Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Monday, January 17, 2022

YEAR C 2022 epiphany 2

Epiphany 2, 2022
Isaiah 62:1-5
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
John 2:1-11
Psalm 36:5-10

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

I want to start with the Epistle reading this morning.  In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, we get that curious line, “You know that when you were pagans . . .”  My Lutheran clergy friends and I had quite a laugh over that line in our text study group, since Paul clearly did not know about Episcopalians.  What with our labyrinths and boar’s head festivals and all.

But Paul goes on to say there are many varieties of gifts and abilities in the Church, but they are all activated by the same Spirit.  All these gifts and talents work together for the greater good, and they are activated by the same Spirit.  It’s almost like, these gifts and abilities are hidden or sleeping until the Spirit wakes them up—reveals them to be the gifts that they are.  

Now, I do wish that the list was a little more up to date, because the gifts Paul goes on to list are far removed from our common life in the church.  We don’t really talk much about the gifts of prophecy, and speaking in tongues, and discernment of spirits.  (And we tend to look askance at those who do!)  But in our modern context we could update the list and think of those who clean the church, and sing in the choir, and handle the business affairs, and deal with contractors.  We could think of parishioners who drive others to doctors’ appointments, and check in on the shut-ins, arrange flowers, read lessons and hold the chalice and ring the sanctus bells.

All these—and more—are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.  The gifts and talents are inside us, and are then activated by God to serve the common good of the Church and the world.

Now hold onto that thought as we move the lens to a wedding in a place called Cana.  You’ve heard this story many times in your life, I’m sure.  Jesus and his mother are at a wedding, they run out of wine, Jesus’ mother asks him to do something, he has the servants fill up the jars, the water becomes wine, and the wedding is saved.  And this story is so familiar to us that I think we miss all sorts of details when we hear it.  We’re just sort of like, oh yeah, the water into wine one, and then think back to some joke we once heard about Baptists wanting Jesus to change it back.

But when you read this passage carefully, there are all sorts of interesting things to notice.  For starters, the mother of Jesus does not get a name.  In fact, if the only gospels we had were Mark and John, we would never even know Mary’s name.  Which is . . . weird.  But once Jesus tells the servants to fill the jars with water, the whole scene becomes like an Oscar Wilde play.  Like a comedy of secrets.

The servants draw out some water, which has become wine.  (Notice we don’t hear the phrase, “Jesus turned the water into wine.”)  They take it to the steward as they are told, but they don’t tell the steward where it came from, and so he doesn’t know.  The steward assumes the bridegroom had been saving this 150 gallons of top-notch vintage to bring out in reverse order, after the guests are drunk.  And the bridegroom doesn’t say anything either, and let’s the steward think he’s crazy.

So, in this story, only the servants know the connection to the stone jars, but even they did not witness the miracle.  And nobody bothers to ask any questions or offer up what they know about it.  It’s like what they all really need is to bring in a private detective to piece it all together for them.  But they don’t, and so only we are left to see what really happened.  Like I want to tap the servants on the shoulder and say, “TELL THE STEWARD GUY ABOUT JESUS AND THE STONE JARS!”

Those stone jars, that’s what I really want to talk about this morning.  I’ve been thinking about the idea that we are like the stone jars in this story from Cana.  We live out our lives in the church, slowly being filled to the brim, just as Jesus tells the servants to do.  We don’t usually see a big change or miracle happening, and it’s likely no one else does either.  Until . . . Jesus said to them, "Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.”

Can you see how the servants drawing out the water are acting in the same role as the Spirit I was talking about a few minutes ago?  The “activator” of gifts and talents and ministries?  We don’t see the change in ourselves.  And no one sees the change in the water in those stone jars.  But when the water is drawn out, when the gifts inside us are drawn out, then we see the miracle.  That’s when we see the amazing change that has taken place, because of Jesus.

We don’t cause the change in ourselves, just as the stone jars do not cause the change.  We just sit there, being filled up at the command of Jesus.  And when the Spirit of God draws out the gifts inside of us, that is when others can say, God has saved the best for last.

And that is another remarkable thing about this wedding at Cana.  Saving the best for last.  One would expect the bridegroom to be a cheapskate.  And maybe he was.  We would expect him to move from top shelf to bottom shelf over the course of the reception, since that’s what people have always done at weddings, and since no one would be any the wiser.

But here comes Jesus, standing everything on its head once again.  Here comes God’s overflowing and unmerited generosity, giving more than we could possibly ask or imagine.  And maybe we can take special note of that point now, as we have passed the two-year mark of this seemingly never-ending pandemic, in the midst of political turmoil and acrimony.

Just when everyone would be expecting an inferior-grade level of gifts from us.  Just when everyone would assume that we are too worn out and worn down from just trying to get by.  Just when the world would expect us to serve the worst wine . . .

Jesus looks at the gifts and talents and skills that have been slowly filling us up over the years and says, "Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.”  The Spirit activates those gifts and talents and offers them to the world.

This morning after the 10 o’clock service, we will gather for our 186th Annual Meeting.  We’ve been here a long time!  God has been drawing gifts out of this stone jar of a building for 186 years now, and there is no end in sight.  St. Timothy’s continues to be transformed and to transform the world around us, because God continues to fill us up and draw amazing gifts out of us.  St. Timothy’s is a blessing in this world, and will continue to be a blessing as we follow the One who makes all things new, the One who saves the best for last.


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