Filled to the Brim, 01/20/2019 Sermon (Certified Lay Servant, Lucina Hallagan)

Living Christ, Shepherd of our lives, enfold me in your spirit, speak through my voice, touch through my hands.  Give me your listening heart, the power of your silences, the compassion of your words.  Let me be transformed and guided by you, even as I am helping to guide others.

This mornings Gospel reading is from the Gospel of John 2:1-11

It is the familiar story of the wedding at Cana … Jesus first miracle … turning water into wine.

I feel that it is important when studying scripture to look at any given scripture in it’s context – to see how it fits into the whole of the story being told in the bible.  In this case the Gospel of John stands apart from the other three, or synoptic gospels.  It does not begin with the birth narrative or even the ministry of John the Baptist – instead it takes us back to creation.

John 1:1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The Word was with God in the beginning.

Everything came into being through the Word, and without the Word nothing came into being.

What came into being through the Word was life, and the life was the light for all people.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light.

We heard echoes of this Word Light in the Psalm reading:

You have the fountain of life that quenches our thirst.
    Your light has opened our eyes and awakened our souls.

10 May Your love continue to grow deeply in the lives of all who know You.
    May Your salvation reach every heart committed to do right.

The gospel continues to tell us how John the Baptist will be a witness to the Light and how the Light will shower us with grace upon grace … how grace and truth come through Jesus Christ … and how Jesus will make God known to us.

Chapter 1 continues then with the story of Jesus’ baptism and John the Baptist’s testimony.  John tells of seeing the Spirit come down from heaven like a dove, and resting on Jesus.  John then testifies that Jesus is the son of God. 

The Gospel then tells us that Jesus begins calling his disciples.  No mention of the wilderness experience or the temptations.  We are told how he calls Simon Peter, Andrew and another disciple (un-named) who were all disciples of John the Baptist to begin with.  This is day 1 in this narrative.

The next day – or day 2 we are told of Jesus wanting to go to Galilee and calling Philip and Nathaniel.  We aren’t told about the remaining disciples and so we really don’t know exactly how many are with Jesus as we turn to our gospel reading for this morning … but there are at least 5 and perhaps more.  The Gospel of John focuses on establishing Jesus as God … of convincing us that Jesus is the Son of God so that we might believe.  The word “believe” is used over 100 times in this Gospel.  So with this image in mind … Jesus is the Word of creation and that everything comes through him, that Word is Life itself, and that Life is the Light for all people … always and forever.  Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit at his baptism and began calling disciples … to teach them and show them the path, so that they might teach others … but they need to “believe” and be filled to the brim with his Love Light …

Day 1 – he is baptized and begins to call disciples

Day 2 – he continues to call disciples …

John 2:1-11  On the third day …

John 2:1-11 Common English Bible (CEB)

Wedding at Cana

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They don’t have any wine.”

Jesus replied, “Woman, what does that have to do with me? My time hasn’t come yet.”

His mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Nearby were six stone water jars used for the Jewish cleansing ritual, each able to hold about twenty or thirty gallons.

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water,” and they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some from them and take it to the headwaiter,” and they did. The headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine. He didn’t know where it came from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.

The headwaiter called the groom 10 and said, “Everyone serves the good wine first. They bring out the second-rate wine only when the guests are drinking freely. You kept the good wine until now.” 11 This was the first miraculous sign that Jesus did in Cana of Galilee. He revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him.

When I begin preparing to give a message one thing I do is to begin asking questions.  I like to work with the passage and then start brainstorming questions.  Some of my questions for this passage are:

Why does Jesus’ mother, Mary, care if the wine runs out?

Why did she tell Jesus?

What did she expect him to do?

How much wine was it?

Why did the servants listen to her … and do what Jesus’ said?

Why didn’t the servants tell everyone what had happened?

Why did Jesus use the stone water jars … used for cleansing?  Why not drinking water vessels?

Why did they fill the jars to the very brim?

Why doesn’t the head waiter ask the servant where the wine came from?

Why didn’t all eyes turn to Jesus?

As I sat with these questions thoughts of abundance and grace upon grace kept coming to the surface.  In John 1:16 we are told “from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace”

I ponder the relationship that Jesus had with his mother.  She is never called by name in the Gospel of John and she only appears in this story and then at the foot of the cross at his crucifixion.  But she is here and she only needs to say a word to Jesus … even his mild rebuke doesn’t daunt her.  Like all good mothers we know what’s best … don’t we.  We don’t even need to say it explicitly … like when we walk into a child’s room and say “what a mess this is”  or “look at your hands” just before sitting down to dinner.  Most children know exactly what those comments mean … clean your room and wash your hands.

So that makes me wonder what life with Jesus was like … what glimpses had she seen … what faith she had that somehow he would fix this thing.  For all we know, she may have expected him to send the servants to the local market to purchase more wine … I don’t know … perhaps she was also one whose eyes were opened that day … to bring the story full circle.  To witness the abundant, extravagant grace that Jesus bestows … because his mother desires it.

And it was an over the top amount of grace given that day.  6 stone jars holding 20 to 30 gallons each … I did the math … this is the equivalent of over 700 bottles of wine.  And not just any wine … this is the very best wine, the most expensive and exquisite wine imaginable.  This was enough wine to continue this wedding party for a long time.  Jewish wedding celebrations lasted several days … so this was grace upon grace abundance to celebrate life.  It was more than they needed … more than they could imagine.

So I wonder what this story means for me … what is Jesus, the giver of life and light and grace upon grace whispering to me through these words?  My thoughts turn to the empty stone jars … jars that were very utilitarian … nothing special or ornate … just jars that were used to hold water to make things clean … but they were empty.  Have you ever felt like an empty jar?  Like there is no hope or goodness in this world?  No kindness or goodwill?  Have you ever felt useless or perhaps just plain and ordinary?  Or maybe that your life is just filled with drudgery … no joy … no celebration.

I have times like that … times when I have said “yes” to too many things … that my “to do” list is so long that I can’t find the end of it … when I feel that I have gotten lost and everything is a struggle.

This is the place where this story breaks into my everyday living and reminds me that if only I look to Jesus for the answer – like his mother did – like the servants did – if I look to Jesus and dare to fill myself to the brim with his promises – to remember that life, at its heart is a celebration – abundant grace upon grace and Jesus is there – waiting to be invited in – waiting to turn the ordinary water into the choicest wine – to be the living water, if you will.  He revealed his glory … and his disciples believed.  By filling ourselves to the brim we will become the light and life so that others may believe as well.  May we not just tell people about Jesus … but help them experience Jesus so that they will know his love is real.

Mother Teresa had a poem written on her wall.  I feel that it speaks to the miracle of filling our jars to the brim:

  • People are often unreasonable, irrational and self-centered (empty jars) … Forgive them anyways (fill them to the brim)
  • If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives (empty jars) … be kind anyway (fill them to the brim)
  • If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you (empty jars) … be honest and sincere anyway.
  • What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight (empty jars) … create anyway (fill them to the brim)
  • If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous (empty jars) … be happy anyway (fill them to the brim)
  • The good you do today, will often be forgotten (empty jars) … do good anyway (fill them to the brim)
  • Give the best you have, and it will never be enough (empty jars) … give your best anyway (fill it to the brim)
  • In the final analysis it is between you and God … it was never between you and them anyway.

In these days, may we be willing to be filled to the brim, to be part of the miracle yet to come, and to encounter unexpected delights along the way.  Jesus reveals his glory … and we?  we believe.  Amen.

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