word I should use is extravagant. Jesus blesses the partygoers with an extravagant amount of wine.  This is another thread I could follow in my sermon.  How God gives to us extravagantly…and in abundance….and we are to celebrate it and recognize it.  But if I follow this train of thought then I most certainly have to address the issue of the poor, and those who have to make do on so little.  How has God blessed them extravagantly?  What miracle is Jesus working among them?

Well, I’m certainly feeling a little more lost this week in terms of my direction.  Looking ahead to a week with very little sermon prep time, I’m praying that clarity comes sooner rather than later.

May the words of my mouth, the meditations of my mind, and the feelings of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.  Amen.

[1] http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=130312375

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