Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Poured out and changed

John 2: 1-11
New Ark United Church of Christ, Newark, DE
January 17, 2016



Les Noces de Cana, Louis Kahn, 1949
  
          There once was a little boy who, when he came home from school, would bounce off the bus with excitement, like he had a secret to tell, good news to proclaim. He saw everything in his life as a gift, whether it was school, or guests at his house, or simple things, like the whipped cream on his ice cream every night. Every day he found some time to snuggle with his parents who adopted him and his sister and tell them all he loved them. His favorite thing to do was to move all the furniture, put cushions, pillows, and blankets in their place, have a fire in the fireplace, put a movie in the DVD player and have family cuddle night. He loved his life. It never had to be more complicated than that.


           
         And yet his life wasn’t always like that. He was born two months premature, with very little prenatal care, and the likelihood of drugs or alcohol or both in his system. Every day after his birth was a struggle, first to live, then to survive and grow. He didn’t speak clearly until he was four years old. It was hard for him to do things that seemed to come naturally to other children, like cut with scissors or hold a pencil or remember the words to his favorite song. He couldn’t sit still for long or focus his attention. The medicine he would take for those things made him anxious and he wouldn’t eat like he needed to. From a very young age he witnessed things no child should ever have to experience. The very people who were supposed to protect him and give him what he needed to thrive could not do either one.


          He had to sleep in a sleeping bag on a mattress on the floor with another child. All the clothes that he had could fit in a cardboard box that was kept in the back of a closet. So much of what was rightfully his was taken away from him or simply not given. And when he was removed from the only home he knew and placed with a relative, after two days, in the middle of a hurricane, the relative said she could not take care of this boy and his sister.

          And yet this is a happy boy, a boy full of life, full of love, full of joy. Many people have said that it is because of his new parents and the love and care they give him and his sister. His parents say yes, but it is also this boy who chooses life and love and joy, who chooses to reach every goal set for him, who chooses the good when he could’ve been empty instead. He’s filled to the brim, all of him, pouring out who he is, and in the pouring out, changed from neglect and starved of love into one who gives love freely.


If you knew that you would die today
If you saw the face of God and Love
Would you change?
Would you change?
If you knew that love can break your heart
When you're down so low you cannot fall
Would you change?
Would you change?


            

       I look at the story of the wedding in Cana and I see a parable; a parable about the way things are and the way things are supposed to be and the way things could be; a parable about timing, that when we think the time has not yet come, the time is upon us now; a parable about parents and children and how that relationship changes but still remains the same; a parable about how the holy manifests itself in unexpected ways and with abundantly more than we allow ourselves to imagine.


How bad how good does it need to get?
How many losses how much regret?
What chain reaction
What cause and effect
Makes you turn around
Makes you try to explain
Makes you forgive and forget
Makes you change
Makes you change


            It’s a parable about not knowing what the future might bring and having an extravagant hope anyway and celebrating it with a really big party. It’s about a grace so deep and so full, it’s gallons and bucketsful of it. It’s about running out of joy right in the middle, when we least expect it, and having joy restored so much that not only we but everyone around us can get drunk on it. It’s a parable about being empty and filled, poured out and changed.



If you knew that you would be alone
Knowing right being wrong
Would you change?
Would you change?
If you knew that you would find a truth
That brings a pain that can't be soothed
Would you change?
Would you change?



            

        Each of us in our own lives is being poured out in some way. The time is now and perhaps we aren’t feeling it. And every now and then we have no wine, what the psalmist calls the “oil of gladness”, when our joy has run out. Like those other vessels made of clay, each holding 20 to 30 gallons, we feel empty. Yet do we do whatever Jesus tells us to do? Do we allow ourselves to be filled with that which gives life? And not only filled but to the brim? And then in the pouring out, be changed into new wine, into the oil of gladness? And not just enough for ourselves but for everyone around us?


If everything you think you know
Makes your life unbearable
Would you change?
Would you change?
If you'd broken every rule and vow
And hard times come to bring you down
Would you change?
Would you change?

           

           
        Ultimately it’s a parable about Jesus and the Church and the One who set the earth and stars in motion.  It’s about us and God getting married, making covenant.  Trouble is, we have no wine; we’ve run out of joy right in the middle of it all.  Even Jesus isn’t sure whether the time is right, but the woman who brought him into the world won’t let him get away with it.  “Do whatever he tells you to do,” she says to the servants.  That’s us.  You.  Me.  Church.  Be filled, not with what we think we can handle, but to the point of overflowing.  Be poured out, and in the pouring out, we are changed from what was to what can be.  Be taken to the steward, to the host, to the One giving this party, who tastes and sees that goodness and gladness have their own sense of timing and will show up when we least expect it.  And the disciples believed.



How bad how good does it need to get?
How many losses how much regret?
What chain reaction
What cause and effect
Makes you turn around
Makes you try to explain
Makes you forgive and forget
Makes you change
Makes you change



If you knew that you would die today
If you saw the face of God and Love
Would you change?
Would you change?




Benediction:


Love people even in their sin, for that is the semblance of Divine Love and is the highest love on earth. Love all of God's creation, the whole and every grain of sand of it. Love every leaf, every ray of God's light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love.

                       —Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
 

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